Stock Photo Prices - Advertising/Magazines

Posted on 9/2/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Magazine advertising rates are based on how broadly the ad is used, not whether the publication is characterized as National, Regional or Local. National publications tend to be toward smaller circulations. Based on this theory, ads in National publications will tend to be priced higher than those in Regional or Trade publications.

Also keep in mind that a National publication may have smaller regional circulations. For example, even though Time Magazine is a national publication, and ad may only appear in one of the regional editions, not in the entire national circulation. The rates for this usage should be figured on the basis of the regional circulation, not the national circulation.

National, Regional and Trade Magazines

Circulation 1/4 page 1/2 page 3/4 page full page back cover
over 30 million 1913 2544 3175 3825 5768
30 million 1785 2374 2963 3570 5355
20 million 1658 2204 2751 3315 4973
10 million 1530 2035 2540 3060 4590
5 million 1403 1865 2328 2805 4208
3 million 1233 1639 2046 2465 3698
1 million 1063 1413 1764 2125 3188
500000 850 1131 1411 1700 2550
250000 706 938 1171 1411 2117
100000 565 752 938 1131 1696
50000 497 661 825 995 1492
25000 425 565 706 850 1275
10000 395 526 656 791 1186
5,000 or less 361 480 600 723 1084

    Inside covers = full-page X 1.25 (add 25%). For unique images, add 50%
    Double Page = full-page X 1.75 (add 75%)
    Back Cover = full-page X 1.5 (add 50%)

    Gatefold = full page X 2.25 (add 125%)

    Local Magazines

Circulation 1/4 page 1/2 page 3/4 page full page back cover
over 3 million 1000 1330 1660 2000 3000
3 million 9000 1197 1494 1800 2700
1 million 8000 1064 1328 1600 2400
500,000 664 883 1102 1328 1992
250,000 600 798 996 1200 1800
100,000 532 708 883 1064 1596
50,000 468 622 777 936 1404
25,000 400 532 664 800 1200
10,000 372 495 618 744 1116
under 5,000 340 452 564 680 1020

Negotiating tips:

Companies place an ad in a magazine because the magazine has already established a ready-made audience usually defined by some demographic that the advertiser is trying to reach. Advertising through the magazine may be more effective for the advertiser than trying to find and reach that demographic on its own.

If you can find out the ad rates for the publication(s) where the image will appear, it will help to put your fee in perspective - chances are, your fee is a drop in the bucket compared to what they are paying for the space.

Just because a publication has a small circulation, (or is defined as a "trade publication") does not mean that the prices should be lower than normal. Placing an ad in a trade publication simply means that the audience is more targeted and, therefore, the ad is more effective. In fact, some photographers report getting 15% more for ads in trade publications for this reason.


Manufacturers and Retail outlets share the cost of advertising. It is difficult to monitor. One photographer received $3,500 for one year unlimited use of an ad prepared by the manufacturer for retailers to use in their local area.


Normally, when the buyer wants to make several different types of use of the same image such as a brochure, a postcard and a poster each use will be priced separately, and quoted as a separate item. A small discount of 10% to 20% on the total combined figure may be appropriate, if the combined usage is large.


Pricing multiple insertions can be complex. It is important to take into account that the price for the first insertion in each unique publication should be higher than additional insertions in the same publication. For instance the following two scenarios should be priced very differently:

(1) Use of an image in a print ad for 5 insertions in Time Magazine. In this case, each additional insertion is going to be seen by much the same audience - Time subscribers - as opposed to a whole new audience with each insertion. Also, your client is probably getting a discount on ad space by buying 5 insertions in the same publication.

    Pricing: We would charge the full space rate for the first insertion and price each additional insertion (4 in this example) at 10% to 15% of the first insertion. (The greater the number of total insertions the lower the additional percentage should be with 10% being for anything over 25 insertions.)

(2) Use of an image in a print ad where the ad is printed one time in each of five magazines which are Time Magazine, Business Week, Newsweek, Field and Stream and Vanity Fair. While there are still five total insertions, the client is reaching a much larger and more diverse audience than was the case when the ad was used five times in the same magazine. In addition, your client will not get any breaks on ad space since they are only buying one insertion in each publication.

    Pricing: We would charge the full space rate for the first insertion and price each additional insertion (4 in this example) at 35% to 50% each. Base the first insertion rate on either the circulation of the largest publication (if they are all similar in size), or the average circulation (if they vary greatly).
Based on the above parameters, we would use a simple chart (shown on the following page) to price multiple insertions in multiple publications. In a different example we will make the following assumptions: an image 1/4 page in a print ad with 2 insertions in PUB 1 (circulation 100, 000), 3 insertions in PUB2 (circ. 2 million), 5 insertions in PUB3 (circ. 20,000), and 1 insertion in PUB4 (circ. 650,000).

  Insert 1 Insert 2 Insert 3 Insert 4 Insert 5
PUB 1 770 116      
PUB 2 385 116 116    
PUB 3 385 116 116 116 116
PUB 4 385        

    Average circulation 692,500 Total for all insertions = $2737

*Additional insertion (after the first) in all publications should be 10% to 15% of the full price insertion. That is still a great deal! You can also argue that they are getting a total of 11 insertions for less than $250 each.


Some buyers request an image for an initial usage, and then want to be free to use the image in a variety of other, unspecified ways. This is always dangerous for the seller, but sometimes necessary.

In such cases, keep the license as short as possible and avoid buyouts. The license can be renewed after the initial term, but the owner of the images should have the right to reopen negotiations, review how much use has actually been made, and renegotiate a new fee.
    6 months 2 times the highest possible advertising price
    12 months 3 times the highest possible advertising price
    18 months 4 times the highest possible advertising price

Multi-year prices should increase on a proportional basis if the use continues at the same level. (In this case there are no limitations on the seller to license usages to other buyers during the same period.)


When you sell several pictures at one time, resist the tendency to average out the cost. Price each image and each usage differently. The bottom line may be the same but it is important to constantly reinforce the principle that different images have different values. Consider the long-range effect if the client comes to believe that the quarter page price is the same for all images, no matter how difficult they were to produce, or how unique they happen to be.

You establish a "commodity price" mentality for your images when you price the following at the same level for a given size and circulations: an average available-light street scene, a group of model-released business executives, an elaborate special effects shot that required days to set up in the studio, and a foreshortened shot that required a 600mm lens to produce.

Take time to explain. Take time to itemize the invoice. A few minutes of client education now may result in additional dollars in the future. Remember, a negotiation is not just for this image. It is part of a long process of educating clients. It is establishing policies and principles for the future.


A client may want to make sure that the image they are licensing will not be used by one of their competitors while it appears in their literature or ads. If so, they would need exclusive rights which would mean that you would have to refuse a sale of that image to anyone (sometimes just in a particular industry) for a period of time. This is not necessarily a total buyout, but the price will be higher to account for possible lost sales you may incur.

While the premise on which the stock photo industry is built is the need for one-time, non-exclusive rights to photos, most sellers are willing to negotiate an exclusive rights deal if the buyer is willing to cover the anticipated loss of income as a result of not being able to make the image available to other buyers.


A buyout means that the client will have the ability to use the image in anyway they choose (unlimited use) in perpetuity (forever), and we are not able to sell the image to any other client ever again (exclusive).

Sellers are regularly getting $15,000 to $20,000 for unlimited use of an image in advertising for one year. In perpetuity is forever so it is worth a lot more. On the other hand major advertising clients who are planning major long range use o f an image that will become identified with their product may need these rights.

In most cases, the needs of the client can be met with unlimited and exclusive usage for a defined period. Buyouts are usually unnecessary. See page 300 for more information on buyouts.


We used to recommend a minimum charge of at least $200 for any rights-managed use of a single photo in the smallest size. Given the cost of being in business, and the likely number of sales per year of the most efficient operation, there are few, if any, individuals or organizations that can make enough to pay for their time invested if they do not charge at least $200 for a single usage. Prices for specific usages range up from this point.

That recommendation may seem ridiculous today because many agencies are making a majority of their sales for prices below – and often significantly below – this number. The photographer only gets a percentage (often less than 50%) of what the agency gets for such a sale. For most photographers only a very small percentage of the sales their agencies make for them are for fees of $200 or higher.

Lower fees might be acceptable if the number of units being licensed was increasing dramatically. But, that’s not what is happening in the rights-managed arena. For most the number of sales is declining due to volume and competition. So how can the photographer charge $200 if the agencies are charging so much less?

In some cases the customer will really need the image and the prices we have quoted are fair even if they seem high by some standards. The best position for the photographer to take is that he can’t be responsible for what others charge and the way they operate their businesses, but that based on the number of images he can license in a year, and his costs of doing business, charging these fees are the only way he can stay in business.


When publishers want to re-use a picture several years after the original use, they often send the photographer a notice asking that they invoice for 75% of the original fee. In fact, it should be 75% of the current fee, which will probably be somewhat higher. The 75% is for one additional press run of the same size or an additional one-year of usage. If the situation is for multi-years each additional year should be 75% of the first year fee.


In the event that you want to discuss the specifics of a particular use Jim Pickerell is available for telephone consultations at 301-251-0720. The fee for such consultations is $2.50 per minute. Most only take a few minutes.

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, 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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