Karen said she needed to call me with some exciting news, but what she told me broke my heart.
She had an exciting opportunity — a request from a national TV publication to use her photo — and she planned to give her photo away. Karen decided that her photo wasn't worth any money because of her lack of experience and because she shot it with an entry level camera.
I know the feeling because I have thought that myself. This photo can't be worth much because I didn't really work that hard to get it. I don't deserve payment. Fill in your own reasons.
If you have ever nursed one of these seeming innocent untruths, I have three messages for you.
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The value of your image has nothing to do with the length of time you have been a photographer.
Ever walk into a gallery and see a great photo? There's usually a card under it with relevant info. What's there? You will find the photographer's name, the title of the piece, and the price.
There is nothing there about how long you have been a photographer. Why? It's not relevant to the buyer.
The value of your image has nothing to do with your skill level as a photographer.
Magazines and news organization charge their clients advertising based on an established rate. Nothing on that rate sheet identifies the skill level of the photographer. The performance of the photograph is what will matter.
The value of your image has nothing to do with the camera you use.
When Time magazine wanted to cover the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in New York City and New Jersey, they outfitted their reporters with iPhones.
Did that hamper them? Not at all. In fact, one photo was good enough to make the cover.
What does the value of your image have to do with then? There are two types of value I would place on your image.
Because you created it, you can assign your own intrinsic value.
In his Chase Jarvis Live interview, Sir Mix A Lot noted that we have a generation who has been taught not to pay for music and a generation of musicians who have been taught not to be paid for their music. As a result, we now have a generation that has grown up believing that music has no value.
You can say the same thing for photography. Pictures have become so plentiful, we are being taught that they have no value.
It's up to us to assert that our images have value, if only because we created them.
The late Prince is your example. If he wasn't selling his music, he kept it for himself. You couldn't find Prince on YouTube or Spotify. He placed an intrinsic value on his music that wouldn't allow him to give it away.
The market will tell you the monetary value based on a variety of factors.
Exclusivity? That has its value.
Supply and demand? You bet that factors in.
What is the value to the recipient? That's a key metric.
How is it being used? What's the value to the recipient?
There are other values other than money, but it doesn't mean you have to devalue your photography
Exposure can be quantified. For instance, a byline is good, but including a link is better. How many people will see your image? Is there an equivalent ad rate? Are the people seeing it the ones who you care about?
Exposure has value, but you can quantify it to make sure you are on the right end of the deal.
Relationships have a value that can be leveraged appropriately.
When someone asks you for your image, evaluate that relationship. Generally, friends who value your talent generally won't feel entitled to your work.
Here's an easy test. Would you lend them your car or something else you value? If you aren't close enough to lend them something you value, why would you give them something your images, something else you value?
Are you volunteering for a cause you feel strongly about? Give them the gift of your images and an invoice showing the value of your gift.
There are so many ways to decide how to value your images, but none of them have anything to do with how long you have been a photographer, your skill level, or the type of camera you use.