[Editor's Note: This is part three in a series of articles about photography pricing]
These days, everyone wants the buyout.
It seems that almost every time I price an assignment lately, the client comes back with this kind of statement: “We want to own the images, so give us a price that includes a buyout option.”
My advice on the buyout? Don’t do it.
Photography’s industry model is based on the exposure value of the images that you create. You’re not just creating images for a client, you’re creating images for a specific set of uses. Take those usage factors out of the equation and you’ve just lost yourself a great deal of potential income.
The reality is that when clients ask for a “buyout,” they’re usually just being lazy. Unless they REALLY want unlimited, exclusive rights to an image, and are willing to pay big bucks for it, there’s no need to go there. And by big bucks, I mean many thousands of dollars. One of my stock agencies recently licensed an image for $80,000, likely to a very big company that wanted branding-quality exclusivity for that image.
The norm for this kind of use is to charge about 5x the highest possible use. FotoQuote and most stock agency price calculators are returning amounts of $10K-15K for one year, unlimited use packs per image, and well over $20K for multiple years.
Most clients don’t need this kind of deal, so when you’re trying to price your images, it’s best to try and gather as much information as possible about the job and potential uses and go from there. Even though the client might see it as a headache to price each use, especially if it involves multiple years, you can assure them that, in the long run, this method will end up being much more economical.
Using the example I wrote about in part two, let’s say the client wanted two years of web banners and 12 monthly insertions in two national magazines. I might charge $15,000 for a two year unlimited print and advertising web pack, but pricing out 24 magazine insertions with 500K circulation plus two years of prominent website placement might only come to $11K-12K.
Even those major uses still equal less than a two year All-Advertising pack. With negotiation and discounts, it can go down even more. Plus, when a client holds the line, saying they’re not sure how they’ll use the images in the future, that’s when the multiple use packs might make the most sense.
Unless it’s truly called for, the buyout is the easy way out for the client, and it usually ends up leaving you on the short end of the deal. If we all hold firm and try to use quote packs instead of the dreaded “B-word,”, maybe we can reduce its flagrant and frivolous overuse.
Senior contributor Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
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