Mom-tographers? Spray and Pray’ers? (P)rofessionals? Guy With A Camera? Fauxtographers? Uncle Bob? iPhoneographers, Glamor Shots by Deb?
Professional photographers love to hate these types of posers so much we’ve made up a whole genre of semi-amusing names to feed our superiority complex as we mock them.
Sure, they are a minor annoyance – like that single mosquito that gets into your bedroom on a summer night and randomly buzzes by your ear all night long, and every time you slap yourself in the head and think you killed it, it comes back just as you’re drifting off to sleep….
But no, the real reason it is so hard to make a sustainable living as a photographer is explained by this recent inquiry I received from a potential client:
Investor Forum – Toronto 2015 is fast approaching and we would like a quote for the following services: • Event Coverage 9:30AM – 5:30PM (8 hours) on the 28th of March at The International Centre • Copy of raw files Thanks!
Can you spot the one key assumption contained in this inquiry that should make you want to just reach into your computer screen, grab the sender and yell NO, NO, NO, NO THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS!
OK, first there is the assumption that I would know what the “Investor Forum – Toronto 2015” is, coupled with the subtle assumption I would be so impressed by the opportunity to be a part of the “Investor Forum – Toronto 2015” I might offer a low rate.
Then there is the assumption that every single photo would be delivered in RAW.
But the one key assumption that is killing the photography industry is the idea that a client would expect to pay for a photographer’s time, but not the right to use the photographer’s photographs.
(Or maybe I should just be happy that they were at least willing to pay for my time?)
I have no idea where this insidious trend of clients expecting to avoid licensing fees started (although I am tempted to rhyme off the aforementioned list of poser stereotypes), but not charging licensing fees is death for any kind of sustainability in the photography industry.
There Are Two Parts to Billing Clients For Commercial Photography
First of all, lets be clear that we’re not talking about wedding photos, or baby photos, seniors, families or anywhere else that your photography is used by your clients for their own personal use.
We are talking about commercial use – ie. you are hired to create photographs that will be used by your client for business purposes.
In most cases commercial photography is billed in two parts:
- Part A – your time, effort and expenses for creating photography.
- Part B – licensing fees for the specific use of individual photographs.
A while back, we published an article titled: “How Much Should Photographers Charge Per Hour”. This is a great place to start if you are still trying to figure out how much to charge for Part A – your time and effort.
But in addition to how much you charge to take the photos, for the love of everything that is holy, if your photography is used commercially – charge a effing licensing fee for every single effing photo your clients publish, print or share!
Now, where this problem exists is mostly at the mid to low end of the commercial photography spectrum.
Art directors, advertising agencies, publishers, professional designers etc. all know that they will be paying to license the photography they choose to use. In fact, if you quote a job for a creative professional that is used to dealing with professional commercial photographers and you don’t include licensing fees, its like holding up a giant neon sign that says “Warning – XX* (* insert your preferred photography poser stereotype term here)”.
To a certain extent, we can excuse Cindy from accounting who’s boss told her to go find a photographer to go down to the plant and authorized a $50 budget.
But even buyers that should know better – like the professional corporate event organizer that sent me this inquiry – are more and more often operating under the assumption that they will be able to use every single photograph that they paid you to take, for whatever use they choose.
Save The Photography Industry – Charge Licensing Fees!
On one hand, the concept of licensing fees can seem like a deal breaker when you’re dealing with an unsophisticated client that is honestly expecting you to deliver 1000’s of photos for $50.
For clients that get hung up on the cost – it is often a much better business practice to cut something out of your service fees rather than forgo licensing fees. In fact, as a stock photographer, I often volunteer my time and effort to create a set of photos – with the understanding that they will be individually licensed by my agency.
On the other hand, it can be difficult to figure out just what to charge for licensing.
Personally, the best approach that I have found is to simply ask clients how many photos they plan on using and what they have budgeted for licensing. Most will tell you straight up and then its a simple procedure of negotiating the number of photos that you will provide and where they will be used to meet your client’s budget.
If you want a bit more of a scientific approach, fotoQuote Pro is a great way to benchmark your licensing fees against industry standards.
At the very least, you can estimate how much it would cost your client to license a similar image from a stock agency and at least charge that.
But the bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter if you charge $1000 for a double-truck international magazine publication, or $1 for a single Facebook status update – the important thing for the photography industry as a whole is that as a commercial photographer you establish that images are individually licensed for a specific use.
Do You Include Licensing Fees?
Have you experienced resistance to licensing fees?
Are you tired of buyers assuming that they will get to use every single photograph taken for whatever they want?
Is this a trend that’s on the rise?
Is it killing profitability?
Leave a message below and share your thoughts!