Are NSPP Prices Still Valid?

Posted on 12/7/1999 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



December 7, 1999

A couple days ago I received an e-mail from a Negotiating Stock Photo Prices

user. She is primarily an assignment photographer and gets stock requests

very infrequently. Upon receiving a recent request, she decided that, in

addition to using the book, she would check with a friend who is a Tony Stone

photographer to see what he thought she should charge.

The TS photographers said, "Pickerell's book is 2 1/2 years old and prices

have dropped substantially in that time. The guide is no longer accurate."

He convinced her to discount the numbers in the book by 20% to 25%, and to use

that new number as her asking price.

She wanted to know how much I recommended discounting all the numbers that

appear in the 1997 edition of NSPP in order to come up with a number to quote.

Don't Discount -- Don't Drop The Prices

The numbers in the book are still a good initial starting point for a quote.

In some cases you should be starting even higher. I want to assure every

reader that the numbers we use at Stock Connection when quoting a price are

always the number in NSPP or something higher. (We go higher depending on the

uniqueness of the image or the use). If we were discounting the numbers in

the book there is no way our average sale per image licensed would be

$650, which it is.

That doesn't mean we never negotiate. We do. But a surprising number of

people accept our price without any attempt to negotiate it.

We do regularly get the question, "Why are your prices so much higher than

Tony Stone's?" There are several standard answers to that question. "Our

prices are based on our, and our photographer's, costs of doing business."

"Why are Nordstrom's prices higher than K-Mart's?" "Stone appears to operate

on the principle that by lowering prices they will increase volume and grab

more market share. We don't believe that if we lowered our prices we would

increase our volume enough to offset the lower prices."

At Stock Connection we have a basic policy that we will never match a Stone

price. We always ask for something higher and will lose the sale rather than

match the Stone price. Usually, when we get requests where we're competiting

with an image supplied by Stone the number we end up quoting is 50% to 100%

higher than Stone's.

The big variations often come on full page or cover use, not the 1/4 page

uses. Our price may be in the $800 to $1,200 range and the price they say

they can get from Stone is in the $350 to $600 range. Even with some

negotiation our price ends up being significantly higher than what the client

tells us they would have to pay for a picture from Stone. Despite this, we

end up making the sale 80% of the time. (There was something about our

picture that made them want it or they would have bought the Stone picture in

the first place. And they knew that our price -- based on the total cost of

their project -- was reasonable and fair.)

In checking back with clients on that 20% of sales we lose, we find that more

often than not the project was killed, or they went in a totally different

direction and used a totally different type of image. Thus, neither Stone nor

Stock Connection made the sale. We would much rather lose that other small

percentage of sales to Stone than lower our prices and encourage discount


If your selling your own work direct to clients, you can get the prices listed in

NSPP, or higher. Don't discount those numbers as a starting price. And

please, if you are a Tony Stone photographer and someone asks you for advice,

don't tell them they have to lower their prices just because you are getting

lower fees from Tony Stone.


Harold Lee Miller

It doesn't surprise me that this came from a person not

experienced in stock sales. We use the book on every sale we make

and rarely do we lose a sale because of price. When we get a call from a buyer,

usually we sell a picture, and we always start a bit higher than the

book price. Sometimes we have to negotiate down, but never a great amount. These art

buyers are very sophisticated about how to get a lower price and

we have to fight with them sometimes, but usually we come out with a good price. In

fact we always do. We don't discount, we don't match price, and

we don't take any grief from buyers who try to make us do that. And to be honest, we

don't run into it very often. Most of these buyers seem to know

what's reasonable and don't want to spend their day haggling to get a price that they

know is lower than market. My personal opinion is that they have this same book and they

use it as their reference, too.


David Madison

I believe the NSPP prices to be very valid, FotoQuote as well.

There has NOT been a substantial drop in image prices from what I see

licensing my own work, and from my agents. In fact, our average price keeps

increasing from year to year, both in house and via our agents (needless to

say, none of my agents are Royalty Free agents--though Photodisc did just

announce a price increase!).

The inexperienced stock seller must also remember that what a client tells you

when negotiating with you may in fact not be true; or it may be true but a

case of apples and oranges when it comes to the usage and rights involved.



I'm a new reader/subscriber in the business of horticultural stock


With regard to your prices, I have the following story.

I just negotiated a software box cover and insert license. The client had

asked earlier for images to send to a focus group. I didn't send any because I

regard that as an actual use, and won't do it for free. Then, the client

called and said they'd been through the focus group and it didn't work, could I

get something to them in the next 24 hours. I hand-delivered 10 garden shots,

to the immense relief of their art department. They didn't ask about prices

then, although I offered to negotiate. That was my first hint.

Having picked an image, they had someone call me who didn't know the size of

the run, exactly what they wanted, or even what the software was about. So I

totalled up the various amounts according to the different usages in NSPP, and

came up with $4500. They gulped. Two days later another person called and

asked for specific rights. I said $3000, and it's a done deal.

Two things really helped: they had already gone through their ordinary chain

of sellers, so I knew my image would be unique to them. Secondly, because I

have an electronic database with thumbnails of all my pix, I could tell exactly

which picture they wanted, and I knew my image was perfect for the specific

product they were selling, and I could say all that with assurance.

I could never have made myself even say such a number without the help of NSPP.

I might have asked for $1000 if I felt frisky that day.

So keep it up and thanks.

Copyright © 1999 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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