Alamy Explains Low Price For Image Use

Posted on 9/12/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy explains that the price for printing 3 million copies of a textbook was much higher than we reported earlier this week.

Alan’s Letter

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. It’s always good to to be part of industry discussions. We were in the process of resolving the issues that you raised with a number of photographers affected by this issue when you posted (and that is ongoing).

The crux of the matter is that there is an issue with the ‘reporting’ of this sale and license rather than the license and value itself.

This is the second part of a license, an upgrade to a sale made in 2009. The original sale achieved a good price and a fixed license which resulted in a fair deal for the contributor. The publisher’s requirements evolved and we recently had to extend the license to allow them to optimise the publication in question. Therefore, a much smaller subsequent sale went through our system and this caused the confusion. Our reporting system does have limitations, it doesn’t allow licenses to be connected to one another, resulting in upgrades and extras looking like stand alone poor deals. Overall the value of this combined license was in the region of $300 per image, not the $25 you reported.

Rather than go into the specifics of this case, we will provide accurate details of the sale with all photographers involved.

Because of the limitations of our reporting tool, it’s not always clear what the full extent of the license is, and sometimes it looks like we have given broad rights against a fee that doesn’t represent the specifics in the customer contract. We do record the granular rights, but our system does not always enable us to share them with the contributors online. We know this is not ideal and, therefore, we have a Member Services team who help explain these image licensing queries on an individual basis with photographers as they raise them. It’s not perfect but we are working to improve the system. Transparency is very important to us.

Helpfully your blog post also highlights an issue that Alamy has been concerned with for a number of years. And, in actual fact, we have recently held a round table discussion and published a white paper on the issue of simplifying the existing licensing models. This should help customers and photographers across the board, in pricing, licensing and reporting.

Finally, it seems to me that there is a bigger issue about the publishing industry here and its use of licensed images. I’ll leave that for someone from the publishing world to comment on.


$300 for this use is certainly much better than the $25 we reported earlier. But, my problem is that I’ve been in this industry too long.

Back in the 1990s photographers were getting between $150 and $200 for a print run of 40,000. When the publisher needed to go back on press to print another 40,000 they paid us an additional 75% of the initial fee for each additional 40,000. There was no time limit on the use. The fee was based solely on the number of copies printed and the size of the use. No electronic use was included in this price.

The price the publisher's charged for each copy of these book was about half – or less – of what they charge today.  And amazingly the publishers were able to make a profit paying these fees and selling the books for so little – although they probably didn't make nearly as much profit as they make today.

Now, they get to print 75 times the number of copies they printed back in the 1990s for about twice the money they paid then. And unlimited electronic use is thrown in.

Alamy’s argument for why they must give away so many rights for so little money is that if they were to ask for more the publishers would go to their competition to get the images they need. Then they wouldn’t make any sales. In addition, the publishers might go to microstock (and I’m told that 30% of the images they already purchase are microstock) and get the images they need even cheaper.   

All things considered, if the money you earn from the images you license for textbook use is important, then Jacques Jangoux’s suggestion of getting a job washing cars may not be that bad of an idea.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Ottmar Bierwagen Posted Sep 13, 2012

  • Ottmar Bierwagen Posted Sep 13, 2012
    I've heard this sad argument many times before. Alamy, like other large stock agencies make their profit on volume. A friend from the USA recently visited me in Canada. His largest complaint from Corbis, is the dilution due to subagencies. He is a former National Geographic photographer who resents cheques for $4.00!!!!!

  • Peter Bisset Posted Sep 17, 2012
    In addition the other sad argument is also given by I suspect some less than ethical agents to their photographers , is that it is too much work to sort through their files in order to return images when asked, and in the meantime I suspect continue to sell ones images and forget to pay the photographer in question his rightful, but low fee anyway !!!

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