The stock photo portal Alamy have announced their trading results for the quarter to 31 December 2010, reported on in the British Journal of Photography. Their chief executive, James West, is pleased that the year on year decline in gross revenue is 13% against a background of an expected decline of about 15% to 20%, but it's worth looking behind the numbers, in particular one which Alamy do not publish, the revenue per image per annum.
I made a note of the 13.8m images online in October 2008 - today there are 18.03m stock photos up for licensing from the site. That's an almost 31 % increase in image numbers in just over a year. James West says nothing about what is expected for the current year but if sales stay flat (the final quarter's results being repeated throughout 2010) then Alamy will generate US$7.42m of sales.
Year.......Sales.......No. Images........Revenue per image p.a.
I've done some back-of-the-envelope time averaging in there but these figures show an approximate 24% decline in revenue per image. With just over 40 cents going to Alamy for every image online, and at least 40% of that going as commission to Alamy, the return to the photographer is now about 24 cents per image per annum.
In Quarter 2 2008, Alamy sales peaked at US$2.937m. I then made a note of 12m images online. At the then Alamy commission of 35%, the return per image per annum to the photographer was about 64 cents per image per annum.
A decline from 64 cents to 24 cents per image per annum online in the space of about 2 years is a dramatic fall of 62.5%.
Alamy itself is still apparently profitable, costs being kept under control no doubt, but for the photographer who considers the time and costs invested against the likely return, this decline is substantial and I certainly have been submitting a lot fewer images in the last year or two.
My own return for 2009 on about 3,600 images was $1.20 per image, a sad decline from what was close to $3 per image in 2007. There must be an awful lot of photographers earning less than 24 cents per image per annum and that must mean an awful lot of disappointed people. But still they submit....