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Hello everyone,

 

Yesterday i had a chance to have a chat with a person that works in the publishing sector. He mentioned that they purchase images from agencies like Alamy, Corbis and so on and also from Microstock.

 

I just asked a simple nerd question why there are people out there that prefer to get a much more expensive license from Alamy and co over microstock. He explained me that there are two kind of needs. The one is clients that doesn't care much about originality and just want to have a cheap solution for imaging and therefore choose for microstock. The other client has a need for an image that is more exclusive or only used by them. This clients have much to spend. This is possible with RM images. These images are not that spread over the internet like Microsock. Also with microstock there is no chance to request a exclusive use since the image could be already licensed by hundreds of other costumers with unlimited time of use. Would you like to publish your own book with an cover photo that is also used by thousands other companies?

 

So shortly the message was there will be always a market for traditional stock photos for companies or publishers that want to be original as possible. 

 

 

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MicoV,

 

I've been in the business for over three decades, I've seen photographers, agents and libraries come and go.

I don't do Micro. Never have and never will and I am with Alamy, a library that I am betting will be in the business

of licensing Rights Managed Images long after I am gone.  After staying home raising children for over ten years

I am now doing assignment photography again and I've been surprised at the clients lining up to hire a 50 something

photographer.  If you value yourself and your work you will be fine.

 

Chuck Nacke

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MicoV,

 

I've been in the business for over three decades, I've seen photographers, agents and libraries come and go.

I don't do Micro. Never have and never will and I am with Alamy, a library that I am betting will be in the business

of licensing Rights Managed Images long after I am gone.  After staying home raising children for over ten years

I am now doing assignment photography again and I've been surprised at the clients lining up to hire a 50 something

photographer.  If you value yourself and your work you will be fine.

 

Chuck Nacke

 

I agree. I too have come back to full time photography after a long (nearly 40 year) break and I am surprised this 60 something photographer is picking up assignments without trying. Not big bucks but not particularly demanding either. I will be very selective about assignments as I do not want to be tied to time and place - my aim is to be more self assigned but if the work fits with my other plans I will do it.

 

Clients aren't queuing round the block but then I have not been promoting myself. I am rather at the rebuilding my portfolio stage. But as Chuck says, if you want it, and are presumably good enough, there is work out there.

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Stock photography is for me a hobby. I don’t have much time to submit images anymore to multiple agencies. I will set my energy to only one in future.

 

I am since 5,5 years in this business testing all the different sources including microstock. I came to the conclusion that indeed cheap doesn’t mean necessary more income. Microstock is becoming a sea of cheap content spread all over the world with the same images downloaded thousands of time. It makes the market look like a large discount store that automatically makes agencies like Alamy and co more visible. It is still the place where you can get images not downloaded by tons of other people. It is not just “an other” agency. I really think Alamy is here to stay, like Chuck mentioned in the longer run, while microstock is eating each other.

 

 

For me the greatest advantages of Alamy are:

  • Most friendly agency to contributors by far
  • I love the way of submitting. Keywording after approving saves a lot of time.
  • You can upload all your good quality photos and are not threat like “children”.
  • 50% commission
  • Great forum
  • In the long run after having some patience good sales.

 

Also I saw in the forum a comment to Keith Morris that the same amount of images would make more money on some microstock sites. It is not necessary like that I can say for the following reason:

Imagine you have 30.000 good quality images on your computer ready for uploading. They will be all accepted on Alamy without doubts. I can tell you from experience for the most microstock sites “RM” kind of images are not popular despite they sell very good here on Alamy. So lets say 40% of them are rejected for “This is not what we are looking for”. Another 20% for other crazy reasons. Just to inform you I have on most sites an acceptance rate of 80% after knowing what they want but it gives me a large limitation in photography.

 

So at the end you will have 30.000 saleable images on Alamy vs 12.000 on microstock. To be short 30.000 images on Alamy doesn’t mean necessary 30.000 images on Shutterstock or whatever site since the image needs are totally different.

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Funkyworm, absolutely agree - I was banging that value for money drum as a management consultant way back in the 80s and 90s.

 

We used the example of a pair of shoes to illustrate value for money. A cheap €5 pair of rope soled espadrilles for a beach holiday are value for money because they last the 2 weeks and go in the bin before you travel home; equally a pair of €500 hand made shoes that last a lifetime (after many new soles and heels) are value for money. They both fulfill their purpose. As you say the €35 shoes that leak the first time it rains are not value for money, they are just cheap (and nasty - they do not meet the purpose for which they were bought).

Edited by Martin P Wilson
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Hear, hear - I was banging that value for money drum as a management consultant way back in the 80s and 90s.

 

We used the example of a pair of shoes to illustrate value for money. A cheap €5 pair of rope soled espadrilles for a beach holiday are value for money because they last the 2 weeks and go in the bin before you travel home; equally a pair of €500 hand made shoes that last a lifetime (after many new soles and heels) are value for money. They both fulfill their purpose. As you say the €35 shoes that leak the first time it rains are not value for money, they are just cheap (and nasty - they do not meet the purpose for which they were bought).

 

Very good example  :).

 

But i think the value in Alamy is not nescessary the quality of the images. In microstock these days the images are also in very good quality. The lack in value in microstock i see more in having something that thousands of other also have. You spend money to have an image on the front cover and then you will see the same image on a billboard advertisement for a total different product. It sounds maybe crazy but it is really noticable these days. I often saw images in a book or ad where i directly remembered the images somewhere else. I directly had a different feeling about the company on that moment. You pay cheap but you have just something that thousands others also have. 

 

Alamy you pay higher amount but you can be sure that image will be not spread everywhere on every corner and you even have the possibility to have the image exclusive. This is the real value in this case in my oppinion.

 

Mirco

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Funkyworm, absolutely agree - I was banging that value for money drum as a management consultant way back in the 80s and 90s.

 

We used the example of a pair of shoes to illustrate value for money. A cheap €5 pair of rope soled espadrilles for a beach holiday are value for money because they last the 2 weeks and go in the bin before you travel home; equally a pair of €500 hand made shoes that last a lifetime (after many new soles and heels) are value for money. They both fulfill their purpose. As you say the €35 shoes that leak the first time it rains are not value for money, they are just cheap (and nasty - they do not meet the purpose for which they were bought).

 

I was once given some good advice by an older person when I was young. They said, "Only the rich can afford cheap shoes."

 

Sorry off topic.

 

Allan 

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MicoV,

 

I've been in the business for over three decades, I've seen photographers, agents and libraries come and go.

I don't do Micro. Never have and never will and I am with Alamy, a library that I am betting will be in the business

of licensing Rights Managed Images long after I am gone.  After staying home raising children for over ten years

I am now doing assignment photography again and I've been surprised at the clients lining up to hire a 50 something

photographer.  If you value yourself and your work you will be fine.

 

Chuck Nacke

You forgot to mention one heck of a CV Chuck. :)

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Funkyworm, absolutely agree - I was banging that value for money drum as a management consultant way back in the 80s and 90s.

 

We used the example of a pair of shoes to illustrate value for money. A cheap €5 pair of rope soled espadrilles for a beach holiday are value for money because they last the 2 weeks and go in the bin before you travel home; equally a pair of €500 hand made shoes that last a lifetime (after many new soles and heels) are value for money. They both fulfill their purpose. As you say the €35 shoes that leak the first time it rains are not value for money, they are just cheap (and nasty - they do not meet the purpose for which they were bought).

 

I was once given some good advice by an older person when I was young. They said, "Only the rich can afford cheap shoes."

 

Sorry off topic.

 

Allan 

 

 

Maybe off-topic, but a great - and still pertinent - quote.

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Funkyworm, absolutely agree - I was banging that value for money drum as a management consultant way back in the 80s and 90s.

 

We used the example of a pair of shoes to illustrate value for money. A cheap €5 pair of rope soled espadrilles for a beach holiday are value for money because they last the 2 weeks and go in the bin before you travel home; equally a pair of €500 hand made shoes that last a lifetime (after many new soles and heels) are value for money. They both fulfill their purpose. As you say the €35 shoes that leak the first time it rains are not value for money, they are just cheap (and nasty - they do not meet the purpose for which they were bought).

 

I was once given some good advice by an older person when I was young. They said, "Only the rich can afford cheap shoes."

 

Sorry off topic.

 

Allan 

 

What a wonderful quote Allan!

I'm going to use that!!!!!

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MicoV,

 

I've been in the business for over three decades, I've seen photographers, agents and libraries come and go.

I don't do Micro. Never have and never will and I am with Alamy, a library that I am betting will be in the business

of licensing Rights Managed Images long after I am gone.  After staying home raising children for over ten years

I am now doing assignment photography again and I've been surprised at the clients lining up to hire a 50 something

photographer.  If you value yourself and your work you will be fine.

 

Chuck Nacke

 

I don't do assignment work, but I feel much the same way. The market for RM images still appears to be healthy. Also, RM is not really as complicated a licensing model as it is often made out to be, especially with flexible "hybrid" RM licenses such as those now offered by Alamy. 

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I'm finding this a really interesting discussion.  I still grapple with where and how to place particular images. I started out earlier in this year, like many others, submitting to micros.  Maybe because I didn't have the confidence to apply to Alamy or other macro agencies.  However, after the initial excitement that ANYONE would pay ANYTHING for one of my photos, it started to jar a bit that I was only getting less than $1 for (say) travel shots that were being used for heaven knows what purpose.  

 

I read the micro forums now and then and have to say I am perplexed by all the moaning about declining commissions and poor returns and wonder if many of these people stop and think that they are part of the reason for that race to the bottom.  Or moaning about copyright infringement when, if they tried to pursue it, what is the measure of damages really?  25c for an authorised licence??

 

So I made the decision to place most photos (certainly travel, architecture and landscape photos) here and as RM, and see how things go. Unfortunately, I forgot to remove / change about 10 or so images that were still RF and for sale on micros. I am pretty sure I lost a potential sale here to a micro just the other week - I had a zoom one day here, but a sale on a micro the next for some measly amount or other.  I am in the processes of removing those remaining RF images from other sites. 

 

But here is a conundrum:  I have started taking some still life photos and want to explore doing so more.  I am grappling with whether or not to make them RF.  I still don't want to sell them on micros, but there are some higher end RF agencies out there which have some really top quality images, and have a more equitable approach to licence fees and revenue sharing (like Alamy). 

 

All this is a long preamble to posing these questions:  is it possible to still value yourself and your work, as Chuck quite rightly says, selling images as RF but through more selective channels?  And, as a practical matter, if better photographers are placing really good stuff on more selective RF sites, can a RM licence really compete with that?  (Mind you, I think the "hybrid" RM licences Alamy are offering seem to be a partial response to that.  Really interested to hear what others think about this.  

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Every directions has his plus for clients. Depending what the client is finding important he will make his decision. There is a market for both.

 

Microstock is cheap.

 

Alamy and co images are more exclusive.

 

You can buy furniture from Ikea that you can find in many households or you go to an special store where you can get more unique goods.

 

Mirco

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Cheap is cheap, but it is not necessily good value.

 

 

 

Yup. People buy T-shirts for £1 because they're "good value". After being worn and washed 3 or 4 times they're completely out of shape and have a roughened texture. I have some T-shirts that I paid £10 for 15 years ago. I'm still wearing them regularly, they've been worn hundreds of times and still have the same shape and texture. People buy deodorants for £1 that last a month. I buy deodorants for £5 that last 18 months. There are still people around like me (in that respect, not necessarily any other!) and they will not stop being able to see the false economy of economy.

 

You also said:

 

"off the beaten track is being ignored as it is too much of a risk"

 

I'm not sure why that would be the case for a semi-pro. If I want to visit an off-piste location I will go primarily to see the place and photography will be a bonus. Does this not apply to lots of photographers who are not totally dependent on it for an income?

 

Alan

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I suppose i wasn't thinking so much of microstock, but the more expensive and curated RF agencies. Their fees are not that far apart from Alamy (especially after discounting). Is it really the licensing model that is critical, or the value placed on the image? I think the decision between RM and RF is becoming a little more blurred.

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Kerin:

 

From where I sit - with a mostly still-life collection - the answer to your question changes constantly. Presently and for me, it's all about pricing. I see no difference between RM and RF in price, but lots of differences based on agency and perceived value. As you shoot, you have to give this point serious thought. My images might sell or not based on some abstract quality of excellence or artistry, or maybe because I had the keywords that the buyer was looking for.

 

My images don't become more valuable just because I say so, I get better sales when I add value to them.

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Kerin:

 

From where I sit - with a mostly still-life collection - the answer to your question changes constantly. Presently and for me, it's all about pricing. I see no difference between RM and RF in price, but lots of differences based on agency and perceived value. As you shoot, you have to give this point serious thought. My images might sell or not based on some abstract quality of excellence or artistry, or maybe because I had the keywords that the buyer was looking for.

 

My images don't become more valuable just because I say so, I get better sales when I add value to them.

 

Brian hit the nail right on the head, in my opinion.  The industry is changing almost daily, certainly yearly.  Alamy, again in my opinion, is at the forefront of this changing environment.  I started out submitting images to micro stock sites (5 total) back in about 2005 or 2006.  I wanted to see if my images would sell.  I didn't care that I was getting about $1 per sale at the time.  As time went on, I saw the commissions go even lower, now to the point of being absurd, 25¢ per sale.  I made several hundred, no, thousand dollars, over several years as I continued to contribute to fill in some time away from my portrait business.

 

Since retiring from my commercial portrait business, I have decided to become an Alamy photographer.  I believe Alamy has the best model for me, and actually values their photographers.  Brian could not be more correct when he says, "…I get better sales when I add value to them."  This is not an easy industry (stock).  I am constantly looking for ways to "add value" to my images.  RM or RF, I will benefit.

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... but a new top of line expensive camera does not make a decent photograph. The photographer does.

 

 

I've relearned this several times over the years, every time I've moved up significantly in equipment--with lots of poorly exposed, out-of-focus shots, before I learned how to control the hot new camera.

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... but a new top of line expensive camera does not make a decent photograph. The photographer does.

 

 

I've relearned this several times over the years, every time I've moved up significantly in equipment--with lots of poorly exposed, out-of-focus shots, before I learned how to control the hot new camera.

 

 

There's an old saying that the worst photographers usually have the best cameras. This is hyperbole, of course, but there is a grain of truth to it.

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I remember years ago a friend asking me to go shopping with them for ski gear for their first ever ski holiday. Despite suggestions to the contrary, they bought top line and flashy gear. Not sure they got the idea that the flashier the gear, the more they drew attention to their lack of skills. Never asked, but expect they probably had the most expensive photography gear too!

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Hear, hear - I was banging that value for money drum as a management consultant way back in the 80s and 90s.

 

We used the example of a pair of shoes to illustrate value for money. A cheap €5 pair of rope soled espadrilles for a beach holiday are value for money because they last the 2 weeks and go in the bin before you travel home; equally a pair of €500 hand made shoes that last a lifetime (after many new soles and heels) are value for money. They both fulfill their purpose. As you say the €35 shoes that leak the first time it rains are not value for money, they are just cheap (and nasty - they do not meet the purpose for which they were bought).

 

Very good example  :).

 

But i think the value in Alamy is not nescessary the quality of the images. In microstock these days the images are also in very good quality. The lack in value in microstock i see more in having something that thousands of other also have. You spend money to have an image on the front cover and then you will see the same image on a billboard advertisement for a total different product. It sounds maybe crazy but it is really noticable these days. I often saw images in a book or ad where i directly remembered the images somewhere else. I directly had a different feeling about the company on that moment. You pay cheap but you have just something that thousands others also have. 

 

Alamy you pay higher amount but you can be sure that image will be not spread everywhere on every corner and you even have the possibility to have the image exclusive. This is the real value in this case in my oppinion.

 

Mirco

 

 

That happens with RM and especially happened with early days of RF discs. The 'Everywhere Girl' was one well known image that appeared all over. The point is that most clients don't care or need to worry about the same image being used all over the place and it's the same for RM. The whole reason for producing a picture that everyone wants to use is that it hopefully will be used on multiple covers and multiple ads. The possibility of exclusive is always there but is rarely used these days (other than in buyouts) for much above territorial or local industry wide.

 

Real value is in the eye of the client, not the photographer. They are the ones who decide which licensing model is most suited to them.

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Geoff, wasn't there a moment back in the late nineties when clients actually wanted to use the same photos that everybody else used? Not only a smiling girl, but certain doctors and businessmen too.

 

Indeed, it seemed so. Also if people cast their minds back to the days of catalog(ue)s..... the same images sold stupid numbers of times....as always in stock...nothing's new!!

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The catalog days were a strange time, if you were among the tiny few that got images in catalogs, you were flush! If you didn't, you pretty much had no earnings at all. I'm actually happy that the catalogs are gone. The current system is far more fair - if nothing else.

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