Sunday, May 27, 2012

Long-Delayed Post

Hi, so I said I was gonna do a post about stock
image searching, and maybe a tad bit about my
experience in my brother's company. So here it is.
Without further adue, let get this thing rolling.

Whether you are a freelance artist or a graphic
designer, or an illustrator, for as long as you're
in the art or advertising industry, it might be useful
for you to know this early on.

Maybe your lecturers or seniors have shared with you on
how to make a good and effective search, but I really doubt
it'd ever be enough, seeing how I can fail 8 miserable times at
it when the job is supposed to be so relatively simple.

Or maybe it's just me being spastic.

Before I go on, here are a list of some good stock image
galleries that you might be able to make use of. 

Maybe you can find better ones as you go, but this
are the ones I've been using when I was in the office.

Anyways, there are times when looking for images
without a watermark is necessary to speed up the
process of your team work. (meaning to say you can
use them almost immediately without the need for photo
retouching of some sort. Photo retouching by you or
your colleagues consume extra time)

For this kinda stock images, Inmagine, Getty and Jupiter
are quite alright. Inmagine allows you to take bigger
pictures, Getty a little smaller but still useable. Jupiter is
just about the same as Getty. I'll let you figure the other
unmentioned ones on your own.

Oh right, you need to know what these photos are used for
right? Well, if you've noticed, when you choose to download
the pictures, it usually reads as something like "download 
comping image" comping meaning to compose a composition.
And since I said usually, it's not definite. So if it doesn't say that,
it can be just "download" or anything.

Anyways, familiar with the word storyboard? Well, not all storyboards
are handrawn like the ones in the films. If you're in the Multimedia biz,
you'd find that a .png image of how an interface for a phone would look
like after it's done is also called a storyboard.

Blur huh? Lemme show you an example.
image from here

Yes, that's a storyboard. Whatever is shown here means
that when the app is market ready, it should look 100%

But that doesn't mean the one below can't be a storyboard.

image from here

Which one'd be more effective is up to how you're gonna be
pitching the idea to your client. If you have to draw out
something on the spot, choice #2 seems like an immediate
option. Well, unless however you are actually able whip up
something like #1 in a synch when you have a laptop around,
I don't see why not.

this is a storyboard for a commercial/tv/film/anything that
requires you to shoot. Got this from here

Ok, so now you know how a storyboard is done. So...
why the need for stock images?

I believe a lot of people know what reference means,
and well, to do something good, you'd usually need good
references right?

So these good references can come in the form of good
backgrounds, good compositions, good props, good
expressions, good faces, good body language, anything
you can think of.

Now, lets say I get a brief to create a composition of a
family of 3, Caucasian, child around 1-5 years of age
shopping. To create this composition, maybe

something like this fits the look.
image from here.

But then you suddenly face a problem, the expression is not
entirely correct, nor is your pose, and you'd rather have them
carrying the bag with the hand over the shoulder or something.
So you've gotta look for the faces, the hand pose of the bag
over the shoulder and... yeah.

It sounds simple enough. Really simple. The problem is always,
without avail, time. So how does time affect this anyways? Like
all jobs, everything has a deadline. In my case, I was supposed
to do the job in under 4 hours. I had to look for approximately
700 photos of good plausible poses. (100 pieces for each category,
and there were 7)

I did the job in 8 hours, and I barely got more than 100+ photos,
for all 7 categories combined. That was the first problem. The
second part involves using proper keywords and knowing what
to look for, which also contributed to the lengthy 8 hours result
no doubt. Like for instance, the search query you've entered for
man holding shopping bag just doesn't come out right. What else
would you put in? You can look for things that could relate to your
pose, something like holding a gym bag instead, or whatever. Be
creative! Sounds harder than it sounds though honestly speaking.
Well, for me that is.

Also, as an alternative, if you find that the current stock image bank
you're using doesn't quite get the right look for specific queries in your
stock image search results, try different banks instead. You'd usually
need to sign up to remove excess watermarks. (and like inmagine, the
watermark goes off completely)

If that too doesn't work, consider using non-stock image bank search
engines like Google (poor results, but you might get lucky) or Bing
(gets better and better with more specific queries). Maybe you can
try Yahoo and the rest too. But if it still doesn't work.. well. Man.
I'm really at the end of my wits here. Unless if you have time to
actually screenshot movies or something like that to get specific
poses/background/facial expressions, by all means, do so.

Anyways, I've calculated, and maybe in 4 hours (240 minutes)
with 700 pictures to look for, I would approximately need 20
seconds to do it. 20 seconds does include however, saving the
said image and putting it into the right folders if necessary. So if
you're not tidy with your file sourcing, you might just waste a lot
of precious time.

I was told that the efficient use of time or best recommended time
for sourcing out images would actually be around 30 seconds each.
So at most, it'd take about 6 hours?

Most of my searches were done in about 30seconds...
to 5 minutes. So there goes the calculation. Why even
bother calculating in the first place when you're bound to
bust? *facepalm*

The keyword searches weren't helping at all, and maybe I should
have just asked someone, good lord'o me. And when I searched
wrong queries, results never seemed to be good too, and when that
happens, I know I've at least wasted 30 seconds finding nothing.
That's just for one inaccurate on ineffective search query mind you.

This problem progressed throughout the day until I finally got
a chance to talk it out with the boss. Maybe I should've just
asked someone to help me. But what's the point of being helped
if I myself can't do it properly? So I decided to figure it out myself.
It took me over 8 hours to do the search, and I still wasn't done.

Well, it'd make sense to receive some bullets, since I really did a
poor job, not to mention unfinished.

And the moment I decided to figure it out and waste 8 hours of my
company time, that was the biggest mistake. A team effort means you
can't pass judgements on your own without any prior consultation with
anyone, everything has to be a collective, informed effort.

So that's my real first mistake.

And another funny part is that when it finally came down to asking
people, I find that noone but the boss himself could give me the right
specific guidance I need since they don't have a clue as how to help
me, mainly because they don't know what the boss wants and I myself
can't quite put it into words. Or maybe I just didn't ask the right questions.

Then I was given opportunity after opportunity, correction after correction.
I tried, and tried, and tried again, day after day after day.

Worktime is only 8am - 5pm. I stayed back everyday just to make
sure I don't screw up the following day. Sometimes till 9-10pm.
Brought my work back too, just in case I could improve my skills/
make myself work faster/find better more quality images.

I'd sleep around 2am, wake up at 6.30am and leave home around
7.10am, just to make sure I arrive early and I could get extra work
done. I normally arrive around 7.45-50am.

This routine kept going on for 3 weeks. I had some other assignments
in between that had higher priority compared to the stock image
searching, so in total, around 13 days, I did what I did. But I guess
it's still not enough.

At my 8th failure, it has gotten me to the point of thinking where I've
felt guilt creep in all over me for being such a poor performer in a
prestigious and efficient company. And the fact that I was failing the boss,
who is also my brother just added more misery to my delirium.

It might have been unprofessional of me, but after having complete
the work, finally after staying back till 11pm on that 8th time- no
after the 8th time, I decided that I should leave to not cause anymore
lag or trouble to the team synergy with my terrible performance. I talked
to my brother 3 hours before about it, around 8pm, and he understood my
intent. He gave me a final offer to teach me the right way, but I guess I was
in the mindset that I just wasn't cut out for this at all. So I declined and expressed
my intent to leave. I regret that somewhat now. I could've just asked him to
show me how to do it anyways, and at least I won't still be figuring it out now.

He shared something important too. And it goes as such,
"Why would you waste 8 hours figuring something out when you have a deadline of 4 hours and still not figure it out completely and still unfinished when you could've just understood everything and do it right and on time by asking someone the right questions and let him guide you for 5 minutes?

Time is everything in service and the longer you drag, the more the whole team would fall behind because of you."

Idiot me. The job even came with a simple brief. And it was really, REALLY
simple. It's really not like me to just give up on things, and here I am, staring
at this very screen, deeply disappointed with myself for actually giving up.
I gave up the job, but not the skill. So.. I'll still figure it out somehow. When
I do, maybe I'll share another post, hopefully more informative than this.

It's official. Mjolnir hit me. I donno how, but I have a concussion. I'd
appreciate any other suggestions to find stock images accurately and
faster too. But until then, I shall remain humbly silent.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Lammy said...

Not sure if my method works for you, but just to share (and answer your questions):

I usually use 2 main banks, Corbis and StockXchange. StockXchange is nice is that their photos are free, no watermark, and best of all, hi-res (if you sign up) which comes in handy for photo-manips, but if I need photos for quick comps I usually hit Corbis.

How to search faster --- Depending on what browser you're using, I'll usually open up as many tabs as my browser allows (without lagging!) on a particular topic I'm searching for, and I let myself view max. 3 seconds to decide yes or no.

Example: I want a picture of a hand holding a gun. Hit up Corbis. On that very page, view the most potential ones that work (industry mantra: if it works small, it works on any scale/size.) Open up, say, 12 new tabs of the small potential comps.

First photo, okay it works, save. Second photo, not so, okay close the tab (I don't give myself time to second-guess my judgment or wonder why it can/cannot work). Third photo, about there, might come in handy later, keep first + save. Rinse and repeat.

Usually, by 2+ hours, most of the photo-refs I had gathered would have worked for me for the rest of my assignment/project. Some of my saves would number in the 100s, some in the 20s (but coz I know what I'm looking for, and what specific keywords to use, so the refs don't take up too much time or space).

Which brings me to:

How to search accurately:
Hmm, this is more on trial and error. I sometimes find inputting working tenses/verbs don't work so well as most people tag their photos with nouns (reverse-image-search on Corbis will teach you that.) So over time I try to narrow down my keywords to the most basic nouns that can relate to the topic.
e.g. The photo of the family on shopping? My input will be, "family", "shopping", "adult", "child". It can be a lot of other things, but when it comes to deadlines, I choose focus over variety.

I still have trouble searching for good refs of face expressions at a particular angle, so these days I trawl the refs libraries at dA for some. Not all are good, but it's better than none or imagining up weird funky anatomy, methinks :/

Hope this helps, and remember, Make Good Art, on the good days and bad days ;)