[ok-scotland] Another view of images

David Stafford staffordd at stirling.gov.uk
Mon Nov 10 10:41:27 UTC 2014

I have a somewhat different view of this whole issue...I will leave the copyright / public domain arguments to you, I am sure you will sort it all out to satisfaction of all parties, but I have another issue I want to raise, which has to do with this quote: 
"Scotland has a lot more to gain from people using these fruits of public labour with a camera than it does by hampering them".
First of all, I agree with this sentiment - we do want any valid photographs, that have historical value, to be available to all if possible.  At the same time, if there is a valid copyright claim by a photographer, or a Council, and there is reason for the photos NOT to be in the public domain - then we should respect that.
Personally, I also agree with the thought that we should protect the public domain, I agree that it's inferred, and we should care about that.  But that is also, not my issue.
My issue is the behaviour of local authority staff, whose obsession with photography, borders on the criminal.  I feel that "these fruits of public labour" have been, perhaps, over-picked, and a lot of that "labour" was a waste of time and money (in recent years, I mean; not the historical photos from the first war - obviously - those were, comparatively, chosen with care, and not surrounded by hundreds of useless photos of nothing in particular).
Yes - we need to take photographs as evidence - evidence of the condition of assets, or buildings, or vehicles, whatever - for insurance purposes.
Yes - we need to take photographs as evidence - evidence that may be required in possible court cases, we want to establish evidence photographically that will protect us if we have to go to court.
Yes - we should photograph civic events, political events, historical events, and even life events.  As we see, in 50 or 100 years, some of these photographs become important, because they chronicle events that are important, historically, and I think it's fantastic that we have these photos from the first war now, as a window into a long past time - our history.
I am concerned, however, that the photographs we are taking now, are not concise, they are not mapping out clearly, evidential or historical value, and, there is such a glut of files to look at, it's difficult to see the wood for the trees, never mind finding valuable images in a giant Forest of high resolution digital images...
I have no issue with any of the legitimate reasons for photography (in the bullet points above).  But, what I do object to, is the way in which local authority staff have gone slightly - or sometimes, massively, "digital camera mad"; with the advent of the digital camera, suddenly, it became possible to take, say, 300 eighteen megapixel images, in one day; then, bring them back in to work, and "dump" the camera's card onto the network.  Repeat, for a decade, hundreds of users taking photos daily, then dumping them onto Council servers; until said servers are literally overflowing with high resolution images.
If you are a medium sized Council, with say, three to five thousand employees, some hundreds of which, have been issued digital cameras, it start to become a problem over a period of time like a decade - so the hundreds of photographers that a modern Council have now, taking hundreds of pictures every single day, then, dumping the mass of high resolution onto your limited Council storage - all I can say is, it's an IT nightmare, and over 10 years, the number of meaningless, out of focus, badly shot, duplicated and other useless "photographs" that are taking up precious disk space, that are useless as evidence for insurance or court actions, that are useless as recordings of civic, political or life events - they are just digital "noise", and they exist in such quantities, that they threaten to overwhelm the normal Council data with their Large Megapixel Presence.
Sensible past activities, such as photographing physical assets, say, bridges, for the purposes of establishing their condition - have transformed, whereas, in the past, we might have taken a handful of images of a bridge, now, because of digital cameras, we go out for our Bridge Inspection, and come back with 80 or 90 very repetitive close ups of brickwork, and really, only 12 of them make any sense as evidence - the rest, are just wasteful.
No one ever deletes their "bad shots".  No one ever seems to delete any photographs.   No one ever seems to be concerned with limiting the quantity of evidential photographs taken.  No one tries to be thrifty in terms of disk space, always setting the cameras on the highest resolution possible; always taking many dozens or even hundreds of shots each day (I wish that was MY job, taking pictures all day long every day!) instead of taking a sensible, small, logical number of medium resolution shots. 
Over ten years, these new "digital camera" activities, results in a huge, huge number of very large, disk-space eating images being stored across Council servers; taking up remarkably large percentages of said servers, and when you reach eighty, ninety thousand photos of bridges...well, that is just ludicrous, no one could ever even make sense of that many photographs, much less use them as evidence.
So it would be my suggestion that each of us look at the use of cameras in our own organisations, and decide if they are being used appropriately (for evidence for insurance, for evidence for court actions, for evidence of civic, political, historical or life events - in moderation, of course) or not - and if not, change your policies, get people to take FEWER shots, use a LOWER resolutions, otherwise, in a hundred years, our descendants will be utterly baffled by hundreds of thousands of photographs of basically, nothing - and unable to make sense of the "history", because, instead of it being preserved in a small number of carefully chosen shots, it's a massive glut of digital images, most of which, are nothing but a waste of space and time.
Seriously - have your IT department scan for all of the most common image types across your servers (I can provide a list of extensions if need be, but it should be pretty obvious), the tool I use for this is called "Tree Size Pro" - you may be surprised.  I think that giving out lots of digital cameras to lots of staff, is not a good idea; I think that cameras should only be issued to a very few staff, who have all had special training in the use and care of digital cameras:
they know not to "dump" the entire camera onto the network; 
they know not to take photos at full resolution unless there is a very good reason for it;
they know how to adjust the resolution settings on their cameras; 
they know that 12 images will work where 90 aren't needed; and so on...
- they have "common sense digital camera training", and I think this will go a long, long way towards solving some of these problems.
Apologies for going way off topic, it's really a new topic, but it seemed to make sense to me, off the back of the copyright/public domain questions, I felt that there are some more basic questions, such as, do we really NEED all of the photographs we take?  My answer is, no, absolutely not - we only need a small percentage of them - which would also have the added benefit, of returning a lot of eminently useful disk space, back to Council staff to use for documents and other non-image Council information.
I hope this is helpful, it's meant to be helpful, not critical - I think we need to be thrifty wherever we can, and conserving disk space - in this case, quite a lot of disk space, this is one small way we can help our Councils save money.  And, develop good digital camera behaviours as opposed to bad digital camera behaviours - which definitely need to be put behind us.
Please discuss, I keep wondering if I am the only person that feels this way?

All the very best,



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