What's A Photograph Worth?

Posted on 1/28/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Local practices result in some odd inconsistencies in the pricing of RM stock images, despite the fact that the use of virtually any image can be paid for online, the image file downloaded without additional delivery charges and the file used anywhere in the world.

One could understand why it might be necessary to license rights for lower rates in countries with lower overall standards of living. But that does not explain why one country's prices are significantly lower or higher than another's.

To illustrate my point, I looked at some comparative prices for brochure use in the U.S., UK and Germany. I focused on one-quarter and full-page uses with 100,000 circulation. For U.S. prices, I examined the price for Stone+ (Getty's premium priced brand), Getty's Photographer's Choice (PC) and Alamy. For the UK, Alamy's price. For Germany, Alamy's price plus the list price in the 2008 BVPA pricing guide, the accepted pricing source used by many German photographers and agencies. The results are as follows:

Brochure, 1/4 page, 100,000

U.S.

U.S.

UK

U.S.

 Germany

 Germany

 Stone+Photog. Choice

Alamy

Alamy

 Alamy

 BVPA

$905

$710

£210

$370

 290 Euros

 270 Euros

Brochure, full page, 100,000

U.S.

U.S.

UK

U.S.

      Germany

 Germany

Stone+Photog. Choice

Alamy

Alamy

  Alamy

 BVPA

$1,175

$920

£415

$725

 575 Euros

 435 Euros
To make it easier to do comparisons, I converted the Pounds and Euros to U.S. dollars at the current exchange rates of one pound equaling $1.96 and one euro equaling $1.49.
Brochure, 1/4 page, 100,000

U.S.

U.S.

UK

U.S.

 Germany

 Germany

 Stone+Photog. Choice   Alamy  Alamy

 Alamy

 BVPA

$905

$710

$538.99

$370

$430.64

$400.94

Brochure, full page, 100,000

U.S.

U.S.

UK

U.S.

 Germany

 Germany

Stone+Photog. Choice  Alamy  Alamy

  Alamy

 BVPA

$1,175

$920

$813.38

$725

$853.85

$645.96

The first thing to notice is that there are significant differences in Alamy's fees for 1/4 page use depending on whether the image is purchased for use in the U.S., Germany or the UK. However, when we get to full-page use, the differences country-to-country are small. In the UK, the full-page price is about 1.5 times the quarter page price, but in the U.S., the full-page price is almost two times the quarter-page price.

It is interesting that Alamy's price for a quarter-page use in the U.S. is about half the price of a PC image. But what Alamy charges UK customers for this use is two-thirds more than they charge a U.S. customer for the same use, and only 25% below the PC fee.

In Germany, the fee for quarter-page use is close to Alamy's, but significantly cheaper than the PC fee. However, BVPA's fee for full-page use is 25% less than Alamy's and 30% less than the PC price. Note also that full page for Getty is about 1.3 times the 1/4 page, but the BVPA's full-page price is about 1.6 times its 1/4 page.

The differences in the cost-of-living in these countries does not account for the variations. Alamy is charging the Germans more than they charge the Americans; both are being charged less than Alamy charges people in its own country, its biggest market.

Another interesting comparison is Fotolia, which offers its site in eight different languages. The prices for France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal are all in euros. The price for the UK is in pounds. And the U.S. and Brazil are in dollars. Thus, if people in the UK were to buy credits in the U.S., they could get almost twice as many for the same amount of money as they get by buying in the UK.

If those buying in the Euro countries were to buy in the U.S., they could get almost three credits for every two they would buy in their home country. Maybe there is a business in setting up a U.S. office to buy pictures for those from other countries. On the other hand, maybe microstock images are so cheap that those in Europe don't mind paying twice as much for images as U.S. buyers pay.

I have chosen these sources for illustration purposes because the data was easiest to find.

But I believe the same kinds of variations and inconsistencies are true of most other companies selling across international borders.

As the world becomes a village, it might be useful to develop universal standards for various types and quantities of use that could be universally accepted in all markets. This would, in no way, fix prices. Every seller would be free to establish a different base price. But there would be consistent logic as to why one use costs more than another.


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 301-251-0720, 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.  

Comments

  • Gary Elsner Posted Jan 29, 2008
    Jim:

    I appreciate your continued efforts to educate and enlighten the industry. I humbly suggest in this instance that your conclusions are without meaning and represent little - if any reflection on reality for the following reasons:

    1. Very few enlightened buyers license rights managed images via e-commerce. They call and negotiate with their sales rep. So the dollars, euros etc you report are not real pricing.

    2. Now you'll say - well yes, but assuming that is done by all, while the actual price may be lower, the concept still holds water. I would put forth the following arguments against that logic

    A. Different agencies will settle for different percentages off their list price.

    B. Some agenices, understanding how pricing calculators will be used, fluff their online pricing so they can "settle" for lower pricing, have the client feel they got a "deal" and end up with what the agency really wanted.

    C. Stock business, while done in similar fashion around the world, certainly incorporate the culture of the country in which the licensing is being done. Negotiating fees is something that is certainly affected by culture, tradition and also the availability of options in each country in which licensing is accomplished.

    Best wishes,

    Gary Elsner

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