Do image buyers search for cheaper versions?

Last month I outlined my view that the old “wisdom” that a really good photo should only be placed on a more expensive agency as Rights Managed (RM) was perhaps not really true. In that article I outlined the sales I had made via Alamy and Getty for higher amounts and found firstly that the RF images on average made the same amount of money, and that people bought RF images from Alamy and Getty even though the same image was available on a lower cost microstock agency. What that doesn’t really prove is that I’m losing money by someone seeing an image on Alamy, say, and then searching elsewhere to buy it. So I decided to start to track the “zooms” on Alamy and see whether the same image was bought during the following days on one of the other sites I am tracking using Microstockr Pro. Alamy allows you to filter the zooms to a particular day and so I started on 1 August:

Not a great image, but did it sell elsewhere on 1st or 2nd August?¬†I’m tracking Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Fotolia, BigStock, CanStock, 123RF, DepositPhotos and Pond5. I can’t track iStock because I don’t see these sales until mid September. But no sale in August.

3rd August. Zoomed and sold on Alamy.

4th August. Zoomed, but no sales elsewhere.

6th August. Zoomed and it had separately¬†sold on BigStock on 2nd August, so I don’t think these are linked.

6th August. No zoom, but sold on Alamy as RF.


7th August. Zoomed, but no sales elsewhere.

9th August. Zoomed but no sales elsewhere.

9th August. Zoomed but no sales elsewhere.

10th August. Zoomed but no sales elsewhere.

10th August. Zoomed but no sales elsewhere.

10th August. No zooms on this RM image, but it sold on Alamy.

So 10 images were zoomed on Alamy (excluding the RM one) and two of those sold on Alamy even though the same image was available elsewhere. But no-one appears to have searched for the same image as they had zoomed and bought it elsewhere. The most likely explanation is that they bought something similar on Alamy although I have no way of knowing that. I’ll continue this through the month (or until I get bored with it), but so far the evidence seems to suggest that Alamy buyers do not, usually, go seeking for their chosen image on cheaper sites. That ties in with my argument that most buyers at Alamy have contracts with their chosen agency and if they have a need for an image they search for one and buy it there. Time is more important than saving some dollar for these buyers. That does suggest that taking a “great” image and making it RM on expensive sites just makes it less likely that the image will sell. I think the same applies to editorial images – I made the Washington DC image above editorial, but placed it on all the sites that sell editorial. Variants of the same image have sold on Adobe and 123RF – not making a lot, but better than zero! As always, comments welcome!


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12 Responses

  1. Steve,

    You pose a very interesting question and as per your research, one that is difficult to get a clear answer. I’ve been reading a lot of threads on the Alamy forum and many downloads on there are not a consequence of zooms.

    I’ll do the same with my zooms as I’m interested to see if someone downloaded the same image soon after.


  2. Kevin Hellon says:

    This is a very interesting topic Steve and what that interests me a great deal. I also have images on Alamy and on various microstock sites. However, I have for the last year concentrated on uploading just to Alamy to see if I can make more money that way. I have sold photos on ALamy that are available much cheaper on other sites but have yet to see that a sale has occurred on a microstock site after having been zoomed on Alamy. At this point I am not sure as to whether I should put my RF images on microstock sites as well as Alamy. One issue I have is that Zoonar only accepts editorial shots as RM although to be honest I am not getting many sales from Zoonar. I hope you continue this research and report back as it is indeed very interesting. Many Alamy “old hands” are very disparaging in their comments about microstock on the forum but I am not convinced that putting all your eggs in one basket with Alamy is the correct thing to do especially as the returns from Alamy seem to be reducing rapidly. We are all trying to make a little money from our hobby. You make more than most but for me the opportunity to pay for my equipment is paramount and I am trying to find the best way to do that.



    • admin says:

      Thanks, Kevin – I’ll continue investigating! Zoonar is a bit of an issue as I made many editorial files RM because of the lack of editorial RF support. I stopped using them for Alamy when the new import process was launched, and so I now don’t send any editorial work to Zoonar. That gives me more freedom now to change my mind about where to put my “good” shots. I think there is a lot of “clinging” to the old wisdom around, but it is time to try to think clearly about this. Of course, one potential loss of revenue is the re-licensing of an RM image if a buyer uses it again. Pretty tricky for the agencies to track, and I don’t recall seeing anything that suggested it was a new license for a new usage with the same buyer.

  3. Kelly Appleby says:

    Hello , this is such an interesting topic. I am a rookie in this wonderful hobby, and am curious as to when someones shots are good enough to get involved in stock photography. Thank you, for your helpful site.

    • admin says:

      Hi Kelly
      Are your photos online somewhere? The key question to always ask yourself – can you see someone buying and using this image somewhere? If you can’t see why they would do that, then you are not ready.

  4. Nils says:

    I suspect that the search for cheaper versions may have been a thing when the volumes of available stock photos were small and it was difficult to find the right image. But now, with each site having tens of millions of images, it’s probably more a matter of the buyer choosing the best image from whatever site they have a subscription for or credits on.

    You’d probably need something extremely specific for somebody to go searching for other sites, such as an editorial shot where there is no substitute available and the buyer has to go hunting. Such as a shot of a specific person, business or location.

  5. AlessandraRC says:

    Lately I have not seen zooms on Alamy sell elsewhere for me but they also don’t seem to sell on Alamy. In the past, as I have said, I saw a few go on DreamsTime, which had been zoomed on Alamy within a matter of a day or so. On average I have not seen RM images that are only available on Alamy yield me more money than RF images sold on Alamy and also available everywhere. Alamy forum contributors, however, can be very aggressive about this topic. Some really do believe that posting photos in micro stock ruins the game for you and, to some extent, for them.

    I like the way you go about testing hypotheses you have the scientist mind, Steve.

  6. admin says:

    Thanks Alessandra! Yes, my 40 years in an engineering field have trained me! I’m carrying on looking at Alamy zooms this month and will report back at the end of the month. So far, no sales of zoomed images on other sites but also sales with no zooms on Alamy. I’m staying clear of the Alamy forum – I’ve heard they can be tough on contributors to microstock sites!

  7. Kevin Hellon says:

    Alamy forum members are indeed very aggressive about microstock contributors and in some cases damn right rude. That does not however disguise the realities that microstock can provide a regular income with Alamy providing the icing on the cake. From memory I have had no zooms on Alamy that have sold elsewhere shortly afterwards, However, I have had sales on Alamy for quite high values for images that are available on microstock sites. Personally I feel I am at a crossroads right now as for the last year I have put all my eggs in the Alamy basket. I am just starting to see rewards but I still feel in a quandary about whether or not to upload to microstock sites as well. One thing I am sure of is that it is not worth the effort to upload to some of the smaller stock agencies which I have previously done. I am now wondering whether to keep all editorial shots with Alamy only and RF with both Alamy and other microstock sites. No-one I am sure knows the right answer but sometimes one just has to suck it and see!

  8. admin says:

    Hi Kevin
    Yes, that antagonism against microstock contributors is understandable but also reminds me of King Canute (ancient British history of a King who was told by his courtiers he was so powerful that he could make the tide retreat). There are so many good photographers who contribute to microstock because it makes sense to them, that it is absolutely impossible for the midstock photographers to make this tide reverse. Times change for good and ill, unfortunately!

  1. September 1, 2017

    […] in August I did an analysis of all the zooms on Alamy in the first half of the month to see if a buyer then searched for, and bought, that image on one of the microstock sites. This […]

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