How Much Is Your Photography Worth?

I was recently asked a question that we all have to deal with as photographers.

How do I determine a price for my photography?

While this particular case is a bit different because it involves another artist asking to use a photo as a reference, the fundamental question of value is consistent. Here is the original question:

Hi Kent,

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you about this but I received a request this weekend and I’m not so sure how to work out a fee.

An artist contacted me as he found one of my images on google – it’s an ok image – nothing special and it’s on my gardening blog from a few years back as an sooc!  He’s fallen for it and he wants to paint it in his style as he is doing a series of flower paintings and can’t wait till June until the real ones come into flower.  He also told me that the series would go to publication.

Now here’s the calibre of this artist –  he asked permission and also asked if there was a fee! He could have just copied it straight from google images.

My mum’s an artist too in Nireland also paints some of my work, but she’s my mum and I don’t mind her making something on a sale to cover her costs. One of her arts society friends – who does display in a few NIreland galleries  said that a well established photographer aka one from National Geographical would charge a 3 figure fee – well I’m not one of those…………yet!  But another artist told me that National Geographic would tell the artist to get lost!. and yet another artist friend I visited yesterday wasn’t too pleased and thought he should be taking his own photographs!

My mums friend did suggest I should charge the price of an A4 print around of 20 UK pounds and  then add a price for my artistic vision and ask him to attribute Mary as the original. Now that would be good pr!………if he agreed.

Now have you ever come across this type of request before?  I don’t want to chase this artist away by charging the wrong amount as his work is impressionist and it will look nothing like my original but is there a rate for fees like this in the USA especially when I known that he will profit from this painting eventually?  Do you think something in the range of 30 – 40 uk pounds around 47-50 dollars is a reasonable fee?

Oh decisions decisions decisions……………

Many thanks
Mary

So here’s my response to Mary

Mary,

This is a very interesting question, and yes I’ve come across this before. I had an artist that asked to use my horse photos for her paintings. She didn’t want to pay anything and was closed to any other ideas, so I declined. I’ve also had people ask to use my infrared B&W landscape images to teach a high school class about painting, I donated an image to them. It all depends on the circumstance.

In a nutshell regarding selling your photos, two points: every price is unique and is whatever the two parties can agree on, and secondly, everything must be spelled out in writing. The who, what, when, where, how long, must be part of the invoice, or a written contract. For example, ‘Buyer agrees to pay $100 for the photograph titled “Spring Flowers” by Mary. The photo can be used in all advertising publications with the buyer for a period of six months, after which the image may no longer be used. Photo credit must appear with the photo. The photo may not be used in TV, blah, blah, blah. The photo can not be redistributed or sold by the buyer.’ The point is, spell it out and every possible scenario ahead of time and make sure both parties agree and sign the agreement.

OK, now an artist wanting to use your image is slightly different. He is known for his work, so he probably won’t want to add your name as a credit, but it’s worth asking. He also probably won’t want to pay a large amount, because, as you mentioned, it’s very easy to get inspiration from photos without crediting or paying for them.

Perhaps there is something bigger here? Look at situations like this as opportunities, not simply just a financial transaction. Let’s think of this in terms of time periods instead of just dollar signs.

  • Short timeframe – you could ask him for a hundred pounds and move on.
  • Mid-range timeframe – perhaps you could ask for a cut, maybe 10% from the sales of his painting(s) inspired from your image(s).
  • Long timeframe – perhaps you share other images with him and the two of you have a collaborative artistic business that benefits from each other. Perhaps even having side-by-side exhibitions.

How’s that for adding to your decision list? lol 🙂

You’re on the right track. I see that you realize you have value in your images. That fact alone is hard for some photographers to see and they end up giving too much away. And he obviously has value in his art and the final products he sales. The trick is to strike a deal that treats both of your talents fairly. Let me know if that helps.

Take care,
Kent 🙂

 


 

Pricing photography is no different than pricing dog collars. It’s all about supply and demand. If you don’t have a dog, I probably can’t even talk you into a case of collars for free. But if you have a frou-frou trendy breed-blended Labra-Doodle puppy and I have frou-frou Labra-Doodle puppy collars, now we can start to negotiate.

Remember, selling your work is not a one-way street. Listen closely to your potential buyer, they will usually (sometimes very subtly) tell you how much they value your work. Everything is negotiable. In order to get a fair price you must be willing to politely walk away for the negotiations. Because until you realize what your bottomline is, you’ll probably give away too much at first. And this is ok, as it is part of the learning process. It takes much trial and error to learn how to read a potential buyer. Give it time, you’ll get it. You will never reach an agreement with ever potential buyer, and you don’t want to.

Most importantly, try to reach an agreement that treats your artwork, your livelihood, your creations, with respect. And especially don’t be swayed by the ‘it will look good in your portfolio’ or ‘it will be great exposure for you’ lines. Those statements have yet to pay a single bill and the person delivering them usually doesn’t care enough to take the time needed to truly promote your work. Until you live in an all-expenses-paid condo with free maid, chef, personal shopper, chauffeur, grooming, etc. etc. services you aren’t creating work for free, so nobody should be expecting anything for FREE, period.

While there are many nuianses in negotiating the price for your photography, here are some big things to remember when determining a value for your work:

  • Everyone has an opinion, only your’s and the buyer’s count
  • Your photography and more importantly, your vision, is your product and YOU are not FREE
  • Price is based on a mutually agreed value
  • Put all the details for the use of your photography in writing beforehand and get it signed

We’ve all had to go through the, sometimes painful, process of pricing our work. What happened your first few times? What have you learned? Please leave a comment below and share your stories.


Heads Up

If you’re in Central Florida, I’m having an opening at the Sable Palm Gallery

[108 E. Fort King St. | Ocala, FL] this Friday, March 2 starting at 6 p.m. If you’d like to see “Life Orbits” in person, she and I will be there. Hope to see you! And if not, my pieces will be on display throughout March, stop in when you can. Enjoy! 🙂