It seems that these days, it is getting more important to be published than getting the appropriate compensation. More and more we hear about obscene prices being applied to licensing rights.
Fueled by the idea that photography is a commodity and thus should be priced accordingly, photo agencies worldwide are accepting rates that would make Wal Mart blush in shame. Twice this past week, I have heard about big traffic websites ( in the millions of unique visitors) paying a pathetic $5 per image. And this without any guarantee of quantity used . After, lets say, 50% paid back to the photographer, the $2.50 left will not even cover for the printing, postage and processing of the invoice !!!
Even companies selling commodities do sell them for a profit. Some photo agencies are confused between low price point/ high volume and non-for-profit.
Between Getty Images selling all you can eat monthly/yearly subscription package that, at least, guarantees them a minimum revenue and microstock pricing, it is easy to be confused. Add to this a complete misunderstanding of the “Long Tail” theory and you have lots and lots of lost souls. Finally, please remember that the extreme majority of photo agencies managers never made in, or out, of a business school. Seems their feet handle most of their pricing negotiation.
There is something else strongly in play here : it’s what I would call the “air travelers syndrome”. Someone taking a plane to anywhere these days is ready to accept almost any kind of situation as long as they get to destination. Hour delays, no food, poor service, cramp seating, nasty personnel, heavy security line, dirty planes, and so on. It is almost like holding your breath until you get out of the bad smell area. We deal with it because we really want to get to our destination. Possibly alive.
Photography pricing seems to be the same these days. As long as an image gets publish, we are ready to accept anything. Poor pricing, no quantity guarantees whatsoever, mistreatment , as long as the image gets to the “other side”.
Like air travel, we are happy and proud if we make it and the other passenger that was in line didn’t. Some sense of achievement and success. Some photo agencies will accept a bad deal just to close the door to the next one and be able to smile and wave from the window ” “Look, I am on board and not you, sucker !!”.
Not really a savvy business decision.
Bottom line: Having your images published at whatever cost is not a guarantee of success, as much as flying under any condition will guarantee you will get there. Both are very dangerous and can cause death. With the print world disappearing very fast, on-line sales will soon become the primary market. And with those prices, no one will make it to the other side.