Client care: Photography licensing question Locked

Started Mar 7, 2022 | Discussions thread
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OP Steve BB Junior Member • Posts: 42
Re: Client care: Photography licensing question

Michael Fryd wrote:

Steve BB wrote:


Can someone remind me why it is, that we, as photographers, don’t just charge for the job and then let all the parties involved share?

One business model is to estimate the uses that the client will make of the images, and then charge a flat rate fee based on your estimate for an unlimited license (or even a transfer of copyright). If on average, your estimates are correct, you make the same revenue. I know a number of businesses that have been very successful with this model.

It turns out that many large clients love the idea of not having to track licenses. They don't mind paying a little extra in up-front fees, if they no longer need an employee dedicated to tracking usage rights.

Of course, this business model depends on the types of images you are shooting. If they are images with a limited useful lifetime, then it works well. If they are images that you think will have decades of value for many years, you may want to stick with limited licensing.

For instance, I shoot produce photos for a local swimsuit manufacturer. Experience tells me that 90% of the swimsuits won't be sold after a year. Experience tells me that 95% of the images will appear only in catalogs and on e-commerce web sites. I know a few of the images will end up in advertisements, trade show displays, etc. What I don't know is which images fall into what category.

I could individually license the images. I could require add on licensing for the few swimsuits that carry over to next season. I could require additional licensing every time they want to use an image in an ad, or at a trade show. But that would make a lot of extra work for me, and a lot of extra work for the client. It's just easier to figure in the amount of usage I expect as part of my initial fee, and then not worry about it. Everyone is happier, I do less work, and make more profit.

Now, I am taking a risk. It might be that one of these images somehow becomes incredibly valuable. In that case, I would lose out on any additional licensing fees. That's a risk I am willing to take.

For this client, my business model is an upfront fee, and the client does whatever they want with the images.

Not all clients are the same. If I am working as an "in-house" photographer for a large event or awards show, they will want full, and exclusive rights to all the images I take. I get paid well for my time, and they get the images.

This is very helpful. I think for this shoot the images have a very limited shelf span of a few years and they are really only likely to end up on the interior designer's website as a portfolio for them. Unless they somehow become famous, and a house they did ends up being covered by a magazine/blog etc. This could be the case.

I gave them an unlimited license to use to promote their business online, on social media and in print, however they are not allowed to give out the images to other companies/parties to use for their marketing i.e. the carpenter can't use them, or the upholsterer who did the sofa can't use them. That is where I state that they need to deal with me directly to obtain a license for their use on a 'per-image set' or 'per-photo' basis.

I shoot freelance for a well-known company in the UK regularly, and these photos do get used all the time on blogs because the houses are often architecturally significant. But working for them, their contract for their photographers, state that they have unlimited licenses. This is just how it is.

Perhaps soon I will be photographing things 'solo' with a longer shelf span that might have more appeal and be covered by press, in which case I guess things become hazy and this is all new to me.

I know a very good photographer who has amassed an amazing library of photos over a career spanning many decades. Among other niches, he has established relationships with some of the top rock and roll performers and bands. He has published a number of books profiling the various groups. His plan was to retire, and live off the licensing revenue from his library of images.

The reality is that his library generates very little revenue. People just aren't willing to pay for images the way they used to. He still has to work ti make ends meet. When he isn't working, he and his wife spend time searching the web for unauthorized use of his images, and sending cease and desist letters. His library creates work for him, and doesn't bring in the income he hoped it should.

This is a little sobering. I don't imagine half of the images on Getty or Shutterstock generate much passive income for most of the photographers on there.

I used to work in a different creative field, and I found images of mine plastered all over the internet. I spent a lot of time sending takedown DCMA notices, and about 50% of the time they worked. When the server/website isn't based in a country with very stringent copyright laws, then they just ignored me. Annoying, but it made me realise, there is only so much time you can put into these things before the energy spent becomes not a good use of energy.

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