Amateur stills fill Bild to gills

GERMAN tabloid newspaper Bild wants all its readers to take pictures for the paper - so at the start of December it put branded digital cameras onto the shelves of supermarket Lidl for as little as €69.99 (£60 at the time of writing). The cameras do video as well as still images.

Eva Werner, a spokeswoman for the German Journalists' Association, told the International Herald Tribune that she feared Bild's amateur photographers could undermine the work of their full-time counterparts by ambushing celebrities or interfering with police work at the scene of an accident. "It poses a threat to quality journalism, the more images from non-professionals that are pushed onto the market even though professional images are available," Werner said.

There are reports of Bild - originally Bildzeitung, "the picture paper" - offering amateur snappers €500, about £430 at early December exchange rates, for published pictures. There's certainly room for scepticism: Tobias Fröhlich of Bild's owners the Axel Springer group told the IHT that the paper might pay for top-quality images it used or establish a contest for the best content submitted each week.

Even if the quoted figure is for promotional purposes, it's more than twice what many professional photographers get for standard pictures. And how many people will Bild have to pay to wade through the dross resulting from proud camera owners pressing the "send to Bild" button on their new toy? Heaven forfend, for that matter, that professionals should pseudonymously send hundreds of pictures of cute kittens.

Heaven forfend, too, that professionals should use a different pseudonym to submit "amateur" pictures to get the current higher rate.

This scheme does rather contrast with that promoted by Archant, formerly Eastern Counties Newspapers. One Rachel Dorman posted a message on the Flickr photo-sharing website thus: "Hey there, fellow Brightonians. I work for Archant Life, publisher of Sussex Life magazine, and I have a special request for anyone who would be willing to help us out... The January '09 issue of Sussex Life is to include a supplement on Sussex Towns & Villages, and..." You know what's coming next? "I must stress that we are not able to pay for images, but the photographer will be credited on the page on which the photo is used."

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