Ad Agency Art Buyer Wants to Buy Photo from Me - How Much to Charge?
May 8, 2004 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I've just been contacted by an art buyer from a large advertising agency in the US, who is interested in purchasing the use of a photograph I have in a gallery on from my web site for use on a poster for one of their clients. I took the photo myself, still have high resolution versions of it, and have never done this before. How much should I ask for? PS - Make it quick!
posted by armoured-ant to Media & Arts (19 answers total)
How much is the work selling for?

What kind of rights would they have? one-time use, full buyout, etc?

(my first thought is to say somewhere around a thousand, depending on the rights/usage)
posted by amberglow at 6:38 AM on May 8, 2004

Response by poster: I have no idea how much their work is selling for, but their clients include Dell Computer, Dunkin’ Donuts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Tyco, Verizon Comms and Verizon Wireless.

The image is just sitting on my web site doing nothing; so I wouldn't really miss them if they were completely sold. I've had recommendations from friends of everything from £80 to £5,000 (from my father, an ex-graphic-designer).
posted by armoured-ant at 6:49 AM on May 8, 2004

Call an agent for professional photographers and have them do the deal for you.
posted by bingo at 7:04 AM on May 8, 2004

Let them make the first offer. And as amber mentioned, you don't have to assign the copyright, you could just license the work. It's up to you. There a million ways to do this. Oh, and you should register the copyright, just in case.
posted by anathema at 7:10 AM on May 8, 2004

what anathema said--let them make an offer, you counter if it's too low. They're used to buying art. You could ask, tho, if it's a nationwide campaign--charge more if it is, the duration of the campaign, how they usually do it with other photogs regarding rights/usage, etc.)
posted by amberglow at 7:19 AM on May 8, 2004

Remember too, that it's a useful contact you're making, in terms of future use of your work. And the exposure is worth something, too, if you're interested in having your work used for ads.
posted by amberglow at 7:20 AM on May 8, 2004

you counter if it's too low.

Counter regardless.

Remember too, that it's a useful contact you're making, in terms of future use of your work. And the exposure is worth something, too, if you're interested in having your work used for ads.

Absolutely! Very, very important.
posted by anathema at 7:47 AM on May 8, 2004

Let them make an offer... but be up-front with them: they should get a good deal as you're an un-tested artist, and you don't do this professionally; that said, you don't want to discover a few weeks down the road when you've secured an agent that you were paid a fraction of the going rate.

Conversely, tell them you'd be happy to offer the photograph to them for X% of what they would have paid an agented photographer for the same rights... ask them for 3 or 4 references to photographers they've used recently.

Finally --- though I'm not a photographer, so I don't know that this is available --- but if AIGA puts out a recommendation for design rates, I'd bet that there was a professional organization that did the same for photography. If you're curious for a ballpark, get the details on the rights and distribution they want, then go to and do a sampling of rights-managed photographs and see what _they_ charge.

Good luck!
posted by silusGROK at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2004

If you're really serious about selling your photos, you need to get this program. The cost of the program may save you hundreds or thousands of dollars; it is well worth it if you are new to the business and don't know where even to start.

Most photographers and buyers are very secretive about the actual numbers, which is why Googling for prices isn't very useful. Not only that, but you must take into account the use of the photos. This program lets you choose from a wide variety of variables -- for instance, if you're selling to a magazine, it can give you a good estimate based on distribution numbers (a quarterly that only runs 10,000 copies shouldn't pay as much as, say, Time Magazine). There are hundreds of categories to choose from, I'm sure it will be able to help you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2004

Oh, I'd just like to add that you can try FotoQuote for free before you buy it, and it's available for Mac and PC. Really, get this program.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2004

Goto and see what they charge depending upon use. If you want to sell the photo to them, as in, forever - then I would recommend selling it for at least a couple grand. You could even try calling TonyStone - pretend you are interested in buying the rights to one of their photographs. Say "I've never done this before", have them walk you through it. Generally Ad agencies will pay more for exclusive rights to an image they know no one else will be using.
posted by xammerboy at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2004

U.S. only or world-wide rights? Exclusive rights or not? For a fixed time period or forever? How easy would it be for them to find a similar image from a stock library? Where will the poster appear? What's the print run? Poster for sale, or used just for promotion? Locally or nationwide/world-wide? Will it be used in printed-matter publications/packaging/billboards, also?

All of these factors (and more) can affect the price. If you're not comfortable negotiating this (and you shouldn't be, if you've never done it before), either get an agent, do some research (having found out more about usage and required rights) with a couple of big libraries online, or wing it and add about 25% to their first offer. If they're professional, they shouldn't have a problem making the first offer.

If you intend to do this regularly, get an agent (much easier said than done), or get represented by one of the stock libraries (assuming you have more than just a few images to sell).

Stockphoto is somewhere to start to learn more about this stuff.
posted by normy at 1:02 PM on May 8, 2004

Here are some rates FYI (the first numbers are runs):

Corporate Poster:
500-1000 @ 8x10 -- $550
1000-5000 @ 20x24 -- $1000
5000-10k @ 20x24 -- $1300

Advertising Promotional Poster:
500-1000 @ 16x20 -- $800
10k-25k @ 30x40 -- $1700

Hopefully this will give you a ballpark to start working from. Also, this is assuming you're keeping rights; if not, then it really depends on you. Since you're just starting out, figure at least a few grand. Make absolutely certain you have a good contract written up... the longer and more specific, the better.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:06 PM on May 8, 2004

If you want you can email me, my address is in my profile. I'm a production manager in ad agencies so a big part of my job is rights negotiation with artists, and if you have more information, I can likely give you a ballpark to ask for in terms of re-use and more. I've also negotiated for national campaigns and such. I can tell you art buyers prefer going to artists directly as it's usually cheaper for them than using a Tony Stone, and artists get to put more in their pocket from it.

Here are the questions you need to know for a price set:

1) How long is the duration of the campaign?
2) Where and how will it be used? On collateral pieces (brochures, etc), magazine advertising, web site, all of it?
3) What is the use? 1/4 page, 1/2 page, is it on the cover or an inside page? Is their typography over it?
4) If in the magazines, what is their circulation and how often do they publish?
5) Geographic area? Is nationwide just that, or are their metropolitan pockets throughout the nation?
6) Do they want exclusive rights, or do you have the right to re-sell the image? Typically a contract will stipulate that you have the right to re-sell your image to non-competing industries or non-competing geographic locations.

Ask if they have a mock-up showing how your image will be used, that's often the most helpful way to go. If they've tracked down your image on a website and asked about it, be flattered, it means a creative director in the agency is pretty zinged about it.

Keep your copyright, there's no reason for any agency to need it. If I want to be able to use an image whenever I wise, I simply arrange a buyout price. And buyout is *very* expensive.

Good luck!
posted by Salmonberry at 1:11 PM on May 8, 2004

btw - I know I overanswered the question, but I figure if you're jumping into it, what the heck.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2004

let's see it!
posted by crunchland at 1:25 PM on May 8, 2004

Response by poster: Nice try, Crunch :P
posted by armoured-ant at 7:17 PM on May 8, 2004

what do you mean? I'm interested in knowing which one of your pictures they like... none of the ones in your gallery leapt out as being extraordinary, is all.
posted by crunchland at 10:30 PM on May 8, 2004

Response by poster: Oh, thanks!

Google Images for plasma ball. That's how they found me, I reckon.
posted by armoured-ant at 2:58 AM on May 9, 2004

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