How to Price Photos for Smaller Budgets

I’ve been having a lot of discussions with fellow photographers lately, debating the best way to approach pricing one’s photography work. There’s no doubt that there are tons of methods for coming up with a price, and there are even carefully calculated formulas if you really want to be accurate. This week’s blog post is inspired by an email I received from a reader about this specific topic on how to price photos.

“I was just asked to sell 1 high res image to a music promoter to use for a poster this week! Also to use for other things promoting his band. It a wash state band not a huge draw outside our area (not like MCCready). I have no idea what to ask price-wise. I was just thinking like $50 , I dont want to under or overprice. Does that sound acceptable? Or would it be acceptable to as him what price he had in mind.
Thanks for any help!” – Patricia

My response to her went a little something like this:

Pricing for photography is always extremely tricky. I’ve written another piece on the topic of pricing your work as a freelancer, and in my research and overall experience, there seem to be at least two main camps: those who will charge full industry-standard pricing to all customers, and those who consider the client’s budget and charge a price that seems fair and reasonable given the circumstances. My pricing philosophy falls in the latter camp.

Compromising for lower budgets

I’d say that since this is a local band, they likely don’t have a large budget for a single image, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask the band if they have a specific budget in mind and work around whatever value they give. The willingness to negotiate and work with any pre-existing budget constraints will make it more likely that they will end up buying and using your photo, which will be great for your personal exposure, and also cement a positive working relationship with the band, making it more likely that they’ll want to work with you in the future.

Bottom line, I’d say $50 is fair if that is what your gut is telling you (I just sold a single image to a local artist for that amount under similar circumstances) but check with the band first to see if they already have a budget set aside and work within those perimeters (which may be higher than you’d expect!). If their budget is lower than what you’d expect, then it’s time to evaluate how badly you value the prospect of working with this band. Maybe even get creative and see if you can bundle several images together to boost the price up. But if you get the sense that the band is just undervaluing your work, then it may be an indicator that you should politely decline and suggest that the band look for a photographer willing to work for free.

Research industry standards for a sense of what to charge

For reference, researching other industry standards doesn’t hurt, just to get a sense of what you could be charging. Looking on these sites and going through their photo licensing procedure (which is free to do) will also show you the vast number of factors that can go into coming up with the price of a photo. I’ve never used Price Wise before, but I do occasionally do search on Getty Images to see what they might charge (see attached screenshot example), keeping in mind that most buyers on Getty have big corporate budgets and are not small local bands.

How to price photos

Industry standard photography pricing is not always realistic for small businesses.

Always get a photo credit

One more tip: regardless of however much you sell the image for, ask the band to please give you a photo credit whenever it is appropriate. Ideally, the photo credit will say something like, “Photo by Patricia Lockeman” and include a URL link to your website if it is used on the web. The photo credit and link will help make sure your name is associated with the work so that you get some sort of publicity out of the deal, and the link back to your website will also boost your site’s search engine rankings so that you can appear higher in Google. The SEO factor of a photo credit to me is a form of payment in itself as you’d likely end up paying someone for higher SEO factors anyway.

How to price photos

A hyperlinked photo credit is extremely valuable in terms of SEO.

Over To You

Do you have any tips or pricing philosophies when it comes to deriving a price or value of your work, particularly with smaller budget clients? Let me know in the comments below!

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By | 2016-12-21T17:57:33+00:00 November 11th, 2015|2 Comments

About the Author:

Suzi Pratt is an event and food photographer based in Seattle. She is also a web designer and blogger who aims to inspire and teach others how to start a photography business. View her at photography portfolio, or her web design portfolio.
  • drdroad

    Photographer for 35 years, fell into the first camp for awhile (get the industry standard), but way different now, including lots of volunteer work for NPS and BLM and State Parks. If I’m shooting something I love, and they can get me access to what I wouldn’t normally be able to get to, then it benefits me before I even get paid.

    • Completely agree! There’s a time and a place to charge big bucks, but as a small business owner myself, I’m also open to compromising when appropriate.

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