Photo Permissions
March 21, 2005 6:11 PM   Subscribe

A major publisher has approached me about using a photograph that I posted on my website that was originally taken by my dad (who, for reference, passed away a few years ago). According to the person who contacted me, the image would take up about a half-page in the interior of the book and they are interested in a quote for both world and North American rights. Can anyone give me a notion of what sort of compensation would be normal for this sort of thing and what the correct procedure might be? Thanks!
posted by stefnet to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Go to my sister's site for info about photographer's rights. She's a photo rep who lectures and writes about photographer's rights...
posted by jpburns at 6:17 PM on March 21, 2005

If you want a real-world comparison, go to and find a rights-managed (NOT royalty-free) image that has roughly the same subject matter as your photo.

Call up gettyone (or use their "Calculate price" feature online) and ask them how much that photo would be using the exact same usage the publisher has given you for your photo.

You will need to know things like: image size and location (which they've given you), whether it's a retail book or textbook, the length of time the photo will be used (if it's a book, could be indefinitely), the quantity of books being published (and distributed in North America and globally), whether or not they want any kind of exclusivity to the image (i.e., can you resell rights to reproduce the photo to someone else in the future? Can they be in the same industry as the book it's being published in now?)

If they want to buy out the photo completely, the price for it should increase by an order of magnitude (at least that's what a professional photographer would expect, since he would no longer be able to use that photo as a source of income again.) It might sound crazy, but a rights-managed image from a professional photographer that you would purchase the rights to reproduce at $5,000 might cost upwards of $50,000 to buy outright in perpetuity. Then again, you didn't indicate that you were a professional photographer, so the publisher who approached you might consider those rates out of line.

Without seeing the photo or knowing its usage, I would expect a BARE MINIMUM of $1,000 for the image, and (as an art director) I've paid up to several thousand dollars for a single image that will be used exclusively in a particular industry for commercial purpose.

I also presume that although the photograph was posted to your website (in low resolution) that you have access to the original film and/or hi-res digital file and can provide them this file upon request for quality reproduction.
posted by robbie01 at 6:56 PM on March 21, 2005

Oh, also, if you do decide to sell them rights to reproduce your photo, make sure you have a thorough and legally-binding contract drawn up for both parties to sign with all usage clearly defined. You didn't indicate whether your photo contains the image of a person(s), but technically anyone appearing in your image should sign a model release for the rights to reproduce their likeness. There is usually a separate fee paid to any models/subjects appearing in your photo, but that is probably overkill for this instance. You should be able to find sample contracts for the transfer of photography rights at a bookstore in the photography or graphic design section (a book like the annual Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines should have a sample contract and may be able to provide you more thorough explanations of the transfer of rights/ownership.)
posted by robbie01 at 7:02 PM on March 21, 2005

There's no silver bullet when it comes to pricing -- your best success will be in analyzing multiple resources to get a feel of the marketplace; this will help you make the most comfortable pricing decisions. Dan Heller's website has a wealth of photo business information. Here's his chapter on photography pricing. The Stock Photo Price Calculator is also a decent reference (it calculates averages based on hundreds of surveys). FotoQuote is a widely used database application that has a lot of great pricing examples - unfortunately, it's expensive ($230). This search might also turn up some insight.

In determining prices for my own work, I found the best resources came from analyzing the average prices of many other photographers -- just hop on google/dmoz and look at photographer's websites. Naturally, if you're only trying to price one image, this all may be overkill. But maybe these resources will at least help you arrive at a price that will make you feel relatively confident in justifying while negotiating.

(If you're interested, here's my personal stock licensing schedule.)
posted by Hankins at 7:52 PM on March 21, 2005

what robbie said. (look into Hankins links too)
posted by amberglow at 8:38 PM on March 21, 2005

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