Pricing images for publications: Part Two

In the last blog entry, I explored a scenario where you (or me) would need to calculate the use fee for an image to be used in a publication. I directed readers to a few useful resources for calculating that proposed licensee fee. Now, I want to offer a few thinking points that should be part of your process when pricing images for publication.

First, one thing about this kind of pricing is that it is not as clear cut as most pricing of goods or services. That is because your costs of production do not come into the equation (in any obvious way.) The end user does not care what it cost you to make the image, they only care how much it will cost them to use it the way they want.

But, if you have seriously calculated your “Cost of Doing Business,” you will know how much money you need to earn per day or week or month, to stay in business. That figure will influence how willing or unwilling you are to negotiate up or down the fee in question.

If you go to a search engine and put in “Cost of Doing Business Calculator,” you will get many links. They all are doing the same thing, trying to get small business-people to calculate what it really costs to run their respective business. My preferred “Cost of Doing Business Calculator” can be found on the National Press Photography Association site at:

A great resource that I mentioned in part one is Fotoquote or my preferred program, FotoBiz. FotoQuote is among the industry’s standards for pricing stock photography. FotoBiz, is a business management software for freelance photographers which incorporates FotoQuote within it. Read more at: Both programs speed up the pricing process. I like FotoBiz because once I have a figure and licensing language, I can seamlessly integrate that into the pre-formatted letters/invoices that FotoBiz provides or I have created within FotoBiz

No matter what you think or your friends/family tell you, DO NOT discount your price because you are an amateur or a beginner. Especially in the case of existing imagery, the client has already seen the image and is already attached to it. They may have even used it in mock-ups of the final publication, so they are attached to it! They know what they want, so you have a great negotiating advantage. Also, they are not “buying” your name, expertise or resume’, they are licensing an image to do a job they need done, so price accordingly. Similarly credit lines in place of payment mean nothing. Ask for a credit line if you want, but get real money first.

When I get a call about a potential image license, I have a checklist of questions to ask the end-user. The list is derived from the criteria listed on the pull down menus on the web sites noted in part one on pricing. You can derive the same list from FotoQuote or FotoBiz. It includes things like what is the size the image will be used, how many copies are being printed of the publication, for what length of time will it be used, is it for print use or web use (or both?) Also, remember to ask what is the geographic distribution of the publication, how many languages will the publication be printed in, etc.?

A great way to think about the pricing criteria is to familiarize yourself with the guides at: That site is a wealth of information!

Then the big question, do they want exclusivity? The big money in stock photography is made when the end-user wants to be the only one using the image in question for a given time period. If exclusivity is sought, they should pay you to keep that image off the market. My daughter’s image from when she was ten day’s old was used in a big diaper advertising campaign fifteen years ago. Though the license fee was high based on the proposed usage, the big money came from the fact that end-user wanted no other publication of that image for five years.

Keep in mind that your end-users usually know about the pricing mechanisms available on line and through the various pricing programs. They use them to know the maximum they can expect to pay. They also know that if they can get a low price from you, they can save their company a lot of money, get themselves a promotion (or both.)

I prefer to do these kinds of pricing negotiations by email. That way I have a record of everything, a “perfect paper trail” listing everything that was said, in case something goes wrong. Frequently, I will start the negotiations with one person and be handed off to others, so having the entire negotiation in written form is very important. Also, if you ever end up in litigation, the surest way to victory is to have that “perfect paper trail.”

Never succumb to the idea of a so-called “buy-out,” where you actually sell the image and all rights to that image. Most people seeking buy-outs are unwilling to figure out what they really want or not fully aware of what that term means (or both.) I was dealing with one end-user a couple years ago that said she wanted all rights. I told her that all rights would be rather costly, so instead, I would send her a list of all the possible uses of an image. I then said that each use she did NOT need lowered the price.

In the process of making the list, I found 148 possible uses (there may even be more.) I sent her that list assuming she would end up needing only a few uses. Then I could price it accordingly. If you scan the list at: you will see some pretty obscure uses for photographs. My personal favorite was “Ferry Terminal” advertising.

The checklist that I described above (which is derived from the various web-sites and pricing programs) along with the list of 148 uses prepared me for any pricing question. The woman who prompted me to write that list reviewed the list and promptly said she wanted all of those uses. I quoted her $10,000 for unlimited use (because I simply will not do a buy-out.) That was the last I heard from her. I take comfort in knowing what my work is worth and asking for that much in payment. With both parts of this discourse on pricing integrated into your workflow, you should do the same.

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