The following excerpt is from the book ‘EXPOSED – The Business of Photography’ by Deryck van Steenderen, published by Verse Creative.

This is another of those million dollar, frequently asked, how long is a piece of string questions. Many photographers build up their own image libraries and sell individual images instead of charging for a shoot on a ‘Day Rate’ basis. The question being, “How much should I charge for the license for use of my image?”

Remember, photographers do not sell time nor photographs, we sell license for use of our intellectual property, the physical manifestation of which is the photograph. Bearing this in mind it is advisable to never sell individual images but to rather sell the license for use of the images, either on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. Determining the value of the sale of an individual photograph for commercial use is a mine field as clients can buy a royalty free image from a micro stock agency for 1 US$, up to many thousand US$ for a rights managed image. Positioning yourself in this market is based on a number of key points being:

  • The originality of the image – Are there many similar images available or is yours truly unique?
  • Whether you are selling exclusive or non-exclusive license for use of the image.
  • How many times the image has been sold before.
  • What uses has the image been used for before and by who? Advertisers are wary of using the same images bought by their competing brands.

A simple method for determining the starting point of the value of the image is to calculate your total production costs for the creation of the images and divide that by the number of final images for that day resulting in an actual cost per image. The total production cost includes all of the related expenses such as model, location and support crew fees, equipment hire (whether hired from a company or yourself), catering, transport,

For example: 8 final shots created at a total production cost of R43 000,00 R43 000,00 / 8 = R5 375,00 per image.

Based on this you are then able to negotiate the fee per use of the image knowing what the actual production cost of the image is. It is strongly recommended that you only sell the license to use your images on a Rights Managed basis. This means that you sell the license for use of each image with clear terms as to what the image may be used for including the time period, territories and media.

It is common for image libraries like Gallo Images, Getty Images and Corbis Images to charge different rates for different uses. Editorial rates are often determined by the size the image is used as well as the location it is used. A cover image commands a higher fee than an image used as a quarter page in an editorial feature. Using the image for advertising use usually commands the highest fee.

Exclusive use of the image commands a high fee as it negates the possibility of selling the image to another buyer during the time period of the license, whereas non-exclusive use means that the license to use the same image can be sold to many different buyers for varied uses at the same time.

You can determine the value of the image to you by calculating the actual production cost and estimating the number of times the image is likely to sell and for what uses. At best this is a guestimate but with time and experience patterns will emerge that you can use for more accurate calculations in future.

Remember to always specify your Base Usage Rate when supplying Cost Estimates for the license for use of images to ensure that it is recorded up front should extended use be required at a later stage.

Alternatively, in order to determine an accurate market related value, search for images similar to yours on reputable image libraries like or, using their price calculator select the RM (Rights Managed) option, select the applicable uses being the territory (country), time period and media (web/print etc) and determine what they would charge for the use of the image. You can then base the sale of your image on this information, setting your price within this ballpark.

Remember that images with releases (model and property releases) have a higher value than unreleased images as released images can be sold for advertising purposes whilst unreleased images can only really be sold for editorial purposes.

Many stock photographers start out by using their family and friends as models and their properties for locations, in order to secure releases whilst not paying a fortune in model and location fees. Whilst this does save money and help to get you on the road you will quickly discover that working with professional models is often a lot quicker and easier as they understand what the photographer needs and perform accordingly. Models are in essence actors, performing the role required of them to create a scene or mood and often understand how to move and behave to look their best for camera.

Model agencies are quite often reluctant to allow their models to model for photo libraries as they are unable to control how long, and for what uses, the images are used for. This often conflicts with campaigns their models are employed for once they are established. As such model agencies will often put forward their ‘new faces’ in need of experience and portfolio material for photo library shoots.

Remember that for location releases, the owner of the property or their appointed agent needs to sign the release, not the tenant.

For further information please purchase the latest version of ‘EXPOSED – The Business of Photography’ by Deryck van Steenderen, from the stockists listed here.

Available updates:

model working hours  |  child models  |  charging per image supplied

I’ve recently come across a useful online resource titled “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography” by Jo of Hobby Help that covers the basics of photography including the best camera for your needs, making the most of your smartphone camera, DSLR cameras and their settings and capabilities, the artistic and creative side of photography and post-processing.