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  • August 13, 2022

Stock Photography Pricing: How to Make Sure You Get Paid What Your Photos Are Really Worth

Many photographers feel they are ‘ready’ to dive into stock photography: they are up to date on quality and content, have a good starting volume, and have time to work on it. all systems should work, but one thing stops them.

Just don’t know how much to charge for your photos? They worry about asking too much and losing a sale, or asking too little and the buyer will take advantage of them. Either way, they’re worried about losing money and looking a bit stupid. Does it sound familiar to you? If so, what follows is a stock photography pricing crash course that will take the stress out of the process for you.

Rule 1. Professional photographers do not sell their images, they license them

When you sell an image, you are actually giving your customer permission to use that image in exchange for a license fee. Usually this is for a single specific use. It is usually for a fixed period of time or a fixed number of views.

Rule #2. Professional photographers never give away copyright or ownership of their work.

Because you are licensing a single use for a limited time, it is important to note that the image remains yours and the copyright remains yours. You are allowing the Client to use the image strictly on their terms. You can think of the photo license as a rental agreement. Just as a car rental company will tell you where you can go, what you can do, and when to get the car back, your Photo License tells the Customer exactly what you can do with your image and when to stop using it. it’s.

So how is a price determined?

The cost of a photo license is generally the product of the value of use for the Client and the value of the photo in question. The photographer assesses the value of the use of the specific image to the Client and then determines a fair and reasonable price that covers costs and allows for a profit margin.

This is standard in any business. The operator studies his customer, evaluates his product and determines a price that covers his costs, offers good value for money to his customer and leaves him a reasonable profit margin for his efforts. Pricing for Rights Managed photos is no different, EXCEPT the value of a photo depends on how the customer wants to use it. So based on that, prices to license the same photo will vary based on usage.

The value of the use of the photo for the client

In simple terms, a photo used on the cover of a magazine has a higher value for the Client than, for example, a small reproduction on the back cover of the same magazine. The cover photo will actually help sell the magazine, which is obviously immediate cash value to the Customer. The photo in the back of the magazine still has some value, but its size and placement suggest that it is not of great interest to most of the magazine’s readers, and therefore of less value to the Client.

Of course, if the same photo were used for a double-page ad within the magazine, it would be worth even more to that Client. The advertiser would be paying a premium price for the space, so he can be sure that he selected that particular photo because he believes he will get the maximum return on his investment.

These are very simplistic examples, but what you need to recognize is that in each of these examples, the photographer is not selling the photo…they are selling the less tangible ‘service that photo provides’ to the Client.

Many photographers find it difficult to justify charging different clients different prices for what they consider to be the same ‘product’. The key is to remember that you are not selling a product; you are selling a service.

You are not selling the photo itself. You are selling the Client the rights to benefit from the use of your photo. And since the performance for the Client in each use will vary, the purchase price should also vary.

The value of the photo itself

Each photo has an intrinsic value based on the uniqueness of the content and the quality of the execution. In simple terms of supply and demand, a great photo of a rare subject will always be worth more than a bad shot of a common subject.

A business photo also has a residual value, based on its freshness. The more exposure an image gets, the less attractive it will be to future Clients. An example would be if a photo was used internationally for a large advertising campaign. Once the image has been viewed by millions of people, there is little chance that a different Client will use it to promote their own product. They wouldn’t want to risk sending a mixed message to their audience by using a ‘second hand’ image. It is easier and safer for the Client to find another image.

So every time you license an image, you have an impact on that image’s future sales potential. A textbook publisher in need of a simple illustration probably won’t be overly concerned with where the image has been used before, or where it might appear in the future, but that usage will become a factor the next time someone considers using the image.

If a Client wants a new image, no matter if the previous use was a thumbnail in a textbook or a spread in Time, they will still consider the image use. Of course, there are many situations where prior use is not an issue, but when a client needs an unpublished image, he will usually pay a lot of money for it!

So while there might be a temptation to write off smaller sales as insignificant and not worth much… that one small sale could disqualify your image of a much bigger sale down the line. As a business person, you need to make sure that you are compensated for it at that time.

If you’re one of those who struggles with the idea of ​​charging different prices for different uses, remember this… If you were to license the best picture you’ve ever taken for a high-profile ad campaign, the pool of prospective customers for that photo is immediately reduced to one. It is very unlikely that someone else will buy that image again.

Unless the Original Client decides to re-license the image at a later date, its residual value will virtually disappear. So your initial license fee should represent your assessment of the residual value of that image!

The mechanics of prices

Rights management licenses take into account many factors and can be confusing at first. It’s much easier if you can remember the following; All of the usage factors you’ll see come down to one thing…assessing “exposure.” How prominent the image will be posted and how many people will see it.

Books and software and calculator websites will talk about dozens of different factors:

  • print run
  • Traffic
  • playback size
  • Screen display size
  • screen duration
  • number of problems
  • Regional rights versus global rights
  • Electronic Rights
  • time in use
  • Placement and positioning
  • … And much more.

All they really ask is how prominently the image will be posted, and factoring into that, how many people will see the image. And as we’ve already discussed, when exposure increases, the benefit value to your client increases and the residual value of the image decreases, so you charge more. Your price is the product of those elements, applied to the Intrinsic/Residual Value of the image.

  • Low Exposure X Low Earning Value => Low Residual Value Impact = Low License Fee
  • High Exposure X High Benefit Value => High Residual Value Impact = High License Fee

Of course, there are any number of degrees to each of these values, but the key is not to get bogged down in too much detail. When using various printed calculators and guides, be as precise as possible, but don’t panic if you don’t know a specific detail or if the options offered don’t exactly match your use. In most cases It will not have a major impact on the final price.

My only other suggestion is to use the price calculators often to develop an idea of ​​what different uses are worth before a buyer knocks on your door. If you are new to the business, a Printing Pricing Guide is also highly recommended. Above all, don’t be intimidated by the process. Always value your work and your time. Never give up ownership or copyright and remember you can always say ‘no thanks’ if the price isn’t right.

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