Be Prepared

The Las Vegas Welcome Sign at Sunset
Christmas Night in Las Vegas - © Copyright 2011 by William Beem

On Being Prepared

A week or so ago, a gentleman contacted me by e-mail regarding this photo. He found it on my SmugMug page and inquired about a digital license to use this as a banner on a Las Vegas web page. Honestly, I was mostly unprepared to discuss the terms. I'm not sure if it would have worked out or not, but I probably blew the opportunity for a sale by not really understanding the value of a photograph – both in my own terms and for those of a potential licensee.

As I'm not in the photography business, the idea of losing a sale isn't really that big of a deal to me. My income derives from my job, but I don't want to shoot down any opportunities for additional revenue streams. My disappointment comes from not being prepared to discuss the inquiry, though. At least, not well enough for this case. Having grown up as a Boy Scout, that motto of “Be Prepared” is something that I learned and it's served me well over the years. When I find that I'm not prepared, I'm rather embarrassed about it.

Value of a Photo

So, how do I determine what this photo is worth? What is a reasonable price to charge? Damn if I know. I want as much as I can get and a buyer wants to pay as little as necessary. Price the image too high and the buyer will just move elsewhere. The first thing that came to my mind was to understand how the image would be used, where, and for how long.

As mentioned, this case was for a background on a Las Vegas web site, and the potential buyer preferred to license the image in perpetuity. Those responses brought more questions from me, which I didn't ever really get answered. I wanted to know the specific URL of the site in order to check it out. What size copy of the image did he need? I wanted to know if the image would be used for any other purpose (e.g., sold on prints, keychains, coffee mugs or anything else). Did he need exclusive rights to this image, or was it OK to license it to others who may inquire? I also mentioned that I wasn't particularly interested in licensing the image in perpetuity, but would license it annually.

The result of all my questions was that the potential buyer's interest waned. I suspect he was trying to do the right thing by contacting the copyright owner (which I truly appreciate), but wasn't planning on answering 20 questions to get a background shot for a web page. He may have been better served by going to micro-stock site for quick, easy and inexpensive results.  However, you run into the issue of getting the same results as anyone else.

Negotiating Stock Photo Sales

I'm still left with questions, though. Would my price vary depending upon which web site contacted me? For example, would I charge more if I was contacted by NBC instead of Bob's Vegas Bargains, merely because the former would have more traffic?  Maybe so.

What I've learned is that I'm not prepared to license stock photos. I've already decided that I don't want to deal with iStockPhoto or Getty (even if they were interested in my images) because of the poor percentage of payments they provide to photographers. On the other hand, I've done nothing to market my photos of prepare for the possibility of selling stock on my own.

Just when you think it's great to understand composition, exposure triangle, depth of field and all that other crap that goes into making an image, you find out there's a whole world of ignorance waiting for you to conquer to get rid of an image.

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