“You should sell that!” We’ve all heard it from a well-meaning friend at some point about our photography (usually a friend who would never part with so much as a dime for a photo) but what no one ever helps with is how much should you charge for your photos. How do I price my photography? What is a fair price for a photo? What will people pay for my photos? These are all questions that are usually met with deafening silence and how to price your photos is a very important question for photographers.
Everyone worries they are overcharging or undercharging. You are not alone. The truth of the matter is that there is no perfect one price that fits for every photo. There are a lot of variables to consider when pricing your photos. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer to your questions about what to charge for photography. This simple guide will put you on the right track for finding a good price for your work.
How to Price Your Photos
Published Price Lists
For publishing photos, the Photographer’s Market is the place to start. This book it published every year and lists a huge number of magazines, books, and other publishers that buy photographs. Every listing shows you what type of photo they buy, what rights they purchase (licensing), and a general price range that they paid. Even if you are trying to put together a quote for a publisher not listed in this guide, seeing the competition for the publisher will help you determine a good and fair price range whether you are selling to a publisher or selling art prints at the local arts fair.
Free Online Price Guides
Whoo hoo! FREE! Um, no. As tempting as it may be to turn to a free pricing program on the Internet, remember you tend to get what you pay for. Most of these online free programs use the absolute highest price ranges and the biggest purchases out there. If you need to sell a photo to a local newspaper and the guide is telling you what the Chicago Tribune paid for a full-page color photo your local paper is going to choke when you tell them that price. These programs can’t help you with company size, competition, regional price differences, or even licensing options. At best, use these guides to see if you are overcharging.
You know how everyone thinks of Photoshop as the industry standard in photo editing? That’s FotoQuote when it comes to pricing. This program offers amazingly detailed and varied options when pricing your photos. It would take a full-page to explain everything this software takes into account so I’ll let their demo video give you the quick run down.
In the world of photography, licensing is actually what the buyer is purchasing. For a buyer to buy all rights to a photo should always be very expensive compared to other licensing options. Licensing may be a one time use like for a local advertisement and be priced at a couple hundred dollars. Or you may sell the online exclusive rights to a photo and charge more. Perhaps the buyer wants the full copyright (you no longer own the photo at all)? Then the charge really goes up. Magazines often purchase first rights to publish a photo in their home countries. You could then sell limited rights to another magazine in another country and even license the photo for use in an advertisement after the initial publish date of the magazine. It all depends on what the buyer wants to do with the photo and what rights they request. I recommend PLUS license generator for creating a license and for learning about licensing.
First Hand Research
First hand research means checking out the competition. This is important for print sales. Is there an arts fair near where you want to sell? See what is being sold. Not just what is up for sale but stick around and see what people are actually buying. Check the local galleries that carry photographs similar to yours. See what is on the walls and what is being charged. Do some market research. Try a cheaper fair (remember the cheaper fairs have different customers) and see the reactions you get. If it is a small fair you can bet that the customers are willing to spend less than at a dedicated and well-funded arts fair but you can still gauge reactions to your work and prices. Don’t expect to sell much, just see at what price point they balk. Chances are you can sell prints a bit higher than that at a good fair.
Fine Art America
Check the actual sales announcements and see what is selling that is similar to yours. A large part of theses sales is marketing you don’t see from the site but it is still more data you can add to your knowledge base.
Often your first sale will be to a local publisher or a group wanting to use the photo in a newsletter or other small manner. A common situation is a Chamber of Commerce wanting to use the photo on their website or in a calendar. Buyers such as these have a tiny budget compared to national buyers. Also, charities and non-profit groups (many of which are non-profit in legal designation only) believe they should pay less for usages (or be given it free). Whether or not you agree to lower your price is up to you but you need to be aware of the buyer mentality. However the buyer behaves, stay professional and try to negotiate. Whether an agreeable price/terms set is reached for both parties or not, you’ll have kept your reputation intact by behaving professionally.
The last factor (and most important) in setting a price for your photos and licensing is you. If you are not happy with what the sale brings then nothing else counts. Professionals have to make a living but if you are not happy with the pricing then it will wear on you. You must work to try to build yourself up to the level at which you want to sell photos. If you are an amateur or hobbyist and someone offers you $20 for a photo and you are happy with that price then take it. Very few photographers have huge sums of money thrown at them for their work. For almost every photographer it is a game of give and take with some sales paying the mortgage and others struggling to put gas in the car.