Let's start from the beginning...
When we talk about stock photography, the so called microstock is the main topic, because you can sell lots of images there in short time period. But their prices (royalty) are terribly low (you can get from 10 to 42 cents per image - this is the base price, sometimes you earn more or even less). Well, my topic is not microstock, but the stock agency called Alamy. The contributors at Alamy often consider themselves as 'editorial' photographers, not stock photographers. The difference can be demonstrated with two photos. The first is a typical stock:
this one is an editorial photo:
While a stock photo is bought by designers and marketing professionals to illustrate their work or as a background image, the editorial photos are used in newspapers, calendars or presentations. Here is a short definition: an editorial photo is used by an editor to illustrate his/her opinion in a newspaper.
Alamy is famous for the vast number of editorial stuff from all over the world. You only have to choose 'No' next to the 'Do you have model releases
for all the people in the image?' and the 'Do you have a signed release for the property?' , if you do not have signed releases from the person(s) or property(ies) you photographed. All this can be done in the AIM (Alamy Image Manager) after your uploaded images have been passed through QC (Quality Control).
Alamy is lesser-known or lesser-popular among (beginner) stock photographers possibly because most people leave it after some months' wait without the success that they are used to on microstock sites. Alamy is more about time and patience than short time success.
The tips mentioned below come from experienced contributors on the Alamy forums, and from my own experience, too.
Selling images: actually, we do not sell the image itself, but the right to use it. I use this phrase only for the sake of simplicity.
The Alamy Image Manager (AIM)
AIM is the place where you can manage all your uploaded batches.
Uploading photos and passing them through QC (Quality Control)
After having uploaded a batch of photos (1-20), it is worth waiting for the email of 'Good news! Your submission has passed Quality Control (QC)' or failing QC. Alamy has unique method: they check only one or two photos in a batch independent of its size, and if the quality of one image does not meet their requirements the whole batch will fail QC. If we reach 5-star level (3-star is the beginner level), then our images will automatically be available for sale without any QC check. 3-star contributors have to wait for 1-2 days.
How to find good titles (captions) and keywords (tags)?
A Title (Caption) must contain:
- the main subject of the image
- the exact location (place, town/village, county, country)
- in case of living creatures - the latin name as well as the common English name (and the location, too!)
A most appropriate title (caption) should look like this:
Keukenhof Gardens. Dutch windmill with miller and tall red and white tulips in the Keukenhof Tulip Flower Gardens in Lisse, Holland, Netherlands
(Wim Wiskerke - C2HDCX)
As for keywords (tags), Alamy has some special things, too. More experienced contributors started to use complex keywords, that contain several words or phrases. The search engine of Alamy is able to find an image that was searched for using only part of the complex keywords. As an example, we often meet compound keywords that contain singular and plural versions of nouns ('building buildings'). Or it is common to have only one compound keyword for phrases or words that are commonly used together ('italy rome'). You can use even 4-5 words this way. Using the singular-plural versions (that is not preferred at every stock agency) is recommended here, since customers may enter 'bears' as a common term when they actually search for images with only one bear, or when the number of things/animals is not relevant.
Here I would like to mention the so called 'supertags', that refers to the most important keywords (tags). There can be 10 of them, which are actually treated as top priority by the Alamy search engine, and the photos will be ranked much higher. Contributors suggest to mark at least location and latin names of animals/plants as supertags.
Should you start to worry about the colour of the 'On sale - Discoverability' bar at the top right corner of AIM (appears when you click on an image to edit its details), listen to the advice of the contributors on Alamy forums that says: it may be even harmful for your CTR (Click Through Rate) to have a green Discoverability bar, as it suggests you used way more keywords than needed or advised. Well, believe me (and the others), do not bother about that green bar. Use only the relevant keywords (including location, latin name, both British and American versions of words, describe what there is in the image, when - if relevant, and no more), and there will be no problem. If a fence is not important (not the main subject, or not typical of that scenery), do not include it as a keyword, even if it is there in your photo. Think as if you were the customer. What would you search for if you would like to find your image? You can also do test searches: let's see if you find your photos!
For further details please visit this page.
What is the difference between Rights Managed (RM) and Royalty Free (RF) categories?
Basically, use RM if you want Alamy to restrict the conditions of your photo's usage (time and location). The typical feature of a RF image is the free usage through time and space, you cannot restrict when, and where your image is used. If the image contains object(s), building(s) or person(s) of whom we do not have valid model or property releases, then you should choose RM, or RF along with the option 'Sell for editorial only'. It is very important to mention, that Alamy will not check the content of your photographs, only the quality of them! So it is your responsibility to get the necessary releases, or in their absence, you should make the settings explained above. Though you cannot upload releases, in case of a sale, you will be asked to send them, if you chose the option that you have one. Apparently, being an editorial photographer, in most cases, you cannot get any releases from people in the street, so you must choose the option saying you do not have any releases. Your chance to sell that photo will be the same.
For further details visit this page.
What does exclusivity mean at Alamy?
There were debates regarding the questions of exclusivity on the Alamy forum. Basically, you can set exclusivity on a photo if you sell that exclusively on the Alamy platform, and do not sell on other stock sites. Though you can make these images available on your own site or on POD (Print on Demand) sites, as it is a completely different business. There is an interesting section within the definition of exclusivity on Alamy, that forbids the images taken of 2D artworks to be set as exclusive if the artwork takes more than one third of the frame. Alamy finally made an exception: they allow the exclusive sale of stained-glass windows even if the artwork takes the whole frame. The exclusivity matter is very important for the contributors, as Alamy pays 50% commission on exclusive sales, while only 40% on non-exclusive sales. This difference can be remarkable in case of a several-hundred-dollar sale.
For further details visit this page .
What is Dashboard?
Alamy provides some very useful functions on the Dashboard such as the Alamy Measures, where you can examine the search sessions made by the customers. You can also set the time period or narrow down to only your images. It is interesting to see what keywords were used to find your images. You have the possibility to look through the keywords customers used most i.e. the last 12 months.
How many sales can you expect generally?
Alamy do not promise or provide rapid advancement. Contributors say (and also my own experience), that 1-2 years are needed for your sales to start increasing. The firs year you probably sell 1-2 photos, in the 2nd year maybe 4-10, and only the third year will bring you regular sales. All this will be true, if you learn how to use the special features of the Alamy platform.
What price can we expect for a sale?
Now, we hit the highlight of the article: how much can you earn at Alamy? Well, you can earn very much, but very little as well. If you stick to the above mentioned basics (caption and keywords), if you upload a wide variety of good quality photos (several thousands of them), and if you are patient enough, then your effort will pay off.
If you get bored during the first two years, if you upload way many similar images just to have a large quantity, if you forget to include the exact location in the title and the keywords, then you can be sure that your earnings will be very little. Alamy sells a vast number of images to British newspapers, but having unique images of unique places (your own country) you have the chance to compete the contributors living and working in the UK. More and more stockish images appear in the Alamy collection, and Alamy itself make us take more general images about everyday life. Contributors often say that the average number of sales per month equals the number of images in your portfolio divided by one thousand. This formula cannot be applied to most contributors, though. There are photographers who are able to sell 40-50 images per month having a portfolio of 5000, but some can achieve 20 sales with a much larger collection. There is a topic on the Alamy forum every month, where contributors post their sales and earnings reached during the previous month. A very interesting reading! Since the number of sold images is way less that at the microstock agencies, however, prices are way higher, you just cannot generalise regarding the number and value of sales.
Prices are mostly unique. The prices shown beside the photos are base prices. Sometimes you can experience three or rarely four digit sales (in dollar). The most you can earn if your photo is bought as a book cover (around 900 $ gross).
The Alamy contributors always mention the gross earnings, as the net price (that you receive) depends on several factors. In case of an exclusive sale you get 50%, if non-exclusive, 40%. If your image was sold through a distributor, you will earn only 30% of the gross price.
Is it worth travelling?
I have read many times that shoot where you live, because it is only you who has the possibility to take photos of your place in different conditions or seasons. Travelling photographers depend on their luck if they manage to take proper images. And you have one more big advantage: you can always take fresh pictures! Should something change (renovation, demolition), you are the first to upload new photos, gaining huge advantage over the travelling colleagues. This is a very important point in case of editorial content.
Is it advised having the same portfolio on all stock sites?
Many (beginner) contributors upload their whole portfolio that they have on microstock sites, onto Alamy, which seems a very bad idea. I myself did it as well, and experienced several times, that customers search for an image on Alamy (Dashboard shows that), then on the very same day, someone buys the very same image for pennies on a microstock site. Experienced contributors advise having a quite different portfolio here to avoid such annoying events from happening.
Last but not least, I would like to mention the Alamy forums, where you will find invaluable quantity and quality of information and advice provided by experienced contributors. To regularly read the forums is 'mandatory' if you want to be a successful contributor here.
My answer to my own question in the title is YES, if
- you are patient enough to wait for 1-2 years until the business starts to grow,
- you are persistent enough, and regularly upload high quality images,
- you spend enough time to figure out the proper titles and keywords,
- you do not upload the same photos to Alamy as to microstock sites.
In this article I tried to mention all the important things about how you can manage on Alamy, as I could not find sufficient information on the Internet.