How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography

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One of the questions that a lot of photographers ask, is how much I should charge for my images? It is very hard to do, and hence a lot of artists struggle with it. There is so much more involved, and many don’t quite understand. So, how do you go about pricing your photography?

How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography

Flinders Street Station, this image took me about 3 years to get and I spent hours processing it. Hence it would have a high price on it.

Learn from the masters

There is a great story about Pablo Picasso, the famous artist. It goes like this.

Picasso was sitting in a Paris Café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin – but not before asking a rather significant amount of money. The admirer was shocked and asked, “How can you ask for so much? It only took you a minute to draw this.” Picasso replied, “No, it took me 40 years.”

Whether this story is true or not is hard to know for sure, but it has a very good point. Most people do not consider the experience of the artist. Along with that are many other factors, like your education, the cost of equipment, and not to mention the time you spend creating the photo.

How much to charge, as you are going to see, is a complicated question and does depend on many of those factors. They are often things that people don’t really think about. Many photographers just pluck a price out of thin air and go with it. If I’m telling the truth, I have to say I was the same. I would constantly give different prices for my images.

Now I have a system in place and it is all based on the following.

How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography - yellow flowers

I do macro for fun, so this was shot in my garden one morning and processed quickly. The price wouldn’t be high for this image.

Education

You have to take into consideration any education you have done to learn or improve your photography. It doesn’t have to be formal education, like a university degree, but if you have paid money for it, then you need to consider the cost.

Something like a Bachelor of Fine Arts will cost you thousands of dollars. You will never recover your money if you are only charging people $20 an image, for instance. How many will you have to sell to pay off the degree at that price?

What about other short courses you may have done? Ones that are just a few weeks long, or those that are done online. You need to think about how much they cost and the time you spend doing the classes and learning to do all those new skills. There are so many online courses, from learning how to use your camera, to how to edit your photos.

dock with blurry clouds - How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography

While I enjoy this kind of photography, it isn’t part of my main body of work. Therefore, it would never be editioned as it isn’t worth as much.

Gear

If you are anything like me, you have spent a great deal of money on your photography gear. Though you also need to think about what you have bought in the past and what you have now. For instance, how many cameras have you had? How many lenses have you had over time?

Consider all your accessories as well. Think about your camera bags, tripods, filters, memory cards, camera straps, etc. These are often forgotten, but they all add up and should be considered when pricing your photography work.

purple flower - How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography

This was taken with a good macro lens and an expensive camera so those factors should be taken into consideration when pricing the image.

Time

Every time you go out to take photos, how much time do you spend in the field? Don’t think just about the length of time it takes to take a photo. You need to think about how far you traveled to get there and back. Did you have to drive around quite a bit?

When I go out shooting I can be gone all day. I might leave early in the morning and not get back until late that night. During that time, I may have traveled over 250 miles or 400 km, and used a tank of fuel. Not to mention having to buy two to three meals. It all adds up and if you are selling your images you need to consider these things as well.

Then what happens when you get home? The images are put onto your computer and then processed. It is going to be different for everyone, but you will likely spend anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours on each image. All this time should be considered when you are pricing your photography.

You should be giving yourself an hourly rate so you can add that up at the end to add to the price. While you may have gotten several images to sell in that one trip, you can divide it up and spread it out over the series.

How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography - dark moody image

This image is a combination of two and I spent many, many hours on it. I would ask for a high price for this one.

Editions

If you plan on selling your work as limited editions, then it will be worth more as you can only sell so many. When you do a limited run of an image they must all be identical and numbered, according to where in the edition they are, for example, 1/10, or 4/10, etc.

An edition is where you decide how many of that image you will sell. The number is up to you, 10, 20 or 100, maybe more if you think the image will be in high demand. However, the more there are in the edition the lower the value will be.

You have to be very organized to edition work and keep very good records. Once the edition is sold, you cannot sell anymore. There is some debate as to whether you can rework the image so that it looks different, but that is perhaps for another article.

dark image of a city skyline - How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography -

This image would be part of my body of work and would definitely be put into an edition, perhaps with a limited run of 10.

Printing

Most know that you have to include the cost of printing. If you are selling the image you need to make sure the print is a good quality. Printing it yourself with a cheap printer and ink is never a good idea. Most of those will fade with time and you will be selling someone a print that won’t last a lifetime or more.

Make sure that wherever you get the work printed that it is archival. There is nothing worse than buying a piece of art from someone and then in 10 years it is gone because it was printed badly.

When you are preparing your work for sale, make sure you get the cost of a professional printing job and include that in the price.

- How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography - lighthouse at night

An image that was done for fun. It would still be printed well, but the price would be lower than others.

Working for free

This may seem like a good idea, it gets your foot in the door, but the reality is that it rarely works. Once people know they can get images from you for free then they will continue to expect that. When you stop, they will just go to the next person. You should always charge for your images and your work.

You should also not sell your images for next to nothing. Think about how you are harming the industry by doing so. If it were any other industry and people were selling their services or products for much less than others it would be considered wrong, or cheap would mean not good. You need to consider every aspect when pricing your photography

sunset lighthouse - - How Much is an Image Worth? Tips for Pricing Your Photography -

This is a bit of a throwaway image, taken during a time-lapse with a few hundred others. Still, it would never be given away for free.

Next time

So when someone asks you how much is your image worth, think about all the things that have been mentioned here. Of course, you are not going to charge thousands, but you want to get some of what you have spent back. Each time you sell one photo you have to work out how you can start to recoup the costs you have outlaid for your photography.

Please share your thoughts, if you have anything to add, on pricing your photography tips in the comments section below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Leanne Cole graduated from the VCA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Melbourne, Australia. She has since been working as a practicing artist and teaching people how to be Fine Art Photographers. She also teaches long exposure photography and runs workshops around Melbourne. Click here to download her 10 tips for Long Exposure Photography in the City. You can find her on her website.

  • Richard Doktor

    If those are the original images … could it be, that your monitor is set way to bright?
    I find that all the images are much to dark. Or is this your “style”?

  • My style is dark, I like dark images, my monitor is actually set on the dark side, otherwise they would be much darker.

  • Vijay Varma

    Hi Leanne,
    I found your write-up very useful. Thanks for sharing.
    An impiimpor factor in pricing is – market situation. i.e., how many buyers are there for photo you wish to sell? How rare is photo? And, such.
    Will appreciate your views.
    Cheers!
    VJ

  • You’re welcome Vijay, though I think the market factor is determined by where you are in your career. Thank you, all good points.

  • Jim

    I recently completed my first plein air event. It was for painters as well as photographers. I entered three images in the competition. Those had to include a price. I went to a good print lab and talked to the woman who ran that. She knew I had no clue what to price them at but she suggested 2-3 times my processing fees. So, my images that cost $65 to print and frame, I priced at $175. It was weird for me to put a price on my work…but it was really cool too. I won’t know if anything sells until after the awards night. Fingers crossed!

  • G. Allan Carver

    I found the article very interesting and informative. Being a self-employed person I agree 100% with what was written. I am just getting started selling my photos. At present I use a cost per print based partly on size since that is familiar to most people who do business with a commercial processor. But as you mentioned, there are many other factors to make the price realistic to cover cost and turn a profit. I might add that one cannot expect to recoup all expenses of an outing from just one exposure. If the other photos are any good they will likely sell in time. Patience is essential in any business just as much as is the drive to be successful.

  • PA

    An interesting article, but you can’t have it both ways. Because if I think of these things, then I AM charging thousands. Some interesting points … charging less for the ones you enjoyed doing? Also, no mention of comparing prices to the competition or figuring what the market will bear. It would have been helpful to have some concrete examples with pricing. So you charge more for this one than that one … how much more?

  • Cindy

    I’ve always read that you charge so much per square inch of the printed artwork. So if you print it off at 16×20 and you are charging $1/sq in. then the price would be $320. You have to decide for each work how much per square inch you are charging. Beginners are usually going to charge less and masters charge more.

  • There are many ways of looking at it, but that’s not one I’ve heard of before Cindy. You can do that if you want to. I consider a lot of things when working out what I should charge.

  • Everyone keeps talking about the market, I’m talking about art, that is different. Otherwise how do you get some photographers that are charging, say $5000 an image, while others are charging $20. You can’t have concrete answers for what to charge. I don’t know what you level of experience is, what your history is, or even what your work is like. That is the problem. Look for artists or photographers who do similar, are the same place in their career and see what they charge.

  • Then again, would I want a “shopper” buying my work. do I want my images to be considered the same as the framed prints you can buy for peanuts in Kmart? Market prices like my work is ordinary is not of any interest to me. I want people to buy what I have because they value it and think I am worth collecting. In the world of art you can charge what you like, doesn’t mean people will pay it, but that is what you do. That is why some photographers in galleries will charge thousands of dollars for their images.

  • No you won’t recoup it all, but would be nice to recoup some. I will probably never recoup the thousands of dollars I’ve spent, but it would be nice to get more than a pittance back. Thank you.

  • Market is not something I care about. If we all did what the market was doing then everyone would be paying $20 for images. There is so much more to it than that. Those people who sell their images so cheaply ruin it for everyone. They turn the art of photography into a commody thing and now the market expects they should get what they won’t for next to nothing.

  • PA

    I was referring to your pricing of your work, something to just help clear the fog a little. Naturally it would be pointless to ask for a concrete example of how much I should charge for my work.

  • My most expense print is around $800, that is just the print and not framing. It is a large one, but if you go to my website you can see all the prices I have. I charge according to my fine arts degree, my experience with photography, and how long it takes me to create them.

  • Kyle Wagner

    The problem with that line of thinking is, people why buy art for collectivity buy well known artists. People don’t find photos collectible just because you deem yourself worthy.

  • But collectors will if they think you will become collectible. It is all about gambling. You watch an artist and see how serious they are. If you think they are worth it, then you buy. Hope that the work will become a lot more valuable. Someone has to have started buying those who are now famous. They weren’t when they started, but people gambled that they were worth it.

  • Morgan Fagg

    As a young journalist I was asked to take a lot of photographs for my paper. I wasnt paid for my photography or time though the paper did sell my prints for €15 to the public. While a photograph might take a fraction of a second to take, those fractions add up and so do the hours spent waiting for right moment.

  • Newspapers can be the worse. I used to get asked for photos from them, when I was photographing sport. They wanted them for free. I said no. YOu are so right, it might only take a fraction of a second to take, but there is so much more time that goes into it. I hope you stopped taking photos for them until they paid you more.

  • Morgan Fagg

    Thanks Leanne, I had to leave the paper because of the working conditions and expectations which was a tragedy as I really enjoyed the work. I was replaced by a journalist and they hired the editor´s sister to do the weekend work that I was expected to do for free, for ten months.

  • I wish I could say I was shocked, but I suspect newspapers are doing that sort of thing more and more, sadly. I hope you went onto a much better job.

  • Ok, “you are not going to charge thousands” but also, we are not doing it for free. That’s a big range there.
    It would have been nice to have a more narrow range. some guidelines?

    Also, on not doing work for free, I wonder if you got paid to write this article or if you did it for free? Mostly I charge for my work, but I do a lot of free stuff as well.

  • It is hard to give a narrow range. I might charge a $1000 for a photo of a certain size, but I have 25 years experience behind me, a fine arts degree and some exhibition experience. If someone had only been taking photos for a couple of years, no degree, no experience, then they wouldn’t charge that much.

    I did get paid to write this article. I do some things for free, but only if it will benefit me in other ways. I don’t allow people to take advantage of me.

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