Authentic voices. Remarkable stories. AOL On Originals showcase the passions that make the world a more interesting place.
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Sian: Welcome back to part three. Established in 1999, Alamy pioneered the concept of an unedited collection of pictures and today, over millions of images from thousands of photographers and photo agencies worldwide. Customers and contributors alike sing Alamy’s praises although there have been problems along the way. With issues of a search criteria and a now infamous Alamy rank. So just how does Alamy operate? Chief Executive and Co-Founder James West showed me around. James: Well this is very simple. On one hand, you’ve got picture buyers and on the other hand, you’ve got photographers. And we set ourselves up to addressing opportunity that we saw having spoken to both sets of groups when we started all those years back which was that. For the picture buyer, what you need is access to a large collection of images. Sian: Yes. James: Very simple. And from the custom, from the photographers’ point of view, what you need is an outlet for your work. Sian: Yep. James: And so all of our attention has been on how to make it as easy as possible for people with pictures to sell to get them to market, and how to make it as easy as possible for picture buyers to get access to those pictures. Sian: Okay. James: So the focus is very much on speed, simplicity, unambiguous transaction, and in so doing learning how to make it better all the time. Sian: So, for existing photographers, how can this maximize their profits? James: Well in the past, Alamy was a bit a lottery. So you put your pictures with us and you hope for the best. You might make a sale and you’re happy with that. Since last year, we’ve moved to a new system called Alamy Measures. Sian: Okay. James: That’s showing the photographers which search is their images will return for and most importantly, how they fed against the competition for those searches. So we really see this is the first step towards our ultimate goal which is creating an efficient market place for buyers and sellers of photography where the sellers are clued in what the customer’s doing and modify their strategy accordingly. Sian: So how was the market changing? James: Well it’s changing quite a few ways. One is that at least some people think the market’s oversupplied with photography. And so that means that there’s a downward pressure on pricing. Sian: Okay. James: Not yet that a pound on Alamy but you could argue that it’s gonna happen. Sian: Yeah. James: Customers are being offered more and more sources of photography and price is one of the ways in which the supplies differentiate themselves. The other thing that’s happening is proliferation business models so new licensing models for photography, new companies popping up all over the place. And so I think we’re gonna see the next five years characterized by some new companies, some existing companies doing better. Sian: Yeah. James: And innovation around the cool products, mainly in price. Sian: So Alan, tell me what happens as soon as the photographer uploads a photo? Alan: The guys in quality control will then look at a sample of that actual submission and if they find any problems, they’ll stop and they’ll fail the whole submission because we feel that’s indicative of the fact that maybe problems later on. And then at that point, the information is then passed back to the photographers to whether they passed or failed. And if they have failed, is to the reasons why perhaps they’re meant to fail. Alan: So why would a photo fail, for example? Sian: A picture fail for a lot of different reasons, some of the most common ones are pictures are simple soft and lacking in definition, and we may have images where, perhaps a digital file that has to be interpolated to be in line with our 48 megabyte file size requirement. In that process, there may be some interpolation artifacts that can come into the picture. And when we get pictures that have been scanned, images that have been scanned, we may feel, we may find it dust and scratches and that sort of thing. Alan: So if a photographer’s photos have failed, what help is available to them? Sian: The website lists all the reasons why pictures could fail. We also give examples where we show very clearly what that sort of failure looks like, so the photographers know what to look out for perhaps in the future. There is a forum where photographers can talk to each other and receive examples of what is told, for example a vast some of their fellow photographers perhaps, can they see why they failed. Sian: Why should the customer trust the people behind quality control? Alan: We like to get people in who are photographers in their own right. Sian: Right. Alan: So when they’re not here, they’re out shooting, they’re out photographers themselves. So the good thing is then they understand, you know, how to take a picture, but obviously we have to give them training so they can understand exactly what we’re looking for and where our thresholds lie. Sian: So what advise could you give to aspiring photographers that are trying to contribute to an image library? James: I suppose the main thing is to do your homework. Sian: Right. James: And, so that means before you go and commit yourself to a lot of expenditure on a shoot and focusing your time on the keywording and the editing, is work out what the opportunity is for the particular subject that you got in mind at any given time. So, that means looking at what competition there is for particular subject area that you might be going out to photograph. Can you bring anything new to that, that’s not already supplied by the market. Use some of your experience as well, you may have a little bit of experience, but use it. Look at the tools that various agencies providing to tell you how well your pictures perform in the market. Another bit of advice, is does a homework that a lot of photographers employ very successfully is to read around, you know, look at advertising, look at editorial shots. Ask yourself what can I bring that’s different. Sian: Yeah. James: Or what are they teaching me that I might use to modify my strategy with. Sian: And is there anything you should really avoid? James: As far as, there’s only one thing is that there are a lot of ways for you to sell your pictures nowadays and lots of opportunities as well as threats. And so, if I was a photographer, I would be looking to diversify my strategy a bit. I would put my images with the number of contenders, don’t put my eggs on one basket. I can't with my hand in my heart tell photographers, put your life’s worth with Alamy and everything would be fine. Obviously I hope that’s the way it’s gonna go, but I think that the right strategy for an individual is to play the market a bit. Take advantage of this opportunity that present itself today, which is all of these agencies vying for your pictures.