Contracts and Commissions

Sales on Alamy have nearly zeroed for me recently, although some others seem to be doing fairly well. I can’t be sure if it’s just normal ebb and flow or something I’m doing, or more probably something I’m not doing.

I haven’t submitted any images this year and a quick read at the Alamy forum reveals some people say you need to keep up a constant flow of photographs while others say it makes little difference. No wiser then. The problem with the Alamy forum is that the people there make up a very small percentage of contributors to the platform and their experiences may well bear little relevance to the overall situation. My image views are about normal so I decided to wait and see what happens.

While I was waiting Alamy had another contract review. They’ve increased their commission to 60% from 50% for images exclusively licenced through them. Strangely that’s the same rate as they take for non exclusive images so it may point to further commission increases in the future. They’ve also created commission tiers starting at a cool 80% to them when they licence your photographs although if you manage to licence $25000 they will take only 50% commission.

I’m in the fortunate position of not having to care. In the past I’ve made enough sales to keep me above having to pay them 80% and I’m so badly organised I couldn’t say positively whether many of the images I have on Alamy were not also licensed elsewhere so I kept them all marked as non exclusive. Commission rates will stay the same for me – for now anyway.

What does concern me however is the appearance that the new contract moves much of the liability for problems with licencing and the use of images by Alamy and their clients very much towards the contributor and away from them, although they get more money from licencing an image than the photographer who created it does.

Predictably the Alamy forum erupted in alarm and indignation. At time of writing it consisted of 60 pages. If you have a spare day or two, have a read.

My last three sales with Alamy have been for $3.75, $13.41 and $31.54. From these princely sums Alamy deducted their 60% commission. You can see that I’m unlikely to reach the $25000 threshold.

In between these sales was another for ‘Personal use’ at $13.02 but it was refunded. This ‘Personal Use’ which usually means someone buying the file to have it printed to hang on their wall, was a photograph of a box of 28 Aspirin tablets. These ‘personal use sales are an ongoing problem but that’s for another day.

The future of stock photography is looking bleak, for photographers anyway.

Swimmer, Ballyholme, Bangor
Swimmer, Ballyholme, Bangor

In case you’re wondering – the photographs are not connected with the contents of this post. They’re just of activities that grabbed my attention at Ballyholme today.

Exclusivity – Worth it?

Alamy has about 155 million images available for licensing and say they have the world’s most diverse stock photo collection. In early December they announced that in January they would announce they were increasing their commission from 50% to 60%. An increase of 20%.

The Alamy forum erupted in a tirade of condemnation. Feelings ran high. Alamy said little and the venting continued for a few hundred posts. Then they announced that images exclusive to them would continue to attract 50% commission.

The issue has calmed for now, on the forum anyway. It will kick off again in January when the actual announcement is made, but it’s unlikely to gain much traction and the vast majority of contributors do not air their views on the forum.

Prices in stock photography have been falling for some years and many agencies have closed. As you would expect the board at Alamy will do whatever they feel is in the best interests of the company. This episode is a reminder that the future they see for Alamy may not align with the interests of contributing photographers as closely as in the past.

Will it be financially worth it licensing images exclusively through Alamy? Possibly for a few, for others probably no.

My last sale through Alamy was licensed to a National Newspaper for $8.59 and I will receive $4.30. After February I will receive $3.44, if it’s not exclusive. Yes, some sales are much larger but I’ve had smaller as well. Sales are rarely large enough to get excited about.

I will continue to upload but few will be exclusive.

An interesting start to 2019.

Happy New Year.