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My experience with Alamy coming from a Microstock background but disappointed with earnings after 2 years


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The hypocrisy in this thread is stunning.

Until recently many forum members with a Fine Art America promotion below their signature. - No complaints

Someone mentioning their UK shooting guide series of books. - No complaints.

Geoff promoting his photography by dumping image after image on the forum. - No complaints

Philipe positioning himself as the expert on keywording. A service he provides to photographers he represents, before he puts their images up on Alamy for a cut of their royalties. - No complaints

Someone informing the Forum they were running a photography seminar. - No complaints.

Someone pointing to their Vlogging. - No complaints

A micro-stocker writes a book and puts a mention of the book below his signature. Many red herring complaints.

For the record, I enjoy hearing about what other Forum members are doing outside the Forum. I think all of the above enhances the Forum, so I am not complaining about any of the above, including the microstock book.

The only reason the mention of the Microstock book generated complaints is because the writer is a micro-stocker, and he is shaking your world.

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29 minutes ago, Bill Brooks said:

The only reason the mention of the Microstock book generated complaints is because the writer is a micro-stocker, and he is shaking your world.

 

Hmmm..

 

To me, the title of Brasilnut`s book suggested that the current state of microstock is shaking his world, not our world (whatever that might be). The fact that so many microstock contributors are ``coming over`` to Alamy would suggest that he`s not alone.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, GS-Images said:
motorcyclist-spotting-the-photography-and-sticking-his-tongue-out-JG0RG3.jpg
 
Just to add - I share my images because I'm proud of them, and they are only available on Alamy, so I don't see why it is a problem and why it's hypocritical. Everyone is free to share their own images, and many do.  :)
 
Geoff.

 

Geoff:

Re read my post. I did not say your posting of images was a problem or hypocritical. In fact I said I enjoyed them.

I did say that applying one standard to a micro-stocker, and a different standard to others on this forum, was hypocritical.

As John said micro-stockers are coming over to Alamy, and makes a good point about the book title. Rather than trying to shut Brasilnut down, by Philippe asking that the thread be deleted, maybe we should hear him out.

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Wow. It appears I hit a nerve with some contributors.

 

I've done my best to be friendly and not attack anybody personally, however, I've noticed that the mere mention of Microstock appears enough to draw the wrath of some on here and to feel threatened. Why is that?

 

I used to work in the gambling sector circa 2007-2010 and it was interesting to witness similar reactions by some (regulated) gambling operators that felt threatened by the rise of (regulated) online gambling encroaching their business. Every technology sector has new entrants & disruptors, Microstock is one of them although it's now mainstream whether you like it or not. Since Alamy is not an island, in my opinion, it's important to have a greater understanding of how other players in the wider stock sector may impact on your current business model (SWOT analysis). Some may call Microstock a cancer but, even so, to outsmart cancer you still need to understand how it behaves - to ignore malignant cancer is foolish. 

 

I see Microstock as a struggling sector due to an oversupply of images and ever-decreasing royalties. There are a few exceptions, with the emerging mobile phone contributors, footage and drone images, but overall it's getting tougher and unsustainable. Just like refugees from Syria flee a land of scarcity towards a place of perceived abundance (Europe), Alamy will see an influx of Microstock refugee contributors looking for greener pastures on here. I'm not sure how this "migration" may impact on royalties and corporate decisions although I would be interested to research and report in due course. 

 

I'm in an unique position since I have one foot in Microstockland and another in Midstockland, so my insight can be at best: beneficial and at worst: food for thought.

 

Don't shoot the messenger. I welcome discussion and disagreement, but I would urge not to censor such discussions in a democratic forum when the majority are in favour to gain greater insight.    

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11 hours ago, Brasilnut said:

Wow. It appears I hit a nerve with some contributors.

 

I've done my best to be friendly and not attack anybody personally, however, I've noticed that the mere mention of Microstock appears enough to draw the wrath of some on here and to feel threatened. Why is that?

 

Because they see falling image prices as a threat to their incomes and blame it on micro-stock and "micro-stockers".

 

IMHO micro-stock is only one of the factors. There are numerous others.

 - Digital cameras and phones make it much easier to take decent pictures

 - Many publications are moving on-line and so are happy with lower resolution images anyway

 - This has caused a massive increase in image supply.

 - Although demand for images also risen (on-line publication), the demand for high quality/resolution images has fallen

 - Intense competition between agencies puts buyers in a strong position and stock image prices fall accordingly

 

Only the most efficient agencies, or those with a distinctive/unique product offering are likely to survive.

 

Mark

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11 hours ago, Brasilnut said:

Wow. It appears I hit a nerve with some contributors.

 

I've done my best to be friendly and not attack anybody personally, however, I've noticed that the mere mention of Microstock appears enough to draw the wrath of some on here and to feel threatened. Why is that?

 

I used to work in the gambling sector circa 2007-2010 and it was interesting to witness similar reactions by some (regulated) gambling operators that felt threatened by the rise of (regulated) online gambling encroaching their business. Every technology sector has new entrants & disruptors, Microstock is one of them although it's now mainstream whether you like it or not. Since Alamy is not an island, in my opinion, it's important to have a greater understanding of how other players in the wider stock sector may impact on your current business model (SWOT analysis). Some may call Microstock a cancer but, even so, to outsmart cancer you still need to understand how it behaves - to ignore malignant cancer is foolish. 

 

I see Microstock as a struggling sector due to an oversupply of images and ever-decreasing royalties. There are a few exceptions, with the emerging mobile phone contributors, footage and drone images, but overall it's getting tougher and unsustainable. Just like refugees from Syria flee a land of scarcity towards a place of perceived abundance (Europe), Alamy will see an influx of Microstock refugee contributors looking for greener pastures on here. I'm not sure how this "migration" may impact on royalties and corporate decisions although I would be interested to research and report in due course. 

 

I'm in an unique position since I have one foot in Microstockland and another in Midstockland, so my insight can be at best: beneficial and at worst: food for thought.

 

Don't shoot the messenger. I welcome discussion and disagreement, but I would urge not to censor such discussions in a democratic forum when the majority are in favour to gain greater insight.    

 

Love a good discussion as well, no problems with disagreement - think most fine people on here are just fine with different views and opinions - an eclectic friendly bunch with the occasional loud bark.

 

Anyway, you seem to be a fairly "young" as a photographer and I'm unsure if photography is your living? Out of curiosity, keeping in mind that you are an author/blogger and therefore an influencer, someone that actively needs to keep the finger on the pulse on the industry's different segments - how do you see the next 5 years pan out for stock?

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23 hours ago, geogphotos said:

 

I don't think that there can be two types of stock pricing competing for the same sector. At the start we were assured that Microstock would serve a different market, a market that could not afford the sort of prices available from traditional stock photo providers i.e.) church groups, very small businesses etc.  I think this was always something of a mistruth on the part of the agencies even if believed by the micro suppliers. Otherwise there would have been a micro-use licence and there never has been.

 

What you call 'mid-stock' can have no future when major publishers can buy much the same content at 'micro-stock' prices. And once those prices become the established norm they are expected and demanded everywhere. At stock companies that offer exclusivity there is the occasional big sale as a possibility, almost rarity these days, because all publishers and all advertisers are under pressure with the demise of print media.

 

At a pub cricket match last week I met up with some senior publishers, one with a 'stable' of major international lifestyle/travel/fashion titles that we would all recognise by name. He almost pitied me when I told him that I was a stock photographer and really wondered how stock businesses stay afloat. He explained how simple it was to push for lower prices and play company against company and said that they really had to do this mercilessly because times were now so hard. He didn't think it likely that any of his major magazines would still be on sale in paper form in five years time.

 

I think what many find startling ( and annoying) is when those who have fully supported micro stock become disillusioned ( they see they are not making enough money despite being 'successful') and decide to convert to 'mid-stock' expecting it to have somehow survived in a parallel universe of high prices and buyers who have no notion of micro stock. 

 

I have never sold a micro stock licence image in my life, never even placed an image as RF, but the writing is on the wall for all of us I fear.

 

It pains me to say it because I was predicting it and fearing it a decade ago but the micro model now seems inevitable for 95+% of stock uses. If that hasn't already happened.

 

Getty embracing micro-pricing models for its main collection was a huge turning point, an even bigger one for the future is Adobe Stock.

 

I truly hope that Alamy can stick it out and prosper with its uniquely encyclopaedic collection but where is the market space?

 

I partially agree with what you said but i've to say "RF" is the cancer.

Or, i should say "low-priced-RF-images" or "subs" which is the same concept at the end.

I CANNOT sell an image for cents, i agree with you.

RM is the great thing of Alamy that many other micro agencies don't have. 

The reason why Alamy is trying to convert all our images to RF i suspect has nothing to do with OUR prosperity but to start selling sub-model contents as others do. 

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11 minutes ago, KODAKovic said:

 

I partially agree with what you said but i've to say "RF" is the cancer.

Or, i should say "low-priced-RF-images" or "subs" which is the same concept at the end.

I CANNOT sell an image for cents, i agree with you.

RM is the great thing of Alamy that many other micro agencies don't have. In fact, Getty has two channels (RM and RF-iStock-based) . The first one is very profitable for photographers whom had the luck to be accepted.

The reason why Alamy is trying to convert all our images to RF i suspect has nothing to do with OUR prosperity but to start selling sub-model contents as others do. 

 

Bold part - categorically not true (anymore).

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Quote

Gambling? :ph34r: :ph34r: :ph34r: 

Whatever you did, apparently it didn't include finding

out how to derive unlimited income from that genre...

 

I played online poker for a while and did quite well, then games got much tougher. On the professional side, I assisted operators with gambling licensing and drafted industry articles. I rather not get into reasons why I didn't stick with it and instead focus on stock photography.

 

Quote

Anyway, you seem to be a fairly "young" as a photographer and I'm unsure if photography is your living? Out of curiosity, keeping in mind that you are an author/blogger and therefore an influencer, someone that actively needs to keep the finger on the pulse on the industry's different segments - how do you see the next 5 years pan out for stock?

 

Yes, i'm relatively new to this industry and have great respect for those who have dedicated all their lives to this professional and honourably wish to protect their assets.

 

That's an interesting question and I'll do my best to summarise what I see the market in the next 5 years.

 

Moore's Law

 

The default position is Moore's Law as we're witnessing huge technological advances in photography. Look at Sony's A9 24.2MP full frame, so powerful and compact at a relatively affordable price. The compact camera market is dead because of mobile phone cameras and forward-thinking stock agencies have picked up on this new trend. I've read that some contributors are doing well with Stockimo, although I've not had any personal experience (this is the only Agency I can mention here but there are many others).

 

Creating stock is increasingly available to the masses. Post-processing technology is also improving with "one-touch fix all" buttons. We'll also start seeing the beginning of automatic keywording by machines and some agencies have started experimenting with using machines to correct human error when reviewing images for technical faults. All this means less time post-processing, images are reviewed more quickly and contributors will have more time to shoot. In a way this is good news since images will have a shorter turnaround time.

 

I would like to see Alamy implement a way in which images can go directly from the camera to Live News licensing instantaneously with keywording done in-house by Alamy. That way images would be available to clients LIVE.  

 

Oversupply of images

 

I'll mention this prediction again. The way things are going, the largest Microstock agency will have one billion images in its database by 2022. Granted, most of those images will be sub-standard with many similars which are mass produced at low-cost factory style operations in Eastern Europe.  But that still leaves a few dozen million premium quality commercial/editorials that can compete with encyclopedic Alamy, with such contributors more than willing to license their premium images for a few quarters - perhaps out of ignorance or inertia. That's only one agency that I'm making reference... 

 

As others have mentioned on here, print is basically dead along with that advertisement revenue stream. This has been replaced with a need for much smaller resolutions which are possible with less-expensive cameras. I have a Nikon D800 that shoots at 36.3 MP but what's the point if most of my images are going to be licensed at 72 dpi and 500 x 400 pixels anyway. Most people can afford a $300 point and shoot camera and start submitting to stock agencies today (whether those images will sell is another thing).

 

Meeting clients' needs

 

In the next five years, for better or worse, I see an expansion of the RF licensing model simply because that's what most clients prefer, along with the ease of the all-you-can eat subscription model buffet, perhaps even at Alamy. If I go to a restaurant I much rather have a small set menu at a small fixed price than one with dozens of different options and different prices, especially if I'm in a hurry. Clients want simplicity since many are busy professionals and then there's the cost consideration, thirdly is how good the customer service is. I think that most Agencies prefer RF anyway since it can be too much of a hassle to go after infringements, when it's RF and low-cost there's no point. Does that mean that some clients / laypersons get away with murder? Yes, unfortunately. But it's nothing new as we've seen with the proliferation of MP3s and general piracy.

 

Smart business models mean that companies don't go after offenders, they instead try to turn them into paying customers by offering potential clients an affordable & quality alternative - think Netflix and Spotify.   

 

Is Rights-Managed still viable?

 

Right's Managed will continue as long as there's a business-need, such as those premium clients that may require guarantees and/or restrictions on future sale, such as exclusivity, for example to print on a book cover. Such clients appear to becoming rarer and rarer as lots of media is transitioning from print to digital. In any case as you'll see in the following header, some RM licenses are so value they might as well be Microstock subscriptions. 

 

I think that in the spirit of giving clients more flexibility in a competitive market, in the next 5 years agencies may introduce hybrid RF/RM licenses. Correct me if I'm wrong but Alamy already offers clients the option to purchase a RF license as RM for a particular use (with no restrictions possible on future sales of the file) for a lower price. Alternatively, the client may choose RF for a higher price based on file size.  In any case, it's wayyyyy too complicated for an average Joe Blogger to understand...which is moot since Alamy isn't targeting these types of clients but should they be? 

 

Agencies are offering clients steep discounts

 

There's a lot going on behind the scenes and it's clear that many contributors are getting screwed in all stock segments. Look at the recap of one of my recent RM license downloads right here at Alamy:

 

Country: Worldwide
Usage: Editorial
Media: Editorial website
Industry sector: Media, design & publishing
Image Size: Any size
Start: 01 December 2016
End: 01 December 2021
Online usage only. Flat rate per image. Bulk discount.

 

Guess how much I made? It was licensed for $5.13 earning me $1.54 commission. If that isn't a Microstock sale on Alamy, then I don't know what is. 

 

Race to the bottom stuff. 

 

Tracking unauthorised usages

 

Anothe prediction: there's talk of developing a code that is embedded into a high-value image and once the license duration of such image expires it merely disappears (speaking digitally here only of course) and the user receives a notification to renew/extend the license. I'm not a programmer but seems like an interesting idea to better-control usages. 

 

Opportunities 

 

To end on a positive note, one area of stock photography that should see healthy growth is Photo Requests. The way is works if you're not familiar with it is that clients go directly to photographers with a specific photo request and the Agency takes a cut.  I'm surprised that Instagram hasn't caught on to this trend and other social media. 

 

I see the emergence of more agencies boutique agencies catering to clients' specific niches with curated collections, such as drone stock photos/footage (maybe it exists already). Generalist smaller Microstock agencies will die off which is already evident as some have started offering steep discounts on already inexpensive images or have got rid of extended license restrictions altogether. The whole Jack of all traders, master of none holds true.

 

In many cases these boutique agencies will be subsidiaries of the larger agencies which makes business sense rather than starting anew. I can't name a few boutique agencies that have popped up in the past 5 years but a quick google search will yield many results. 

 

As for macro stock, to be honest I don't know enough about it but it seems that the super super premium clients will continue to hire the services of such agencies on commissioned work for years to come. 

 

Conclusion

 

I've rambled on a bit too long here, my apologies but there's a lot more I could write about on this topic :) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great you took the time and effort to share your opinion. Thanks Brasilnut, I am learning things.


Alamy is definitely not microstock, however I have always thought of Alamy as, NOT NECESSARILY MICROSTOCK BUT MICROSTOCK IF NECESSARY.


I think that is the right place to be in this marketplace, and that is why I am still at Alamy. I also think that is why we will see more and more micro-stockers joining our Alamy team.

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Moore's Law will have an influence on the display side of things too. Will the next Olympics be the 4k Games or the 8k Games?

I like the idea of DRM images, but it's more likely we're heading towards many Spotify's for images at best.

 

wim

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@Brasilnut 

 

Dude! Didn't mean for you having to get through the trouble of writing a entire book as an answer, but thank you - gives me/others a greater sense of you and your thinking - which is always interesting on these forums. I've also got rambling tendencies, but it's the kids first day back at school today so I'll have to keep it short or at least break it up.

 

1 "Moore's Law" - I think most of the crazy race is over, it was and what remains is gimmicky. Like you say it is all available to everyone now. 16mp+, 5fps and a usable iso of 1600-3200 and 99.9% of everyone's needs are covered for the foreseeable future. 99.9% of the general population's needs are met by an iPhone. I certainly would love the 5D MK IV, but hell the 5D MK III and 80D combined are still overkill. Could still have been using the original 5D (loved those big pixels). Would be great if all manufacturers used Fuji's approach with the extensive firmware updating - much more in sync with what we have to do as humans and guardians of this little planet - recycle.

 

2 "Oversupply of images" - absolutely, a real problem. So "you" will matter even more so than before - your creativity, your take on things and your style. More agencies will start to close doors and/or more stringent regarding what rises to the top in searches - it ain't a democracy, we have no rights to equal chance. Fortunately, the demand and or consumption of imagery has risen sharply in the last decade. I also think micro as we know it will disappear, at least change - there will not be enough revenue to go around satisfying all contributors, thus making it less interesting for amateurs/hobbyist and non-viable for professionals. For agencies perhaps listed on a stock exchange or in the hands of demanding debt-holders the writing is on the wall as revenue growth just ain't infinite. I can't say more here, but it ain't going to be pretty. Fingers crossed that low-end prices will somewhat rise a bit and settle. You do touch upon new licensing - I agree and have been saying it for a long time. Technology will soon make impression based licensing possible i.e. you pay for actual exposure - could be the only "restriction" that is added to RF and I'd be happy.

 

3. "Meeting clients' needs" have for a long long time been more important than the "artists" wellbeing. Users of images have had plenty of time to get educated and they all know, so I say no to a soft glove approach and applaud every time there is a big verdict in the favour of an artist. They can already get it cheap, if they don't pay at all...call it for what it is - thieving. Ignorance ain't a valid excuse anymore. Technology again helping us tracking usage and gives us opportunity to make things right. Copyright is my best friend and it will get even easier to protect (plenty of capable companies to help with that matter now-a-days).

 

4. "Is Rights-Managed still viable?" In it's current state it is dying slowly. Probably die completely if and when there is a new somewhat amended RF-ish license that will gain enough traction to become common place. Alamy is doing a great job in the meantime with the hybrid solution. New license, in conjunction with new technology will be able to offer time-span exclusivity for Hero images and enough flexibility to price according to usage (impression based).

 

5. "Agencies are offering clients steep discounts" - nobody likes it, but it is part of doing business. Agencies sometimes give discounts, I sometime give discounts when I deal direct, I give discount on services - it is a thing to make buyers feel that they got a good deal. Baseline prices though of $0,25-0.38 is a completely different matter.

 

6. "Tracking unauthorised usages" - already mentioned this. There are tools and they are getting better and better.

 

7. "Opportunities" - Photo Requests. This has been around for some time - let's call it for what it is - a cheap, abusive way of getting bespoke assignment photography without commitment. Wouldn't touch it! Disgusting. If you want to hire me, then hire me. Don't let a multitude of photographers invest money and time into doing the same assignment so that you can pick and choose. Degrading, should be banned. Similar to rights-grabbing photo contests - eww.

 

- Boutiques and curation - yes, all good.

 

- Macro and premium prices - always a need, but our actions as a collective will matter too - vanguarding springs to mind. There will be fewer "proper" photographers and fewer "professionals" going forward, but we'll survive. Hopefully also an overall rise in quality, hopefully a rise in quality in what is being displayed to buyers.

 

Conclusion - I'm guilty of rambling too much too! Now I'm running late! 

 

Peace!

 

 

 

 

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