2014 Photographer’s Market Preview: Negotiating Fees and Rights

Photography Pricing

photography pricing negotiationsWe don’t get our way on everything in negotiations, obviously, but do you get what you need to maintain a prosperous photography business? If you feel you’re coming up short or even if you just need to brush up your negotiating tactics, “Negotiating Fees and Rights” from the 2014 Photographer’s Market will help you develop these important skills. Managing photographer Ric Deliantoni will walk you through the different types of fees and rights, steps for determining your photography pricing, and tactics for successful negotiations. You can read an excerpt from the article below, or read the complete article in the 2014 Photographer’s Market or on ArtistsMarketOnline.com.

Keep creating and good luck!


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Negotiating Fees and Rights by Ric Deliantoni

Negotiating fees and rights for your photography is key to getting jobs and retaining clients. Increasingly, buyers and clients are looking for more usage options in a broad range of applications for print, the Web and a growing number of mobile devices. This applies to assignment or contract work as well as stock photography, and may include one contract for print and another for electronic usage. The minefield gets more difficult to navigate each day, so keeping up with this aspect of your business takes more time and effort. Taking the time and doing the research is necessary if you want to stay viable.

Successful negotiation is not possible unless both you and your clients clearly understand what is actually being bought and sold. As the creator of your work, you own the copyright. Many buyers may not grasp this concept, so educating them is a key aspect in the negotiation process. Clear, concise licenses in writing, outlining what you are selling, and the terms you agree upon, are a benefit to both sides in the process.

While fees and rights are often talked about together, they should be considered separate items in the negotiating process. One part is the present, and the other is the future. The fee you charge in the present to make the image is for the production part of a job, which includes time, materials, overhead, and the profit due to you for your experience and talent in creating the image. The rights fee is what you charge for the future use of your image, or the profit you make over the life of the image based on how a client will use it. It may also include the money you can make selling that image as stock photography once the license has expired for the original usage.

Photography or Creative Fees

Your day rate or fee for the work is something you need to set before you enter into any negotiations, and it should take into consideration several factors. Most professionals refer to this as the creative fee. Many photographers may have different fees or rates based on the client or the job, taking into consideration what they’re shooting and what the production of the work costs. Higher rates should be negotiated for your specialized expertise and knowledge, for unique looks and techniques you have developed, and extra equipment that a specific job may require. After all, we are in this business to make money, so your overhead or your out-of-pocket costs need to be assessed before you add in the margin you want to make on any given job or sale. The key is to come up with your bottom-line fee, your costs of doing business, plus the percent of profit or margin you can live with, and stick to it.

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Rights or Usage Fees

Rights fees to the work you own are another key element in the negotiating process, and how you assess these fees should take into account several factors. This charge can also be called a usage fee, which is a more accurate way to describe it. These fees can range from a one-time limited use included in the creative fee to a full buyout. The fee should increase as the usage does.

Usage terminology is fairly self-explanatory and basic, but a usage contract is rarely that simple in today’s world. Most likely you will grant one term of usage for printed material and another for the Web or electronic usage. Some basic rules to follow when considering these fees are based on a percentage of the creative fee and what you can negotiate.

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The Negotiation Process

Being flexible is important in negotiations, but you must apply clear limits and stick to the success of your business. When you’re just starting out and trying to grow your client list, the temptation to make concessions to get the job may be strong. It is OK to bend a little—just don’t take this to the break-even point. You must consider the photography industry as a whole: Undercutting your competition can build animosity in the community, and it encourages people to think of photography as a commodity diminishing in value. You will also set a bad precedent with that client. Don’t give in and be perceived as weak. Be strong and gain respect.

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Resources, Forms and Templates

Once you’ve closed the deal, getting it in writing is the final piece of the process (other than getting paid!). The agreement becomes a contract and license between you and the client and will require proper legal forms.

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Networking in your region or market, attending workshops, or taking classes in marketing and negotiation will help you gain the experience and tools you need to become a successful negotiator and a more successful photographer.


Ric Deliantoni is a professional photographer and director with thirty years of experience, with a focus on still-life and lifestyle imagery for advertising, design and publishing. He has developed a unique style that has been described as impressionistic and bold. Ric has also spent much of his career teaching and mentoring students of all levels to better themselves as artists.


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