Texas court strikes down ‘improper photography’ statute

1280px-Flag_of_Texas.svg

1280px-Flag_of_Texas.svg

Yes, a kind of picture-taking was against the law in Texas…
“Improper photography” had been defined as arousing photography taken without consent. Yes, it was perhaps primarily first meant to simply stop peeping toms and such scofflaws. But vague wording meant enforcement could have overreached, and it could have been a dangerous precedent. Thankfully it’s been struck down.

Part of the Court’s reasoning:
“A statute is likely to be found overbroad if the criminal prohibition it creates is of “alarming breadth.” Such is the case with the current statute, the breadth of which has been accurately characterized as “breathtaking.” The statutory provision at issue is extremely broad, applying to any non-consensual photograph, occurring anywhere, as long as the actor has an intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire. This statute could easily be applied to an entertainment reporter who takes a photograph of an attractive celebrity on a public street. But the statute operates unconstitutionally even if applied to someone who takes purely public photographs of another for personal reasons with the requisite intent.”

The full story is here — written by the law professor who co-wrote the legal brief in the court case.

Scanning with a soft touch: Genealogy giant works with Kodak on family photos

ezphotoscan

ezphotoscan

The LDS-based FamilySearch has more than 4,700 family history centers in 125 countries around the world. Many of the photos brought to its centers “are in very old albums,” it says. “It would be dangerous to try to take brittle photos that might be 100 years old out of album pages, so we were looking for a good solution to this issue.”

Working with the E-Z Photo Scan service, FamilySearch upgraded its equipment to three Picture Saver Scanning System models from Kodak Alaris. The new scanners feature a specially designed transport which treats fragile photos and documents with extra-gentle care. The scanners handle both sides of each photo in a single pass at speeds up to 85 prints per minute.

FamilySearch says “Individuals are bringing in 400 to 500 pictures and they are scanned in 15 minutes or so. We have now ordered 20 more PS80 Systems through E-Z Photo Scan to send out to additional centers.”

Kodak Alaris adds that “Preserving family history and memories is a serious responsibility, and we want to ensure that the scanning process does not risk damaging precious documents and photos.”

Action camera maker GoPro reports loss

gopro-3+

gopro-3+Leading outdoors action camera maker GoPro has been in the news a lot this year, primarily for filing an IPO and its valuation at sky-high figures. Now it’s finances are newsworthy again, but not for such positive reasons.

Reuters reports the company’s first financial results since its initial public offering in June weren’t great, with a quarterly loss and claims the manufacturer’s costs had nearly doubled.

GoPro shares fell 11 percent. However, Forbes adds the company’s overall result did exceed analyst’s previous revenue targets.

Martha Stewart “loves her drone”

drone camera

parrot bebopdrone

We’ve written a lot here about unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs or drones — and their increased use for photography from on high. However, we’ve not mentioned any famous users… until now, as Time ran Martha Stewart’s own report on her infatuation with her drone.

“Last year, while celebrating my birthday in Maine, I was given a drone fitted with a high-definition camera,” she writes. “After a quick introduction to the mechanics of operating the contraption and a few words about its idiosyncrasies, I loaded the appropriate app on my iPad and went down to the beach. In just a few minutes I was hooked. In near silence, the drone rose, hovered, and dove, silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us. The photos and video were stunning.”

Stewart was primarily looking at her own home and property, but enjoyed the “unusual vantage points” that “would have otherwise been impossible without the use of a private plane, helicopter, or balloon.”

Her full article here is of interest as she notes historical use of “guy-wired telescoping towers, extension ladders of dangerous lengths, and hot-air balloons from which intrepid photographers could capture remarkable image.”

Stewart also posts images on her blog at Marthastewart.com.

 

Flickr to directly market user photos

flickr logo

flickr logoYahoo’s Flickr photo sharing site is licensing users photos and featuring them on prominent news sites, including Yahoo’s own properties.

The program promises to generate additional income through commercial licensing, TechCrunch reports. Flickr will work with “photo agencies, editors, bloggers and other creative minds who are seeking original content.”

Flickr already offers similar services through a partnership with Getty.

There’s more information here and here.

flickr screen

Canon cuts forecast, debuts two long-zoom models

Canon PowerShot SX400

Canon PowerShot SX400

The latest compact from Canon zooms 42x with optical image stabilization.
The PowerShot SX520 HS’s Zoom Framing Assist feature “intelligently controls the lens,” Canon says, “making it easy to locate the main subject by zooming out, and then zooming back in quickly and automatically for dramatic close-ups with face detection where applicable.” The $400 camera has a16-megapixel sensor and captures 1080p video — and its Hybrid Auto mode “creates a beautifully stabilized HD video clip (up to approximately four seconds) every time a user shoots a still image, then compiles the clips into a single movie that forms a “highlighted reel” for the day.”

Canon also debuted the PowerShot SX400 IS, with a 30x zoom, for $250.

“Our goal is to provide people who are passionate about photography with the imaging tools they need to capture the moments that inspire them,” the company says.

 

Meanwhile, the company lowered its full-year sales forecast citing slowing demand for standalone cameras.

Sales are projected to be $37 billion for the current fiscal year, Bloomberg reports, a 2.1 percent cut from the previous forecast. “Smartphones packed with advanced sensors and lenses are winning customers and cutting demand for cheaper compact cameras,” the report notes. “Canon sold 2.3 million compact cameras in the second quarter, a 36 percent decrease from a year earlier. Sales of the company’s single-lens reflex cameras dropped to 1.7 million from 2.1 million. Industry-wide, digital camera shipments declined about 35 percent from a year earlier in the first five months of 2014, according to the Camera & Imaging Products Association.”

 

“Action camera” sales climbing

gopro hd cam

gopro hd camWhile the term implies that the rest of don’t get off the couch to take a photo, “action cam” is both a popular phrase and growing product category.

Market researchers at Futuresource Consulting report the Action Camera market will reach 9 million units in 2018. Also, “GoPro continues to maintain its position as the dominant market leader, despite a growing number of vendors vying for market share,” the survey finds.

“Worldwide demand for action cameras reached almost 5 million units in 2013,” the company adds, “which represented annual growth of 47 percent.”

Why the growth? “The relative importance of outdoor pursuits,” the analysts say, as well as “propensity to spend on emerging CE categories, and the use of social media are some of the main drivers of demand for action cameras.”

In 2013, Future Consulting adds, the majority of sales were for consumer applications, such as sports enthusiasts. The remainder was for professional applications, predominantly TV production.

A 20-page report provides an assessment of the market, forecasts to 2018, profiles the key regions, and reviews the latest developments in the competitive landscape, retail distribution, and product features.

 

Surveillance cameras in the home: Google subsidiary Nest acquiring Dropcam

dropcam

dropcam

Dropcam lets you check in on your home, no matter where you are in the world. But that’s not the only reason we’re excited about adding them to the Nest family. Our companies actually have a lot in common.”

That’s the word from Nest, which gathered plenty of acclaim for its smart connected thermostat — so much so that Google acquired the startup for more than $3 billion. Now the subsidiary returns the favor by buying Dropcam, maker of in-home WiFi-connected cameras — although for $555 million.

“Although this was a big decision for us, it wasn’t a difficult one to make,” says Nest founder Matt Rogers in a blog post. “Before deciding to extend an offer to Dropcam, we spent a lot of time looking at camera companies and technologies around the world. And I can say without a doubt, Dropcam has the best products, services, and customer experience in the business.”

What’s next? “The plan is for us to work together to reinvent products that will help shape the future of the conscious home and bring our shared vision to more and more people around the world,” Rogers continues. “For now though, not much will change. Dropcam products will still be sold online and in stores. And Dropcam customers will still continue to use their Dropcam accounts.”

As for fears this means Google will be watching you in your home, Rogers says “Like Nest customer data, Dropcam will come under Nest’s privacy policy, which explains that data won’t be shared with anyone (including Google) without a customer’s permission. Nest has a paid-for business model and ads are not part of our strategy. In acquiring Dropcam, we’ll apply that same policy to Dropcam too.”

Dropcam was founded in 2009, with products we “literally built ourselves,” writes co-founder Greg Duffy. “Nest and Dropcam are kindred spirits. Both were born out of frustration with outdated, complicated products that do the opposite of making life better.”

 

 

Not just squares: Creative tools on Instagram

instagram tools 2

instagram tools 2

Online image sharing service Instagram first gained fame for its filters (and its square crop). Now the company is part of Facebook, but keeps adding new capabilities — this time aimed at more creative users.

“We’re delighted to bring you a set of new creative tools on Instagram with the ability to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, warmth and more,” the company says. “Inspiring creativity is incredibly important to us—and as the Instagram community grows, we’ve been excited to hear requests for more ways to creatively take hold of how your photos look and feel.”

Adjustment slider tool include brightness, highlights, shadows, and saturation. Users can also now adjust how strongly a filter is applied to a photo.

“You take a photo to capture a moment, but often what you see in the photograph doesn’t feel the same as what you remember,” Instagram adds. “From brightening up a photo of your dinner party to better capturing the warmth of a sunset portrait, these new creative tools help you bring out and share the beauty of the moment as you remember it.”

It’s a free update available now on iOS and Android.

There’s also more information here at PetaPixel and here at TechCrunch.

instagram stats

19th century photography superior to smartphones?

19th century slefie

19th century slefie

As with any headline ending with a question mark, the answer is “No” — but Shutterstock posts an amusing contrast and compare between how photographs were taken way-back-when and today.

“Gone are the days of hefty wooden cameras, painfully long exposures, and noxious darkroom chemicals,” the stock image service says on its blog. Now that so many people carry around devices that can take thousands of pictures and transmit them anywhere instantly, has the medium lost its significance? Was photography back then perhaps more special, or more joyful? Is humanity really better off with so much instant gratification? Let’s consider a dozen ways in which the clunky photography of the 19th Century was better than that of the modern smartphone you used to photograph your lunch.”

Read up on the 12 Reason old-timers had it better here.