Ask the Geek: How should I price my photo?

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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?


Sporadic Photographer

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., websitefront 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)

7 replies »

  1. I don’t have much advice, only the kind I’ve earned the hard way. It’s probably not helpful….but for what it’s worth..

    I’m not a photographer. I’m a teacher. Years ago I started writing articles for a teacher magazine, sharing encouragement and Ideas with other teachers. I asked for no money and none was offered. Those articles became quite popular. Many people were nice enough to tell me when they read that magazine, they always looked for my articles first. Later the organization that published the magazine did something that offended me. I no longer am a member of the organization. While I earned nothing, that magazine has been selling my aricles online for ten years or more. They are listed on Amazon right alongside my books. They charge and earn $6.00 per small article. They have probably earned more on my articles than I have with my books. Hopefully not! Each time I blog or am quoted on Google, I’m sure I’m earning money for that magazine.
    Now when I write for free, and I still sometimes choose to, I always clarify and get it in writing via email that I am giving them only one time rights.

    I hope this helps.I’m embarrassed I made such a mistake and almost didn’t write this comment out of embarrassment, but If I can help someone, I’ll swallow my pride.

    Dauna Easley

    • Dauna – thanks for sharing your experience – very helpful.

      As for them selling the articles on Amazon, I’d be curious if they actually have the digital rights to do that if it was a print magazine (and depending when/what year…many times digital rights weren’t included in blanket rights statements before a certain time)…might be worth exploring, but I’m sure you’ve already thought of this.

      • Of course I hadn’t thought of that, because I never really knew that. That’s why I have my geek friend to ask. 😉 Some times my talents out distance my knowledge. Thanks.

  2. Wow-Sara and Dauna, this is really good advice. i had a similar experience with a powerpoint presentation i made and i then found a lot of my slides (original photos and artwork, as well as text) were included in a presentation given out by a medical equipment company! Now if anyone wants a copy of my presentation or teaching, i only give them a ‘text only’ PDF. Uffa! Live and learn, Cristina

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