Photo op
April 8, 2009 8:26 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is an avid amateur photographer and was recently contacted by a postcard company about licensing one of her photos for use on a postcard. Neither of us have any experience with this. What should she do to protect her rights to the picture while allowing them to use it and what level of compensation should she expect/request? She is also concerned about having the photo attributed to her on the postcard itself. Is that standard operating procedure or a special request?
posted by thekiltedwonder to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Well, when my wife gets a request to use one of her photos on a book cover, in an advertisement, etc, the requester usually includes a contract. They typically just indicate that she agrees to their use of the photo, promises to credit her for the photo and also indicates how she will be compensated. I would be sure that there is no wording indicating that they will then have exclusive rights to the use of the photo.

As far as how much, the last publisher that used her photo on one of its books paid her $250. I suppose you could counteroffer for something higher but at the time we needed the money.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:34 PM on April 8, 2009

Do you know any professional photographers? Ask the company for the contract/agreement and ask someone you know to take a look.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:39 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a photographer. She charges a fee based on what it's used for (basically the more value they get out of it, the more it costs). So find out what the print run is going to be, how long they want to use it for, and whatever other details they have. If you go on a stock website like Getty or Corbis, find a "RM" (Rights Managed) image and use their calculator to get an idea of what the market value is.

Then you give them a license (contract granting them the rights they need) to use the photo. ASMP conveniently has a bunch of licensing information online including some examples of paperwork and estimates from real assignments.
posted by bradbane at 8:54 PM on April 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: DieHipsterDie, your wife is charging way too little for her photography, depending on the print run of the book. The lowest price fotoquote gives for a front cover image of a book is $840 for a print run under 10k.

The best way to figure out the price you should charge is to go to any number of reputable rights managed (not royalty free) stock photography houses (Alamy, Getty, Corbis) or places where photographers sell their work at standard market rate (Photoshelter) and go through the pricing of a rights-managed image for similar usage. Every little aspect of the usage is important in pricing (country, print size, duration of usage, circulation/print run size/number of copies, exclusivity, etc.). Fotoquote is also a useful tool for this. Going through simple pricing on fotoquote, for instance, I see a photo licensed as the main art on a postcard in a 1000-5000 print run should get a fee of $561. It goes up from there. Less if the photo is just a part of a collage on the postcard.

Contracts provided by the publishing company in these sorts of situations (i.e., when they find some amateur online and ask to use a picture for a calendar) can often be very bad for the photographer. Read through any contract and make sure you aren't handing over copyright or a ridiculous embargo. Almost everything that would happen in a copyright buyout can be accommodated by specific licensing language and should be compensated appropriately. Everything in a provided contract is up for negotiation. If there's something the photographer doesn't like, tell the client, and they can either reword the contract or find someone else. If there isn't a contract already, look around online for sample photo licensing contracts. ASMP is a good place to get some information, but there are other resources out there, as well.

Thekiltedwonder, if your girlfriend is worried that negotiating fees and licensing terms will cause her to lose the sale or to lose the chance to have her picture on a postcard, there are a few things to think about. Since she isn't dependent on this income from the sale, she may feel like she doesn't need to be paid for the usage. This is wrong. The company will make money only because the picture is good. No picture, no money for the company. Credit is not compensation. Credit is something that is generally required (though I'm not sure exactly how credit works with postcards) for reprinting a photographer's work. By accepting a paltry fee or none at all, she's also screwing other photographers. Also, if she's just really excited about having a postcard with her image on it, consider printing them yourself. I've had a great response from promo mailers I got printed at Overnight Prints, and they're dirt cheap. She could print up a 100 each of a few different pictures and try selling them to local gift shops/tourist stops/etc. I think 100 full color one-sided postcards will cost $20 there, possibly even with free shipping.

Remember a postcard is only as valuable as the picture on it. The postcard company is essentially selling a small version of the photographer's picture thousands of times, making money each time. You should get a piece of that pie, and if you don't want to get paid for it or think that credit is adequate compensation, you're a few megapixels short'll be giving up your creative work so that someone else can make a profit. By asserting your copyright, you'll control how the photo gets used and how much you get compensated for your work. As much as I enjoy the free culture ideals of the internet, I'll never understand why people don't want to be compensated for their work when it rakes in hundreds or thousands or millions of dollars for some company.
posted by msbrauer at 9:26 PM on April 8, 2009 [21 favorites]

On preview, I see bradbane beat me to the ASMP mention.
posted by msbrauer at 9:27 PM on April 8, 2009

I have nothing to add, only that what msbrauer wrote is astoundingly good and clear advice that should be drummed into the head of anyone who considers themselves a photographer, anywhere in the world. It's far too easy to get taken advantage of, especially in this economic climate, and you really have to realise the value of what you create.
posted by Magnakai at 3:48 AM on April 9, 2009

I was asked if my photo could be used for a book last year - the author was told by the publisher (Penguin) that the photo fees would come out of his advance, so I was promised photo credit only. As it was, the editorial assistant decided it was 'too weird' and it was never used in the end. Shame, as the book was widely reviewed.

I have had my photos used on the front and back cover of a book and was credited only, but that was because a) the photo shoot was a favour from a friend who modelled for it (and I was paid a token amount for the shots) b) it was very small press.
posted by mippy at 7:50 AM on April 9, 2009

We had this question similarly and got good responses. Beware of the licensing wording and indemnity clauses etc, but you hold the cards here.

Excellent answer by msbrauer! Favorited!
posted by clanger at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2009

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