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How To Price Your Photos - A Guide On How To Price Photography

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How much to I charge for my photos? How do I price my photography? What are the common pricing practices for photography? These are very common questions for new photographers (and some experienced ones). Because there is no "fixed" valuation, that is there is not a one size fits all price, photographers are generally in a perpetual state of anxiety that they are undercharging or overcharging for their photography. In reality, there is only one correct price. That is the point where what the customer is willing to pay matches what you are willing to accept for your work. This number will vary greatly from photo to photo and from situation to situation. Sometimes these two numbers will never meet. You should not feel like you've done something wrong when that happens. Nor should you worry you undercharged if the buyer eagerly accepts your price. That being said, there are some ways to help you find the "normal" pricing for a specific situation.

  • Photographer's Market
    Photographer's Market is a book published each year with many listings of book, magazine, and other publishers. Each listing includes what types of photos they use, approximate price range paid, and what rights they purchase. Even if you are not pricing photos for a company listed in Photographer's Market you can use it to look up similar companies to get a general idea of price range.

  • Free Online Pricing
    While it may be tempting to do a quick search for "photo pricing" on the Internet and use a free pricing program, there are drawbacks to this approach. Most of these online systems are designed for "high end" applications and do not take into account regional price fluctuations, current competition from online stock photography sites, or rights purchased. As a result the prices tend to be greatly overinflated.

  • FotoQuote
    If there is an "industry standard" pricing program it is FotoQuote. FotoQuote takes an incredibly detailed approach to the variables involved to approach a more real-world pricing situation. One of the items I find especially useful is the magazine ad pricing data. For example, if a magazine offers you $100 for use of a full page color photo but the ad pricing data shows they charge a customer $10,000 for a full page color advertisement, you now have information with which to negotiate. FotoQuote also has good information on licensing term definitions for beginners. While program is not inexpensive ($199), there is a free demo for download to give you a taste of how the program works.

Ok, so now you know where to look (and not look) for pricing information. Now you need to know what factors can modify your pricing situation.
  • Licensing
    What rights the purchaser wants is the biggest determining factor in pricing your photographs. While you might sell the license for a one time use of a photo on a local billboard for a few hundred dollars you would require significantly more if the purchaser wanted to buy all rights (basically the copyright) from you. The reason behind this is that photographer's make a living off of their photography licensing by selling usage of the same photo many times. A magazine might purchase the right to first publish a photo in the United States while another magazine purchases the rights to print the photo in a book in Europe and an advertising company purchases the right to use the photo as part of an advertising campaign. If a company wishes to buy all rights for a photo the cost is higher because you will not be able to "resell" the photo. Take the time to research what different licensing terms mean so that you know what you are selling of your photos.

  • The Buyer
    Many times your first purchase request will be a local group asking to use a photo in a very small way. A Chamber of Commerce could ask to use a photo in a local calendar or a local author could want to use a photo in a self-published book. In situations like these the buyer generally has a tiny sum in mind for the use of the photo. Conversely, a large magazine will plan on spending more for the same rights. Also, non-profit groups and charities tend to believe that they should pay less for purchases. Whether you agree or not is up to you. Whatever the case, remember to behave in a professional manner even when your first instinct may to be insulted by an extremely low offer. Negotiation will determine whether or not the buyer's final offer and your final offer match.

  • You
    The final factor in determining the price of your photographs and licensing is you. If you are a hobbyist and someone offers you $25 for the use of a photo and you are happy with that then take it. If you are trying to make a living off your photography you probably won't be able to take that sum (unless it is a non-exclusive one-time use and you can continue to resell the photo often). Only a few photographers are paid the way you probably imagine and they all put in their time working for lower sums before they reached the "big leagues."
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