When photographers who contribute to the Alamy stock photo library debated the stats of an anonymously published spreadsheet titled ‘When 10% is not 10%’ on the official Alamy blog the thread was taken down. When someone asked why that thread had been removed their thread was taken down as well. Alamy, it seems, are in a flap over these statistics.

‘When 10% is not 10%’: part of an anonymously published spreadsheet of statistics that caused a flap at Alamy

The spreadsheet, which became prominent after a link was published on the EPUK News Facebook page on Saturday morning, graphically illustrates how photographers’ revenue will drop, not by 10%, but by 17% for direct sales and a staggering 25% for distributor sales in real terms.

On 20 November contributing photographers received an email from Alamy telling them “Your royalty percentage will be decreasing by 10 percentage points in early 2013 for direct and distributor image sales.”

The email went on to say that the Oxfordshire based agency had reached the limits of its expansion under their current set-up and extra revenue taken from photographers’ royalties would be used to drive sales and “improve the contributor experience” in 2013.

‘It will survive no more than three minutes’: a condensed version of the thread on censorship which was itself censored by Alamy

In 2008 Alamy made a 5% reduction in commission to fund expansion in the US. “The US is now our largest direct sales operation and we are currently recruiting staff to expand it further,” contributors were told. “Our experience shows that investing in the right things does pay off.”

The problem for contributing photographers is that Alamy, like other high-profile agencies today, appears to be investing less and less in photography yet more and more in themselves – leaving photographers to wonder how can they be expected to expand their businesses, supplying Alamy’s source material, when their own revenue streams are decreasing?

And now photographers are asking what happened to the original Alamy pitch that brought the agency so many new contributors. That pitch was “We give you more because you do the keywording.”