Pricing for Magazines

In Articles On Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I know pricing is this ‘dark art’ that nobody talks about and consequently many photographers have no idea what the going rate is for images. Moreover, lots of photographers give their images away for free as if it’s the done thing (it shouldn’t be!). So rather than tow the party line too much and rant about why images aren’t free, I thought I would write out some typical email exchanges that I’ve had over the last few years. Hopefully they will be useful to any beginners/amateurs who all too readily sell themselves short. This is how I deal with image requests (I have responded to dozens over the years), I’m not following any golden rules. Apologies in advance if you find me discussing payment grotesque in any way, let me assure you there is nothing to boast about as far as I am concerned!

Hi Alex,

My name’s Mark and I am putting together a feature on mountain landscapes for the next issue of Mountain Interest Magazine. We were hoping to use a couple of your images of mountains. Would that be something that interests you? (sometimes you will get a price in the opening email, but often you do not. Don’t assume there is no budget, or even that they are chancing their luck)

Kind Regards

Mark

———————————-

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your email and the interest in my photography. I regularly license my images to magazines and would be happy for you to use them in your mountain landscapes article.

If you let me know which images you wish to use, your invoicing details/purchase order and your fee then I will be happy to send over the images and an invoice.

Kind Regards,

Alex

———————————–

Above is more or less how the opening exchange goes, obviously there’s some variation there but fundamentally it’s just a simple image request. When it varies is when price is discussed!

 

My most sold image commercially, it is popular with American religious publications!

Scenario 1

Hi Alex,

Unfortunately, we don’t have a budget for the article but we always credit photographers. Our magazine has a wide distribution and you will benefit from the exposure.

All the best,

Mark

——————————-

Hi Mark,

Unfortunately I can’t let my images be used for free, I run my photography as a business. If you would like to discuss a fee with me then we can go from there.

All the best,

Alex

Outcome Scenario 1

Generally I get the response ‘no problem, I understand’ and they find another free photographer to fill my shoes. This even happened with a Dartmoor book on one occasion where the writer wanted to use tens of images for no fee at all. I declined but another photographer took up the offer and gave their excellent images away for free. Of course it’s entirely possible that exposure will convert to sales, but that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve been credited for a half page image in The Telegraph (national newspaper) before and not received so much as an email, but that was a paid so no problem! In fact in the past 4 years the only people who I have allowed to use my images for free have been charities. I did give one workshop away for free a few years ago. I took an amateur photographer and a photography magazine editor around Dartmoor and we had some excellent light. The magazine article looked great, the client and editor gave me glowing reviews, but still I made no workshop booking from it!

One scenario where it might be worth considering giving images away for free is a feature specifically on your photography. I have always turned these down because I still expect to be paid and I believe my images are worth something, but I can see how the level of exposure might be sufficient to justify giving images away for free in certain cases.

On a few occasions I have made sales from the ‘you can’t have my images for free’ response when the client has said ‘Okay I appreciate that you have a business to run, we can offer £X’. These occasions are far outweighed by those who walk away, but ultimately I prefer it that way. At least I am not working for free.

The hardest thing is for me to bite my tongue and avoid saying ‘Are you kidding me?! Your national magazine with a distribution of 100,000 has no budget?!’. That kind of response is guaranteed to lose you a sale, it’s best to realise that in most cases the person emailing you has a job to do. The softly softly approach is much more likely to pay off. Equally don’t go off on a ‘I have £x in overheads and I drove for 4 hours and walked through a torrential downpour and got attacked by a pack of wild dogs’ type story. It’s pointless, been there, done that.

Whatever your response understand that the magazine/publisher contacted you because your images are good enough for their publication. You can feel good about that. If you don’t get published because you are unwilling to give your images away for free, the only thing you have really lost is the pleasure of seeing your images published and bragging rights.

Scenario 2

Hi Alex,

We’d like to use the two images attached. Our standard fee is £peanuts. Is that okay?

Regards,

Mark

—————————–

Hi Mark,

Previously I have provided images to magazines at £rate (see scenario 3 for what I have experienced as standard UK prices). Is there room for manoeuvre on the fee?

Kind Regards,

Alex

Outcome Scenario 2

Either the client will offer you an increased fee, or they will say that their fee is standard and they cannot increase it. The best case is that a 2 minute email has just given you a fair price for your images (or at least upped the fee a little). Otherwise you can still accept the original low fee if you so wish. This is a business conversation, it’s not ‘cheeky’ to ask for a reasonable rate. Editors/image researchers etc understand that you have overheads.

I was offered £40 each for this image and another by a general interest magazine. I said the price was too low and they upped their offer. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

Scenario 3

Hi Alex,

We’d like to use the two images attached. Our standard fee is £industry_standard_rate. Is that okay?

Regards,

Mark

——————————

Hi Mark,

That sounds good to me. I’ll send over the images and the invoice this evening.

Kind Regards,

Alex

Outcome Scenario 3

Fortunately, more often that not publications will offer a fair price for your work (when compared to other publications, not necessarily the true value!). I always accept these offers in favour of hopefully establishing a relationship with the client.

The main difficulty is knowing what the standard rate actually is. Should you expect £20 or £200 for a magazine cover? The answer is, as ever, ‘it depends’. Here is my general experience of what magazines have paid me (or I have asked them to pay me). These are my genuine experiences, they aren’t abject opinion. I have also added peoples twitter comments. Feel free to add a comment if you have made sales that are lower/higher.

Magazine cover: The lowest was a local magazine with a small local distribution, who offered £60 and would not budge. The highest was a national walking magazine who offered me £250. Photo magazines tend to offer in the region of £100-£200.

Magazine DPS (double page spread): Anything from £100-£250 (according to twitter). I have only ever had one double page spread at £180. One photographer on twitter was paid £300 for a newspaper DPS.

Magazine full page: Anything from £40 to £100.

Magazine half page: Anything from £20 to £100

Magazine 1/4 page or smaller: Anything from £20 to £70 (I couldn’t quite believe it when a BBC magazine offered my £70 to print an image at 3″x1″)

Pages (inc. text): £60-£120 per page. £100 seems about standard.

 

Regularly a fair price is offered. This image was used on the cover of a country interest magazine (with a lot of sky added). The fee was £250

Agree the image use

I suggest recording the agreed usage in both your email exchange and your invoice. If the initial enquiries are dealt with via phone then confirm the conversation in the email. Last year a local publication used my image for full page adverts in other magazines. I was able to point to both the invoice and email trail and show that this was outside the agreed usage. Another invoice was then sent to charge for the additional usage. Don’t come at them with a ‘you stole my image’ stance because the likelihood is that they made a mistake, not that they are trying to avoid paying you ( I have learnt this the hard way and felt guilty afterwards!)

One twitter user reports his double page spread image request as being an effective ‘rights grab’ whereby they were requesting royalty free use of the image in perpetuity. Needless to say, don’t ever do this (unless they make you an offer you can’t refuse). This kind of small print is sometimes motivated by the desire to cover themselves for any scenario, not necessarily to take advantage, so a challenge of the terms may result in them being rescinded.

Invoicing

An invoice (for those of you that don’t know) is a document detailing the agreed exchange. For example, you would detail the photos required, the number of photos and the agreed price. Different magazines/companies may have different invoicing requirements. Most will require you to include the business name and address on your invoice. Some will also request that you include the purchase order number and the issue so that they can easily match invoices to particular publications/articles. I’m pretty sure that any magazine you deal with will require an invoice, but even if they don’t it’s a good idea to send one anyway. Invoices are a good way of recording the agreement as well as creating a financial record for yourself and the taxman!

Creating an invoice scared me at first because I had no idea what to put in it, but it’s actually very easy. Here is the invoice I use: invoice_2013XXX

Payment

One thing you won’t have any control over at all is when (and sometimes by what means) you get paid. Most magazines prefer to pay via bank transfer/BACS but others pay by cheque. Often you will be asked for images/copy more than a month before publication, perhaps as much as 3 months. However, the magazine may not pay you until a month after the issue hits the shelves and they have been known to be much later than that still (one twitter member reports 3 months!). Obviously that means that you can potentially find yourself waiting several months for payment, so don’t buy that new camera yet! If a month has passed since the publication date then you will need to chase the invoice up (this happens all too often).

19 Comments

  1. Great blog Alex. I’m really surprised how low the rates are when you consider the time and expense involved in capturing good images. And the scale of the publication’s circulation in many cases.
    Like you said, the exposure is probably at least as important to a lot of photographers as the money but it’s also important these organisations value our work where it hurts. I say ‘our’ work, but I’ve never sold an image to a publication! I have however been approached to have articles written on my photography which is hopefully the first stage 😉
    Thanks for the blog, Matt

    • I’ve already explained to you that your images are rubbish Matt, surely the explains the lack of sales ;P

      I have to say my experience with exposure has not been good when it comes to just images (writing articles is a little different). I think if people start from the assumption that they will get nothing from exposure, and then ask themselves if they are still happy with the deal on offer then that is a good approach to take.

      The day before yesterday I had a magazine with a circulation of 100,000 ask me for 2 Scotland images to be used at half a page. They said their standard rate was £40/image. I replied that the offer was too low, so they upped it to £50, which I accepted. If you think about the cost per magazine that’s 0.05 pence/image.

      Unfortunately it’s photographers that created the low value market so we can hardly complain.

  2. Hello Alex, this is a great topic to write about, thanks. I have a question, perhaps my english got in the way to understand, but did you say that when there is a feature about yourself in a magazine, you should sell the images used to illustrate your own work? I was under the impression that if the article was about you, it was ok to provide the images. Can you explain that, pls? Thanks

    • All I am saying is that when you are offered a feature specifically on your work there may be some real value in the exposure so perhaps it would justify a reduction in price. I don’t think I would ever give my images away for free but I understand why some people would in this case

  3. Alex this is a really good blog, I was approached by Outdoor Fitness Magazine for an image a few months ago, and it was very much the case that I had to initiate the conversation about fees. It seems as though they are all out to get something for nothing, but as you rightly say, £4 per copy x 100,000 mags… I think they can afford £50 to pay the photographer… for their work! I currently work as a marketing assistant and I see copies of their Advertising Invoices. It’s sickening. Keep it up mate, you always inspire me to develop my own work.

    • Hi Mike, thanks for the comment. Of course magazines could, if they wished, pay higher prices, in the days of film they had to. Now photographers will fall over each other to get on a magazine cover etc. Unless your images are totally unique you can understand why magazines will just pay the going rate!

  4. Oh I totally agree, it’s all over the net how cameras like 6D’s, D600’s are so accessible now that photographers are a plenty. The interesting thing is, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly encouraging me to think about the service (package) I offer to clients, rather than just expecting people to hand over cash for a pretty photo.

  5. Great article Alex, its information like this thats hard to find on the internet.

    I recently had a two page spread in a uk magazine and the fee offered was £150, I thought this seemed very reasonable so I accepted. I see this is in the ballpark which i’m glad about.

    Perhaps you can help me with an email I got a few days ago. It was from a major calendar company and they wish to use one of my shots in their 2015 calendar. They didn’t mention a price but instead wrote ‘Please confirm your best fees and we will raise a purchase order’.

    What do you think I should do next, would you know what price to hope for?

    Louis

    • Hi Louis, I received the same email. I don’t want to say specifically what the outcome was because every case is different. They might want your image more or less than mine however to help I will say a few things:
      1. Calendars will pay anything from £100-£300 for a single image (there may be exceptions, I guess a higher price could be possible in certain circumstances.
      2. If you start the negotiation at you ‘best price’ and that price is lower than they are willing to pay, then you have made a mistake. I suggest you enter the negotiation with a price you would be happy with

      Good luck!

      Alex

      • Louis Neville 19th May 2013

        Thanks Alex,

        I certainly don’t want to price myself out of work because the exposure would be nice. Like you say I don’t want to go in too low either.

        I was thinking of asking them what fee they could offer me to license the photograph or do you think this is the wrong way to approach it and slightly un-professional?

        Tough call to make really!

        Louis

        • If you don’t want to negotiate because you are fearful of losing the sale then simply ask what their standard rate is. However if you come in higher then the worst case is that they offer you their standard rate anyway. As long as you are polite they won’t just walk away. Either way it’s entirely your choice to make

          • Louis Neville 19th May 2013

            Thanks a lot Alex, I decided to ask what the best fee they could offer was. I will let you know if this approach pays off.

            Louis

  6. I have had images placed in Photographic Magazine normally win a prize memory card tripod to name a few, though some have printed with nothing i assume they are getting images on the cheap after reading your blog

  7. Viktoria Haack 6th June 2013

    This has been a fabulous read Alex. I have found myself in similar situations on many occasions and this article has just helped me compose my latest response!

  8. Dan Payne 16th October 2013

    My only experience so far has been with the surf mags.

    It seems that money is only talked about if you mention it to them majority of the time. I also know to many photogs that give work away for free, for the main reasons of seeing their images in print and for exposure.

    I have a long way to go till im at a similar standard to yourself, but I do know I wont give images away for free. Personally I need to learn more on the business side of things though and not feal awkward approaching the money matter.

  9. D J Steward 23rd April 2014

    Hi

    Some very good advice. A you state the problem is that many photographers will give their images away for free. In my experience it is becoming the norm for magazines to expect to pay £0 with the ‘we will give you credit’ only.

    I have one magazine that asked for a commission accepted the images and used one as a Full Page but ‘forgot’ to inform me or pay me; 9 months later still trying to get paid!

  10. Just found your blog post on Google. It’s very helpful even a few years on – just had an enquiry from a national but quite specialist magazine about a DPS.

    Thank you.

  11. Hi Alex.

    As an amateur photographer I accepted ‘accreditation’ for a photograph in a book once in lieu of payment. When the book was released I was the only photographer who wasn’t named in a printing error. It still annoys me now. I had lost the RAW’s of the original picture they had seen, so had re shot specifically for them. I learned a lesson that day…………….

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