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Commission change - James West comments

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I love photography. Outside of Alamy I’ve sold to magazines, newspapers, and text book companies. I’ve done weddings, portraits and events. Photography is fun, and I’ve always enjoyed working as a photographer. Some of you may decide that you might as well keep your photos here and get a “little something” for them. But I want to remind you that sometimes “nothing” is worth more than a “little something”. I won’t let Alamy make more from my images than I do. I feel abused by Alamy, so if this commission change is realized, I’ll be pulling my images and moving on to my next chapter as a photographer. I’ll miss you guys and the fun of selling stock images, but I’ll hold my head high. cheers

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6 hours ago, Skyscraperfan said:

For many of us contributors it is not so much about money, but about fairness.

There is a famous economic experiment called the "Ultimatum Game": Player 1 is given an amount of money and has to offer a share of that money tp player 2. Player 2 has the option of either accepting that offer or rejecting it. If he rejects the offer, player 1 also loses the money he was given and both players end up without any money. Most people consider a 50/50 split fair and the lower the offer from player 1 is, the more people reject his offer although it means that they end up with no money at all. Interestingly that is even true with large sums of money. So if the sum is $10,000 for example and player 1 only offers $3,000, most people will reject that offer, even if that means losing $3,000, because they find it unfair that player 1 gets $7,000, while they just get $3,000.

Of course that experiment shows that most people would also accept a split that is somewhat less fair for them than the 50/50 split. Many contributors here probably will accept the 40/60 split, but that does not mean that they think it's fair. They just can't afford losing all their Alamy income after having invested so much time in keywording and optimizing their images for Alamy. However they will always have a bad feeling in their stomach if they take a look at the Account balance and the that the value in the "alamy Commission" line eats up more than half of the money of the "Sale" above it. They feel that it is unfair, that the creator of a photo does not even receive half of the licensing fees.

Perhaps I am not the typical Alamy contributor. My focus are skyscrapers and I travel around the world to take photos of them and if I come back from a journey I only upload the 50 or so very best of my photos, because I care very much about quality. Some photos take about half an hour in optimizing them with Photoshop and Lightroom and the keywording, counting the number of people in that photo, finding out the address of a building and so on takes a lot of time. You really need a lot of passion for photography to do this.

The biggest reward for me is seeing my photos appear in books and magazines around the world. A photo only "lives" if people see it. I was very happy when my photo of the Empire State Building appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records. That was a sale through Alamy and I do not care very much about the amount of money that sale generated for me. However I DO care about the share I get from such a deal. Getting 50% of $20 is more satisfying for me than getting 40% of $100, even if the amount of money is four times as much.

The 40/60 split just shows us that you think that your part of the work has more value than ours. That is a slap in the face for us photographers who sometimes wait half an hour until the clouds are gone and they have the perfect light for a photo. I can understand that you need money for datacenters and employees, but that is nothing compared to the huge amounts of cameras and lenses Alamy contributors buy every year. Someone in the other thread made a good comparison with Uber drivers. Some of them even bought a car just for Uber and after they have invested so much money, Uber suddenly reduces their commissions and they are in same trap as many Alamy contrubutors: Either accept the new unfair commission or face an even huger loss if they quit.

I will not delete my photos right away. Yesterday I restricted all my photos from most use cases and will lift those restrictions once Alamy goes back to the 50/50 split. I think there should be an option to take a photo offline without deleting it. That would also be very useful in other situation. Perhaps some people only want tons of Christmas photos in their portfolio if it really is Christmas time. There should be a convenient way to turn on and off sales of a photo, even if it would take 48 hours for changes to come into effect.

 

Mathias, You said it much better than I did.  +1

Thank you

Chuck Nacke

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Since joining a month ago I have been working hard and uploading every day, usually this time of the day I would be looking forward to the QC message saying the images have passed. Today there won't be such a message from Alamy since I did not upload anything after watching the video. I did manage to upload over 1000 images to 2 other agencies today but it is a bit sad. I was seeing my work and uploads to Alamy as a long term investment but I am no longer so sure of that.....

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12 minutes ago, Rudix said:

Since joining a month ago I have been working hard and uploading every day, usually this time of the day I would be looking forward to the QC message saying the images have passed. Today there won't be such a message from Alamy since I did not upload anything after watching the video. I did manage to upload over 1000 images to 2 other agencies today but it is a bit sad. I was seeing my work and uploads to Alamy as a long term investment but I am no longer so sure of that.....

I am busy working on a shoot I did last night that goes for direct sale on my own website - but once that is up I will immediately be going through my images on my PC getting them ready to upload elsewhere - and we will see who sells more, who pays the most money, and they will get my focus.

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 I think we can all agree that the current business model for Alamy is swimming against the tide. It is very hard to compete with the tier 1 agencies when they have mountains of cash or access to the capital markets and their strategic goal is to force prices lower and lower so that agencies like Alamy can no sustain a positive cash flow. That gives Alamy little choice but to either a) borrow or sell a percentage of the business for cash,  b)cut operational costs, c) cut commissions, or all three. Any of these choices is just putting off the inevitable that many small businesses face, until the day someone comes along and buys the company for pennies on the dollar and strips out the positive assets for sale (AIM). Is there another option?

 

 Change the parameters of the game, innovate. We've seen Alamy try that, instead of hoarding cash to fight the big boys they've made investments into trying to enhance their core business. It hasn't worked. So now we are down to cutting commissions. Like everyone else, I'm not happy but whether I earn 50% or 40% on a $5.00 gross sale....it just doesn't matter. So let's get back to innovate, but without the cash outlays.

 

 The current stock photo business reminds me a lot of....airlines! Remember after deregulation the flood of low cost airlines (Freddy Laker, et al)? As ticket prices dropped they couldn't last against the deep pockets of the majors, neither could middle tier for that matter as most went out of business or merged. But look what has happened, a few airlines took the opposite route, charging big fares for a quality product and it worked, thing Emirates, Singapore, etc. I think this is the only competitive route left for Alamy, ask for premium rates, deliver a premium product.

 

 So I propose the creation of "Alamy Prime", a curated collection of Alamy's best images. Minimum pricing...say $50.00. No distributor or 3rd party sales. No long term licenses without proper fees. Who will do the curating? We, the contributors. Alamy Prime should be limited to say 50MM images, one third of the current collection. We Contributors select 33% of our images for inclusion. They must pass technical, content and commercial viability, having either been sold or zoomed, or a strong likelihood of doing so. Most importantly, they must be properly key-worded, with Alamy reviewing and editing the keywords. Build a reputation for QUALITY. Obviously there is much more to this model then I've touched on. I am happy to accept a 40%, even 30% commission for these sales. Leave the standard Alamy sales at lower prices and 50% commish.

 

If the microstock and second tier agencies have been saturated the market buyers will be looking for quality and pay for it. Alamy should position itself as the source. This will require a marketing and sales push to work and for that Alamy should be looking at an outside partner for expertise. They will have to give up a percentage of ownership to find that partner. Whatever course of action, I am rooting for Alamy's success, as long it is a benefit to the contributors.

 

Edited by formerly snappyoncalifornia
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1 hour ago, KevinS said:

 

Darn, I had promised myself not to re-visit the 'about us', and now I have. Which inevitably led to a look at their board members.

 

11 men, 1 woman.  Every time I get to that page, I hyperventilate.

Edited by imageplotter

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12 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

I am busy working on a shoot I did last night that goes for direct sale on my own website - but once that is up I will immediately be going through my images on my PC getting them ready to upload elsewhere - and we will see who sells more, who pays the most money, and they will get my focus.

I agree, will concentrate on the top selling/revenue site, I no longer offer exclusive images, loyalty only to my pocket :D Fortunately I have had a few accounts with other agents already with only a few images each, way back when I first looked at stock I uploaded 300 images to 4 different agents, it is interesting to see what those images earned over the last 5 years with no new images added. The difference in earnings are HUGE! Then I did not have time to follow up, now I do have the time. After reading about Alamy I thought they deserve my focus but it seems I was wrong.

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14 minutes ago, imageplotter said:

 

Darn, I had promised myself not to re-visit the 'about us', and now I have. Which inevitably led to a look at their board members.

 

11 men, 1 woman.  Every time I get to that page, I hyperventilate.

Out of interest, what would you think if it were 11 woman and 1 man ?

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James,

 

I've been a contributor since 2008 but only most recently, 2017, have I devoted all my attention to Alamy.  This has been a very good year for me with such a small portfolio, albeit still small potatoes compared to others.  Now I am questioning my decision to spend so much time, energy and money into Alamy.

 

I honestly don't believe you know what you have with Alamy and how unique a service you provide.  This is reflected in the ridiculously low prices we continue to see when our images are "sold" (licensed").  Alamy provides the largest, and I think best, library of editorial stock images in the world.  I have not found another agency that can provide anything close to what Alamy has available to its customer base.  I am puzzled as to why the rates are so small for licensing our images when, basically, your customers have nowhere else to go.

 

I have been looking for another agency to work with but cannot find any agency that will accept these types of editorial stock, that we license through Alamy, every day.  Instead of increasing your commission to 60% why not consider incremental increases in licensing fees?  Who else can provide the same type of images Alamy has?  I would really like to know.  If I'm wrong, it is time for me to work with others as well.

 

How about working on marketing strategies that tout this incredibly unique service.  A way to start moving in this direction might be to temporarily stop accepting new contributors.  My word, you now have over 70,000 contributors!  How many do you need?  You've heard others complain about declining revenue.  This is partly due to the fact the sales pool has greatly increased.  I know you are proud of the fact the contributor payout is the highest ever.  Yes, but to a much larger pool of contributors, thus, reducing the payout per contributor.

 

Secondly, how about culling some of the poorer quality images?  Do Alamy really need 150,000,000 editorial stock images?  Probably not.

 

I am not suggesting turning Alamy into a boutique stock agency but you are in charge of the best editorial stock agency in the world, in my opinion.  Alamy should act like it.  You are giving away the farm in my view.

 

In sum, stop accepting new contributors for a while, firm up pricing, and refuse to follow the so called "Tier 1" agencies to the basement.  You have something unique here.  Act like it.

 

Rick 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Rudix said:

I agree, will concentrate on the top selling/revenue site, I no longer offer exclusive images, loyalty only to my pocket :D Fortunately I have had a few accounts with other agents already with only a few images each, way back when I first looked at stock I uploaded 300 images to 4 different agents, it is interesting to see what those images earned over the last 5 years with no new images added. The difference in earnings are HUGE! Then I did not have time to follow up, now I do have the time. After reading about Alamy I thought they deserve my focus but it seems I was wrong.

Similar here - in the 4 months I have been with Alamy a microstock site I have not looked at for months - only 4 images uploaded in the last 2 years - has seen 2 sales both individually higher than the one Alamy sale I have so far.  So I will chuck a couple of hundreds there and see what they make of them.

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3 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

Similar here - in the 4 months I have been with Alamy a microstock site I have not looked at for months - only 4 images uploaded in the last 2 years - has seen 2 sales both individually higher than the one Alamy sale I have so far.  So I will chuck a couple of hundreds there and see what they make of them.

On one of the other sites I seem to sell 5-10% of my portfolio every month, yes, many are low values but some are in the mid to upper $$ region and the volumes make up for it. The is with a portfolio of 300, my plan is to up that to 10K and see what happens. There are also no refunds and I get paid as soon as my account reaches the (low) minimum level (even with my small portfolio that seems to be every month), no waiting for the client to pay. If an image fails QA only that image is rejected. Their QA seems strict but I have no problem with that as it also seems fair. 

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Usually, a company cuts its workers' salaries and collaborators' fees when things start to go really, really bad; not just when its profits plateau. A 20% revenue cut is really bad, too bad for me. For the time being, I'll stop uploading new images, untick all "only available on Alamy", exclude all images for "personal use", change all from royalty-free to RM whenever possible, and apply much tougher restrictions. I'll also start to move a part of my portfolio to other agencies, and most of the  "bottom line" pictures to microstock sites.
I'll also pay more attention to direct sales through my website. It's really a pity, I trusted Alamy, and used to deem it a serious and fair company and business partner. I was wrong, my mistake...

Edited by riccarbi

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34 minutes ago, imageplotter said:

 

Darn, I had promised myself not to re-visit the 'about us', and now I have. Which inevitably led to a look at their board members.

 

11 men, 1 woman.  Every time I get to that page, I hyperventilate.

 

Probably most women are too sensible to get into stock photography

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I just untick all "exclusive to Alamy" photos from my collection.

Very disappointing decision :(:(:(

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Just now, JeffGreenberg said:

 

Do I remember reading correctly in your previous post that

you upload 300+ new images daily to one or more agencies??
If willing to say, what do you shoot?  Daily red carpet events?

Or what else generates that volume daily?!!!!

These are all images from my own "stock" of around 1.5 mil RAW files collected over many years of photography including a few years of professional photography and lots of travel. My daily "new images volume " would be far lower but events can generate 500-2000 images in a day, but then again those mostly won't go to stock agencies but sold directly.

 

The only limit to my daily upload at the moment is processing time, the images are all RAW so needs some work and then there is the time spent on tags. Being retired helps with time but shooting is more fun so that "habit" also needs to be fed :) I have been trying to stick to 200-300 per day here at Alamy, managed to do just over 5000 in the first month.

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1 hour ago, imageplotter said:

 

Darn, I had promised myself not to re-visit the 'about us', and now I have. Which inevitably led to a look at their board members.

 

11 men, 1 woman.  Every time I get to that page, I hyperventilate.

Sorry to have upset you. My purpose in posting was to help others follow the money trail, fair game if Mr. West is arguing on that front. I don't care about the gender of the board members, contributors, employees, etc., but about the business.

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13 minutes ago, KevinS said:

Sorry to have upset you. My purpose in posting was to help others follow the money trail, fair game if Mr. West is arguing on that front. I don't care about the gender of the board members, contributors, employees, etc., but about the business.

 

Kevin - you haven't upset me.

 

The gender split of Alamy's board does upset me. 

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44 minutes ago, BobD said:

 

Probably most women are too sensible to get into stock photography

 

Bob - it is a corporate company board. Not a stock photographer's get together.

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5 hours ago, Marb said:

Out of interest, what would you think if it were 11 woman and 1 man ?

 

The same.

 

But it isn't. It never is. This sort of ratio is sadly very reflective of UK boards. Throw in the odd female HR director (a nice softie position for the ladies, innit), Legal Officer or Head of Sales and it'll be awwwright.

 

But I know that is off topic, and I will stop now,.

Edited by imageplotter
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4 minutes ago, imageplotter said:

But I know that is off topic, and I will stop now,.

Thank you.

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1 minute ago, imageplotter said:

 

The same.

 

But it isn't. It never is. This sort of ratio is sadly very reflective of UK boards. Throw in the odd female HR director (a nice softie position for the ladies, innit), :egal Officer or Head of Sales and it'll be awwwright.

 

But I know that is off topic, and I will stop now,.

Fair enough if blatant sexism is the case but I do think we tend to get bogged down over analyzing and quantifying  everything on the basis of gender, race etc. If I worked for a company which employed a lot more women I wouldn't care a jot. On the contrary, I get on a lot more with women than men in the workplace.

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3 minutes ago, imageplotter said:

 

The same.

 

But it isn't. It never is. This sort of ratio is sadly very reflective of UK boards. Throw in the odd female HR director (a nice softie position for the ladies, innit), :egal Officer or Head of Sales and it'll be awwwright.

 

But I know that is off topic, and I will stop now,.

 

On the other hand there are not many countries where the boss of the government (Theresa May) and the head of state (the queen) both are female.

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1 minute ago, Skyscraperfan said:

 

On the other hand there are not many countries where the boss of the government (Theresa May) and the head of state (the queen) both are female.

 

Yep, and who can forget M Thatcher.

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Stock photography is fast becoming little more than a scam. It is hard work and most  contributors don't even cover their costs.

 

We were already on our knees and Alamy has decided to further rub our noses in the dirt and take the few pennies we earn from us.

 

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2 minutes ago, andremichel said:

Stock photography is fast becoming little more than a scam. It is hard work and most  contributors don't even cover their costs.

 

We were already on our knees and Alamy has decided to further rub our noses in the dirt and take the few pennies we earn from us.

 

 

I think it is possibly more like, Alamy making even more profit than taking pennies from the contributors. In their eyes at least.

 

Allan

 

 

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