If you’re doing your job of marketing your work properly, you’re going to get not only the specific clients you’re looking for, be they wedding or portrait clients, but others as well. As I’ve written about in my other Business Coach articles, there are commercial art buyers out there looking for new and different work in the various social media that’s out there.
These art buyers (art buyer is a generic term for anyone who licenses photography for commercial use) are often folks from companies and ad agencies who need unique images for their advertising layouts and catalogs. Even though there may be seemingly countless stock images available through companies like Getty Images or iStockphoto, often times the photos for any specific subject are trite and overused.
The client may be looking for an image that another competitor can’t use or that the rest of the world hasn’t already seen a million times. Again, though there may seem to be a million images of the same thing out there, in reality, there’s only a handful of really good images within any specific category. Those tend to get used over and over again – which does little to help a client that wishes to appear different.
An Agency Comes Calling
Such was the case when Texas wedding photographer Allen Ayres got an email from an advertising agency that liked one of his photos on his blog and wished to use it in an ad for one of their pharmaceautical clients. Since Allen is a wedding photographer not used to the licensing of commercial images, he wasn’t sure how to price it.
His first thought was that it would be nice to pick up some extra money. Maybe in the $1,000 range – which is not a bad payday for not having to do any extra work. Just to get some feedback however, he (wisely) decided to post the question of how much to charge on the Digital Wedding Forum where I’m an active participant.
Before a price can be quoted for any image, it’s important to understand:
How the image will be reproduced in the final layout, i.e. will it be small within the ad (or published page) or will it be the “hero” as in full page or close to it.
1 – Size of the image to be reproduced in the final layout – i.e. will it be small within the ad (or published page) or will it be the “hero” as in full page or close to it.
2 – Nature of publications – Will the client be using the image one time in a marketing brochure or multiple times in newspapers and magazines? Images that are used in a consumer magazine or billboard ad campaign are worth much more to the client than one used in a 1/4 page inhouse brochure.
3 – Geographical area of publication – Will the image be used in a local publication like a neighborhood newspaper? Or a regional magazine? Or a series of national magazines? An image can be used throughout North American or even worldwide. Obviously, the greater the geographic distribution, the greater the value of the image to the client.
4 – Duration of use – Does the client need the image for six months? One year? Or even unlimited time?
5 – Exclusivity – Does the client not want competitors to use the image? Do they want exclusivity within their product category, a given country or worldwide.
Taken together these five criteria are what are known as usage rights. They’re the basis for profitably pricing commercial stock and assignment photography.
In Allen’s case, the client intended to use the image as the hero in a series of medical industry print ads and brochures as well as online. They also wanted exclusivity within the industry and country. Because the agency in question was no stranger to licensing photography, they provided all the information necessary to receive a quote.
So, my suggestion for a starting price: $15,000.
Now, many folks may think that’s crazy. Perhaps. But that’s also the going rate for unique images with the level of use requested by the client.
In fact, the client not only found that price acceptable, they came back with a request for an alternate (and higher) quote based upon worldwide usage over a longer period of time. After a couple of weeks of back and forth, the client and photographer (with consulting help from myself) finally settled upon $18,000 for two years of exclusive and unlimited national (as opposed to worldwide) usage to the medical trade.
Not a bad payday.
One of the points I’ve made many times over the years is that we, the photographers, don’t set the value of our work. Just because an image may not have a lot of value to us doesn’t mean that it may not have tremendous value to a potential client.<p>
“What’s It Worth to You?”
The client sets the value, however we set the price. It’s our job to translate the value we’re generating into a dollar figure that accurately reflects that value.
All too often I hear photographers make excuses for why they should undervalue their work: “It only took me an hour to shoot.” “It’s only a half-day.” “I’ll do this one for cheap so that this client will give me more work later.” “It’s not my regular work so it’s not that big a deal.” “I’m not going to do anything else with the shot.”
Forget all that. It’s not about you. It’s about the value that you’re delivering to your client. There’s a lot of mediocre images out there in the world. If a client wanted one of them, they could use one for a song. If they want you, it’s because you offer something special. Don’t be afraid to charge for your specialness.
And, finally, here’s the $18,000 photograph as promised.