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Posts posted by Ollie

  1. Cull the Collection:  The collection needs to be reduced in size.  Alamy seems proud of its collection size.  The result is that many searches simply overwhelm the potential buyer with the hundreds or thousands, or tens of thousands, or—really—hundreds of thousands of images that will be found by a keyword search. There are many bad images in the collection, many similars, and many duplicates.  These are dross that get in the way of the buyer’s attempt to find an image that will suit his needs.  You should dedicate some staff members to culling these images from the collection.  It does not take much training to recognize a bad image—an image that will almost certainly never sell.  It’s clear that some contributors exercise no judgment when they upload images to Alamy.  An earlier posting in the Alamy forum includes “I am appalled at so much of what I put out there…so many badly processed for colour, exposure, noise, crop, etc.”  Removing these images would provide the customer with a leaner, cleaner search experience.  Alamy’s reputation as a source of good images, quickly found, would grow.  At present Alamy’s reputation is mixed.  Buyers know the collection is diverse but they also know it contains a lot of rubbish.  Greater care should be exercised by Quality Control when reviewing uploaded submissions, especially of new contributors.  It’s time to impose some standards.  Teach contributors that they need to use more discernment in what they submit.

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  2. Revoke Alamy's invented definition of "exclusivity" when applied to works of art.  Contributors feel that Alamy has not maintained the trust it initially promised when it was created twenty years ago.  A major serious blow to this trust was when Alamy decided to lower contributors’ commission to 40%, effective January 2019, unless Alamy was given exclusive representation of an image.  “Exclusivity” in the stock imagery field has always meant that the photographer is affirming that an image (or all of his images) is only being marketed through the particular stock agency where it is placed.  It is exclusive to the agency.  It does not matter if some other photographer has photographed the same item and placed his image with the same agency or with another agency.  Alamy has decided that if it is possible that another photographer may have photographed the same item—a front-on shot of a work of art is the most obvious example—it cannot be designated as “exclusive” even though the photographer has not placed his image with any other stock agency.  This is seen by contributors as a cynical way for Alamy to acquire the extra 10% of the commission, at the photographer’s expense.  This confusing definition of exclusivity, for which Alamy blamed your lawyers, was a new and serious blow at the bonds of trust Alamy should be wanting to strengthen with its contributors.  The Alamy Forum was full of discussion of this point.  Some tweaking of the definition resulted, apparently trying to limit it to two-dimensional works of art.  Stained glass windows were apparently then excluded from the new definition.  Mosaics?  Not sure.  Tapestries?  Not sure. Close-up, detailed images of segments of a piece of art?  Not sure. Even a painting with a property release from the artist cannot be marked “exclusive” under the definition Alamy wants to apply.  Nor could a painting in a private collection to which the photographer has been given exclusive access.  The whole effort to acquire an additional 10% of commission is a serious blow to Alamy’s reputation with its contributors.  It should be abandoned.  Indication of whether the photographer has a Property Release for a piece of art should be enough to alert the user to any restrictions on usage.  It’s unlikely that any two photographers’ photographs of a work of art will result in an identical image.  Recognize that we all differ in ability, approach, technique, and equipment, and allow us to designate all of our images as exclusive to Alamy if that is what we choose to do.  If we have only placed our image with Alamy then it merits designation as "Exclusive to Alamy," and a 50% commission.

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  3. I think there is a huge difference between a "student project" and a "dissertation."  "Dissertation" to me usually means a publication resulting from research that usually is related to obtaining a PhD or some other serious professional credential.  Some years ago I licensed one of my images (through my own website) for $100 to be used on the cover of a PhD dissertation.  It would have been outrageous to have licensed that image for the price Alamy is getting for these "student projects, presentations, or essays."  Alamy should remove "dissertations" from the list of allowed uses at those "academic" prices.

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  4. As others have said, the answer is yes, 35mm slides can be scanned and submitted to Alamy.  In my experience, scanned slides are not as sharp as images that are now captured digitally, therefore it is advisable that they be submitted to Alamy as "Archival", where QC makes allowances for somewhat softer submissions.  You have to apply first to be able to submit through the Archive channel.


    In recent months I've been working on 35mm slides going back to the early 60s.  I bought Vuescan software (about $85 I think) to restore communication between my Nikon Coolscan V scanner, which was no longer supported by Windows 10.  As near as I can tell, Vuescan restores the full capability of the scanner.  I then process the images in Lightroom.  As Geogphotos has noted, some might be suitable for submission as general stock (I did this up until a few years ago), not through the Archive channel, but I believe the chance of rejection by QC is significantly higher since scanned film will rarely be as sharp as original digital files.  Archival images are noted by Alamy as possibly having imperfections, but otherwise I'm not aware that they suffer any disadvantage in the search process, nor in pricing.


    I bought Topaz Sharpen AI software, thinking it would help make scanned 35mm slides sharper.  After extensive testing and back-and-forth communication with Topaz I have concluded that the software can not do much to render scanned film sharper.  This varies somewhat with the type of film (Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Velvia, etc.), and perhaps with the age, but I found that Topaz introduced unwanted artifacts into the resulting image file.  It's also time-consuming.  I've given up trying to improve scanned slides with Topaz Sharpen AI.  It's primarily useful for use on original digital files.


    Now for the question you didn't ask: is it worthwhile?  I made my first Archival submission on August 2, so not very long ago.  I've now submitted a few hundred images through the archival channel and have not yet seen a sale, but 6-7 weeks is not very long.  Maybe six months from now (by which time I will have long ago finished these submissions) I may be able to see if enough have sold to have made the effort worthwhile.  But with coronavirus restricting my travel opportunities this is at least one way to do something potentially productive while staying close to home.

  5. You are reading this too narrowly and are not bracing for the next step against us. 

    Contract para 2.7:  The Contributor acknowledges and accepts that Images of artworks, OR that are not protected by copyright, OR that are in the public domain OR for which copyright ownership is unknown must never be marked as “Only available on Alamy” 

    Note the "OR"s (my emphasis added).  It's not just images of artworks Alamy is saying can't be designated as Exclusive.  It's also images not protected by copyright, images in the public domain, images whose copyright ownership is unknown.

    Tens of thousands of images are available from Creative Commons.  And people who put their images into the Creative Commons pool are not just photographing works of art. 

    There are tens of thousands of centuries-old artistic creations, never copyrighted, all over the world.

    As now written, the contract does not provide for the possibility that you could photograph a piece of art, get a property release, and then designate the image as Exclusive to Alamy.  The contract says images of artwork must never be marked as "Only available on Alamy."  No mention of a PR.

    A photo of a 300-year-old window with a design made of colored glass, made inside a private home with the owner's permission,  could not be marked "Exclusive to Alamy" under the above contract, even though the owner of the house is not going to permit anyone else to make similar images.

    Is zeroing in on a fine detail of a historic work of art--a tapestry, a piece of embroidery, an Oriental painting on silk--not a creative endeavor?  Is such a close-up not a unique creation?

    The contract seems to prohibit designating as Exclusive to Alamy images of ancient mosaics, temple paintings, and yes, church stained glass windows.  Cave paintings?  What about transitory works of art (sand paintings, floral decorations) intended to last only a few hours (on a beach, at a religious festival), which can never be photographed again by another photographer?  The photos of these works of art become historical in nature, but they may be considered artworks by an agency seeking to enlarge its commission share.

    Like many, I used to think Alamy conducted its business with the interests of its contributing photographers in mind.  It is both disheartening and discouraging to see that during the last couple of years this is no longer the case.  Alamy seems oblivious to the creative, artistic, and technical skill required of a photographer to successfully photograph a subject.  You may find images on Creative Commons, or images of historic artwork in the public domain, but the image you make today will be different in lighting, framing, sharpness, or other qualities.  No two "slavish copies" are going to be the same. 

    Alamy points to legal advice as motivating its decision.  (Page 4 in this chain).  They really do need to get some new lawyers.  The ambiguities mentioned above demonstrate that the contract was not well drafted.  And lawyers will be the first to remind you that it's the contract that counts, not the later comment by some employee of the firm.  It is regrettable that they have chosen to value bad legal advice more than the bonds of trust that formerly existed with their photographers.

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  6. Thanks for posting this very useful question.  My experience with both Pixsy and Copytrack has been disappointing.  I’ll be interested in seeing what others say about Image Rights.

    I uploaded several thousand images to Pixsy in 2015 and 16. During 2016-18 I submitted maybe 15 cases for their pursuit.  I received one payment of about $160 for this effort.  A lot of cases they decided not to pursue, usually because they did not have legal representation in the infringer’s country.  One of the time-consuming aspects of working with them is that their “hit” results include hits in countries and in languages they will not pursue (most Asian countries, Arab countries, and some Slavic countries, including Russia), but you still have to wade through these hits in search of good prospects.  They also pick up hits from Pinterest and other “Scraper” sites which are not worth pursuing.  In a couple of cases they just reported that they were unable to get a response from the infringer.  In a couple of cases they were not able to pursue I then wrote polite, non-threatening letters to the infringer and received what I considered to be a reasonable payment, without tacking on any extra penalty. 

    Around 2018 I gave up on Pixsy, concluding that the one successful case did not repay the time required to submit images, plus the time to check sales history on any potential  case worth pursuing. 

    So I turned to Copytrack, and uploaded about 3000 images.  They suffer from some of the same problems as Pixsy in that they will find possible infringements in countries they are not ready to pursue.  I asked both Pixsy and Copytrack why they can’t filter out from their search results “hits” that occur in countries or languages they are unable to pursue, but neither seems able to do that.  (I must add the caveat that I’ve had no new info from Pixsy since 2018, so it’s possible they’ve refined their system in the meantime.)

    Copytrack found a probable infringement in a country they could pursue. The form they require before beginning action asks for my banking info.  I was a bit surprised that they wanted this info even before having anything to send me.  I’m sensitive to security concerns and don’t like providing banking info until absolutely necessary. I proposed PayPal as an easy mechanism for transmitting funds but Copytrack would not use them.  They suggested another fund transmittal service, but I found many negative reviews for this service online.   Copytrack said they will only transmit funds in Euros and they will not use any third-party intermediary banks when transmitting wire transfers.  Since two of my banks use major New York banks to process incoming wire transfers from abroad, this eliminated those options.  I’ve given up on Copytrack until they learn to deal with PayPal.  So I don’t know how good they are at reaching agreements with infringers.  Will be interested in reading about others’  experiences.

  7. OK to remove "Don't sell for editorial." 

    Personal Use should be limited to a small size--or with price increasing as size increases.  Many of these are highly suspect.

    To get a lower price we sometimes pay for a hotel/motel room in advance, knowing the funds are not refundable if plans change.  The concept of "low price/no refund" is a common and well-understood marketing practice.  All PU sales should also be non-refundable.

    If you're going to revise the Optional page on AIM then why not also eliminate the "Assign Existing Releases" feature?  I recall Alamy saying some time ago that they no longer wanted us to upload releases, merely to have them available if asked.

    Finally, the distinction between "advertising" and "marketing" has never been clear to me.  Is "marketing" included in the Commercial Use category?

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  8. I went exclusive with Alamy at the beginning of the year, removing my images from two other agencies where sales were far less frequent than at Alamy, and where prices were often only one-half or less what Alamy is getting.  But no, I've seen no increase in sales.  This years sales numbers and sales revenue are both slightly behind where I was this time last year.  Not particularly bad, but certainly no noticeable improvement.  In addition to going exclusive I've been using spare time the last several months to review the keywording of old images.  When Alamy changed its AIM system (was that two and a half years ago now?) I found it screwed up a lot of my keywording, dropping commas that had previously been there, thereby creating lots of multiple-word keyword phrases which were likely never to be searched, while also separating into single words keywording that had earlier been two- or three-word phrases (i.e., "palm tree" became "palm, tree" or "ear ring" became "ear, ring", which can produce a lot of false positives and result in a lowered CTR rating).  So correcting all these keyword anomalies should, I thought, improve my CTR rating and lead to more sales, but obviously that has not yet happened.  In any case I don't regret going exclusive since my other agencies were not producing much. 

  9. I did my own review of Google search results recently.  Using rather narrowly-defined searches so there would not be thousands of images found, I found that Google found my images in the Alamy collection much more frequently than those (same ones) in my PhotoShelter website collection.  So I asked PhotoShelter for their comment.  After complimenting me on my on-page metadata (keywords, captions, etc.) they offered the following advice:


    The main thing you will want to pay attention to when it comes to driving traffic to your site is backlinks (people who link back to your website) and the "anchor text" (the linked text).

    If you haven't embarked on a strategy to create backlinks (e.g. blogging about your website, getting other people to blog about you, etc), then you won't have much success with search engines, and therefore you won't have many visits. You should think of each link as an endorsement of your content. The more links, the more likely the search engines are likely to consider you a credible search result.

    Some places to start:
    - If you are a member of communities or trade organizations, create backlinks from your profile page
    - Create a blog and write entries each time you publish new content on your website.
    - Consider content trades whereby other sites link to you in return. We often "guest" blog to reach a wider audience as well as get a backlink.

    Even a handful of backlinks can have an effect on your SEO because most people have zero backlinks to their website.


    I don't blog and don't think I have time to do it.  Their advice may be valid, but of course it puts the onus on me to achieve better results, and not on themselves.

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  10. The automated response comes first.  Shortly afterwards you should get a reply from a real person.  Unfortunately, these replies are rarely satisfying.  The low prices you have noted are becoming increasingly common.  Many contributors have also noted that their number of monthly sales is also declining the last 2-3 months.  We all need to speak up about this.  These prices are basically an insult to serious photographers.  The problem is that with over 150 million images Alamy does not seem to be concerned about alienating its contributors, figuring that if we stop submitting it will hardly be noticed.

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  11. "Czech Republic, Editorial, Editorial, Website, Bulk discount, flat rate per image

    Not enough for a stale donut."


    I've opted out of Czech Republic sales.  Everyone else should do the same.  Maybe market forces will eventually start to work.


    Didn't know about Slovenia and Serbia.  If similarly low prices are being given those two countries I'll opt out of them too.  But Alamy seems to have missed the creation of the country of Serbia; it isn't in the list.  Nice to know we can still opt out of the country of Yugoslavia.  Is Alamy in the news business?

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  12. I'm opting out of the Czech Republic.  Am just fed up with low, single-digit dollar sales to that market.  They are not a Third World underdeveloped country and should be able to pay prices more in line with what the rest of Europe is paying.   I doubt that Czech users will notice that my 29,000 images are no longer available, but if enough contributors did this perhaps it would convey the lesson that market forces can be brought to bear.  Ollie

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  13. I had one a few months ago, which resulted in a license for the book cover.  Exclusive use as a book cover was all the customer asked for.  I replied that I would agree to that on the assumption that licensing for other purposes would still be permitted.  Alamy did not comment on my assumption but went ahead and licensed the image.  I was surprised when I later inadvertently discovered that Alamy now shows the image as not available for any licensing for magazines or books.  I asked why,  noting that this notation deprives both Alamy and me of any additional revenues that could be gained from magazine use, or from use inside a book.  (And this only shortly before Alamy told us it would lower commissions to 40% because it needs more money.)  Alamy replied that its software is currently incapable of distinguishing between book and magazine use, and book cover and inside use.  So be aware that if you consent to exclusive use as a book cover you are in effect removing that image from further consideration for other licenses for magazine use or for inside book use.  I hope Alamy will use some of the money it's now earning from its increased commissions to pay for improvements in its website software.

  14. I've been with Alamy many years and I don't ever recall receiving anything from them to document my proceeds.  I just add up the monthly deposits made to my account and note it on my Schedule C, where I report business income and expenses.  If the IRS were ever to ask for documentation I would show them the deposits on my monthly bank statements, but that has never happened.

  15. " There should be no refunds given on PU or presentation sales IMO."  Please keep hammering away on this point to Alamy Management.  They seem to prefer that this issue just go away.  I had three PU sales refunded after two months.  In my case I think Alamy gave the only acceptable explanation: the images had been purchased through the fraudulent use of someone else's credit card.  I agree that that deserved to be refunded, but normally I believe no refund should be given after seven days.  That's plenty enough time for a buyer to recognize they've made a mistake.  In my case, the card owner got his money back but the fraudulent purchaser has my images.

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  16. Fahd:

    You’re at a good location and there should be a market for those images.  My only suggestions would be the following:

    --probably too many “similars” of the “Water Break” series.  Five “organic chinese white pear and red plum”.  Four “burfi” sweet confectionary.  Fourteen+ (I stopped counting) “unripe green oranges on tree”.  Eight high voltage power lines with colorful clouds.  Many of the dome of the Abu Dhabi Louvre.

    Each group probably all have the same or similar keywords.  If they all show up in a search and most are not zoomed in on this could lower your CTR score, meaning future images will show up farther down in the search results.

    --it’s always more interesting to photograph people walking toward you than walking away from you (People in line to enter the Grand Prix; tourists in Heritage Village; people at ADCB cycles pick up point; toddlers on bikes at the Corniche; people in line to enter the public beach).  Not to say that images showing peoples clothing or style of dress won’t sell, even if it’s a shot from the rear; they may, but the image is more likely to be interesting if we see people from the front.

    --maybe too many night shots from inside the car during the heavy thunderstorm; pick the best only.

    You do lots of close-ups and that’s always good.  I always try to remember Robert Capa’s advice:  if your images aren’t good enough you’re not close enough.  Some of the umbrellas on the beach scenes are rather far away.

    Feel free to critique my own  if you like.  We can always benefit from listening to someone else’s (not a family member) eye.

    Good luck.

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