Photography Pricing

Thursday, October 21st, 2004 at 1054

Following a discourse in good old channel #Webdev, it ocurred to me that although my work is for sale (Yes, it is true…) it’s not nearly well advertised enough. In fact the only mention of it is in my website FAQ which thanks to its lack of advertisement no-one seems to read. (I get a fair number of emails , one could say I received them frequently, asking questions which are answered in the FAQ.)

The willpower to put up a full-blown automated sales system is not within me, not only that but I really don’t want to turn into a bargain-basement stock salesman which, if you sell images above 1024×768 is rapidly what you’ll become, afterall, no-one gives a crap about photographic rights these days anway. On the flipside, I’m not actually selling anything anyway at the moment so you could argue something is better than nothing. Would the images find their way into the public domain? Would someone use them as their own, build them into a website, print them in a brochure or a flier after paying only a small fee to “Use it as a desktop wallpaper” ?

One line of discussion was about music and the way in which an awful lot of people don’t pay to listen to it.

Fair enough, but no-one has to pay to look at my photographs anyway, they’re right there in my photo gallery. It’s when it comes down to use and fair credit that you get problems with photography but you don’t with music. It would be impossible for me to pretend that I’d written Anthrax’s latest album (Which is awesome, by the way, it’s called “We’ve Come For You All”), it would be unrealistic to submit it as part of a client proposal and have them believe me. You couldn’t use it as a background image on a website or brand your company with it. You could of course produce faked CD’s and profit from sales, but at the end of the day the music is still recognised as the owners and in photographic and design circles recognition is pretty much as important as sales. You can always put your name on a photo, but someone else can just as easily take it out.

Perhaps that’s down to them being internationally famous? Maybe, but then only 1% of the population might spot a photograph taken by Bresson or Bailey. It can’t be fame, then.

Lets ignore the lack of credit and the possibility of fraud or the re-use of images and consider then what is a decent price for an image. Pricing photography is difficult because so much depends on who’s paying and what for. Bringing the costing down to an equipment and time basis alone, let’s assume it takes you 6 hours to get a couple of decent shots. A few hours to travel, scope the place, take a bunch of photos and get home. Then add on another 2 hours “pissing about time” in a photo app of your choice to make the photo’s useable, which is necessary practice if you own a Fuji S2. If you didn’t hire a location or a model, you’ve got about 6-7 hours worth there. Everyone tells me freelance rates should start at £30 an hour, so that’s £210 already. Throw into the mix overheads for those hours, cost of equipment purchase, depreciation and insurance as well as potentially a fee for an assistant and the amount of “cash” put into said photo’s is approaching £300.
If I took 300 photographs and used one, 300 pounds in total perhaps? What if I used all 300?
Then move on to projected sales. If the £300 figure is fixed as the “production cost” of the image then reasnobly you’d expect to divide that cost across your projected sales, so if you expected to sell 10, £30 each would cover your bases. Bear in mind though that the £300 price doesn’t actually include a markup it merely covers time, overheads and insurance.
This is still only selling digital files, too. Physical prints include production and postage overheads as well, depending on size and quantity.

If you take a look at Getty’s Stock Archive or Alamy Stock you’ll get a right shock if you try and buy a photograph for personal use. £176 was one price I got quoted, to top that off the photo wasn’t even that great. That price lets you do anything you want with the photo, so long as it’s non-commercial and private use. If you wanted to actually use that image in a profit-making endeavour or some public display, oh boy, you pay through the nose.

So do I want to sell private-use digital files of commercial-useable resolution to people over the internet for £15 each? It’s better than making no money, but then what if I miss out on a £300 whopper because some shiester realised he could pay £15 to me instead of £300 to Getty’s for a photograph of a lime with a knife stuck in it? Take him to court for a breach of terms and conditions?

I’d really appreciate people’s comments on this one, let me know your thoughts because quite honestly I don’t quite know what to think. Paranoia or trade practice? Gnah.

11 Comment for “Photography Pricing”

  1. Adz Said this on

    I love you and I think you’re great

  2. Gareth Ablett Said this on

    firstly I’d just like to recomend the the deviant print service now available you set the price they take a cut of printing etc and you get the extra, plus they have some cheap advertising extras to get the viewers of you art up.

    As for selling you art on a site there allways going to be the problem of costs versus income but the way I see it is that currently you hvae a collection of images ragardles of how big that collection is of images worth resale (eiter digitaly or as printed work) currently what ever they cost you to make so far they arny making you any money at the moment, so to start with the idea would be to produce some income from what you have already spent out on equipment and time (costs).

    As for selling images you make sure who you are selling to agrees to the license that tehy must not resell and cant be placed on the internet at a higer then 640×480 resolution unless in part with other design work. have you read any of the license that come with purchasing art, I have a few at home if you want a copy of one.

    Most places you purchase art for over £150 you will be purchasing the raw format image at a large resolution, for images of about 1280×1024 to 2048×1536 you would be looking at selling for about the £30 to £60 range and you would be likely to sell that if you had it in the right placment for people to see it.

    ps, talk to me if you want to team up (plus other prosumer’s) on selling pictures online.

  3. Andrew Said this on

    Paypal does a nice free shopping chart system that should be fairly easy to integrate into your site, I’m considering doing it myself. I quite like Paypal :)

    Why not set a ‘how much would you pay for this’ button, where it chucks you an email saying ‘im willing to pay £XXX for it, what do you say?’. That way you can tell the cheap bastards to piss off, unless you need the cash.

    Just a thought.

  4. Frog Said this on

    “As for selling images you make sure who you are selling to agrees to the license that tehy must not resell and cant be placed on the internet at a higer then 640×480 resolution unless in part with other design work.”

    is maybe silly. i’m in the process of setting up a stock photography library (open/vetted photography entry, but getty aren’t getting any more of my money). one thing i’ve found is that you’ll be buying TIF not RAW, and another that many demand 800×600 for RF stock images as that way they can make banners with them. if you’re using banners for header work, 640×480……do you *really* want people stretching your images to 755? raises interesting pricing questions though.

    paypal nice idea but impractical, althought their ‘sandbox’ kit is now quite nice. ‘how much would you pay’ would probably encourage people to be cheeky.

  5. Gareth Ablett Said this on

    TIFF’s can contain raw data so RAW file is close enough.

    what I ment by 640×480 was that they must not display the full image on its own online at that size, they would get the image in a larger format of above 1280×1024 and can then do what the like within agreement with the licence.

  6. Frog Said this on

    i wouldn’t display the image online without a big watermark on it, unless it’s too small to use? that’s the best way round it 😉

    wp GA though :)

  7. Ian Said this on

    Trouble with all digital media is that it’s just too easy to rip off. It’s OK having license T’s& C’s but in reality would you ever be able to enforce them? With the Internet covering the world how would you enforce them when some bugger buys your picture and puts it up for sale, or uses it in some other way, on a server in ?

    However, the above may not be such an issue depending on the market your going for. If it’s the professional market – advertising agencies etc then they would probably be a bit more trustworthy. No idea how you market to them though. If you go for the general surfer market then I reckon you a) need to keep the cost low as they are more likely to buy and b) accept the fact that once sold you lose control of it.

    I guess going for the low cost market would be easier (improved search engine strategy, sell via Ebay?). If people see something they like then they are more likely to pay if it’s low cost. Without a doubt there is real reluctance for people to pay for something they can’t touch.

    This might seem a bit backward in the digital age but what about trying out local galleries and libraries? You may be able to persuade a library to hold a small exhibition. Smaller market but possibly higher sale to view ratio.

    Anyway good luck!

    PS Nice pictures, especially ‘Hold It’ 

  8. Exhibition displays Said this on

    Many photographers would not count on gigs to be their livelihood. Again, this is not your father lending you his camera to take a few photos.

  9. julia Said this on

    it is good to use these photographs as a background image on a websites

  10. Denyerec Said this on

    Not unless you pay for them it isn’t you cheeky bum!

  11. William quartz Said this on

    I assure you that professional photography equipment costs a lot more than your best friend’s camera. A high quality camera, specialized lenses, memory cards, digital software, tripods, umbrellas and lighting, and colorful background are professional-grade and are quite expensive.

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