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Thinking of going exclusive - am I crackers?


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So I am fairly new to stock photography as I'm sure many of you can tell. Joined a couple of years ago, uploaded a small batch of photos, forgot about it for a year and came back to three totally unexpected sales. That got me going again and since earlier this year I've been uploading a constant stream of photos. If anything it has helped get me out and doesn't feel like work, just a hobby that occasionally pays.

 

When I researched stock in the beginning Alamy stood out to me like a shining light in a sea of stock agencies that overall pay very low commission, which is why I'm here ultimately. I'm only on one other "stock" site, but it is small fry and doesn't seem to have any clout with google search rankings at all. I have not yet joined any other agencies. I have often toyed with joining some of the other big names, but what I see doesn't impress me. The one beginning with a G that rhymes with a word synonymous for pier must be having a laugh - they want your exclusivity for something daft like 25%? And the other one being talked about on this very forum I won't be touching with a barge pole, not helped by the fact that I read they are exclusively RF now. 

 

So given the above I started to have thoughts about going more or less fully exclusive on Alamy. Only a small percent of my portfolio is exclusive, probably 10% or less, with some photos intentionally left un-exclusive for future "headroom". I do however get the impression that various people here are increasingly unhappy even with Alamy, so am I completely mad for potentially boxing myself into one agency for the added benefit of 10% extra commission? I honestly can't decide the answer to that and would be happy to hear what others think.

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Posted (edited)

Hey Callum,

You're probably going to get a mix of well thought out arguments on both sides. You would get more overall income by spreading yourself around. But then there's a lot of extra time and effort to do that. And how would you feel about people finding one of your pictures and shopping around to find where it's lowest priced? There are probably clients with a lot of money that don't have time to shop around. Equally, it's not like you've got to go anywhere or ring different people to shop around on the internet, it's just a few clicks, so I'm sure more and more clients are doing it these days.

 

Then there's all the 'moral' arguments about not giving money to the agencies that pay a pittance. Unfortunately, there aren't enough people making a stand against that that seem to make any difference....!

Steve

 

p.s. I thought this video from BobD had some interesting thoughts on exclusivity amongst other things (click on his name):

 

Edited by Steve F
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41 minutes ago, Steve F said:

Hey Callum,

You're probably going to get a mix of well thought out arguments on both sides. You would get more overall income by spreading yourself around.

 

 

 only if sales elsewhere compensate for the 20% in licence here.

 

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1 hour ago, meanderingemu said:

 

 only if sales elsewhere compensate for the 20% in licence here.

 

I'm exclusive. If you have 20,000 pictures with a single agency I'm fairly comfortable assuming that the same 20,000 pictures on 10 different agencies would earn you more overall. But as I said, that would be a lot more time and effort, and you'd probably reduce the overall commission you get per image and probably encourage a race to the bottom.

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Most of my images are exclusive to Alamy, even though my portfolio is small and only a couple of sales. But those two sales are more than couple of dozen of downloads and loathed other giant stock site, where I had 2 download sales yesterday for amount you can't even buy chewing gum for.

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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, Steve F said:

I'm exclusive. If you have 20,000 pictures with a single agency I'm fairly comfortable assuming that the same 20,000 pictures on 10 different agencies would earn you more overall. But as I said, that would be a lot more time and effort, and you'd probably reduce the overall commission you get per image and probably encourage a race to the bottom.

 

this is what I am mulling over, to me time cost is an important factor as is the financial cost and reward. I am also wary of locking myself in by going exclusive and then, god forbid, something bad happens and Alamy goes dramatically down the toilet (does a Shutterstock in other words) and I am effectively trapped from shifting my port. If you've gone exclusive and sold a load of pics as exclusive surely you can't then go back on that as they'd want some of the money back. Right?

 

17 minutes ago, AlexG said:

Most of my images are exclusive to Alamy, even though my portfolio is small and only a couple of sales. But those two sales are more than couple of dozen of downloads and loathed other giant stock site, where I had 2 download sales yesterday for amount you can't even buy chewing gum for.

 

This is largely why I use Alamy. Given the measly fees paid by almost every other site worth mentioning that I can think of they might as well be microstock. Alamy has an almost unique position, but the thing that concerns me a bit is when I read an article and see a stock photo, it is not very often at all I see it is from Alamy. It's usually from one of the others and was probably more or less robbed.

 

 

Edited by Cal
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Just now, Cal said:

 

this is what I am mulling over, to me time cost is an important factor as is the financial cost and reward. I am also wary of locking myself in by going exclusive and then, god forbid, something bad happens and Alamy goes dramatically down the toilet (does a Shutterstock in other words) and I am effectively trapped from shifting my port. If you've gone exclusive and sold a load of pics as exclusive surely you can't then go back on that as they'd want some of the money back. Right?

Ah ha, a good point, yes, you really need to make the decision now. I don't know if it's a return of money thing so much as breach of contract? I personally don't feel like I have the time to spread myself over multiple agencies, and I like that Alamy still pays a fairly high and 'fair' commission for what I'm doing, which is why I'm exclusive. But yes, you never know if the business model that works today might be unsustainable tomorrow. Microstock does seem to be dragging the whole industry down with them. I don't feel I have enough experience to answer this question properly; hopefully you'll get a range of views.

Steve

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Cal said:

 

this is what I am mulling over, to me time cost is an important factor as is the financial cost and reward. I am also wary of locking myself in by going exclusive and then, god forbid, something bad happens and Alamy goes dramatically down the toilet (does a Shutterstock in other words) and I am effectively trapped from shifting my port. If you've gone exclusive and sold a load of pics as exclusive surely you can't then go back on that as they'd want some of the money back. Right?

 

CONTRACT:

 

"Exclusive"
means, in relation to an Image, that the Image is not also available via any third party licensing, sales or (where the Image is not supplied by Alamy) distribution channel, including without limitation another stock agency or image site but excluding the Contributor’s personal website and print sales, provided 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 will never be deemed to be Exclusive.

 

 

The reading only appears to be in the Present, not that it will be exclusive forever, so No there should be no money owed back, you would just have to change the Tag they day it no longer is only available at Alamy.  This is not an Exclusivity clause

Edited by meanderingemu
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8 minutes ago, Cal said:

 

This is largely why I use Alamy. Given the measly fees paid by almost every other site worth mentioning that I can think of they might as well be microstock. Alamy has an almost unique position, but the thing that concerns me a bit is when I read an article and see a stock photo, it is not very often at all I see it is from Alamy. It's usually from one of the others and was probably more or less robbed.

 

 

 

Alamy seem to do fairly well in newspapers judging from the 'have you found any images in...' thread. The question is what is happening to Alamy's annual turnover / market share %. But also Alamy is more editorial than anything else and has a different client base so you can't necessarily compare it with other agencies on an equal footing.

 

As your emergency plan just in case, you should definitely download your data - the Excel file in AIM - from time to time.

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3 minutes ago, Steve F said:

 

 

 

As your emergency plan just in case, you should definitely download your data - the Excel file in AIM - from time to time.

 

I'll have a look, I have noticed that button but never yet pressed it.

 

I already have a fairly good file system, I copy every single image into a folder that I upload, sort the fails and passes into a different folder, and then alter the filenames according to whether the image is either exclusive or RF etc. So I have that base covered.

 

I've also started using Lightroom which makes the bagging and tagging much easier. Incidentally it's also a complete wizard at removing noise. I routinely pass images now at ISO 1600 - previously I could barely scrape ISO 400 and 800 images past when using GIMP (don't laugh).

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3 minutes ago, Cal said:

I've also started using Lightroom which makes the bagging and tagging much easier. Incidentally it's also a complete wizard at removing noise. I routinely pass images now at ISO 1600 - previously I could barely scrape ISO 400 and 800 images past when using GIMP (don't laugh).

 

GIMP is very powerful apparently, but I guess you get what you pay for. Maybe just a snigger then 😇

I failed my first upload in 2014 because I basically didn't know what I was doing. Got Lightroom and tried again late 2015 - I've only had a single fail since then.

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9 minutes ago, Steve F said:

 

GIMP is very powerful apparently, but I guess you get what you pay for. Maybe just a snigger then 😇

I failed my first upload in 2014 because I basically didn't know what I was doing. Got Lightroom and tried again late 2015 - I've only had a single fail since then.

 

I'm either using it wrong or it doesn't attack the colour noise properly. Just blurs it! LR actually removes the colour noise to the level you specify. I was blown away when I first used it and realised I would actually be able to take photos at 800/1600 (which is more or less essential on a cheap 70-300 in anything other than midday sun to freeze motion) - my camera body is nearly 10 years old and while noise @ 1600 on a well exposed photo can be almost pleasingly film-like, it won't cut the mustard for Alamy without serious work.

 

The other problem with GIMP is it still doesn't fully handle hiDPI monitors that well. The image display is not in the same hi res as the display, its basically low res but artificially scaled up, a pain to explain but basically makes things look awful when you're editing. You do indeed get what you pay for.

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Just now, Cal said:

 

I'm either using it wrong or it doesn't attack the colour noise properly. Just blurs it! LR actually removes the colour noise to the level you specify. I was blown away when I first used it and realised I would actually be able to take photos at 800/1600 (which is more or less essential on a cheap 70-300 in anything other than midday sun to freeze motion) - my camera body is nearly 10 years old and while noise @ 1600 on a well exposed photo can be almost pleasingly film-like, it won't cut the mustard for Alamy without serious work.

I tried using GIMP years ago. But there's a lot more help videos available for LR! Just a quick one on LR noise reduction, it's great, but it also reduces the amount of detail at the same time. So use it only as much as you need to.

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Early this year I decided to go exclusive with Alamy. At the end of July last year I first joined a microstock agency (that rhymes with what you hit when playing badminton). Two months later I joined Alamy, choosing to upload different photos there, rather than replicating what was with the ms agency. But by the start of this year, it was starting to feel not great getting mostly 25c per image on the ms agency, and I was starting to submit images there that I wasn't even that happy with, while reserving better ones for Alamy. This wasn't good for my photography. So I ended up removing all my photos with them and that I would be exclusive with Alamy.

 

The result is that I have definitely lost some income in the short term, but I'm hoping it will be better in the long term. What I can say is, I feel more at peace with this decision. I prefer Alamy's position as a midstock agency in the market, and I feel like I will grow more as a photographer working with an agency that gives a higher value to contributors' work than some other agencies do. I also find it simpler just focussing on the one agency.

 

I think Steve is likely correct in what he says above about potentially making more money across multiple agencies, but that it is also a matter of time commitment. It is hard to know what is best, and we don't know what will happen with Alamy in the future, but it feels at least a bit more hopeful with them that they won't go the same way as other agencies who have kept on reducing commissions. As I understand from others comments on this forum, contributors are getting smaller sales here, but not to the same degree as elsewhere.

 

If you do go exclusive, you could focus on editorial given Alamy's emphasis here, do some direct marketing of your Alamy images, develop images for particular markets etc. I think you have to think creatively and outside the box, as it is clearly harder than ever to make significant income from stock. So I don't think you are crackers for considering exclusivity. It probably comes down to the time available you have to dedicate to stock and what feels comfortable for you.

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Cal and all,

 

As an active contributor, I was exclusive with Alamy for years, but 2019 forced me to look at other

options.  I still do not contribute the same image to multiple agents or libraries.  In my opinion you

devalue your work by spreading it around.  I have been with two other agencies or libraries that  

license my images longer than Alamy has existed and had hoped to move all of my

work to Alamy, but events in 2019 made me rethink that. 

 

I do not do MS or even RF.  I also do almost 100% editorial images.  Before 2019 I supported

Alamy 100% and I still believe that Alamy is honest and as of 2020 I still believe that Alamy

is one of the best libraries to work with.  Of all of the agencies or libraries that I have contributed

to since 1978 I have and still find Alamy to easiest to communicate with

 

Chuck

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I started the same way, with a very small portfolio and just completely forgot about this place ages ago until I got a payment one day.then I came back and started being more serious contributing more and improving.  I briefly looked at microstock, but they pay pennies. I wasn't going to do all that work, go through all the hassle for pennies, and have my work exploited and devalued at the same time. Alamy is good, accessible, and they pay ok.   If you have something in demand, some people will be willing to pay for it; even gotten a quick $2600 sale (30 day license) once on Alamy from a billion dollar germany company for an image that can't be found elsewhere.

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You can contribute to a POD site or sell prints directly without losing your Alamy exclusivity. 

 

However, should you make a success of POD you might later regret having the same images here as the personal use payments from Alamy are quite a bit lower than you could be getting from POD. 

 

Personally I have had much greater success here than with POD.

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To be or not to be exclusive: that is the question - the answer is complicated, things can change fast - so what seems best to do now - can prove to be wrong in a year.

 

I chose to be exclusive with Alamy image-wise - and with another agency for other media and haven't regretted.

Edited by Niels Quist
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Exclusive.

 

Allan

 

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If you are primarily doing this for enjoyment I should think the 10 cent sales elsewhere might take away from that. I cringe at the occasional $3 sales here but at least it is dollars. Exclusive as they are using it here does not mean the same thing as someone buys your image and asks that you not sell it elsewhere. Alamy would contact you about that sort of exclusivity and you would have to honor it for the time period required. Otherwise, I see no reason that you should feel locked in if you are "exclusive" here to get the extra money. I am exclusive and not on any other agencies. I also am RM on everything as I want to know where my "babies" are going. The income is much appreciated but this is still mostly for pleasure for me.

 

Paulette

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Some great responses in this thread.

 

I don't really have any exposure to micro stock except for something like 20 images on Alamy's MS offering. I've had numerous fails on that as well so I'm either not taking enough care with mobile phone photos or my 2.5 year old device is pushing the QC limits. I've more or less decided to kick MS as it's not for me anyway.

 

It looks like the consensus is leaning towards exclusive.

 

What do people mean here when they say editorial images sell well? Is this referring to checking the "sell for editorial only" checkbox or referring to the subject type? As you can see from my portfolio I have some images which may sell when contextually appropriate (the oil refinery, some older road pics) but a lot are just grab shots that might not suit the editorial category. I upload them on the basis that having them up does no harm but I realise that most will probably never sell, and I'm ok with that.

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I'd suggest concentrating on increasing your numbers before worrying about exclusivity etc

 

Keyword off-Alamy ( Lightroom or whatever you use) so that you have the images ready to send elsewhere should you decide to.

 

See how things go, what is getting zoomed/bought/looked at and what isn't?

 

Personally I'd keep them under one type of licence rather than complicate things. Since you say that definitely want to avoid micros you should go RM ( IMHO).

Edited by geogphotos
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32 minutes ago, NYCat said:

If you are primarily doing this for enjoyment I should think the 10 cent sales elsewhere might take away from that. I cringe at the occasional $3 sales here but at least it is dollars. Exclusive as they are using it here does not mean the same thing as someone buys your image and asks that you not sell it elsewhere. Alamy would contact you about that sort of exclusivity and you would have to honor it for the time period required. Otherwise, I see no reason that you should feel locked in if you are "exclusive" here to get the extra money. I am exclusive and not on any other agencies. I also am RM on everything as I want to know where my "babies" are going. The income is much appreciated but this is still mostly for pleasure for me.

 

Paulette

 

 

in fairness, the 10 cents and $3 are different basis.  The Net $0.84 license at Alamy, still uncleared after 3 months is as cringe worthy.

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