Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting paid for pics

One of the biggest questions facing budding professional photographers is how much to sell your photos for. It can often be quite flattering for a first timer just to have their photos chosen and published and some are even tempted to let their work be used for free. Other snappers seem to put an unrealistic value on their work. For instance I hear of one photographer who was offered £300 per pic by a UK Outdoor company, it was fairly likely this company would have chosen half a dozen pics without requiring exclusive use. So potentially £1800, which surely is a decent payday in any ones books. So where does the balance lie?

I remember my first sale was to Rab Equipment where I sold 7 or 8 shots for a total of £150. Looking back that seems a pitifully small amount but at the time I was pretty happy with that - I was after all the first photographer to get paid in cash by Rab instead of fleece or down! Since then I've got a little more savvy an have managed a fair few sales for several thousand pounds. From my experience here are a few guidelines:

1. Does the company have a set rate card? Some companies such as Patagonia and almost all magazines have a defined a price per size of image and type of use. If they do and are happy with this go with it. Some photographers don't agree with this an will try to negotiate some special higher rate, my opinion is that will more than likely to alienate editors or marketing bosses and although you might occasionally win out you are just as likely to lose future business.

2. If the company has no rate card then expect to have to pitch a price and negotiate. This is obviously the tricky part for the inexperienced, here's a few tips:

- Don't be intimidated or nervous after all this is business and the company will be used to talking money everyday. Be confident, you have quality images that the company would like to use. However don't be arrogant or rude, word gets around amongst different companies and you will get a reputation as difficult to work with.

- Do some research on the size of the company and the scale of the marketing use. There is usually a sliding scale of use from a single small image on the web at one end through to annual catalogue cover or billboard advert at the other end.

- It is normal to have different charges for different market places i.e. UK, European and then Global.- It is also typical to define the exact use of the image and specify a timescale, mine is usually a non exclusive license for 2 years. If the company wants to use the image for several different marketing purposes i.e. in store publicity, in their printed catalogue, on their website and in a poster in a magazine then each of these would increase the value of the sale.

- If a company wants exclusive use then this is usually for a set period of time (1 year, 2 years etc), they would then have to re-negotiate and pay for a further extension if they wanted to use the image beyond that. If they wanted complete copyright (you loose all rights to that image) then they should expect to pay a significant amount of money.

- Always head into a negotiation with a plan of what you want. Have two figures in your mind, 1. your ideal price for the sale and 2. a figure that would be the lowest you would be happy with for that sale. Your first pitch will be number 1 and this maybe excepted immediately. In this instance it is tempting to be disappointed and think they would have been willing to pay more, don't be, you've got your ideal price and have learnt a bit about that type of company for future sales. If the company is unwilling to match your ideal price ask them what they would expect to pay, and then you can either negotiate a halfway settlement or move on if it's below price 2.

- Be realistic. Photographers make their living through sustained sales not one off fluke winfalls. I've often felt as satisfied getting £30 for a website image for a British one man company as I have for £1000 from a multi national's global campaign.

There is actually a reasonable amount of information on the net. The following is a great article and although it's American biased has some great links to give a few ideas and guidelines.


Anonymous said...

Great article! One question, how would you or in which way would approach a company with your photos?

Jan said...

Mike Hutton said...

Really good advice, thanks Mike Hutton