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Dear Ask The Geek,
A small business recently asked me for the use of one of my photos on their website. I’m not a professional photographer, so I’m not sure what to do. Should I ask for compensation? How do I figure out what that is? Or should I just let them use it free of charge?
Hi Sporadic Photographer,
How much do I charge for my photos? What’s the best way to price my photos, or determine their value? I’m often asked this and it’s something I also struggle with when I sell photos directly (vs. selling through Getty Images).
This is such a delicate issue. For many, just being asked to use a photo is a compliment they hadn’t expected and is reward enough. But for many other photographers, they believe that allowing companies to use photos free of charge is undermining the entire industry.
I could write a book on charging vs. not-charging (spoiler: I lean more towards charging) and whether photos from non-pro photographers or pro photographers are worth more (spoiler: the answer is neither), but what I think you should definitely do is ask some questions about the usage of your photo, and whether you decide to charge or let them use it for free, the usage is detailed and the permission you give is explicit.
Here are some things you should be asking regarding usage of your photo:
- usage, medium (website, editorial, advertisement, billboard, print, royalty free)
- single usage or multiple usage (on both a website and print ad, only website, etc.)
- duration of use (unlimited, only a few months)
- placement and size of image (i.e., website: front page vs. sidebar vs. internal page; magazine: half-page vs. whole page, etc.)
- (file) size of image (pixel dimensions of the image they want you to deliver)
- exclusivity (do they want to be the only company/website to be able to use the photo? not very common, but ‘no exclusivity’ should probably be mentioned in the terms otherwise)
If you know those things, you can come up with an estimate either with a pricing tool (there are many online), or by your own instincts. Even if you let them use the photo free of charge, it’s a good idea to reiterate the exact usage of the photo, and that any other usage needs your explicit permission.
I’m not a lawyer, but in most cases their confirmation of your terms via email should be enough to establish an agreement, and it goes without saying to get the agreement to your terms before you deliver the image. Otherwise, you can pop the terms into a document and ask for a signature as well.
Do you have any suggestions for this sporadic photographer?
Sara Rosso (aka WHT’s In-House Geek)