Can PIXterity Help You Get Better Prices For Stock Licenses?

Posted on 8/4/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In the near future Tom Zimberoff, Founder and CEO of PIXterity, will be launching a new portal that proposes to supply member photographers with a huge amount of contemporary data (Big Data) that will enable them to know what image buyers are actually paying top producers for the images they purchase for their projects. Photographers who place their work exclusively with PIXterity are expected to get much better prices for their stock and assignment work.

Currently there is a very interesting, long discussion on the LinkedIn Group of American Photographic Artists, APA that readers may find interesting.

The discussion was started by Advertising and Corporate photographer Dennis Ray Davis who said, “I am moving out of commercial assignment photography into selling my photography after the fact. I am looking for recommendations on stock agencies and methods for selling fine art images and video.”

Zimberoff is one of several photographer who responded, but the discussion has centered around whether more and better data can help photographers get much higher prices for their work than they currently get when licensing their images through stock distributors.

What Photographers Need

I agree with Tom that a photographer needs three kinds of intelligence.

    (1) His costs of production,
    (2) What a particular buyer has paid other photographers, in the past, to license the same type of use, and
    (3) What other buyers have paid other photographers for the same type of work.

Problem With Gathering Such Data

For the stock photographer it is very difficult (I want to say impossible) to know what it costs to produce any individual image, assuming they factor all overhead costs into that "cost" and don't just look at "direct costs." Nevertheless, professional photographers should do everything possible to have a clear understanding of total costs. A photographer can know what his overall costs are on an annual basis, and he can know how many images he produced, but there are a couple of other factors that make the real cost of an image much harder to calculate. They include:
    (1) How many of the edited images (not all the frames of a raw shoot) will ever sell. Most RM photographers are lucky if 1% of the images they have in their stock collections ever sell. Thus, the price they get for the one that does sell must be at least 100 times the average cost of producing a single image.

    (2) The photographer has no idea how many images he will sell in a given year. At the end of the year he may be able to look back and see what his total costs of operation were, and how many images he really licensed, in order to determine his average cost per image licensed. However, this doesn’t help a lot in pricing future uses because next year he may produce fewer images and sell more, or vise versa.
For many photographers as they build a larger portfolio they tend to make more sales. If their prices and costs remain level then their profit will increase annually. But what has been happening lately is that prices have been falling, pretty dramatically, and many people are not selling as many images as they did in the past. They are hit by a double whammy. And increasing production often doesn’t result in a corresponding increase in sales, even at the lower prices.

In addition, there are a couple other factors that come into play. When the price is lower the experienced photographer tends to license a higher percentage of the total images in his collection and license each image more frequently. Thus, this is an argument (and I’m sure Tom doesn’t want to hear this) for licensing, at least some, images non-exclusively at lower prices. The question then becomes (and as best I can tell Big Data has been unable to answer), “What is the perfect price in order to maximize revenue, and profit per image, produced?  Big Data may be able to answer that question after the fact, but I can’t see how it will tell you what you should be charging for the images you license next year.

Consider a little math. Assuming production costs are the same, is it better to license one image out of 100 for exclusive use for $3,000 or 10 images out of 100, each 20 times at an average price of $60 each. And you receive a 30% royalty, or $18 for each of these $60 sales?

Assuming you still choose to license your images for exclusive uses at high dollar figures, how likely is it that any of your images will be licensed and you will make even one $3,000 sale?

The trick, of course, is finding that perfect price point. I don’t think anyone has. But, there are many photographers who license their images non-exclusively, at prices that are often lower then $60, that earn more annually than the majority of photographers who license their images as RM in order to keep their images available for exclusive licensing.

Tom points out that, “no two photographers should necessarily offer the same price for the same picture or the same job.” Every photographer has different costs and different levels of productivity, and every buyer has different potential uses for most of the images they purchase.

In addition, one of the things that makes determining usage so difficult in today’s environment is that often at the time the first usage is purchased the art director (buyer) doesn’t know how many different uses, in different types of presentations, his client will eventually want to make of the image. Consequently, buyers often want to purchase unlimited, non-exclusive rights to every image they license. This is particularly true in the education business despite the fact that the vast majority of images will only be used once in a very small way.

Tom says, “I am specifically claiming that our software and Web/mobile platform will help photographers gain control over pricing their own work (even with one hand tied behind your back)—for both Stock & Assignment—by moving your interactive workflow with buyers online for the first time.” 

Copyright © 2014 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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