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!
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)
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.
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!
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,
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,
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.
We’d like to use the two images attached. Our standard fee is £peanuts. Is that okay?
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?
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.
We’d like to use the two images attached. Our standard fee is £industry_standard_rate. Is that okay?
That sounds good to me. I’ll send over the images and the invoice this evening.
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.
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.
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
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).