JULY 2, 2001
by David Nagel
Here's a slight change of pace for a review. We usually look at software applications and plugins for graphics software. But this week we're taking a look at a collection of royalty-free images from Hemera Software. Normally I wouldn't review a royalty-free image collection because, first of all, most of them aren't very good. Second, the ones that are good are usually quite expensive. And, third, how much can I write about a collection of royalty-free images? Well, as you might have guessed, this collection is different.
I remember back in the oldee tymees, back when I was in print, when my art director and I would be putting together an issue and hammering out some cover concepts. We had a period of about a year and a half when our art budget was pretty tight, nowhere near enough to hire a professional photographer regularly. And we couldn't really get out and take our cover shots ourselves, since our subjects were often just too far away. Plane fare alone would blow our budget.
So we had a meeting and decided to use catalog images. The strategy was a simple one: We'd pick an object that had something to do with a feature story, then composite it in Photoshop and make it look good. Nothing metaphorical, just a clean image backed up with bold cover lines. It was the best we could do with the money, and, although we didn't like the idea of cutting out our photographersespecially with stock art, which is a real blow to photographers because they don't see any royaltieswe had to keep producing a magazine somehow.
Well, it worked out, and I think our covers won about six or seven awards over that 18-month period.
The problem was that, while our images were nice and less expensive than hiring a photographer, they weren't all that cheap, and we were spending more time negotiating prices than compositing. Prices depended on placement in the issue (cover versus inside), frequency of placement, size of the image and use in collateral, such as our monthly marketing material. We'd also have to pay based on our magazine's circulation. In the end, we were paying about $300 to $400 for a cover image.
When royalty-free collections emerged, they helped the situation in one sense, but they were extremely limited, and they cost about $100 for a single CD, sometimes less, but that just meant fewer images on each CD. Images did not always include transparency, and they weren't exactly the best pieces of artwork the world had ever seen.
The breakthrough came, I think, a couple years ago when Hemera Software released its Photo-Objects Vol. I collection. It included about 50,000 royalty-free images in a broad variety of categories, most high-quality, with good lighting, for a total of $85. (Early on it wasn't available on the Macintosh, but this error has since been corrected.) The Photo-Objects Vol. II collection, which we're looking at this week, expands on this breakthrough even further with just a slightly higher price point.
What it is
Now, granted, in any collection of royalty-free art, there are going to be images so specialized that you would never use them, but there are also so many in this collection that you're bound to find something useful for just about any purpose. The images are available in resolutions from 72 DPI to 300 DPI, and you can choose the format for your export, including 32-bit TIFFs. Image styles range from objects on white (televisions, phones, clocks, etc.) to full scenes to scenes with effects applied to them, such as the borders you see in some of the above examples.
But the images aren't the only things this collection has going for it. Hemera has put a lot of thought into its catalog browser software. You can search for images across the entire collection just by entering a keyword in the browser, and the results come up instantly. This is because the software stores a thumbnail of each image on your hard drive, so you don't need to keep swapping out CDs just to get a look at the images. Each image includes a description, category and CD reference. But you can also just double click on an image's thumbnail, and the program will prompt you to insert the proper CD. Or, better yet, if you have the DVD version, you never have to do any swapping at all.
Post a message in the Creative Mac World Wide User Group.
Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.