Although there are undoubtedly people who wander around the Web with the images turned off in their browsers — to make surfing faster — graphics are a vital part of most Web pages nowadays. Faster speeds and programs like graphic crunchers mean pages with photographs don’t have to take an age to download. But it’s frustrating when designing a page if you don’t have all the suitable graphics you need. That’s where virtual company Sunflower Images comes to the party. Customers can download its images for free with a watermark, or they can purchase non-watermarked images (giving them the ability to use them on their Web site except, the licensing material points out, in a pornographic, defamatory or any other offensively negative or unlawful manner). You must be registered to buy the non-watermarked images, but registration is free and doesn’t obligate you to buy any pictures. There are also some small non-watermarked images (150Kb) which are available for free to registered clients, but they must only be used for comping, personal, non-commercial and educational use. Prices range from $16 — for a 150Kb image stock image, ie ones that could be rephotographed — to $196 — for a 25Mb signature image, ie ones that the photographer has worked a little harder to get. The site was launched about two months ago and was designed with the help of Katipo Communications (www.katipo.co.nz) which also hosts the site. You’ll find photographs from New Zealand, China, Europe and the US, although Sunflowers’ Charles Bagnall wants to increase the New Zealand section which concentrates on Wellington, the Chatham Islands and Northland. The good thing about these photographs is they’re not just of beautiful scenery — although there are some stunning scenic shots. They also depict life in New Zealand — such as buskers, letterboxes, children and sport. The site is easy to navigate around, but one criticism is that you have to hunt a little to find out about the licensing issues. There are links to the licensing information on both the About Sunflower Images and Registration pages, but I think it would be more helpful to have some of this information — or at least a link to it — on the first page so you immediately know what your rights are with the photographs. There is a good search facility to look for photographs by keyword or by category (with interesting categories such as "abandonment"). The Registration page sets out to allay any fears about security, explaining that payments are made through the ASB Bank on an independent site. It’s good to see a company providing such information and also to see it provide another option for nervous shoppers — a monthly credit account application. At the moment, Bagnall says the boutique library is aimed at Web designers but he would like to target offline designers as well. He’s interested in hearing from designers about what images they would like to see, as well as photographers who may want to contribute images. Overall, Sunflower Images is a good-looking site and it provides a useful service ideally suited to the medium of the Internet. — Kirstin Mills Sunflower Images
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