Archive for the ‘Business’ Category


September 23rd, 2011 |  by No comments

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) are jointly producing a series of webinars to educate creators and users on copyright, licensing and monetization of content.  The first webinar in a series is “What Everyone Should Know About Copyright” With Susan Carr & Richard Kelly.

Let me start by saying that I have been a long supporter of ASMP and have been a member since 1979. Having CCC as a partner being in the best interest of the ASMP membership  is akin to Having BP partner with The Florida Beach Association and present a program on the importance of clean beaches or for the AMA to partner with Camel and do a program on the importance of clean air or proper health care.

I especially feel the first webinar called ”What Everyone Should Know About Copyright” makes a complete mockery out of copyright with this partnership.


The CCC provides clearance to corporations to photocopy articles at a profit. The CCC grants a license to photocopy without paying all of the rights holders and without having all the rights to do so. Back in 2002 myself (Seth Resnick), Michael Grecco and Paula Lerner filed a suit against the CCC.

Freelance photographers Seth Resnick, Paula Lerner and Michael Grecco sued  The Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (“CCC”), for copyright infringement. Defendant is a corporation that acts as an agent for publishers by granting licenses to thousands of businesses, academic institutions, libraries, and other entities for the photocopying of magazine articles. The CCC and publishers enter into agency agreements that include a representation and warranty that the publishers own sufficient intellectual property rights to grant photocopy authorization.
Licensees pay the CCC for photocopying rights, and the CCC in turn distributes a portion of the licensing revenue to publishers. In their First Amended Complaint, plaintiffs allege that when they sell a photograph to a magazine, they typically grant a limited license for the use of the image and retain all rights beyond the one-time publication.

Some publications, such as Newsweek and Forbes, do not allow the CCC to authorize reproduction of photographs.They alleged CCC to have infringed plaintiffs’ copyrights.

Plaintiffs now bring a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 to certify the following class:
All persons and/or entities who own or are the holders of a registered copyright in at least one photographic image (“Images”) that was created and first published after January 1, 1978, and appeared in a publication contained in the database of over 1.75 million publications listed with [CCC], which, without the holder’s permission or prior authorization, was copied, licensed or sold by CCC, and/or CCC granted permission or authorization, in consideration of a fee, to others to copy such Images. ”

We lost trying to certify a class action against the CCC.

The District Court denied the motion for failure to satisfy the numerosity requirement. That is, Rule 23(a) provides that class certification is proper only if, among other requirements, “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable”.

The Court wrote that “In order to satisfy the numerosity requirement, plaintiffs must show that it is impracticable to join all photographers who have sold their copyright-registered images to CCC-affiliated publications under limited licenses, thereby retaining the exclusive right to reproduce their own work. Citing deposition testimony by the former executive director of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (“ASMP´´), plaintiffs estimate that there are “roughly 20,000´´ freelancers working in the United States. Additionally, plaintiffs state that freelancers “typically only license limited use of their product.´´”

The Court continued that “The primary evidence for this proposition is plaintiff Seth Resnick’s declaration that “the standard practice in the industry is for freelance photographers to own the copyright in their photographic images´´ and excerpts from two ASMP manuals that suggest the same. Such bare assertions do not begin to address the question of how many photographers grant limited licenses to publishers that do not include photocopying rights. The record provides little basis for this Court to determine whether joinder of all class members is impracticable or, for that matter, whether the limited licenses granted by plaintiffs are typical of the class.”

The lawsuit against CCC was not about putting money in the pockets of the plaintiffs. In fact our goal was to file a class action suit which would put money in every photographers pocket who registered their copyrights. Further the goal was to set up a plan to pay photographers what they should be legally entitled to collect from their works. The lawsuit happened only after several years of trying to get CCC to come to the table.

The issue isn’t so complex. Organizations very similar to CCC pay photographers everyday in other countries. In fact the CCC is just about the only organization in it’s class which doesn’t pay photographers. They have had a decade and haven’t done one thing. They are actually gaining recognition for copyright info right now from this webinar series and to me that is simply reprehensible. I also find it unacceptable that ASMP hasn’t at least been honest with the membership about what CCC is really about. I simply fail to see how a partnership with the CCC can in any way lead to anything positive for ASMP members. Clearly it is great PR for CCC.

Why not take the initiative and ask the membership how they feel about this? I would bet my bottom dollar that if it were put to a vote by the membership to partner with or not that the “nots” would win with a huge majority.

The fact still remains that nearly a decade later, the CCC collects millions and millions of dollars and has yet to pay one dime to any photographer. How can ASMP justify doing a series of Webinars on Copyright sponsored by CCC the very organization that continues to gain financially from licensing our copyrights without compensation to the creator. At the time of our lawsuit they insisted that there simply wasn’t a database in place to compensate photographers like they have with authors. A decade later there has been zero progress.

I am truly appalled that the organization that I have paid dues into since 1979 could truly sponsor these lectures with the CCC. Ironically the next webinar says it all “What Everyone Should Know About Copyright”.Photocopying has gotten much more sophisticated. Digital reprographics, are available as perfect-copy reproductions, indistinguishable in quality from current printed pieces.In the past photographers have been paid lots of money for high end reprints from publishers. While many of them may argue over the amount of the payment most in the end have willingly paid for those reprints and many times it is a far greater sum then the original assignment. A company which would have gone to the photographer for permission and payment can instead obtain a license from the CCC to photocopy an article with one or more images. The company could use a newer state of the art color copier and reprint the article on higher end paper better than the original. The company would receive permission to make copies. The end result would be a distribution of a reprint granted by the CCC and the photographer would be cut out of the picture. Had this company gone to the the publisher they would have been  told the company need permission from the photographer and  would have paid the photographer but instead they can go through the CCC and the photographer receives zero.

Check the financials of the CCC and their annual revenues were in the hundreds of millions. Our lawsuit was almost a decade ago so if you add up the numbers the CCC has easily profited in the billions since our lawsuit and certainly had the funds to find a methodology of payment to photographers. In the U.S. alone, domestic reprographic royalties now total over 100 million dollars a year. In other countries, it’s estimated that 12% of reprographic money is returned to the photographic community but in the U.S. none of it is.

In the U.S. the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) collects domestic reprographic royalties. CCC distributes some of this money to writers, but they don’t return any to photographers because they don’t acknowledge photographers to be “ authors.”This is where ASMP should in my mind be focusing the attention.
A system is really quite easy and would promote copyright registration if payment went to those who register their copyright. This in itself would do far more to get photographers to register than a webinar.
Lexis Nexis maintains a database of the majority of magazines and credits and one search would show every magazine that a photographer with credit has been published in with the issue date and page number. This is all that is necessary to get payments to photographers  as a start and yet the CCC has never made an attempt.

We stopped pursuing our lawsuit because the CCC had oodles of money and while we wanted to appeal to a higher court, we didn’t because we could have been held liable personally for all the legal fees and while Michael and Paula and I were all for a fight, none of us had the finances to do this and risk our houses and families in the process.

We need all the trade organizations and certainly ASMP to take a real stance on this and try hard to force payment to the rightful owners of the copyrights.  In my mind the absolute worst thing we could do is to glorify the CCC as an educator of copyright.

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Categories: Business

Secondary Rights: The Greatest Kept Secret

September 22nd, 2011 |  by No comments

This from Michael Grecco. More to come on this topic soon….

Secondary Rights: The Greatest Kept Secret

The greatest kept secret in photography is not a special lens or a light making everyone beautiful. The greatest kept secret in photography is the fact that $215 million in revenue is collected throughout the United States every year, using your images – while almost none of it goes to the photographers and artists that create these great images.

This money goes to “secondary rights”, the reproduction of publications that have already been printed. In other words, it is either used as a reference article by a corporation or distributed as a promotional piece by a business to supply potential clients press about their company. I, myself, do not give these rights away – I restrict third party usage, which is noted in the usage terms of my license and in the paperwork I give to clients.

Here is another analogy as to what these rights are: a musician writes a song and get’s paid every time a their music is purchased and/or downloaded – those are their primary licenses. That same musician though receives a payment from ASCAP or BMI every time that music is then used for commercial purposes, namely played on the radio, or in a bar, or in a restaurant. While Congress actually makes it mandatory that songwriters get paid, we as contributors to publications have no such protection.

The CCC was created by publishers to collect additional revenue for secondary rights. In other countries, these revenues are divided up, for the most part, between the publisher, the writer, and the visual contributor to the magazine. Here, the CCC only pays the publisher – mostly because they are the only party represented as rights holders. The CCC has been allowed to get away with this because most organizations do not publically talk about these rights. Instead, they try to do business with the CCC, allowing them to make money on your work – while they try to gain something for themselves.

Since many corporations pay the CCC in a “blanket” yearly license, the argument has been made that it is impossible to distribute money to artist when you do not know whom the rights holder, or artist, is. The reality is that the music industry does it everyday. They calculate whose songs were played the most, in what genres, and through sophisticated algorithms they determine how much money is owed to whom. Presently no photographer, illustrator, or writer is receiving this money. Wouldn’t it be better to attempt to distribute it rather than just giving it all to the publishers? I think with our industry doing as poorly as it is, this should be the photography community’s priority.

As Advocacy Chairman of APA, we would be interested in anyone who has knowledge of any magazines being reprinted and/or copied by people who have a CCC license. In fact, we would love copies of what has been duplicated, if possible. Please contact us at:

Thank you. More about this subject can be heard as part of my interview with Selina Maitreya’s radio show, Points of View:


Michael Grecco

Photographer + Director
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Categories: Business

Seth Resnick Interview with Juergen Specht-Shakodo

March 8th, 2011 |  by No comments

Dialog with Seth Resnick

Juergen Specht: Thanks Seth for joining me in a dialog about the current status of working photographers today. I am thrilled to see you so active on Shakodo, and even we’ve met basically here, I was aware of your work – and especially your pricing information on your site for a long, long time. In fact, I used some of your info as a guideline for a lot of my licensing in the US market.

Before we start, please tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been a photographer and what led you to the profession?

For Full Article  on Shakodo



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Categories: Business

Shakodo is a new site for business and pricing photography

January 6th, 2011 |  by Comments off

Shakodo is  a new site dedicated to the concept of photographers helping photographers with the business issues of photography including pricing. It is free to join and someone can post a question under different headings like Business, Licensing, or Assignments and participants offer suggestions . It is really an interesting site and worthwhile to spend some time checking it out.

Press Release

Shakodo Web Service Launched – Empowering Amateur and Professional Photographers by sharing Knowledge and Experience to discover the Real Value of their Photos and Services

Shakodo is a simple to use and innovative free service, designed to give a boost to the photography business by educating amateur and professional photographers through an interactive and open exchange of real business situations and real prices. While the demand for high quality photos is higher than ever, professional photographers are not satisfied with the decline of their income.

“Professional photographers have a lot more competition out there today and technology has made it possible for talented amateur photographers to take equivalent or sometimes even better pictures than professionals. The main difference is that amateurs are not aware of the true value of their photos and often give them away for free, undercutting the market and leaving, effectively, money on the table.” said Juergen Specht, a Japan-based German Photographer, partner in Alive Co., Ltd. and co-founder of Shakodo. Specht continued, “We’ve realized it’s as much the fault of professional photographers – who like to blame these talented amateurs – by not sharing their knowledge of proper pricing.”

Ken Lee, the managing director of Alive Co., Ltd. and co-founder of Shakodo shares his personal experience and frustrations: “Being an amateur photographer myself, I often get approached about use of my photos for ‘photo credits’. While asking around what would be a proper price for licensing of my images, the most common answer was an unsatisfactory ‘it depends’. When researching online, most photography business web sites become very vague when it actually comes to pricing”

Lee further explains, “As a consultant and coach to Fortune 500 companies, I am often in similar situations and understand that ‘it depends’ is mostly a place holder for ‘I do not know’, or, ‘I don’t want to share’. Nobody is immune to the lack of business knowledge in the fast moving photography business market, where new ideas, licensing models and opportunities crop up daily. Juergen and I quickly identified the need for a new and flexible solution to share business knowledge based on real life cases when they occur.”

The Problem

Photography is one of those professions without any fixed prices; with almost everything being negotiated. Until recently, the photographic market was very isolated and the skill of price negotiation was one of the key success factors for professionals. With the influx of talented amateurs a market-shift began to take place. With their lack of experience and knowledge about current market rates and not understanding client’s budgets and needs, these talented amateurs have settled for lower price offers. As a result, they have unintentionally undercut professionals while leaving money on the table because they are not aware of the true market value of their photos or services.

The Shakodo Solution

Shakodo has changed the conventional ‘forum’ standard by creating an advanced Question and Answer service, which integrates a unique Reputation and Award system. Members can earn Reputation points and Awards by asking good Questions and providing good Answers. Along with this, Shakodo also introduces a new Price Slider technology which allows members to set price ranges in different currencies with the ability to have real-time price conversions, enabling members from different countries to compare prices in their native currency. By using the free Shakodo service, photographers are able enhance their knowledge of the business of photography and are then better equipped to properly negotiate with clients.

In summary: Shakodo wants to put photographers back on the “Road to Profitable Photography”.

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Categories: Business

Copyright – Defined and Explained

January 3rd, 2011 |  by Comments off

By Seth Resnick, © 2011 Seth Resnick, D65 – All Rights Reserved

Copyright is one of the top concerns facing photographers and illustrators today, as well as the customers who buy our work

For us creatives, our intellectual property is not only our current business, but it’s also our retirement account. We must be able to control and license the intellectual property we create. If we’re unable to benefit from its long-term value, we’ll be unable to remain in the marketplace.

For companies working with images in their day-to-day business – such as print providers dealing with graphics for a P-O-P project, for example – they must be certain those images are indeed free and clear to work with. No print providers want to go through the legal hassles and expenses that can arise if it’s found that a project comprises images whose copyright has been infringed. Not only will it be difficult to collect payment from a client being sued for copyright infringement, but the print provider himself may find that he, too, is implicated in a lawsuit. And keep in mind that there are consequences to copyright violations: Copyright owners can seek damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, plus all legal fees and court costs.

First, some basics

Copyright is, literally, the “right to copy” – to distribute and display copies, to make derivative works, and to profit from those copies. Granted at the moment of creation, copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death. Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of a copyrighted work.

In order to gain protection, a work must be tangible – photos, paintings, music, software, etc.; ideas themselves cannot be copyrighted. The person who creates the tangible property owns the works, period. Most photographers and illustrators hired today are freelancers. The works they create they own, unless they sign a contract stating otherwise (other exceptions to this are if the creator is a full time employee or if there is a “work-for-hire” agreement signed by both parties).

Technically, works do not need to be registered in order to gain protection under copyright. In the US, however, registering works with the US Copyright Office ( is really the only way of legally defending copyright claims (in many other parts of the world, registration is not needed for full protection). And although it’s no longer legally required on copyrighted works as of 1989, the formal copyright notation is typically enough to dissuade innocent or non-willful copyright infringement. (the copyright notation comprises the word “copyright” or the symbol ©, the year, and the name of the author – for example, © 2011 Seth Resnick; some countries also require the notation, “all rights reserved”).

A work may be registered at any time, but to receive maximum protection it should be registered before publication, or within 90 days of first publication. Registering after an infringement has occurred entitles the artist to compensation for the use, plus any profits the infringing party has gained. Infringing a previously registered image, however, can bring statutory damages of up to $150,000 per willful infringement plus attorney’s fees and court costs. In addition, copyright involving more than $2500 can be deemed a felony. Importantly, the power of registration itself, and the copyright symbol and notation, is typically enough to encourage a settlement without ever going to court.

Evaluating gray areas

So copyright law is not rocket science, but there are some gray areas that sometimes make it difficult to follow. Here are some typical questions that arise between creators and those who work with their images:

  • We always assume that we have the rights to reproduce an image that’s been supplied to us. We also assume that, as a third party, the acquisition of rights is not our responsibility and that we can’t be legally responsible if there is an error.

    Everyone is responsible, and if there is a legal action it’s typical to sue all parties. Even if you are an innocent infringer, damages may still have occurred. Contracts should be used for licensing of images, and ensure that your clients have the rights to use the images they’re providing you with.

  • What about asset-management programs and online archives that archive and manage images? Does the inclusion of an image into such a program or system “eliminate” the copyright? And does a print provider, service bureau, etc., need the image creator’s permission to store said images (if the images were provided by the image creator’s clients)?

    The copyright remains with the artist despite the inclusion in any database. When the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in The New York Times, et al v. Tasini, the court held that the “revision” privilege for collective works does not include republication of the writers’ works in electronic databases. This decision specifically means that unless a freelancer grants electronic rights to a publisher of a collective work, such as a magazine, then the freelancer controls these rights exclusively. No image should be included in a database or asset-management system without the permission of the copyright holder or his agent.

  • I hired the photographer, paid for his time and expenses, told him what to do – so I own the material, correct?

    No. Unless the work was produced under a “work-for-hire” contract, the person who produced the tangible property owns the work, and the usage of such work is governed by a license for the use.

  • I paid for the use of an image in a brochure and now I am posting the brochure to our website. This is fair use, correct?

    No, the Web or any other usage is a separate usage and must be granted by license.

  • We have a buyout policy.

    Many clients believe that “buyout” means that they own the image and have unlimited exclusive rights and/or the copyright. In fact, “buyout” is not a legal term. To the photographer, the term may indicate certain specific, unlimited rights, but no transfer of copyright. The worst part of this situation is that both parties believe they own the images, which can lead to a dispute causing the loss of a client and a legal fiasco.

  • I bought a print by the photographer so don’t I own it as well as the rights to reproduce it?

    You bought the physical print, but not the rights to reproduce the image; the creator retains the rights.

  • If I change more than 30 percent (40 percent, etc.) of the image, then it is legally a new image, correct – and I would have the new copyright?

    No, the result is a “derivative,” and the derivative rights are the sole property of the copyright owner.

  • I took several images and combined them into a new image, which is now mine, correct?

    The copyright for each of the images remains the exclusive property of the owner of each image; the result here is a case of multiple infringements.

  • I found the image on the Web, hence it’s in the public domain, yes?

    No, the Web or Internet is a form of publication, exactly like print, and full copyright protection is applied.

  • Someone e-mailed the material to me, putting it into the public domain, correct?

    E-mail is not public domain, and the transmission of an image via this medium (or any medium) has no effect on its copyright status.

  • Why can’t I use someone’s image if doing so really doesn’t cause them harm – after all, it’s free advertising.

    Bottom line: The copyright belongs to the creator, and it’s up to him or her to decide if and when to license the material.

  • When does something fall under “fair use”?

    Fair use is a very gray area that leads to a lot of confusion. Under the fair-use doctrine, copyrighted material may be used under some conditions. In order to determine if a use is fair or is an infringement, you must determine the impact this use will have on the potential market for the copyrighted work. Even in the educational market, where a work is used for the classroom – which generally does fall under fair use – the usage may be beyond the scope of fair use if the value or market of the copyrighted work is lessened. The best advice: Ask if you want to use a piece that you feel comes under fair usage. One form of fair use which is slightly more clear is that of parody, in which a piece of copyrighted material is used for social commentary.

  • We require all artists to sign a contract stating that the photographer or artist “will hold harmless from and indemnify us against all costs (including, without limitation, legal fees, settlements and/or judgments) incurred in resolving such claim.” Does this take care of our responsibility?

    Most artists can’t legally sign a statement like this because, regardless of intent, we don’t have the insurance or financial wealth to indemnify a large business. We would be committing fraud by signing a statement like this knowing that we don’t have millions of dollars worth of insurance. Better is the following statement, which is fair and represents the best interests of both parties: “Photographer or artist will warrant the originality, authorship, authenticity and sole ownership of all rights. The author will use the best of their abilities to provide releases when requested, obtained in writing, and ascertain to the best of their abilities that publication of the material will not infringe upon any copyright or right of privacy. Author agrees to cooperate in the defense of any legal action, which may be brought against client arising from the publication of the material.

Ask first

If you’re interested in accessing more information on copyright, your best place to begin is the US Copyright Office website. Meanwhile, a good rule of thumb is that if you have a question about an image, ask first before making any assumptions.

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Categories: Business

The State of Business for the Digital Photographer Preparing For 2011

December 27th, 2010 |  by Comments off

If it were just about money I would have been a lawyer. I know too many photographers who hate what they do or at best they look at it like a 9-5 job. I never want to look at photography as a 9-5 job. I always carry a camera so that when I am inspired I can shoot. It is something I always loved about my mentor, Jay Maisel. You can’t make a great image if you don’t have a camera and I am amazed at how many photographers never have a camera except when they are working. Second, I try and approach every assignment in a way that is different. As a still photographer I want to do more than bring back what you would see if you were standing next to me. My visual philosophy is to produce images that nobody else envisions. I want to bring back images that someone standing next to me would not visualize from my “minds eye”. Color, design, gesture, texture and spontaneity are all key elements in all of my images. In general I am intrigued by the ability to transform what my minds eye sees into planes of color and design. Shooting digitally has improved my craft but it has also has had an impact on my bottom line.

Digital is not cheaper! It is however better, but better for who? The biggest advantage of digital has been convenience and improved quality for our clients but for photographers there is the added job of acting as “The Lab” as well as a dramatic increase in the cost of equipment.


Typically in business it is the seller who sets the price and the buyer who either accepts it or searches elsewhere. For some strange reason this has not been the case for photography. While we as photographers typically own our own business we must acknowledge that for the most part we behave more like artists than like business people. We have relinquished far too much responsibility in guiding the course of our business to our clients.

Unlike most business’s where the seller sets the fee, with photographers it is the client who says how much we can charge for a day’s work, and what they will pay for our expenses. Our clients have largely dictated fees and expenses and for the most part haven’t changed what they pay for decades. When I went into this business in 1978 the going rate paid to photographers from the major publications was the same fee or close to the fee that they pay today, thirty-three years later. In 1978 a photographer might have been able to show a decent profit especially when all of his or her standard equipment cost under $10K. In thirty three years the creative fee for most photographers shooting editorial assignments for magazines for example has increased approximately 14%. During that same period inflation has totaled 80%; and, during that same period the average equipment overhead has risen 1000%. One thousand percent!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage has increased by approximately fifty percent since 1990. However, most photographers are paid less or the same today than the rate from years ago. Median annual wages of salaried photographers were $29,440 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $20,620 and $43,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,430. Median annual wages in the photographic services industry, which employed the largest numbers of salaried photographers, were $26,160.

Photographers held about 152,000 jobs in 2009. More than half were self-employed, a much higher proportion than for most occupations. The industry adds about 17,500 new photographers each year.

When corrected for the rate of inflation the results are even worse. Factoring in that today’s digital camera can cost $7000.00 with a life of three-years verses the film based body costing about $1000.00 two decades ago with a life of at least five years the financial impact is even greater on the photographer. The overall reduction in compensation for digital expenses is dramatically compounded by our 10-fold increase in equipment costs and reduction in the life of the equipment.

Here is a thought. I for example could take out my 30-year-old film camera and compete head to head with my mentor Jay Maisel. The only thing separating us would be talent not technical issue. If the 30 year-old film camera is depreciated over 30 years it has certainly been affordable. With digital my Canon 1DsM11 which cost $5000.00 can’t compete against my Canon 1DsMII1 which cost $7000.00. If I am to compete against my peers, which are simply part of business, I can’t be at a technical disadvantage. If I am to compete against my peers, which is simply part of business, I can’t be at a technical disadvantage.

Our clients today are under pressure to cut expenses. Photography budgets are cut in part because of a misunderstanding stemming from clients understandably believing that simply because there is no film and processing that there are no costs associated with digital.

Today a basic digital set of two professional SLRs, several lenses, dedicated flashes, laptop, desktop computer, card reader, memory cards, color management and processing software, monitor, printers, storage and back up storage, will cost approximately $20,000 to $80,000 or more.

Comparatively, a basic film system would likely cost under $20,000 and would likely remain current and functional for 10 years or longer.

So here is the comparison:

  • $20,000/10 years = $2,000/year average cost if you’re shooting film
  • $50,000/5 years = $10,000/year average cost for digital

Pricing Digital

While digital may be instantaneous for most amateurs it is anything but instant for a pro concerned with delivering the best file. It is natural for most clients not to understand this. After all everyone today is a photographer. There were nearly as many digital cameras sold in the US last year, as there are citizens. For most folks simply clicking the shutter uploading to Facebook or Shutterfly and ordering prints is all that is necessary. For the pro this is not an option. The best quality files will be obtained by shooting in a raw format, processing the files while applying tone and curve corrections, sharpening and preparing them for output. This takes time and money.

There are several ways to charge for digital:

1) The Prix-Fixed method (better known as “The Fast-Food Full Meal Deal”)

Utilizing this strategy, the photographer charges into one line item, often called a “Digital Production Charge.” This basic charge covers everything and usually is billed as a per day charge. This may include:

  • Equipment charges (cost of the equipment)
  • Digital processing charges (tonal corrections, processing sharpening)
  • Delivery (CD’s, DVD’s or FTP uploading)
  • Archiving (preservation of the files in multiple locations for use later)

2) The à la Carte method (or “Would you like fries and Super size?”)

Utilizing this strategy the photographer itemizes all of the charges. This is a charge for every item. As is the case for a restaurant, à la Carte generally costs a great deal more. Charges may include:

  • Digital Capture charge and or Digital production equipment rentals digital cameras, lenses, lighting
  • Digital Processing fee- raw to usable file format with tonal and curves adjustments with rush charges if needed right away
  • Retouching – dust removal, and image retouching
  • Delivery – CD/DVD/FTP
  • Reference prints and proofs
  • Media Charges (memory cards, micro-drives)
  • Presentation – contact sheets and web galleries
  • CMYK or other conversion – file conversion for job specs
  • Insertion of metadata
  • Archiving

More Responsibility for the Photographer

A client should expect to pay more for digital than they were paying for film but they should also expect more from the photographer. In the dark ages when we shot film, the photographer’s job was simply to get it on film. If it looked good on a light table, with rich saturated color it was done. From that point on it was the clients problem and this led to a general “us against them mentality” which is still pervasive throughout the industry. The relationships that photographers maintain with their clients must change. We are in fact symbiotic with our clients. Where in the past, reproduction was simply a client problem; the advent of digital has taken the responsibility for excellent reproduction to the photographer. We need each other.


It is clear that photographers and those who reproduce our work need to work better together. We are partners and as such we need to develop a collaborative relationship rather than an adversarial one. Photographers must be compensated for their added costs and in turn should be providing better quality images for optimum reproduction faster, which aids the client.

The world economy has benefited in the last few decades, which is a direct contrast to the digital photographer supplying content and witnessing a shrinking of fees and an increase in costs. As a freelancer, I exist only by the value of the intellectual property I produce. If I can’t benefit from the value of being a digital photographer I can’t stay in the marketplace to produce more images, which ultimately enrich our culture. Without a profit I minimize my ability to earn a living from my work and at the worst it removes an incentive to create.

Instead of profiting from the intellectual property we produce, we are crippled by our own intellectual property. This is the exact opposite intent of the copyright law, which was designed to give creators and inventors a chance to benefit from the fruits of their labors. If this trend continues, our ability to survive and the incentive to produce the varied intellectual property from which our country benefits will be greatly hindered.

Photographers have a creative inspiration to share with the world. The visions we develop will quickly fade unless we acknowledge that we must be business people as well as creative people. As the marketplace grows, I believe that it is more important than ever to remember that we, as photographers, are operating a business. The essence of our creative drives is being jeopardized by our inability to educate, participate, and negotiate in the global market. Let’s make some change for 2011.

Learning How to Price Your Assignment Work

One of the most confusing areas for photographers is to figure out  what and how to charge. Photographers generally want to be artists and find the entire aspect of business mystifying and generally something they don’t want to deal with. Here is some advice to help simplify the problems.

The first issue to consider is if you want to price by the hour or by usage. While both of these methods are used by photographers, a time based solution is counterproductive for everyone involved. If you ask most clients what they think is the ideal photographer, they will respond that the ideal photographer is the one who can do a do a good job and do it quickly. Rarely do clients actually want a photographer who says they will take a long time to do anything. Yet, if one prices based on time, the person who takes the longest makes the most money. The photographer who is the ideal person for the job who shows up and does a fantastic job in a hurry is paid the least. This is counterproductive to everyone involved. The photographer who does the best job makes the least. The client is also faced with the reality that if the photographer is paid more to go slow, they will inevitably waste time. The second problem with a time based solution is that there is no benefit of doing a really good job. For example if you are told by a client that they want one image for a brochure and you shoot for 5 hours at a set fee you receive no added benefit if the client loves what you do and uses 10 images with one on the cover of the brochure. The only advantage to a price by the hour solution is that it is easy to determine a fee but there is absolutely no reward for quality.

A better solution is to price yourself based on usage. If you are hired to produce one image for a brochure and you end up doing a fantastic job, in less time than predicted, this system rewards the photographer for their efforts. Here is a suggested system to help determine fees for based on usage.

1) Base Rate and Overhead
The very first suggestion is for every photographer to figure out their actual overhead to determine a base fee to start with. To many photographers don’t account or know their own cost of doing business and this is critical. It is safe to assume that someone in Omaha, Nebraska may have a different overhead than someone in NYC. Once the overhead is determined a base fee can be established and usage can be added on to this to determine a final fee. Most photographers are shocked when they actually sit down and figure out their overhead or actual cost of doing business. Here are some of the expenses to analyze when determining cost of doing business.

  • Office Studio Rent
  • Telephone – fax / pager / cell
  • Advertising-Promotion -ads/ printing / mailings / web sites – design + hosting / mailing lists
  • Equipment-computers/ cameras
  • Subscriptions / dues / insurance – business / workers comp / disability
  • Healthcare
  • Professional Services – legal / accounting/ tax prep
  • Utilities
  • Repair
  • Car + Truck Expenses
  • Office Supplies
  • Photography Supplies -non-billable (film tests, expendables)
  • Postage / Shipping
  • Office person / Payroll expense
  • Retirement Account

Once these costs are known you have a base rate which covers your actual fee for doing business and this is a good starting point to use as a base rate.

2) Usage
The second component to understand is how to apply usage. Many photographers fail to get enough information from a client in order to fairly determine usage. Simply knowing that the image will be used in a brochure for example does not provide adequate information. The following information will help a photographer determine a fair usage fee. Those questions include:

  • TYPE OF RIGHTS – Advertising, editorial, advertorial, electronic
  • MEDIA RIGHTS – consumer print, advertorial ,consumer Print, trade, print advertising, annual report, brochure, newsletter, single sheet, billboard, public transit, trade show, book Inside, magazine, electronic, book, AV presentation, website, TV editorial, TV advertising, layout comp
  • LANGUAGE – English, Other
  • GEOGRAPHICAL – US, North America, Europe, Asia, World etc.
  • QUANTITY – 1000, 5000, 25,000 etc.
  • DURATION – one day, one month, one year etc.
  • SIZE – 1/4 page, 1/2 page, cover, etc.

Each of these components help to determine value and thus usage. These fees can be added to a base fee to determine an overall fee which truly accounts for a fee based on usage. This system is fair to both the photographer and the client.

Learning How to Price Your Stock Images

So you want to be a stock photographer…
Stock photography can be very labor intensive and it may take years before it is profitable but it can be a fantastic way of turning your energy and love into cash.

It seems that everyplace I go I am asked questions about becoming a stock photographer. People assume that they have talent and they have been to cool places so there must be a world out there just waiting to buy their images. The truth of the matter, there is a world of folk waiting to license photographs but becoming a stock photographer is anything but easy.

First lets examine what constitutes stock photography. Stock photography is by definition existing photography available to buyers for their specific needs. The photographs become a commodity available through either an individual photographer or through a stock agency. Under most circumstances the images are actually not sold but are leased with a licensing agreement but some images are sold with extended or even unlimited usage.

Rights Protected Vs. Royalty Free

Rights protected images are licensed for a specific period of time and for a specific application, which is negotiated in advance. The reason one would use rights protected imagery is to prevent competitors from using the same image in the same marketplace. Only after the prescribed period has elapsed is the image free to be licensed for another application. Another option is purchasing complete exclusivity for a period of time where the image is licensed to only one client and no one else. In this case, the fee would be considerably higher as the image is taken out of circulation until that license has elapsed.

In contrast, royalty free stock photography gives the image buyer the option to use the image in as many ways as desired while only paying one fee.

Where Is Stock Photography Applicable?

Today stock photography is applicable in every conceivable market, which utilizes photography. It is routinely used in advertising, editorial, brochures, multimedia, catalogs, annual reports, record albums, television commercials, posters, calendars, greeting cards, credit cards, AV shows, and it is widely used on the web. The market for stock photography is expanding at a rapid pace with new uses every day.

How Is Stock Photography Produced?

Stock photographs are produced in two basic ways. Photographers retain rights to the images they produce on assignment for clients and turn those images into stock photography or they actually fund elaborate productions to generate images specifically for stock.

What Are the Basic Benefits of Stock Photography?

WYSIWYG or what you see is what you get. In traditional assignment photography a photographer is hired to illustrate an idea or capture some event. There is a creative fee to pay, which can be in the thousands per day, and there are expenses including: travel, assistants, film & processing, talent, stylists etc. The cost can be downright prohibitive and there are NO GUARANTEES. Stock photography offers the guarantee. The user can see the image without paying for the cost of the whole shoot.

The other big benefit of stock photography is the ability for an end user to see images fast and in some cases immediately. For today’s fast paced society many times there is simply no time to wait for a particular image to be photographed and stock offers that solution.

For the photographer the benefits of stock photography are enormous. Over time many images will generate far more income than did the actual assignment. Many images have a long lifetime and will generate income for years to come. A decent collection can not only double a photographers annual income but can also continue to generate income even after he or she is retired.

What Are the Pitfalls of Stock Photography?

For the client the biggest pitfall to stock photography is that the images may not be exclusive to them and in fact may very well have been published many times before. It is possible to buy stock images with exclusivity but the cost is far greater and may or may not be available for a specific image.

For the photographer there are several issues, which become pitfalls with regard to stock photography. If the photographer sells through an agency it usually takes months after a sale before the photographer gets paid. There is also the basic fact that most agencies take 50% on a stock photography sale and more if the image is sold overseas through a sub agent. There is a great deal of time spent getting images ready for sale including captioning, categorizing, key wording etc. If the photographer produces images specifically for stock there are no guarantees the images will ever be sold and it might take years just to receive enough income to cover your expenses.

What Constitutes a Good Stock Photograph?

Ahh, this is the magic question. The whole idea of shooting stock is to make money; so deciding what and what not to shoot is something that needs to be given serious consideration. If you intend stock photography to be a profit-making venture then you need to think carefully about the type of things you photograph, otherwise you will end up investing a lot of time and money with no return. First consider the type of pictures you take and how commercial they are. It’s almost impossible to look at a selection of stock images and say which ones are going to be best sellers, but you can pretty much guarantee that some subjects will sell . Landscapes and travel are highly popular subjects, but you have to have something really special or different. I always like to say bring back fantastic images from regular places or bring back regular images from a fantastic place. Subjects like science, business, medical, lifestyle and concepts tend to generate much higher fees. There are far fewer photographer shooting such subjects, and access for some of these may be tough, so competition is less. Cost effectiveness should also be given serious consideration if you see stock as a long-term investment. Yes, taking pictures in Antarctica for example may seem idyllic, but if it uses up your capital for the rest of the year you may very well end up idyllic and in the poorhouse.

Trying to judge when an image is a good stock picture is one of the toughest things in the world. I for example have a photograph of a staircase shot on the way to a class I was teaching, which is nothing more than an orange staircase. For some reason this image keeps selling over and over again and I still don’t consider it a fantastic image. On the other hand I have an image of an absolutely gorgeous mixed race boy who was a Gap model and the image is one of my least selling images of all time. My suggestion is to shoot everything, carrying a camera with you at all times. Shoot first and try and license later.

What else Constitutes a Good Stock Photograph?

RELEASES, RELEASES, RELEASES. We live in a litigious society and if you are going to license stock photographs you are going to need to make sure that you have model releases for all identifiable people and property releases for all identifiable property including things like dogs and cats. Having a release will make the images worth more money and in many cases is the decision maker for licensing or not licensing an image.

Where to and How to License

Probably the best way to license stock is through an agent or stock agency. Most operate along similar lines – photographers submit work on a regular basis, it is edited, marketed and distributed. The two largest agencies in the world are Corbis and Getty and both produce slick catalogs and have vast distribution around the world using the web and agents. The agency takes a 50% to 70% from all sales and the photographer gets the rest. The most important thing to bear in mind is that stock photography should be thought of as a long-term investment. I have several thousand images with different agents around the world and now get a nice monthly sum, but it took years to build up this collection.

Many would-be contributors think that all they have to do is send off their latest batch of pictures then sit back and wait for the money. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. Many agencies aren’t even accepting new photographers and the ones that are accepting new photographers are really looking for the crème of the crop. When a new photographer joins an agency it could take many months before their work is even online. After that it can also take one, perhaps two years for the images to start selling. It is vitally important to keep on submitting new work and building the collection because your odds of licensing are directly attributable to the amount of images you have in a collection. ?Ultimately, stock photography is a numbers game – the more pictures you have with the agency, the more sales you will likely make. ? At the top end of the market there are some talented photographers who earn enormous sums of money from just a handful of shots. It’s not uncommon for certain images in a stock catalogue to sell perhaps 100 times over two or three years and gross$ 50,000 or more. Recently one agency licensed one image for $230,000 but for the vast majority of photographers stock photography is not nearly so lucrative. The cost of the equipment is high and there are many, many stock images in the market.

Can You License Yourself?

Yes. I license a great deal of my work through my own website and there are other resources like collectives and co-op’s where photographers can license work. The benefit of licensing yourself is the control and typically the price of the license is higher for an individual in part because there is no split but it is tough to get the distribution and marketing power that an agency has.

Tips to make your images more valuable as stock:

  • Make sure the images are technically good.
    There is no such thing as almost sharp. Stock photographs have to be technically perfect. Take the time to honestly look at your images before trying to place them as stock. If they have flaws they won’t sell.
  • It’s a numbers game
    Assuming you can take sharp, well composed, strong images, the more pictures you have on a site, the more money you will make. Keep working at building the collection.
  • Don’t let rejection stop you
    Just because one site turns down your images does not mean another one will. Don’t take picture rejection personally. Find out why a picture was rejected, learn from the mistakes but understand licensing images is very subjective and one persons rejection is another person’s perfection.
  • Upload to multiple sites
    Unless you are going the exclusive route, find several good sites and upload to all of them. It will dramatically increase your potential sales because it increases your distribution.
  • Use IPTC to add Captions, headlines, keywords, descriptions, and titles to your images
    Information is everything and I can’t stress how important it is to caption your images and use keywords to further describe the images.
  • Keywords are key
    Take the time to do the best job you can keywording your pictures. The keywords are how a potential buyer finds your pictures. The best keyword in the world will not make you a cent if you do not keyword it so the person that might want your picture can find it. It is not fun, but it is worth the effort. When keywording don’t forget about both Subject Keywords like Who, what, when, where, why, but also Concept Keywords like love or happiness. This is critically important for advertising sales.
    Model and property releases are absolutely critical.

For additional information about pricing and digital workflow:

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