How Much Does an Image Cost?
Stock photos are not sold; they are licensed. This means that the photographer retains the ownership of a photo, but grants permission for others to use it, usually for a fee. The following overview of stock photo pricing is provided for authors or publishers who may not have licensed photos before and wonder what to expect with regard to prices, or who would like to compare our price quotes with typical industry rates.
Two Methods of Pricing Stock Photos
Generally speaking, there are two main ways of licensing and pricing stock photography:
- Royalty-Free. This method simply charges by the size of the digital file. Once licensed, royalty-free photos can be used for almost any purpose. So a photo would cost the same whether it is used on a local flyer, the cover of Time magazine, or a major corporate advertisement. Advantages of this method include simplicity and flexibility. But there are disadvantages to Royalty-Free, too: the price doesn't take into account the photo's actual value to the buyer (which may be higher or lower than the rate reflects) and it is impossible to track where the photo has been published. (This can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations for the publisher!)
- Rights-Managed. Rights-managed images are licensed for specific one-time uses, such as a particular book, magazine article, tourism brochure or advertising campaign. Some stock photographers and agencies have standardized calculators for determining rights-managed prices (common among large agencies like Getty Images), while others consider each use on a case-by-case basis (more common among independent photographers).
How We Price Our Photos
All photos on Art History Images are rights-managed and license fees are determined on a case-by-case basis. We think this is the best way of accurately determining the value of an image in a way that is fair to both the buyer and the photographer. Our licensing prices are based primarily on how the photo will be used. The fee may also take into account the uniqueness of the particular image - for example, if it required special access, captured a rare event, or cannot be found elsewhere.
Because we are a relatively small operation with low overhead, our fees are typically a fraction of those asked by other stock agencies. As an example, for editorial print use (like a book or magazine) other than on the front cover, with a moderate print run, our license fees are typically under $100. (You can compare this with other sample rates using the links below.) Fees are lower for web and mobile uses and higher for commercial uses.
Because we license images for specific uses that are described by the buyers, the publishing history for almost any photo is available on request. Exclusive use of a photo is often available as well - just ask if this is something you need.
To determine the license fee for any of our photos, simply click the "Request License Quote" button on any photo page and fill out a form describing how you'll use the photo. We'll respond personally, usually within 24 hours, with a price quote. There is no obligation to license a photo for which you've received a quote.
Further Resources on Photo Pricing
Stock image prices vary widely depending on the market, the photographer, and the perceived value of the images. But to get an idea of some "typical" prices, here are some resources:
- Photographers Direct - Pictures Licensed Recently - Shows exact prices of recently licensed photos, but doesn't indicate usage.
- Photographers Direct - Sell Photos - "The average fee for an image licensed through Photographers Direct is about $200."
- Photographers Index - Stock Photo Price Calculator - A basic rights-managed price calculator based on a survey of mainly North American photographers.
- Getty Images - Sample Rights-Managed Prices - Hit the green "Calculate price" button below the photo. (Incidentally, we have a much nicer version of this photo at a lower price!)
- Getty Images - Sample Royalty-Free Prices - All prices are listed right below the photo.
- Seth Resnick - Stock Photography Pricing Tables - Rate tables for some editorial and commercial uses.
- Photovalet - Prices and Licensing - Rate tables for a variety of uses.
Article by Holly Hayes, founder of Art History Images, March 15, 2010. Last updated February 7, 2012.