What Would You Charge For This Photo Usage?

Editors Note: One of the most challenging tasks for photographers is determining what to charge. I received this email from a reader asking for help in determining just what to charge for a specific use. I offered my advice and then suggested we post this to see how other photographers would handle this and what they would quote for the usage. We plan to post these requests as they come in, so if you have suggestions please mention them in a Comment. If you need help determining a price, please email us and we’ll open it to the readers to offer advice. And all names; photographer and client will be withheld and remain confidential!

Hello Charlie,

I couldn’t think of anyone else to turn to on this that didn’t have an affiliation with them and I need a professional opinion. I have been approached by XXXXXXXXXX to use two of my images in one of their up-coming books. They want to use my images for photo credit (no money). I don’t normally give away images and was hoping to get some professional feedback… Any thoughts?

John Doe (photographer)

Hi ‘John:’

Is XXXXXXXXXX making money off the book? Is the publisher donating the printing? Is the book designer designing for free? Will the distributor ship the book for free?

I am sure you see my point and I am surprised that XXXXXXXXXXX sees no value in your photography. I don’t donate anymore unless it can be proven that all involved are donating and I have told clients that and ask them the same thing; I want proof that all involved are donating.

Last time I had this type of request was 3-4 months ago and I told them the same: everybody must be donating. The designer, publisher, printer, mailing service; everybody. I heard nothing until 3 weeks ago when they came back with a $500 offer.

As long as photographers give their work away for free the more publishers out there who will see no value in photographs and continue to ask for donations.

Times are too lean to volunteer to help others make money! You can probably tell that I am pretty adamant about this, but I am like everybody else, trying to make a sale every day and it is not easy.

I don’t need anymore photo credits, I have some of the best you can get. I need money! When I am put-off by such requests I sometimes sarcastically say that if they cant afford to pay me I will be glad to take a percentage of sales.  If they say they have no money to pay then you can suggest a $1000 XXXXXX credit for anything you want to use it on.

Anyway, I can come up with all kinds of comparisons, but the idea to make money so you can keep at it. Hope that helps.


John Doe told the client he did not give photography away and asked if he could be paid.

The clients reply (actual email reply by client is withheld at photographers request) was “that payment for usage is available” and that it is a “for profit book” but since “books don’t make a ton of money” that trading a copy of the book for picture usage is pretty common. The client then went on to mention the names of very well known photographers who trade pictures for credit and copy of the book.

My first impression is that if photographers are willing to donate photography for free for a copy of the book then that is their right. However, the book is for profit as admitted by the client, but since they do not make a ton of money then they feel a copy of the book and what seems to me they are saying is the ‘prestige’ of being in the book is compensation enough.

Photographers cannot pay the bills with photo credits and in my opinion if anybody is going to make money then the photographer should be paid first.

In the end, John Doe declined to participate in the book project because of a difference of opinion on the value of the image usage in the book.

How would you handle this situation and what would you charge? Please leave a comment.

Related posts: Is There Value in a Photo Credit?, The Photo Recession, Non-Profits, and Requests for Free Photography