Fair Trade: Base Image Price on Usage

Posted on 2/11/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Recently, I talked with Steve Pigeon, president of Masterfile, about the concept that "better quality" images sell for more money. I argued that the arbiter of "quality" is not the photographer or the stock agent, but the customer.

Photographers should always do everything possible to create images of highest quality. But just because they've worked hard to produce a stock image, used high-priced talent and expensive sets, doesn't mean they can charge more for it - at least not for stock.

Another factor to consider is that many quality images never sell because they don't strike a client as being right for his project.

Pigeon said, "We have some classic examples of "simple" images that have sold for more than $50,000 for a single campaign, as well as having been licensed for much lower prices for lesser projects.

"The determination is made between the buyer and the seller in the context of supply, demand and the importance and relevance of the image to the client's project. Microstock has done a fine job of commoditizing the value of images and that is going to continue so we might as well get used to it.

Pigeon continued: "Professional photographers need to separate their passion from the financial realities.  The most successful individuals in any profession are those who are blessed with talent and combine it with enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and a pragmatic approach to business."

One of the new strategies in microstock is to let photographers set their own price for their images. When this is done without any knowledge of how the image might be used,some customers will be priced out of the market. Otherswill get a huge deal because they would have been willing to pay a lot more.

Producing better quality images is not the answer for photographers who want to earn the most from their work. Neither is simply establishing a fixed higher price. Instead, whoever handles the sales transaction must learn how the image will be used and base price on usage.

Copyright © 2008 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 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Greg Ceo Posted Feb 13, 2008
    Jim, Isn't this what a photo rep does when a photographer does a shoot? The price is set based on day rates and usage? What is the distinction between what you write in this piece and how RM stock images are licensed? Does not submitting to RM collections keep the price up for one's images?

    I have been struggling for some time with the idea that spending more on a shoot will equal a higher license fee for an image. I have come to the conclusion that you are correct in most cases; spending more money does not mean that images will fetch higher fees. However, in some cases, some photographers do require exotic locations and expensive models and their photos may fetch higher licensing fees if they have in the past. In other cases, "High Production Value" is implied: careful casting, lighting and attention to detail can lead to higher licensing fees.

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