On Friday, I wrote a story arguing that exclusives could cost photographers money, so no buyer should expect to get exclusive rights to an image for less than $4,000.
This morning, I received two notes from photographers who have just been asked by Corbis to agree to license one image each for a two-year exclusive use for greeting cards. The gross fee paid for this use is $500 per-image, with the photographers getting 45% or $225.
I guess my $4,000 was a dream. But consider what the card producer gets. The card producer can print and make available through the Internet an unlimited number of cards in two years. It will certainly sell at least 10,000 and 100,000 is probably not an unreasonable expectation.
At 10,000 copies, the photographer gets 2.25 cents on a per-card basis. Photo greeting cards are currently selling at retail in the range of $2.50 to $4.00 each. The photographer is getting less than 1% of what the customer pays - and is giving up exclusive rights. If 100,000 cards are sold, the photographer gets a small fraction of a penny for the usage. Why is the imagery of so little value?
To be fair to Corbis, this is pretty much what every agency is charging for greeting card use. In most cases, the greeting-card companies insist on exclusive rights to the images they use on cards. But is this a reasonable way for a photographer to make money?
Consider another option. Let customers go on the Internet and pick any image they want to use on their cards; the photographer gets $.05 credited to a Pay Pal account. In the long run, photographers would make a lot more money by dealing directly with the consumer. Customers might even pay $0.10 per picture.
Some customers are buying microstock images for $1.00. Is exclusivity important to an individual who buys a picture online? I don't think so. Maybe, dealing directly with the consumer at low prices isn't all bad.