Camera Dissection, Alamy Submissions, and XDR-TB

Ok, three things I wanted to share today — all totally unrelated aside from the common ground of photography.


First and foremost, this is something worth mentioning, watching, reading, and sharing. I mentioned a few days ago that James Nachtwey would be revealing a project he’s been working on with the help of TED. Today is the day that we all find out what it is, and it’s certainly something amazing.

He’s set out to tell the story of Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB). This is a new and deadly mutation of TB, and it has the potential to kill millions more people. Apparently, 1/3 of the world’s population are infected with dormant TB and can become active due to a reduced immunity caused by other things. XDR-TB results from the mistreatment of TB .

TB kills 4,660 people each day — that’s one every 20 seconds. And it costs $20 to treat TB if done properly the first time.

Please spread the word. Visit for more information.


I’m not exactly saving the world with this one, but I did save a camera.

Repairs Underway

I was just doing a little camera repair on my rangefinder (Minolta AL). When I bought this camera, the rangefinder mechanism wasn’t working (which the seller didn’t tell me because he didn’t know). So I finally worked up the guts to tear it apart and see if I could fix it (after seeing what my buddy Joe is up to with his camera).

You can read more about this little adventure on the Flickr page by clicking the photo above.


I’m planning on submitting some photos to Alamy over the next couple of days, and I could use some pointers from the stock savvy photographers out there. Take a look through the slideshow below (probably not visible on a feed reader) or visit my Flickr set containing the photos I’m considering submitting to Alamy.

I’m not huge on stock photography, but the prospect of selling through Alamy doesn’t totally turn me off (as long as they accept my work). So for that first submission of 10 images I want to make sure I’m not throwing in any duds.

The reason I’m looking to get into this is two-fold: possibly make some extra cash to support my photography habit, and make some use out of the photos in my archive that don’t make it through as “art”. At lot of time, stock photos have very different qualities than fine-art photos, and I’m curious to explore that.

Some questions I have for you stock photographers… Is b/w a bad thing? As I search through the stock sites, I rarely (if ever) see a b/w photo. Is it best to just submit the color version of the same photo? Or both versions? And what’s the deal with film? Is it really dead to stock photography sites like Alamy? I’m gaining quite a collection of 120 film scans that turn out to be ~50MP without upsizing. Will I just be laughed at if I submit film scans? Or is there actually a slice of the market for this?

After I go through the submission process (and hopefully get in the club), I’ll write up my experience with Alamy for those who might be interested in doing the same.

9 thoughts on “Camera Dissection, Alamy Submissions, and XDR-TB

  1. Nora

    Just one thought – I buy stock photography for text books professionally and I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a black and white image unless it was historical, so I think I’d submit color.

  2. Roger Whitehead

    Some of the Alamy testers are twitchy about burnt-out highlights, so you might want to check you’re OK there. I can’t tell at that resolution but some look as though they might suffer from it.

    Nice set, BTW.


  3. Brian Auer Post author

    @Nora That’s kinda what I figured. Good thing all my edits are non-destructive… I can always go back and turn the color on just for Alamy.

    @Roger Good to know. I hear they’re also very picky about dust spots.

  4. Chica

    - That project is just so touching, and I hope it makes a lot of people feel it as the people who are suffering it do.

    - That is awesome that oyu fixed it, I wouldn’t have been able to do the same lol.

    -I’ve seen a few black and white stocks, and I was always left a little upset by it, because I wanted to see the color. If I want it black and white I will change it to that. Oh and film is not dead, it is unique, and something that someone like me would see with the texture of it.

  5. Andrew

    Hi Brian,

    Good luck with the Alamy submission. The general feedback I see from other photographers is that Alamy is a good thing and it works. They accept film scans (as long as the scan passes their quality control – there are a LOT of photographers gradually scanning and uploading their trannies), and you can also upload black and white photos.

    Some people say that uploading both a colour and black and white version of a photo is pointless, as a client can just buy the colour version and convert it. But I prefer to upload two versions because I dodge and burn and adjust the contrast on the black and white version, which means that it isn’t a straight conversion.

    Now, with Alamy you can sell photos under different psuedonyms, and I recently decided to move my black and white photos to a separate psuedonym. That means if someone specifically searching for a black and white photo will only see my black and white images grouped together, or my colour images grouped together. Too early to tell yet how beneficial this is but it’s looking promising so far.

    I have a great book on stock photography (‘Photos That Sell’ by Lee Frost) written before the advent of online stock agencies, and the author, a successful well know freelancer in the UK, says that black and white definitely has a place in stock photography. (Just look at all the b&w images on posters, book covers, and for sale in Ikea!) But the general consensus is that to be successful in stock you need lots of bright, colourful photos.

    You also need to be in it for the long term – again, the general consensus is that you need 1000 or more good quality images online before you start seeing consistent sales.

    As for subject matter, the only criteria that Alamy apply are technical ones. They will never reject an image because they don’t like the content. This is is both good and bad – it means there’s a lot of crappy photos on there that photo buyers have to wade through and that your images can get lost in the sea of photos. But it’s also good – the people who will ultimately decide on the commercial value of your photos are the the ones who count – the buyers.

    Once you’ve uploaded your photos you’re in an ideal position to market them through your blog by linking to your Alamy collection. Now, if you plan to specialise in say southern california beach culture, even better, it’s worth setting up a simple website or photoblog to display your photos that you have on Alamy, with links to those, so you can start to establish yourself as an expert in this area, and photo buyers will get to know your website and also find it on google and google image search.

    For a great example of a self-promotional website, look here (the photographer sells the stock photos himself but the principal is the same): Gavin Gough.

    And of course check out the Alamy blog, forum and sellers guides – there’s a ton of great info on there.

    Another EXCELLENT resource is the, their posts tagged Alamy are here and will fill you in on some of the things that I’ve been talking about: The Photography Biz.

  6. Dion

    I have a few photos up at Alamy, though I lack the dedication right now to grow that selection. Their QC process is, as already stated here, purely technical. Make sure the photos are in focus, and don’t uprez any more than you have to.

    A lot of your photos look like they have undergone some sort of colour/curves adjustment which I believe Alamy don’t like much. Searching their photos you will find most of the stuff looks flat (compared to the norm these days); the thinking being, the buyer will manipulate the image the way they want it.

    I think if you just follow their guide for submissions you won’t have a problem. I have not had a single photo rejected by their QC team yet, I have also not had a single sale.

  7. Scott Coulter

    Brian: looking forward to hearing what feedback you get both from other photogs and from the Alamy upload process. I have many of the same questions that you do.

  8. Derek

    The only nuggets of advice I’d give on Alamy is after your accepted, submit in small chunks at first. If you upload 50 images and one is bad, they’ll reject the whole lot.

    Chromatic Aberration and dust spots are the things people get kicked on the most.

  9. Michael

    The QC process there is a crap shoot. One or more of their inspectors like to find “interpolation artifacts” where there are none, so use good software when up-sampling to their required 48MB uncompressed jpg.

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