Can you make any money supplying images to Alamy?
Alamy has around 125 million images, and its ~45,000 photographers add another 100,000 a day from 173 countries. The stock photography company used to blog about it’s “$100,000+ club” – photographers who have made over $100,000 of sales on the site, and in 2017 there were over 100 of them (see The $100,000+ Club – Alamy’s top earning photographers, and Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).
The stock photography industry has gone through a lot of changes in the last 10 or so years, and even since Alamy wrote those articles, 3 or 4 years ago.
So is it still possible to earn good money from stock photography?
One thing to note is that Alamy is primarily an editorial photo agency, supplying images for editorial or journalist use. Licences for editorial stock tend to command higher prices than commercial creative or micro stock, unless the image is used for advertising (which needs releases for any property or people) when the fee could be very much higher.
So I did a quick scan through Alamy’s discussion fora and found the following recent stats from photographers who shared info about their sales:
- 150 sales/year (30k images) Average $50 (gross or net??)
- 5 sales/year (1.3k images)
- 5 sales/year (4.8k images) Average $5 net
- 400 sales/year (72k images)
- 300 sales/year (26k images)
- 318 sales/year (7k images) Average $70 gross
- 222 sales/year (2.6k images)
- 171 sales/year (22k images)
- 142 sales/year (8.4k images)
- 124 sales/year (10k images) Average $32 gross
- 61 sales/year (3k images)
- 192 sales/year (8.6k images)
- 105 sales/year (13k images)
- 631 sales/year (27k images)
I decided to plot these values on a graph:
Whilst there is a lot of variation in these figures, as expected there is some kind of rough trend that the bigger your portfolio, the more sales you will make. Based on these figures, on average you could expect to sell almost 2% of your images per year. Of course you can do better than that by choosing trending or in demand subjects, creating standout quality images, and ensuring they are tagged properly. There is also a lot of discussion on the fora about Alamy’s search algorithms, and how this might be affected by previous sales or a photographer’s QC ranking – althought no one can be certain. The other unknown about the above figures is whether the particular photographers giving their numbers are a representative sample.
But these are the numbers I have, so I decided to go with them and see if earnings from Alamy sales could be considered enough to live on?
Well the average UK salary is about £30,000 or about $41,000. Based on the very few average sales amounts I could find as above, around $20 per image (I’ve assumed the gross sales above were images exclusive to Alamy, which means that photographer gets 50% of the gross and that the number above that does not specify whether gross or net is more likely to be a gross figure too), this means you would need to have 2050 sales per year to earn £30,000.
Based on the rough 2% sales ratio, that would require a portfolio of 105,000 images. Quite a lot. I have no idea what the average portfolio size is on Alamy.
For a nice “side project” income of £10,000/year you would need around 3500 images.
So the rough formula for the size of portfolio you need to achieve a given sales income is:
note “target income” is in USD
Conversely for a given portfolio size, you can expect to earn this much (in dollars per year
0.4 x portfolio size
But these numbers have a very large margin or error 😉