New Business Model - Issue 3 and 4

Posted on 9/19/2007 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Issue 3 - Professional or Amateur - The fees paid for commercial use of a stock photo should be the same for amateur and professional alike.

If an amateur produces a great photo that meets the needs of a commercial customer, there is no reason why the commercial customer should expect to pay the amateur less than a pro. The price should be based on the value of the image to the customer, regardless of who produced it.

The good news is that virtually all stock photo customers - commercial and non-commercial - agree with this principle. They base their decisions on what they can afford, not on the professional qualification of the person who produced the image. Only after they have found the right image do they worry about price.

Professional qualifications and experience are important when hiring someone to produce images based on an oral or written description of what's needed. They have no relevance when the image in question has already been produced, and the customer can easily judge whether the image is suitable for use.

Most commercial customers have a budget and a price they will pay, depending on the planned use of the photo. The shooter's status isn't an issue. Budgets can vary greatly depending on use. In some cases, the customer may want to use the image for a school homework paper or as wallpaper on a cell phone and won't pay more than $1.00. In other cases, the client may want to use the same image for an advertisement or a brochure and be willing to play $1,000 or more for usage. But the person who is willing to pay $1,000 will not complain if the seller charges $1.00 for the use.

The industry badly needs a system that will allow all sellers - amateur or professional - to make their images available at all price points. At the moment, we have great polarization between amateurs and professionals. Every producer is required to choose one model, thus missing the potential benefits that the opposite one can offer. Neither side is being well-served by this polarization.

Issue 4 - Reasonable Price - Commercial users have no right to expect to pay nothing for photos that provide them with significant economic benefit. In fact, most recognize that they should pay a "reasonable price" for the pictures they need. Reasonableness is based on the intended use of the picture, not file size and not a specific fixed price regardless of how the image will be used. Some customers can justify paying much more than others given useage.

Any specific image may be used in a host of different ways. Each use has a different value depending on who the customer is and the economic benefit likely to accrue.

So how do we determine what is reasonable for any specific use?

RM has developed a very elaborate system based on size of use in the finished product, circulation and other factors. While this may be a fair system, it loses when it comes to simplicity. In addition, given the human involvement required to calculate and negotiate prices based on complex usages, RM sellers tend to set relatively high bottom prices - and the can't go below them. For small uses, the fee may be out of reach for many customers.

Copyright © 2007 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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