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Stock photographer: ‘I love you Alamy, but I’m breaking up with you!’

PAN spotted this interesting report by travel photojournalist and microstock observer Alex Rotenberg this week on what returns and performance his images are getting at stock photo libraries right now.
We contacted Alamy for comment, view the response from the Commercial Director Alan Capel below the report.

Alex’s post re published here in full:

‘I love you Alamy, but I’m breaking up with you!’

I’ve always liked Alamy’s business model. For years they’ve worked hard to keep license fees relatively high by carving out an editorial niche in a crowded marketplace. Their commission levels continue to be one of the better ones within the major agencies, at 40% for non-exclusive and 50% for exclusive. In addition, they have top-notch contributor customer services.

However, for the past year I’ve noticed within my port, reduced sales and low low prices. Easy to blame Covid but I’ve noticed this trend long before March 2020. So let’s dig deeper at what’s going on at Alamy! Be warned that this way a a very stats-based post.

Press Association Acquires Alamy in February 2020

Behind the scenes, Alamy have apparently made some smart moves by teaming up with news/editorial giants, Press Association. The Group is behind some giants in the UK editorial sector with the likes of Daily Mail and Press UK.

Clive Marshall, Chief Executive of PA Media Group said:

“This transformational acquisition will significantly increase our customer base and provide the PA Media Group with a strong presence in the international market for the first time. Alamy has created a fantastic ecosystem of content creators and content users around a superior e-commerce platform. The acquisition adds real scale and diversity to PA Media Group’s photo services. As a result, customers will have access to a wider, richer image portfolio which combines great editorial and stock imagery, accessible through a global platform. In addition, this acquisition will further strengthen the financial performance of the company and help secure the future of our core news agency business.”

It’s business as usual and no changes to the contributor relationship with Alamy. Something to stay tuned when the details of this deal matures.

Meanwhile, the reality as a contributor in September 2020 looks bleak…

Just how far have sales fallen at Alamy in the past year? A brutally honest guy case-study

I can only speak about my port and would invite others to share the results from their respective ports.

Port size as of end of September 2019: 11,195 assets

Port size as of September 13th 2020: 12,074 assets

Increase of 7.2% year-on year

Since the Pandemic struck in April…

However it’s clear that results have been greatly skewed by March 2020 results when I earned $770 gross on 19 sales (2 refunds which strangely show up at the graph above). One sale in particular, earned me $377.64 gross and discussed it on that months’ earnings report.

From April, results have taken a nose-drive.

April – August average sales: 6/month

April – August average average gross/net revenue: $16.46 gross or $6.50 net

Comparing Alamy’s Metrics vs Shutterstock

An interesting/useful metric I like to use is the average return per image per year when comparing difference agencies as it acts a great equalizer since some agencies are low volume / high individual sale prices (Alamy) and others are high volume / low individual sale prices (Shutterstock).

Average RPI/year indicates how the overall strength of my port as a whole. Naturally, only 10% of my port are probably earning 90% of total revenue (don’t know the exact amount).

Taking the difference between my port size at the end of Sept 2019 and beginning of Sept 2020 and dividing by two (11,635), i’ll then take my net earnings for the same period ($907).

Therefore, my average return per image/year for the past year at Alamy has been $0.077

Shutterstock return per image per year

The number of assets at SS at the end of August 2019 was 9,926 and at the end of August 2020 was 10,524. A difference of just 598 or 5.6%. Taking the halfway point of that at 10,225, in the past year I earned $3,485 net.

Therefore, my average return per image/year for the past year at SS has been $0.331 and that’s counting two week that my port was switched off in July during a boycott.

Conclusion is that images on SS (95% duplicated) work / earn 4x as hard as on Alamy.

Dreamstime is catching up to Alamy!

As an extreme example, even looking at one of the micro-turds return per image, they’re shockingly catching up to Alamy.

My current number of assets at Dreamstime are 6,843.

Earnings from August 2019 to end of August 2019 = $190.97 net

Therefore, my average return per image/year for the past year at Dreamstime has been $0.028

Are you telling me that the same Alamy images are only worth only slightly over double that of Dreamstime?

Alamy, where are your buyers?

Alamy has a fantastic tool called Alamy Measures which is updated at around 10:00AM GMT every working day. I use it to see how many of my images were viewed and how many zooms each of my images had in the last 24 hours. A zoom is a good indication that a buyer is really interested and sometimes leads to sales.

Well, taking my Sept 2019 metrics (until the 11th) and comparing them to my super depressing numbers so far (until the 2020 11th), let’s see just how bad the situation has got.

Despite a 7.2% increase in assets, a drop of 24% in views and 36% in zooms. I’ll finish the month’s Sept 2019 vs Sept 2020 comparison in a few weeks when I publish the Sept detailed Earnings Report.

Sept is when things should be going back to business after the summer holidays. This year is different though, of course so we can cut Alamy some slack.

Alamy, I love you but I’m breaking up with you…

Without sounding over-dramatic, I lost patience with Alamy even before the pandemic started. Now, I don’t have any expectations with them. The reasons are obvious: earnings are too little. While, I write this, I have had zero sales in September and May/June/July/August have been extremely disappointing at just $102 net. I’ll keep uploading but have zero expectations.

Images sit there for ages and when they do sell, the average earnings are of net $8-10 and dropping month-on-month. There are large sales but they’re way too inconsistent. I try to play the long game but I don’t want to wait until 2050. Plus the whole personal usage license nonsense that remains unsolved.

Advertising revenue is almost non-existent

My take is that the editorial market is also flooded and more importantly, buyers aren’t buying as much due to huge drops in advertising revenues. The economy is on life-support and big government is doing what they can do keep this dying patient alive with massive stimulus.

Of course some sectors are doing great, such as technology (just look at the NASDAQ Composite), but the bulk of buyers on Alamy which belong to the travel industry don’t need travel images anymore as that industry has largely been made redundant and will take years to recover.

The future of micros is not in photos

I’ve said this over and over and I’ll keep repeating myself. In my opinion, there is no future in photos unless you have some very specific niche, likely based around lifestyle or you’re a breaking news photographer with key access to events with the ability to upload images a few minutes after taking them.

I try to see the forest from the trees and the drops in revenues for photos are happening in all sectors. There is no denying it. Alamy is trying to make things happen with some key mergers but I’m afraid that it may take too long before us contributors see any benefit, if it all. Meanwhile, I’ll keep uploading my book covers and 4K clips. As for clips, having fun with my new GoPro8…details soon.

I really like Alamy and I wish the best for them and hope they turn things around. I’ll always support them but from today, my feelings have changed and I’m moving on…

View the original post.

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Portugal (fled Madrid to escape the brunt of this nasty Coronavirus), on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (September 2025??). I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet, although been recently let go, although they got me back in at the last minute!). Anyway, I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography


• We contacted Alamy for comment, this from Alan Capel : Commercial Director.

Our business is in good health, even during these challenging times, with investment and growth plans in place as part of the PA Media Group.

Alex has raised some interesting points but we don’t see his experiences as representative of all our contributors. As with any large-scale diverse platform, there will be peaks and troughs for content creators. Many factors play into that, including the quality and diversity of imagery, visual trends, comprehensive metadata and crucially, demand from customers. 

We will continue to listen to our photographers and contributing agencies and build a business that rewards great photography and meets the needs of our current and future customers.


  • I’ve been an Alamy contributor for the past 18 years having been a news staff photographer for The Times (London) and founding photographer at The Independent (London-from 1986-1999). I have shot generic stock imagery since the 1970’s and have contributed to Axiom (Folded), Impact Photos (folded), Colorific ! (folded).VCG (folded-I think ?) and of course REX features. I parted company with REX last year after getting penny contract sales and stayed with Alamy on an exclusive basis getting a 50/50 split on sales. I now have more than 24,000 images with Alamy and have generated more than $160,000 over the years at 70%, 60% and now 50%. I now earn more, in this VERY depressed market, per month than I used to earn from all my other agencies combined in a year. Of course with more competition from stock agents such as Getty, REX/Shutterstock etc prices are down…and Alamy are guilty as most of the other agents in allowing the big publ;ishers to drive down contract multiple deal prices to a few bucks….but IMHO they are the best, most honest agency at the moment…if they could only re negotiate those terrible historic deals with newspapers thewn they would be near perfect….I pulled out of the lousy Newspaper Deal recently and have never engaged in the private and personal use scheme. I’m sticking with Alamy….

  • The above is a very detailed analysis – of one photographer’s experience. While the last few months have been very up and down for me the trend is a small increase in income – interestingly from fewer sales but for a higher average price. Average income per photo (or “asset”) has been going down steadily for the last 10 years, but not only at Alamy. I suspect the real effect of the pandemic is yet to show up in income from stock, given the time lag between the download and actually getting paid. I’m still getting sales and money and taking as wide a variety of subjects as I can.

  • I’m alamy contributor for 5 years, with 2500 images. I have 5 6 sales a year
    Thanks for sharing

  • Alex is known for his views on Microstock and Alamy and has repeatedly promoted Microstock as a better alternative. Despite my own complaints regarding some aspects of the business, I find overall that Alamy gives a far better service to contributors than Alex gives them credit for. I regularly view monthly licensing quantities made public by some, and follow with interest various patterns. One of those patterns is that Alex consistently gains very few sales for the number of images available. Study of captions and tagging show that as the likely cause of his lack of success. This maybe due to him writing metadata to fit in with all the agencies he submits to. However, Alamy are unique and require extra work in order to have images seen in customer searches. In recent months my own licenses have been up to 10 times that of Alex’s reported licenses each month. I personally have slightly more images than Alex so have adjusted the numbers accordingly for this calculation. Although Alamy have responded to Alex’s post, I encourage them to make more effort to counter criticism on social media and review websites so potential customers and contributors are not put off. The majority of negative posts contain details that are untrue, often as the poster has little knowledge of stock industry, licensing laws and photography in general. I believe Alamy has a bright future and despite a slight downfall in licenses this year due to the pandemic, licensing remains healthy overall. I wish Alex the best fortune in his future endeavours.

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