This is the Blog of Swiss Photographer Nicolas Henri

Your work is valuable!

I have been very busy shooting and organizing shoots for the last few weeks, but within the last 2 days something happened that makes me think and take a break to share with you. I really hope you’ll spread the word about this, because it is important! (Especially to the hobby, semi-pro and aspiring photographers!)

I regularly get requests for free licensing of my images. Most of the time it is from someone, who makes an effort, is involved in an ambitious project, wants to make a dent somewhere, needs imagery to support their cause, but lacks the cash for proper licensing. Usually there is no or little financial benefit involved for the people who approach me. It might be a fresh young band in need of a cover for their self-financed debut album, someone who gets a cool event off the ground and needs an image for their promo or even the editor of a free social magazine in need of a picture.

It has been my experience that these people reward you with a lot of love and get out of their way to pay you back with the means available to them. That kind of involvement of my imagery within other and mostly unexpected contexts makes me feel good and I’m more than happy to help out if I can.

But sometimes you realize that someone shamelessly tries to rip you off! Yesterday I was approached by an employee of a publishing house in Germany. He requested a free license to use one of my images as the cover of a soon to be published book. He offered that I would be mentioned in the imprint, making it seem as if this was a major reward. Trust me folks, I’ve been through this before: Being mentioned somewhere in small print doesn’t generate any kind of traffic, contacts, recognition, leave alone revenue for you! The chance that someone in a position to license, buy, leave alone commission an image, reads the book, likes the cover image AND remembers it when in need of a photo and then goes out to look for the book again and reads your name in the imprint and contacts you is: 0.001%

This is the point in time when you need to become aware of the value of your work! You captured something, you saw it and shot it and you own it. Doesn’t matter if it was an iPhone snap or a fully crewed photo shoot. When someone comes along and wants to use your image you need to realize that you are not on the receiving end. It is you who is in a position to give here! And you need to do it on your terms!

In this case I asked the simple question what the circulation (number of printed books) would be. If this was a small book production from an unknown writer who is just starting out, the circulation shouldn’t be more than 2000 on a first run. Printing books is expensive, so when a publisher plans 10′000 issues or more you know that this is a fully commercial production. At first I got no real answer, after insisting I was told that they generally don’t tell anybody their circulation numbers.

A serious and professional publisher wouldn’t have any problem with this. You wouldn’t even need to ask. They’d come straight at you and inform you that they want to license an image for X purpose with X circulation. They know it’s in their best interest to play this right and have a sound licensing contract.

When you realize that you might not be dealing with professionals you should keep it formal but kind and inform them what your licensing fee for X circulation is. You give them the choice to play professionally or to decline your offer. This is what I did and as expected the excitement for my image faded dramatically and I was told that they’d rather look for another image.

But still, you played it like a pro, no hard feelings and most importantly you didn’t sell out!

If you are an aspiring or semi-pro shooter make sure to spread the word on this! By adhering to common business practices of this industry, you ensure that you can benefit from it once you are a part of it! Your work is valuable!

If you’d like to find out the exact value there’s an easy way: Go to the site of the wonderful people over at They host the stock imagery of numerous photographers and handle their licensing sales. Simply type in a search term, choose one of the images that come up and pretend as if you wanted to buy it. You will be presented with various licensing models, for different purposes and circulations. Choose something closely resembling the request you have received and a price will be displayed. This will give you a good idea of what to ask from your potential client.

Posted by nicolas_henri on August 13th, 2009 :: Filed under Photography, business
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