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What Would You Charge For This Photo Usage?

February 17, 2011 Negotiating & Sales, Pricing 15 Comments

Written by: Charlie Borland

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

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Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. Tony Dunn says:

    I get these kinds of requests all the time. Unless the usage is for a non-profit, I *always* decline to allow my work to be used for free. I get zero traffic from ‘photo credit’ and linkbacks, so it never makes business sense to give my work away.

    Even with non-profits, I don’t automatically allow usage for free. There are a couple of non-profits that I strongly support that I let use any of my imagery without charge, but otherwise I try to determine how the image is being used. Sometimes with non-profits, I will charge only a nominal fee, but if the image is being used as part of an advertising campaign, I do require a fee. If they can’t pay, then that’s OK; they’ll get another image elsewhere.

  2. I have one NFP I do free work for. I’m also a dues paying member of that NFP. Other than that I expect to be paid or get something of more value than “prestige” from being published.

  3. What would make this a ‘not-normal’ sale? Publishers are known for trying to save every bit of money possible, and one of their best tactics is to low ball contributors. Would the grocery store accept any of those free copies in exchange for food?

    “I’m sorry, I can’t discount the use in trade for free copies of the book. The license fee for the use as you described would be $XXX.xx. Thank you for your interest in my photography. I hope to hear back from you soon.”

    Ipso facto completo. Over, done, take it or leave it.

    Why the frustration, time, energy, & effort?

    If you don’t normally take it, why would you have considered taking it this time?

  4. Dave Thielen says:

    To quote from Jerry Mcquire “SHOW ME THE MONEY”

    I owned a newspaper for over 10 years, my photos appear with my credit line all of the time. In those 1’s of thousands of photo credits I have not been able to put one penny in the bank to pay a bill, or to buy groceries, or to put gas in the car, In short, to the photographer, a photo credit isn’t worth the ink it takes to print it. Yes, it gives you warm and fuzzys if you haven’t been published before – hell it still gives me warm and fuzzies every time I see my name under a photo, but just like photo credits, warm and fuzzy feelings do not put food on the table.

    One thing you can do is ask what the press run of the publication is, and what the retail price of the book will be. That will give you a good idea of what their maximum budget will be.

  5. I get approached all the time to “donate” my images. I guess since I am not a full time pro, people feel I will jump at the chance to have my photos “out there”. As was mentioned by Mr. Dunn, I doubt many other publishers would take the time to contact a photographer via photo credit. Though I am sure it happens.

    More times than not when I come back with the questions on is this a profit venture and how if the printer of the book/magazine/brochure is being paid, I don’t hear from the inquirer again. Or, I get a reply saying that found another image (ie., someone was willing to give their work away) to use.

    It’s very sad how people on flickr and other photo sites are willing to do that.

  6. admin says:

    Great points made by all you guys! Thanks for commenting!

  7. Laura says:

    Wow, I just went through this and was so aggravated by the whole situation that I posted an article on my blog about this. I too am adamant and I’m NOT a professional photographer but feel that we are doing ourselves in by the practice of giving away our photos just for a photo credit.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Padgett, Bend Blogs. Bend Blogs said: Pro Nature Photographer: What Would You Charge For This Photo Usage? http://bit.ly/fvaIu2 […]

  9. I find it discouraging to get these requests for freebies from obviously profit-making ventures. However , for some web use I will provide a free photo if it links back to my web gallery. This trade-off has increased traffic to those galleries.

  10. Jf Fotos says:

    I used to run a photo library (agency) in the 1980’s and submitted my own work to the library as well. We mainly dealt with ad agencies and publishers and had a fixed price list, users paid a licensing fee. The price was based on the useage and exposure of the photograph. Pricing also depended on the size of the photograph being used and the print run, if a brochure, a book or TV ad etc. If it was for a front cover or full page, the price was a lot higher than for an inside useage. The library took a 50% commission and had exclusive in most cases. This was accepted practice and I don’t know why so many photographers give away their work for free these days. It is your work and it has a value, don’t give it away. As you say, a photo credit does not pay the bills.

  11. kevin says:

    I vaguely recall someone suggesting this repsonse:

    If you can document/certify that all contributors to this project (all photographers, editors, copywriters, distributors, printers, etc) are donating their services, I too will consider donating the requested image(s).

  12. Photo Pro says:

    I don’t know the author say that giving away images is what Professional Photographers do. If they did they would not be a pro!

    Every Professional Photographer should own a copy of Negotiating Stock Prices. ASMP also publishes a guideline a contracts.


    You should also be paid for every image in every outlet including features by magazines on your work and you!

  13. […] Posts: What Would You Charge For This Photo Usage?, Selling Online Has More Than Monetary […]

  14. I swear, I really think people don’t value digital images. It’s the same with graphic design. To many , it’s “just pixels,” so not worth much. I always say if it’s so easy to take good digital photos, or to create a design digitally, then those not willing to pay can do it themselves!

  15. Lee Mandrell says:

    Charlie, I have a recent blog entitled, “The Expectation That Photographers Should Work for Free”, that is along these very lines. I should submit it to PNP for consideration. I have even seen in the current Photographers Guide some people have listed, no money budgeted for photos, but please send them to us… :/

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