Alamy and Shutterstock are two companies with a huge stock photo portfolio, but two different worlds. What are the differences between microstock and macrostock? Which one should you choose to sell your photos online?
Differences between microstock and macrostock agencies
The question posed in the title can be answered by clarifying the striking differences between the two stock photography models.
Shutterstock is a typical microstock company, while Alamy is a company operating at the border of mid- and macrostock.
Microstock companies (like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Dreamstime, iStock, etc.), as the name suggests, sell the right to use photos that usually depict (though not only) general topics for small amounts. Their subscription model gives the majority of sales (10 cents / sale). Higher-priced (two-digit) sales are much rarer. You can already produce sales in a couple of weeks. The customers are mainly private persons, designers and bloggers.
Mid- or macrostock companies (like Alamy, Getty Images, EyeEm, Stocksy) are characterized by a high average selling price per image, of which the photographer receives a larger share than with microstock agencies. Sales often appear for the contributors some weeks or even months later than the photos were used, and there are also canceled purchases (refunds). The customers are mainly newspapers, book publishers, travel portals.
What makes Shutterstock good?
If you regularly upload new images and follow the trends, you can sell your photos hundreds of times, which can really be a significant revenue stream. Shutterstock is very vibrant, you can get quick results.
The Shutterstock forum provides a wealth of valuable information. Feel free to ask, sure to get helpful answers.
Because of the above, Shutterstock is a great place for newbie stock photographers.
What makes Alamy good?
Alamy is not about quick success. If you are patient, after 1-2 years you may even have regular sales. Here, too, the advice is that if you regularly upload high-quality photos of the topics customers are looking for, you can expect more revenue.
Because Alamy has contracts with many distributors in different parts of the world, some of the sales can be a single digit amount (the distributor also deducts its share). However, images purchased directly from Alamy may sometimes even bring you thousands of dollars. Although the average price is two-digit, three-digit amounts are also relatively common. My first sale was $175.
Alamy provides its photographers with a measurement tool, called the 'Alamy Measures'. This is a great help in listing the topics you are looking for (based on keywords), thus increasing your chances of increasing your sales.
Another similarly useful tool is 'What Should I Shoot'. This is a dynamically changing list of specific topics that customers are looking for. If you have a photo for a topic, you can mark it and Alamy staff will contact the customer.
You can upload photos of any topic and content to Alamy (with the usual restrictions: no racism, etc.), as the company's Quality Control only examines the technical quality of the images, leaving the content to you.
If you don’t have a model or property release, it’s no problem either, because the company is famous for its editorial images. To sell editorial images, you do not need permissions from the people in the image or from (building, object) owners. Before taking pictures of people, be sure to read the laws in force regarding photography in public places. I wrote about different regulations for different countries in my article Selling photos of strangers.
Why it is not advisable to upload the same images on both platforms?
It is often a hot topic in the forums whether it is worth uploading the same portfolio to every stock photo site you use. The majority (including me) suggest that to upload all your images to sites selling images for similar prices is OK, but this tactic is not advisable for platforms with very different prices (microstock vs. macrostock). This is because some buyers look around first, and where they get the same picture cheaper, they buy it there.
This is especially true for individuals because companies usually anchor at a single stock agency and buy everything from there.
In the world of microstock agencies, you’re even better off having the same images with as many agencies as possible, as it’s easier to upload and you can expect more revenue in total.
The original question of whether Alamy is better than Shutterstock gets a different aspect in the sense of the above. Here are some aspects you can use to decide which one comes in for you:
Choose Shutterstock if
- you like to take general pictures (pets, posing people, wallpapers, patterns, etc.),
- you want to get sales results as soon as possible,
- you don't mind selling most of your super photos for 10 cents,
- you don't want to bother with titling and keywording too much (automatic keyword suggestions, though it's not always relevant).
Choose Alamy if
- you like to take editorial images (buildings, streetscapes, people, events, etc.)
- you don't despair if you only have 2 sales in the first year,
- you are willing to wait for an image to sell for a three-digit amount at times,
- you are ready to study the measuring tools to help you improve your portfolio,
- you want to read real English posts in the forum (most of the forum members are British).