There are two basic ways to price an image:

The first requires a little bit of mathematical knowledge, which is not a given  in our industry. You need to add up all your costs of producing an image: the cost of the equipment, of course, plus the cost of your education ( if any), to which you add all other costs that you might have occurred in the past or the present. You can add part of your studio rental, or home rent, your electricity bills, you clothes, your car, your food, your water bills, your vacation, your insurance and so on… You end up with the value N ( total cost).

You then divide this number N by the number of images you expect to license throughout your career, which is A.

You thus have N/A= T. T is your average cost per image shot. Keep this number somewhere safe, as you will need it many times.

Once you have an image you want to license, you then have to estimate how many times it will sell. This is the value W.

You then divide T by W and you have your image price. T/W=P. P stands for final price and will work regardless if you license images via RF or RM.

The other way to price an image demands much less calculations. You take an image, you like it, you put it for sell. A client reaches you to purchase a license. Depending on how badly they need it, you raise the price. The price is a combination of how difficult the image was to get ( “can it be redone easily ?” is the question you should ask yourself) multiplied by how important that image is to your client final project. That final number is your price.

I see or get a lot of request on pricing images. I read about photography “experts” desperately trying to map out rules and regulations on this subject. I even see companies who are so confused, they think the photo licensing market works like Wall Street, a simple offer and demand adjustment. Finally, there are very poorly managed agencies who apply the subscription model to RM images submitted by commission-based photographers.

Like it or not, price negotiation is an indivisible  part of photography. The MBA’s of the big photo corporations just hate it and have been desperately trying to find ways to  make it disappear. The successive failure of A21 and JupiterImages, the inability of Corbis to post a profit in more than 15 years are just a few example of why it just doesn’t work. There is no sales matrix that you can apply to images, as all are different. The value of an image, as we said before, is in the eyes, and pockets, of the buyer, at the moment that he is ready to purchase that image. 3 days before or after and the value changes.

Its a skill. Like it is a skill to figure out what image will have the most value. It is a skill as much as being a good photographer. It is not a science. Sure, you can always apply the same equation to every image and come out with an average price for each, but that means you have to make a lot of images to be successful. Or you could just do a few that sale very, very well. Its a choice.

Right now, it seems the greatest majority of images are licensed at some kind of pre-approved price level defined mostly  by poorly trained executives who have read once two many times “The Long Tail”and have swallowed it sideways. If you price your images like a commodity, they will be seen as one like  a self serving prophecy. If you ignore the so called rules and play with your instinct, you might very well be extremely successful.

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