Stock Photo Pricing Help
*** Also check out our Photo Business Resources Page.
Stock Photo Pricing Info, Software, etc.:
“Help, What do I charge for…”
Remember, you don’t sell a photo. You License (give your permission for) the use of the image.
On photographer web forums, I hear a lot of questions that start out with someone saying, “Somebody wants to use a photo of mine, and I have no idea how to charge…“. One of the first things I recommend is that all photographers register as a Buyer with at least three different stock agencies, for example Corbis, Getty, Alamy, or any other agent that has an online pricing calculator. You can also check prices using the calculator available through my Online Image Archive, which uses the same FotoQuote software I link to below.
When someone asks you what you charge, NEVER ever ever give someone an estimate or quote right off the bat, off the cuff, or off the tip of your tongue; you are almost always guaranteed to sell yourself short this way. ALWAYS, always, always say, “Let me do a little research, and Ill get right back to you within (time frame).” Then go sign on at one of the stock agency web sites that you’ve already bookmarked, and have set with your cookies for easy sign-in. Do a search for the same type of image your client is requesting of you, in my case, it might be “Yosemite“. Make sure your search will bring up both Rights Managed (RM) and Royalty Free (RF) images.
Once you’ve seen what the agency has, find an RM image, perhaps one that is visually close to your image, then price out the image using their online calculator. Enter in the usage that your client is asking for from you, or as close to it as possible. Make a note of the price the agency charges. Repeat the same process at as many agency or sources you can find. To arrive at what I might charge as a “base fee”, I may first determine what the average price would be, note highest & lowest fees, and what my ‘gut’ is telling me. (yes, that’s a technical & very professional process.) After doing all of that, you should have a very good handle on what to charge, as well as knowing where you stand with your competition. The most important thing is learn how to use the online calculators, and why various types of use(s) affect the rate being charged.
Note; if a client is asking you about a really unusual type of use, and you find no online calculator offers what you need, don’t be afraid to call up an agency and tell them you’re looking to by an image for that use, and could they help give you a price. They’re into customer service. They’ll be happy to help you help your client.
Once you’ve determined what a reasonable one-time, Rights Managed license fee might be, you’ll also need to take into account some other considerations which may affect the price you decide to charge. This might include how common or unique the image is; are you the only one that has something like it, or are similar images widely available in Royalty Free or Microstock collections. If so, you should at least consider the fact that your client could purchase the unlimited commercial use of a similar photo anywhere from a few hundred dollars via standard RF sales, all the way down to a just a couple dollars as Microstock RF.
Also, the nature of the use might have some bearing on pricing. For example, if an image is being used as a ‘ghosted’ background where other text or illustrations will be put over the image, I might usually discount between 25% & 50% of the base fee.
If a client wants to use more than one image, or use one image in multiple ways, I’ll offer some appropriate discounting for the additional uses. I also offer discounts for non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and educational institutions that may range between 15% & 50% off a standard editorial or commercial rate, and will vary based on how closely aligned I might be to the particular group cause or efforts. Remember, non-profit doesn’t mean “free”, and non-profits have budgets to pay for business expenses, just like any other business or organization.
On Quoting the Price and Value:
Personally, I’ve been told many times, and I’ve told many, “Never price an image based on the fear that someone else will charge less than you, ‘cuz someone always will. Determine your fair value, know your cost of doing business, and stand by your pricing with confidence. The trick is doing so while being able to maintain the flexibility to serve your client, yet not sell yourself short.
Have a Minimum License Fee:
I also encourage photographers to establish some kind of minimum fee, especially if they find themselves hounded by requests for some kind of “Free” use – or the ever attractive, “Free, but we’ll give you a credit line” queries that often come through places like flickr, where people are looking for cheap or free photos. First, acknowledge that it takes time to deal with these people, and your time should have some value. Write a form letter, explaining the time you need to invest in taking, scanning, cleaning, color correcting images, delivering images by email or ftp, invoicing, accounting, an not to mention tracking the use of an image. Then explain you have a minimum fee, something reasonable *for you*. Most photographers might have some kind of minimum billing fee between $25.00 and $300.00.
But will you respect me in the morning…?
You really do need to have something you can say to a potential client that lists your minimum license fee for any type of use of your images. This way, if a client does accept your fee, they’ll always have that respect that you operate your business as a business; professionally. On the other hand, if you quote a fee that is very low, a ‘giveaway’ price, hoping to get or entice more business from a client in the future based on offering extremely low rates up front, you will inadvertently lock yourself into a place where it is almost impossible to raise your rates. If you do try to raise your rates after setting a low pricing bar, the client will have learned (from you) that there are photographers who will give their work away, and they’ll simply move on, away from you, to find the next sucker in line.
If someone really wants to use, or needs your image, and they understand that you’re just being a good business professional, they’ll choose to work with you and respect the rates that you charge. Now not every client may be able to pay, and you may lose some sales, But every single client that does pay your fair rates, starts off being a good client, and generally will stay a good client. A client that will look to take advantage of you from the start of a business relationship will always want and be willing to take advantage of you.
“If you don’t Value your work, no one else will.”
~ G. Crabbe / Enlightened Images
Help needed, Help offered.
I am sometimes asked if I offer my professional services to help photographers figure out or negotiate use fees, or if I can handle all of the pricing, negotiations, and licensing on your behalf.
The short answer is yes. It is usually a straightforward consultation where I offer my pricing advice based on your specific situation. However, I fully encourage photographers to use the resources listed on this page, and give it a go themselves. (File under: In order to learn how to swim, you first must get your feet wet.) However, if you have a truly big advertising or multi-image use where you feel overwhelmed, a consultation could be the difference between making a couple hundred dollars, or a couple thousand dollars. For more information, please Contact me.
Other Photo Pricing Resources:
Photographers Index Stock Photo Price Calculator. – I don’t really like this one because it is too limited with the range of pricing options available to be selected, but it’s basic enough to use as a reference in some cases.
Stock Photography Industry Info:
Negotiating Stock Photo Prices Book (J.Pickerell)
Selling Stock – Industry newsletter by Jim Pickerell
Stockphotographer.info – An Online Industry information portal.
StockPhoto.net – A network for buyers & sellers of Stock Photography; has a good Yahoo Discussion Group
School of Stock – from PhotoShelter, back when they had a stock agency division.
A Stock Agency’s List of Copyrighted and Trademarked places and things not to photograph.
Where to Sell Your Photos – A list of over 800 stock photo agencies.
Lightbox Photo Gallery Software – Become your own stock agency!