How to price photography is a question many photographers ask. Something as simple as a royalty free image to a complex multi usage image used for a short period of time with renewal options. It can be overwhelming to say the least. In this weeks post I will give you a couple ways that will help you along the way to put a price on your photography. First you need to figure out your expenses. Rent, insurance, software subscriptions, computer updates, and equipment maintenance, etc... The list can be very long depending on the situation you're in. From there you can now figure out your day rate. For argument sake lets say your overhead is $20,000 a year. Divide that figure by the amount of expected assignments. Maybe you have one or two assignments a week, minus vacation and such, and you end up doing 50 assignments per year. That puts your rockbottom day rate at $400 a day. That's just to break even. Depending on demand and your experience, depends on how much you want to inflate that figure. I have heard of people that have a $5000 day rate. They might have an expensive downtown studio, paid employees, etc. They also might be in high demand. From here, you need to figure out expenses for the assignment. Travel costs, per diem for food and gas, etc... These expenses always go to the client. So you have a day rate plus the assignment expenses.
So once you figure out your day rate, plus the expenses of the assignment, then you have to figure out the usage fee for the images. The usage fee can be pretty tricky to figure out. There are calculators on Getty Images website that can give you a general idea what the image may be worth. There is also software available such as Fotoquote. By charging the right fee you will pay for the software in one job. It also provides tips, negotiation strategies, and scripts once that all import phone conference happens. This is a great piece of software that will equip you with the knowledge to get a fair price for your work.
A quick tip in wording, always use the word estimate not bid. Bid means a guaranteed price. If something unforeseeable comes up that is not your doing, then you should be able to charge for it. If you make a bid, the client can enforce the bid price despite the circumstances. Estimate will give you some freedom if you need it.
Once the estimates is made or even before, the client may ask you for a buyout of the image rights or a copyright buyout. If I am presented with this situation, there are only three circumstances that I will oblige.
1) The images made on the assignment are that of a brand. Lets say a car manufacturer or some gear from a specific outdoor company. These images have no resale value in my portfolio. I can not sell them to other clients. Therefore I have no problem selling the copyright. Of course this still comes with a high price tag. Once you sell the copyright, "they" own the image. "They" can sell and license the image. They essentially become your competition, using your image.
2) If the client wants to hire me as a full time employee and pay me a steady wage, with a 401k, and health benefits I will turn over copyright to the images.
3) If they absolutely have to have the rights, I will put a figure out there in the tens of thousands and if they want it they can pay the hefty price. Remind you this is per image.
My research on this topic has led me to some copyrights being bought for 80-100k per image. Some paparazzi images sell close to a million dollars. An Anna Nicole Smith photo of walking down the street with her daughter, apparently the last image of her before her death, was sold for $800,000. I'm not exactly sure if this includes copyright buyout but even the exclusive rights in perpetuity for worldwide distribution, the price tag will be hefty. So be very cautious if someone wants to buy your copyright. Last thing you need to do is sell your image rights for a couple thousand just to see it be the face of Apple Inc. for the next 30 years. By the way the Apple Inc. brand is estimated to be worth 153 Billion. That's just the brand, not the company. Man that would be a hard pill to swallow.
I will leave you with a simple image. My first published photograph.