Making Money From Your Photography

How Much Is Your Photography Worth?

Once you’ve made the decision to go from amateur to professional, the first question you must answer is, “How much are my images worth?” Because each photograph and situation is unique, the idea of setting a fixed price would be downright dangerous from a business perspective. In order to attract and retain clients as well as give your abilities and skill the credit they’re due, it’s important to remember the following points:

  • Agree to the price and terms of use right from the beginning
  • Get it those terms in writing

Now when we say “get those terms in writing”, we mean exactly that. Cover all your bases, every scenario upfront and you’ll avoid a potentially serious hassle later on. For example, say you have an awesome dog photo – we’ll call it “Doggy in the Park”. Now, let’s say Mr. Admirer likes “Doggy in the Park” so much that he’s asked to use it to help advertise his dog walking business. Your contract could say something like:

Buyer (Mr. Admirer) agrees to pay Photographer (that’s you) the sum of $200 for use of “Doggy in the Park”. This image shall be used in all of the Buyer’s promotional and marketing materials for “Four Paws and a Leash” Dog Walking Service for a period of 6 months. After this time, the image cannot be used for any reason. All photo credit must be included with the image. Photo cannot be used online, and may not be sold or redistributed by the Buyer.

You see? This contract is simple, effective, and complete. Of course, you can certainly feel free to add to this given the uniqueness of each situation. But the point is a written contract is vitally important and must be in place before your work changes hands. And whatever you do, don’t fall for the “something for nothing” ploy. This is when an admirer will ask to use your work for free under the guise of “it’ll be great for your exposure!” You certainly wouldn’t put in a full eight hour work day for free, would you? I don’t care how much you love that job; you still have bills to pay and need to eat. So don’t be afraid to walk away with a polite yet firm, “Thank you but I’m just not interested.”

Now, let’s say a high school photography or art teacher approaches you about using one of your images in class. In this scenario, you probably don’t want to draw up a specific contract like the one above but rather donate the image to the school instead. You may even ask about arranging a time to visit the class for a short Q&A or tutorial about how you captured the image or life as a photographer in general. Again, each situation is unique so don’t be afraid to tweak your response as necessary.

Another scenario you may find yourself in is one where another artist approaches you about using your work. You may take this as a huge ego boost (which it is), and feel a bit intimidated by this person’s popularity. This artist probably won’t want to “give photo credit where photo credit is due”. (You should certainly ask for it, though!) In this situation, it’s best to think in terms of time frames as opposed to just a lump-sum payment. Consider the following time frames:

  • Short (anywhere from the immediate “here ‘n now” to a few weeks) – Yes, I said not to only look at a lump-sum payment, but in this case you could totally do that and it would be fine. Just be sure to ask for a reasonable amount – anywhere from $150-$200 minimum based on the image’s composition and uniqueness.
  • Mid-range (anywhere from 2 to 8 months) – In this case, consider asking for a percentage or a cut from all sales of his work (sculptures, paintings, ice carvings…whatever) that was originally inspired by your image.
  • Long term use (10 months to 1 year or longer) – This is when you can start thinking in terms of artistic collaboration or a business partnership. Consider showcasing your work together in the same exhibit, gallery or store front.

The bottom line is you should always get a fair price for your work. Even if your photography business isn’t your full-time occupation yet, it’s still YOUR time, YOUR vision and YOUR talent up for grabs. Never short-change yourself and always be willing to walk away from any deal that doesn’t feel right or any potential buyer who doesn’t respect you as a (non-starving) artist.

In closing, remember that each situation is unique and therefore so is the price, and always – always! – get the specific use of your image in writing before any money changes hands.

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