Do Production Costs Dictate Price?

Posted on 3/27/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Recently, the owner of a top microstock portal claimed that the cost of creating an image should dictate its initial price. However, this is not what happens---at either his agency, other microstocks or among traditional agencies. It is time to let go of the fiction that image pricing has anything to do with production costs.

Get the Full Article (2 Credits)

Have an Account?

Access to this site is an exclusive benefit for you. Enter your username and password in the form above. If you don't remember your password you can reset it at any time.

Forgot your password?

New to Selling Stock?

Selling Stock is an on-line newsletter that reports on developing trends in the stock photo industry. It is updated at least twice a month. On-line subscribers receive e-mail notification whenever new stories are posted. Archives containing stories going back to late 1995 are fully available to subscribers.

Copyright © 2009 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:  


  • Alan Bailey Posted Mar 27, 2009
    As the owner of an agency/producton house, I always thought your point of view was obvious. Microstock is a pure numbers game just like RF. It may cost me $200 to get one image out the door and into the channel, while it costs $15 to do the same thing with a different image. The customer dictates whether my efforts are valid in his choice to purchase either image.

    At the moment, the only universal mechanism to dictate value/price of images lies with whether I place an image in RM, RF or microstock.

    And to your point, photographers will only put images into microstock or any other model if the return makes it worth their effort and cost. It may take a year or two, but the microstock model will sort itself out. A lot of photographers are putting a lot of time and effort into images that will not make a good return on micro (of course, the inverse is also true).

  • Steve Pigeon / Masterfile Posted Mar 27, 2009
    You're absolutely right, Jim. The only workable business model where a user pays proportionate to the cost of creating an image is assignment photography. A stock licensing model that tried to scale prices according to production costs would be doomed from the start. Clients are not interested in what it costs to make a stock image - they are only interested in what it costs to use it. And that price is dictated by supply and demand.

  • Bill Brooks Posted Mar 27, 2009
    Jim I agree with everything you say above, except your continued use of the word "agent" instead of "archives" is driving me up the wall.

    With the advent of the internet, 10 years ago, PACA changed the first "A" its name from "Agency" to "Archive". At that time most PACA members removed the agent terminology from their photographer's contracts. An agent is legally required to always act in the best interests of the photographers it represents. Today I often hear photographers still refer to their image libraries as "agent". The image seller is not an "agent" to the photographer, no more than a grocery store is an agent to the farmer. The sooner photographers stop thinking of their picture archives as their agent, the better they will understand their business.

    It would be a small step for you, and a giant leap for photographer's thinking, if as a matter of style, you dropped the word "agent" and started using words like "picture archive".

    There are other words you could use, but lets not go there.

Post Comment

You must log in to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive our FREE weekly email listing new stories posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff