21 Aug 2007 Alamy vs Microstock

Alamy LogoI now need two hands to count the number of people who’ve encouraged me to try Alamy. I’ve been kept away by high quality requirements and a lack of Internet upload facility. Now they have that Internet upload facility and when I checked out their quality requirements, I discovered my camera meets their minimum requirements. Just. So will I join?

Alamy is NOT Microstock


  1. They don’t sell at micropayment prices
  2. They sell photos with Rights Managed licenses (in addition to Royalty Free)

But “microstock” is just a label, not a reason not to join.

What’s Cool about Alamy?

  • The commission is 65%
  • Offers Rights Managed or Royalty Free
  • Great website – clean, functional, and clear copy

What’s Not-So-Cool about Alamy?

  • Payment by check incurs US$8 fee
  • Payment by EFT incurs US$11 fee
  • No PayPal payments
  • Payout limit is US$250
  • Their blog’s RSS feed only provides the headlines, not the full article

What Else about Alamy?

  • 4 test images required to qualify
  • High image quality requirements

What Could I Expect?

I found a discussion about Alamy vs Microstock on the Alamy forums. From the experiences there, the sales at Alamy pay high amounts, but don’t occur very frequently. According to some Alamy contributors, some types of photos earn more in microstock than on Alamy. I wonder how quickly that discussion would have been censored in a microstock agency forum.

What Else?

The Alexa traffic statistics for alamy.com, while not a flawless measure, show that Alexa traffic has been declining since early 2006.

Photographer commissions were 85% until 2002, and 75% until October 2006. Now they’re 65%. While this puts them miles in front of most microstock agencies, the trend isn’t pleasing.

Contribute to Alamy, or Not?

If I upload photos that are available in microstock, why would an Alamy buyer pay macrostock prices? Maybe, as one of the Alamy contributors said in the forum thread I linked to above said, they’re lazy.

I’ve registered with Alamy and will attempt to qualify as a contributor. If I pass the test, I’ll upload a handful of my good photos to sell royalty free and we’ll find out how many Alamy buyers are lazy. However, I’ll concentrate of contributing images that are excluded from the microstock market, such as unreleased photos of people.

Alamy have their place in the market. They appeal to photographers who want to sell their images but can’t bring themselves to sell at microstock prices. However, from the evidence I’ve found, photos at Alamy don’t earn as much as they do in the microstock market.

  • MikLav
    Posted at 06:39h, 24 August Reply

    Not only the market is different for Alamy comparing with microstock, but their business/sales model is quite different. My understanding is that most sales is done by Alamy agents and partners and not automatically via website.

    Also the clients are bigger and they don’t mind paying higher price but do appreciate agent’s help to get quickly what they need instead of paying low money but spending long time searching through the websites by themselves. Probably (just a guess) some of these clients do (or will) use microstock more and more, but I am quite sure that some will stay if that added value will still exist.

  • Perrush
    Posted at 09:51h, 09 September Reply

    I think this kind of mid stock will surely decline the next years. Quality in microstocks is as good as it is on Alamy.

    Besides the fact that I see no future for Alamy, I think they don’t pay that well. In the dicussion on the forum someone said, and I quote : ” By my estimate (based on my 4300 pictures) 7,000 would be returning an average of $3300 a month ” -> that’s less than $0.5 / image / month.

    I know many contributors to microstocks , including me, are well above this number.

    But I’ll surely hear how things went for you :o)


  • Fred Voetsch
    Posted at 19:04h, 05 May Reply

    To me, the question is not, which is better, but is it a good investment of your time to contribute to Alamy? If you have the types of images they seel them it might be.

    I own a small stock photography site and our overall numbers are not impressve but for the photographers who haven’t uploaded in a few years but are still getting checks, their time was well spent, even if they have moved on to bigger and better things by now.

  • Enrique
    Posted at 19:29h, 20 February Reply

    I wonder if the market for photography is so great to be able to sell photos at 25 cents and still be good business,

    I have no doubt that this is a good deal for microstocks agencies, but what about photographers?

    how many pictures have to sell to get 500 DLS month? 2.000 to 25 cents each

    according shutterstock (home page) has photographers 216.070 registered

    if we multiply 216,060 photographers by 2000 photos this is equal to 432.12 million multiplied by 25 cents photos give us sales of 108 million dollars per month,

    so big is the market?

    anyway, 500 DLS very low earns,

    can you survive with 500 DLS monthly?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 07:15h, 21 February Reply

      I get 38 cents per download at Shutterstock and on-demand & extended license sales take the average much higher. Most serious contributors get the same or close to it. It’s important to get the facts straight before evaluating and drawing conclusions, don’t you think?

  • Enrique
    Posted at 14:34h, 21 February Reply

    38 vs 25, recalculated …. hmmm. not big diference

    you probably are right and I am wrong

    do you know what are the facts?

  • Quiroswald
    Posted at 03:47h, 21 February Reply

    I agree with Enrique. Today there are many pictures in microstock agencies and I think it is really hard to make hundreds of sales of a particular image to get a decent amount of money out of it, whereas in Alamy, you are likely to get a high revenue from every sale.
    I am a beginner in micro/macrostock and still need to learn much more, but this is how I see it right now

  • Corey Ford
    Posted at 09:11h, 19 October Reply

    I joined Alamy a few months ago and have 549 images (Illustrations). It took awhile to get all these images on there and tagged. The tagging is quite time consuming and I had IPCT data on them already. Nothing was happening for the first few months while I was uploading and tagging but since August 2011 my images started to sell. I’ve sold four illustrations ranging from $39.19 to $238.17 for a total of $442.00 so far. Well worth the time it took to get them on there.

  • Corey Ford
    Posted at 09:27h, 19 October Reply

    One more thing about Alamy for photographers. They have a list of cameras that they will accept photos from and a list of cameras that don’t cut it.

  • Daniel
    Posted at 23:59h, 22 November Reply

    The claims about quality requirements are not true. I had no difficulty being accepted as an Alamy contributer, but when I applied to become an iStockphoto contributor as well my images were repeatedly refused until I just gave up. The terms of refusal were not technical image quality but mainly on the grounds that my subject matter and composition was not unusual enough.

  • Andy Lim
    Posted at 22:21h, 12 June Reply

    Alamy now pays via Paypal! I just switched to this payment method, it sure beats getting checks.

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