Pricing images for publications: Part One

A friend/former student wrote me with a great question. He wrote: “I have an opportunity to license some images to a travel company for their brochures. I’ve never done this before and therefore I’d love to get your quick opinion of what the right price range should be. The email below is from the director of communications from the travel company.”

His note shows that he was wide awake during the part of my class where I talked about what rates to charge and what rights to license to end users of images.

First, the e-mail from the client to the photographer:


It was a pleasure to meet you too, and to view even just a sampling of your stunning photography.

Your images are beautiful – thank you for sending the link. Can you please tell me what your prices would be for the photo uses as follows:

– Inside page (1/4-page maximum size) of a 5-color brochure, with national circulation to 20,000 households?

– Outside back cover (1/2-page) of a 5-color brochure, with national circulation to 20,000 households?

Thank you!

I replied to the photographer who wrote me, seeking advice on pricing:

Happy to help! The answer is easy:

Go to and then find an image that matches your image(s) and then price those on that site based on the client’s usage specifications.

Then go to: and repeat the steps.

Then go to: and repeat the steps.

Then go to and repeat the steps.

With four prices in hand, you can honestly give them a fair, market-based price. You may have to open accounts on those sites but they should all be free to open, so start there.

I also use:

I could “help” you but frankly, this is how I price everything these days, based on market rates.

Hope it helps. Let me know what happens!

Let me explain a bit. First, an image is only worth what the market will bear. Not what you think, nor what you want. The Internet has made that market remarkably transparent. All you need to price the potential editorial or advertising usage of an image is a web browser and some information on the image’s end use.

If you are smart, before you face the situation that my friend wrote me about, you will learn how to price image uses on-line. Go to all the sites above (or any other serious stock agency. Flikr is not serious.) Find an image that is similar to the kind of pictures you regularly make and is also the kind of image an end user might realistically want to license from you.

Note, I use the term license, not buy! Licensing an image is like renting a car. The end user gets certain rights to use it, but not all. If they want unlimited use, just like with the rental car, they have to buy it outright, for a great deal more money.

Now that you have an image from the stock agencies site(s) on your screen(s,) then find the dollar sign or calculator logo and go ahead and price the image. Some sites have “buy this,” others use “license this” and others say “price this.” In all cases they walk you through a series of menus/toggles to find out about how the image will be used. Typical questions include, but are not limited to, the size of the image in print, the number of copies, the length of time the image will be used, the geographic markets included, etc, etc., etc.

There are a lot of variables and when you move from editorial to advertising usages, the money involved and the information required for fair pricing go up quickly. The best way to appreciate them is to do some pricing practice, in advance, before someone calls and puts you on the spot. (More in part two.)

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