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Is stock photography (as a way of earning some reasonable income) pretty much dead?


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Genuine question...when I got into this in 2008 the microstock companies were already sniffing the air.

 

Fast forward 13 years (ironic) and it seems (with the new contract especially) that Alamy, after valiantly resisting, may be going down that route too. 

 

Is there really any hope for the stock photographer- unless they have really niche images that are highly sought after?

 

 

 

 

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My current position is that I have a small number of pics still to submit to Alamy and then I will pause or stop completely. I don't want to be dealing with Alamy any more but neither do I want to throw away 19 years of solid work and commitment in a temper tantrum. 

 

My intention is to switch my efforts to my own website - and, boy, does it need it! Even if this doesn't earn me money it will be enjoyable and something under my own control.

 

I'm going to concentrate more on my interest in old slides which in itself is fairly niche I suppose.

 

No doubt I will continue to walk around with my camera  and take photos of anything interesting I see. I was doing that long before Alamy existed and it is just  part of my life.  Disillusionment with stock won't change that and having a website means that I can publish what I want even if nobody ever comes to see it.

 

www.geographyphotos.com

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There is huge choice in stock available and I guess it is getting more difficult for stock companies to remain competitive.

This has been a hobby for me since I started, with the added bonus that I may score a few dollars now and again. I retired (belatedly) almost a year ago and I can, now that Covid restrictions have eased, get out and about and do more, so I'm not giving up any time soon.

Ian mentioned his website and that has prompted me to investigate that as an option for my other photography which I don't post on Alamy.

Any recommendations from those with experience for a (not too expensive) web provider would be appreciated.

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Brief answer IMHO is yes. I've been in stock only ~4 yrs but race to the bottom is evident, everywhere. Why is that so is different topic that has been discussed ad nauseam. So as I enjoy photography, I treat stock as hobby that pays for photo gear.

 

Having personal site can be very enjoyable indeed. Mine is mix of photography and hiking/travel & from occasional direct sales I can cover web hosting costs.  So it's all good. But for single individual to make living from stock is super difficult now, maybe impossible.

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6 minutes ago, Dave Richards said:

There is huge choice in stock available and I guess it is getting more difficult for stock companies to remain competitive.

This has been a hobby for me since I started, with the added bonus that I may score a few dollars now and again. I retired (belatedly) almost a year ago and I can, now that Covid restrictions have eased, get out and about and do more, so I'm not giving up any time soon.

Ian mentioned his website and that has prompted me to investigate that as an option for my other photography which I don't post on Alamy.

Any recommendations from those with experience for a (not too expensive) web provider would be appreciated.

Squarespace. 

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I haven't formally worked out the hourly pay rate, but I'm fairly confident that any 'regular' paid job pays considerably more per hour, including minimum wage jobs (UK). We do this largely because we like doing it. You may eventually be in a position where you have a reasonable passive income without needing to do much additional 'work', but I think you would need many tens of thousands of images in order to achieve that.

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Back of the envelope calculation, based on my own experience and earnings figures. This is just putting the images on Alamy. 

 

1000 images will generate about £200 in income on Alamy over the next 9 years.

 

Time to take image, process, check, caption, keyword, upload, massage data into Alamy etc. 5 minutes per image.

 

Time to process 1000 images ~ 80 hours.

 

Equivelant hourly rate = £2.50

 

Possible improvements: streamline the process, submit to multiple agencies
Not accounted for: Travel, equipment costs, insurance, other expenses etc.
 

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19 minutes ago, Colblimp said:

Squarespace. 

 

Ifr you are ggoing down the route of your own web site then bear this Google/IPTC in mind:

Google/ IPTC licencing

https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2020/08/make-licensing-information-for-your

Most web sites, platforms and even libraries strip metadata so you risk orphaned images and missing out on the Google licencing opportunity. Often it is pure laziness or unawareness - they use the default GD2 image (designed when minimising data was needed for dial up) library that cannot maintain the embedded data rather than switch to ImageMagick. Other strip metadata to deny image makers their moral and IP rights.

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5 minutes ago, Steve F said:

I haven't formally worked out the hourly pay rate, but I'm fairly confident that any 'regular' paid job pays considerably more per hour, including minimum wage jobs (UK). We do this largely because we like doing it. You may eventually be in a position where you have a reasonable passive income without needing to do much additional 'work', but I think you would need many tens of thousands of images in order to achieve that.

I agree with that. It was the prospect of passive income that made it attractive to me when I started. However that's a bit of an illusion. The reality is that unless you keep adding images to keep up with the increasing library size and the falling license fees your passive income will decline each year. This impact is not so visible when you are starting out because most contributors portfolios increase in size quite quickly. From 1000 images you could increase the size of your portfolio by 100% to 2000 images. If the effect of falling prices is, say, 15%, you'll hardly notice it. But when you've got 10,000 images you have to add 1500 per year to stay still, and so on.

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Like geophotos stated earlier, I shall pause for the time being, and not throw away what I have already done.

I can't be arsed at the moment placing my Alamy images elsewhere. Probably much work for little reward. 

 

I have other images with another library elsewhere, so will concentrate more with them.

They have a short easy to understand contract, split the money 50/50, tell you who has licenced the image, and many fees are in the £££ bracket. 

You can even pop in to their office and visit them. 

Not a specialist library either, but a very tightly edited RM exclusive general library.

So if you can get away from the Alamy (and others) of pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap model then do so ! 

 

I think for general easy to do stuff then we are already a good way down the hill.

May be as more people give up making stock pics due to it not being worthwhile in many instances, there will be more commissioned work again as image users can't find what they are looking for ? 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Keith Douglas said:

I agree with that. It was the prospect of passive income that made it attractive to me when I started. However that's a bit of an illusion. The reality is that unless you keep adding images to keep up with the increasing library size and the falling license fees your passive income will decline each year. This impact is not so visible when you are starting out because most contributors portfolios increase in size quite quickly. From 1000 images you could increase the size of your portfolio by 100% to 2000 images. If the effect of falling prices is, say, 15%, you'll hardly notice it. But when you've got 10,000 images you have to add 1500 per year to stay still, and so on.

 

Passive income was also what attracted me when I started. And I do sell older images still every year. But it appears there are a large proportion of clients seeking out new and fresh (to quote Alamy) imagery. So you have to keep uploading. Which I'm fine with, although the large increase in the Alamy library size (increased competition) and cut in the commission is de-motivating....

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14 minutes ago, Keith Douglas said:

Back of the envelope calculation, based on my own experience and earnings figures. This is just putting the images on Alamy. 

 

1000 images will generate about £200 in income on Alamy over the next 9 years.

 

Time to take image, process, check, caption, keyword, upload, massage data into Alamy etc. 5 minutes per image.

 

Time to process 1000 images ~ 80 hours.

 

Equivelant hourly rate = £2.50

 

Possible improvements: streamline the process, submit to multiple agencies
Not accounted for: Travel, equipment costs, insurance, other expenses etc.
 

 

Keith, thanks, as I suspected. But ermmm... sounds like the net hourly rate will be negative when you add equipment costs etc... 🤦‍♂️

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, AlbertSnapper said:

Like geophotos stated earlier, I shall pause for the time being, and not throw away what I have already done.

I can't be arsed at the moment placing my Alamy images elsewhere. Probably much work for little reward. 

 

I have other images with another library elsewhere, so will concentrate more with them.

They have a short easy to understand contract, split the money 50/50, tell you who has licenced the image, and many fees are in the £££ bracket. 

You can even pop in to their office and visit them. 

Not a specialist library either, but a very tightly edited RM exclusive general library.

So if you can get away from the Alamy (and others) of pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap model then do so ! 

 

I think for general easy to do stuff then we are already a good way down the hill.

May be as more people give up making stock pics due to it not being worthwhile in many instances, there will be more commissioned work again as image users can't find what they are looking for ?

 

I think the easy to do stuff, especially for web and small size print use will continue. Let's face they are just everybody's smartphone holiday snaps, there will always be too many such 'good enough' images and people who are satisfied to see their name in the paper, on a web site or TV. Readers' pictures have been a cheap staple since the general availability of cheap colour photo printing.

 

But they won't make any money for the 'photographer'

Edited by Martin P Wilson
clarification
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Just now, Steve F said:

 

Keith, thanks, as I suspected. But ermmm... sounds like the net hourly rate will be negative when you add equipment costs etc... 🤦‍♂️

Quite likely....  But each person can do their own calculation and decide what costs are specific to creating the stock images and which costs should be ignored. If I drive 10 miles to get some Live News pictures I should, if I am accounting fully, include a pence per mile figure for the car (and not just the fuel cost). On the other hand if I am on holiday and taking pictures as I walk around I wouldn't allocate some of the holiday costs to the capture of stock images.

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2 minutes ago, Martin P Wilson said:

 

I think the easy to do stuff, especially for web and small size print use will continue. Let's face they are just everybody's smartphone holiday snaps, there will always be too many such 'good enough' images and people who are satisfied to see their name in the paper, on a web site or TV. Readers' pictures have been a cheap staple since the general availability of cheap colour photo printing.

 

The casual holiday snapper will take a picture of the fantastic famous landmark, so hence many pics of the landmark out there.

But will the casual holiday snapper turn the camera around and photograph the many casual snappers photographing the fantastic famous landmark?

My point being that whether it be stock, journalism, documentary etc., people like most of us will see the details that say something a bit extra. Which often is what the publisher will want.

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Luckily stock has always been a small sideline for us and has paid for us to travel. But our print website makes more money from one print than Alamy returns in a year. So we won’t miss it financially! 

www.vaprints.co.uk

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Posted (edited)

Whether stock is worthwhile is an interesting subject and in the end subjective because it depends on personal circumstances. 

 

What has happened now with Alamy is different to that.

 

It is them breaking their word, taking advantage of us, treating us with contempt. Calling it 'fair' and 'sustainable'. and just one of those things when they purposely mislead us ( no plans to change commission) and the suddenly spring a further revenue cut on us. 

 

That's enough for me. The trust has gone, the loyalty has gone. 

Edited by geogphotos
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9 minutes ago, Steve F said:

 

Passive income was also what attracted me when I started. And I do sell older images still every year. But it appears there are a large proportion of clients seeking out new and fresh (to quote Alamy) imagery. So you have to keep uploading. Which I'm fine with, although the large increase in the Alamy library size (increased competition) and cut in the commission is de-motivating....

That may be a small factor, but I still sell images from 7 or 8 years ago. And I sell images from this year.

 

There's a more fundamental problem for contributors though, which is that Alamy's sales revenue has remained relatively flat for the last 4  years while the number of images has doubled. Same size pie, more slices. Now I'd like to think that my images are so unique that buyers will be immediately attracted to them in preference to all those new images that have been uploaded! But, of course, I know that isn't the case and my revenue per image will have been hit as much as most other contributors.  Yes, sales numbers have held up for me, even increased over that time. But at the expense of income per image.

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6 minutes ago, Steve F said:

 

Keith, thanks, as I suspected. But ermmm... sounds like the net hourly rate will be negative when you add equipment costs etc... 🤦‍♂️

 

Bill Brooks got it right earlier when he suggested stock photography has large been a photographic lifestyle rather than a job.

 

I would suggest that many (most/) of us need to rethink why we are taking photographs, what our purpose is. For my PhD research I am looking at long term bodies of work produced by working (or retired) professional photographers andf what is clear many such long term projects are done because 'they are imporrtant to the photographer' (Dr. Pete Davis, a once active member of these forums as Dyn Llun). It is often the photography they do for themselves rather than for commercial gain.Similarly,  I am sure Elliot Erwitt's dog photographs or Andre Kertész 'On Reading'  were shot for their own amusement, as a diversion from the day job, even if they did eventually appear in print.

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10 minutes ago, AlbertSnapper said:

 

The casual holiday snapper will take a picture of the fantastic famous landmark, so hence many pics of the landmark out there.

But will the casual holiday snapper turn the camera around and photograph the many casual snappers photographing the fantastic famous landmark?

My point being that whether it be stock, journalism, documentary etc., people like most of us will see the details that say something a bit extra. Which often is what the publisher will want.

 

I would suggest only 'some' publishers will want that different shot and that is the market for the serious stock photographer. Most publication (mainly web sites) will be happy with the obvious view, as long as it is scheap or preferably free.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Keith Douglas said:

That may be a small factor, but I still sell images from 7 or 8 years ago. And I sell images from this year.

 

There's a more fundamental problem for contributors though, which is that Alamy's sales revenue has remained relatively flat for the last 4  years while the number of images has doubled. Same size pie, more slices. Now I'd like to think that my images are so unique that buyers will be immediately attracted to them in preference to all those new images that have been uploaded! But, of course, I know that isn't the case and my revenue per image will have been hit as much as most other contributors.  Yes, sales numbers have held up for me, even increased over that time. But at the expense of income per image.

 

Think of the signal to noise ratio on a site like Alamy when looking for a great or even merely different image, especially of a popular location. That is why, traditionally, libraries are curated.

Edited by Martin P Wilson
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1 hour ago, willn said:

Genuine question...when I got into this in 2008 the microstock companies were already sniffing the air.

 

Fast forward 13 years (ironic) and it seems (with the new contract especially) that Alamy, after valiantly resisting, may be going down that route too. 

 

Is there really any hope for the stock photographer- unless they have really niche images that are highly sought after?

 

 

'Reasonable' means many different things to different people.  I started shooting stock in the 1980s in a very different agency world. As a full time shooter, I gave up on stock when total income (not revenue) dipped below £20K - that's my 'reasonable'. That happened years ago and I refuse to subsidise agencies like Alamy with imagery. If you are not making a business profit, you are feathering their beds..... that means a proper accounting of your expenses....not the fantasy accounting of most.

 

I don't think stock ever recovered economically from the 2007 crash - it was on  a slippery slope beforehand and now every man/woman and their dog/cat is shooting stock, albeit mostly not brilliantly.  Digital created the perfect storm - it was a massive benefit at the start (if you were with the right agencies or collections) but now the winds are howling and the ship is taking on water.....and guess who's bailing out the boat...sure as hell not the ship's owners.

 

In the last five or six years I've terminated contracts with Getty, seen a once incredble agency like Blend fall apart and seen income from other commercial agencies like Cultura disappear.  These were places that made money like the Royal Mint..... all pretty much gone.

 

I truly feel sorry for anyone who needs the money from stock, sorry but you missed the boat by a decade (at least).  This soul searching is nothing new, it must be 15 years or so since one of the top selling commercial shooters/production houses on Getty left the building..... truly visionary.

 

As a soon to be ex-Alamy contrib, I think the best way to look at stock is a hobby and like most hobbies, it costs you money. If you are happy for that to make others richer at the same time, then that's fine as well.

 

 

 

 

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The reward to effort ratio has always been shocking. The only way hourly rate works is if you measure the time taken as the shutter speed.  Anything else leads to madness. 

 

Ian hit the nail on the head with his earlier comments on leaving. If or when I go it will be on a date I decide and not a date set by an suit wearing arbitrary deadline setter.* In the interim I'm looking for indemnity insurance to to protect me from the revised 5.1  To be honest I/we should have had it for the old 5.1.

 

*I'm an ex suit wearing arbitrary deadline setter...

 

Stay safe

 

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52 minutes ago, Keith Douglas said:

Back of the envelope calculation, based on my own experience and earnings figures. This is just putting the images on Alamy. 

 

1000 images will generate about £200 in income on Alamy over the next 9 years.

 

Time to take image, process, check, caption, keyword, upload, massage data into Alamy etc. 5 minutes per image.

 

Time to process 1000 images ~ 80 hours.

 

Equivelant hourly rate = £2.50

 

Possible improvements: streamline the process, submit to multiple agencies
Not accounted for: Travel, equipment costs, insurance, other expenses etc.
 

Realistically my figures are 3-4 times that- now. So I am just about on minimum wage.

But in 9 years?😮

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I wouldn't encourage my daughters to do it - except for fun.

As a way of making "reasonable income" I think digital lowers the barriers to entry and since then stock was never going to pay the bills.

If you enjoy photography and want a bit of pin money then fine - but make sure you don't really need the money.

 

I have always been minded to have my own website - now im more focused on setting that up - not really as a means to sell but to share my images - as taking photographs is something I will always do.

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