The price for IP – in photography

What is the right price for a photograph?

I was recently asked by a local shop owner in Philly for a bunch of my photographs that he could print and sell. These were the numbers he offered – a large 13*19 print would sell for about $160, of which I would get $30. That’s about 18.75%.

At first, I could not believe the numbers. This was MY photograph, MY content. How could I get such a small percentage? Turns out that with the advent of digital photography, almost everybody is suddenly a photographer. It’s become so much more accessible, cheaper and easier. His argument therefore, for the small percentage, was that that’s what others are offering too. When I probed on the fairness of the price, I got the feeling that he agreed that the number was not fair, but that this is what the market rate was, and so “it is what it is”.

I guess it’s hard to quantifiably say “how much of the sale can be attributed to the content” and “how much to the shelf space”. Stock photography websites do the same – the royalty that the photographer gets is peanuts compared to what the website makes on each sale. And the reason I guess they are able to do that is because of the overwhelming supply of amateur photographers.

So, unless you’re a professional photographer with an established brand, it’s really not a great market to be in (unless you’re just doing it on the side, or as a hobby :))


  1. Vikram · December 11, 2011

    Any business is good business, at least in the beginning, no?

    • Sonali · December 11, 2011

      Don’t think so. Depends on your goal. If it’s to make money, then not every business will work. If it’s to do something you enjoy – well then sky’s the limit and who cares about the money? 🙂

  2. Vivek · January 3, 2012

    Hey, have you done Microeconomics 101 yet? Its all supply demand sweetheart.. 🙂

    Just kidding… your pics are lovely.. it would be great to actually have some people frame them. Make sure you put your signature watermark below..

    Reg the % , as I said its supply-demand which has skewed things.
    Did he approach you first? Then you are getting a good deal. If it was the other way, you may have been beaten down even further. Good luck on this.

    • Sonali · January 6, 2012

      Hey – yeah I understand it’s a supply demand thing. He did approach me first, yes. He’s offering what he offers to other photographers so in a way it’s fine, but I do realize now how much a lot of supply can be so detrimental to the “industry”!

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