I recently came across an interesting discussion on the crazy MicrostockgroupForum, where a contributor was approached by a prospective client to license some of her images directly.
She was wondering how she should approach the negotiation and price her work, considering the images are also licensed at Microstock sites (within the prospective client’s knowledge).
Why is this an ideal situation for a contributor?
First the positives. This is an ideal situation since, if the deal goes through, the poster would get to keep all commissions, in contrast to giving away 60-75% royalties to greedy Agencies. She would also have considerable more flexibility in terms of contractual terms such as: pricing and licensing restrictions.
According to the poster, the client found her on a Microstock site and contacted her directly for those 250 images (no idea what kinds of images they are). Seems like a lot of images and could be a scam, but let’s assume it’s a legitimate client.
First and foremost, what is the expected usage of the images?
Since this is a direct license, there’s no issues with licensing as Rights-Managed (pay once per usage). In fact, it may be preferred since the photographer would have more control over the usage of images and once the usage duration expires, it may be renewed after an additional fee. Exclusivity is reserved for this model. A handy Rights-Managed price calculator is available by Getty Images.
However, overwhelmingly, clients prefer the Royalty-Free model (pay once and multiple usages). It’s just more hassle free.
For how much are the images available at Micros?
The fundamental point is that the same images are available on Microstock image banks and the prospective client knows this. This puts a dwarf-house sized ceiling on prices since there’s little wiggle room between Microstock prices and what the photographer can offer. Too high and the prospective client will just go down the Microstock Agency route.
To price her images, she would need to look at the “competitor”, which ironically is herself! Looking at Microstock prices, a client under a basic Shutterstock usage monthly subscription plan can download up to 350 images a month for $125 (basic usage). So, 250 images would, in theory, be worth $90 ($125 minus $35) or 36 cents per image.
The photographer can perhaps ask for a little bit more, perhaps 25% which would bring the price to $112.50 for those 250 images.
So, what’s the alternative?
Doesn’t matter where you’re based, licensing 250 images directly to a client for $112.50 is not only a bad business practice but bad for the industry, as it devalues the hard work of photographers. Depending on the type of image and usage, that many images should be licensed for AT LEAST $1,000.
So what’s the alternative? Well, supposing those images were not already at Micros and instead at one of the bigger Midstock agencies (at the very least Alamy), the photographer would be able to negotiate a much higher price close to the price offered at those Agencies (of course depending on usage and other times). RM would also be a real possibility, should the alternatives within the Agencies only be RM.
You have a choice of where to upload your best images and please please please don’t put premium images on Microstock, as it’s just another way to devalue those images indefinitely.
This is related to the general theme of Microstock being increasingly an unsustainable business – see previous post on this topic.
Many clients are smart and may be able to locate your images, if displayed in a portfolio, at Microstock image banks with a simple Google Reverse tool.
Drafting the contract
Lastly, supposing you strike a deal, going at it alone means that you’re responsible to legally protect your copyright and sure you’re compensated as per the agreement. This means drafting a licensing contract.
For more information on getting yourself a template to draft your own licensing contract, see this link.
The lesson for the day is:
Take pride in your work!