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Question on Licensing for Web use

Jean Henderson

New member
I have just been contacted by a local funeral home who is in the process of redoing its web site -- and they want my local color images to be used throughout and including as light backgrounds on individual obituaries. They contacted me based on the window display I have in an empty storefront on Main St. (They do have a pre-existing relationship with me since they were the funeral home we used for my son, but they did not realize this when they first placed the call to me yesterday.)

I meet with them on March 8th with a full selection of images, but I have absolutely no clue how much to charge. I neither want to over price the licensing or under cut myself.

They hope to have the new website up in two weeks; are working with a web developer; so who knows when it will actually "go live". We also discussed the possibility of my contributing additional images (from the surrounding communities they serve) over time since I do not have any of those right now.

Additional problem: I have been considering becoming a bona fide business very soon, but still am technically a hobbyist.

Your guidance will be most welcomed despite my relative absence from the forum over the past year.

Jean
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Robert,

Thank you so very much. I didn't know where to start in looking for a guide online. This looks very reliable. The one in the sticky seemed very old as these things go. I will read this guide thoroughly and come up with something.

Warm regards,
Jean
 

Robert Watcher

Well-known member
Robert,

Thank you so very much. I didn't know where to start in looking for a guide online. This looks very reliable. The one in the sticky seemed very old as these things go. I will read this guide thoroughly and come up with something.

Warm regards,
Jean
Commercial pricing methods have not changed considerably in some time actually.
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Hi Robert,

I met with my local client today and things went reasonably well. One thing caught me completely off guard, though: they are not looking at this website redesign as a marketing effort so I was unable to use the guideline you referred me to earlier for pricing according to marketing campaign. Though I really fail to see how a website redesign is not marketing, I went along with them. (Was I being duped?)

The place is a funeral home and they told me that, in addition to licensing the website photos, they wanted their interior "virtual tour" redone. For that they want to own the copyright to the photos. We are only talking about 5 photos total that they want to do this with. I was mentally aghast at first and told them that everything I have learned advises photographers NEVER to sell the copyright to their images. He insisted. In this case though, I fail to see how I can lose. I mean, how is a funeral home going to make any money from the sale of these images? Yes, they will be bringing in funeral services. Since this would all be done as a separate expense, wouldn't I charge higher for the copyright? What would be reasonable in this case?

Gee, talk about learning by the seat of your pants!

Jean
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I would give them a price that would be worthwhile to you. At this stage, you have little to lose. Just look at your total time to accomplish this work and deliver all they want and need. What amount would be the minimum that would leave you very satisfied and, with more such jobs, generate the money you wish for for your time and effort?

That's what you ask for or multiply it by some factor like 1.2, 1.5 or even x3 to give you a level of certainty that you are using your time and talents well.

Asher
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Asher,

Thanks so much for your quick reply. I am hoping that the website portion of this assignment results in something worth posting to OPF as well!

Jean
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
The main thing about pricing is that it should reflect the quality and effort of your work.

Asher
 

Robert Watcher

Well-known member
When I am contacted about commercial work, my personal pricing is based on what may be called 'what the traffic will bear'. I want the most money per job that I can get and I never want to give up ownership rights to my images. That said - and while I know my own worth as a professional photographer (only through experience and trial and error as noone can tell you that) ---- I am willing to work with companies and fit within their 'fair' budgets if it will benefit 'me' in some way. And while I never give up ownership of my images and the right to use them to promote my business and attract new clients (without that ability, I have no desire whatsoever to compromise my pricing or rights use) - I will work out an agreeable solution so that they can have the usage they need. If you deal with companies in a professional manner with a sense of confidence in your abilities and business accumen - most will recognize and respect your working out a solution for them when it comes to a balance of fees and rights. As for fees, in most of my situations I have put it back on the company to tell me what their budget is for the photography for their promotion. This makes it so that I am not giving too high or too low a figure. They should have some sense of what they are willing to spend and then I can accept or reject right out of the gate - or choose to carry on negotiations if I see some benefit to taking on the job. If they have no idea what figure is appropriate then all I can do is educate them about professional photography process in commercial photography - and be satisfied with that.
 

Robert Watcher

Well-known member
You see, there is some learning that only experience can help with. An example was when I was contacted at my studio in 1992, by a smaller sized local manufacturing company who was extending their market internationally. I was very happy to provide the colour images for their 3 full glossy one page brochures - one large front page image and 3 or 4 small detail images for the back of the page.

I knew that I would have good samples for my portfolio to help with getting future clients and as well hoped that this local company may be happy and provide future work to me. And so I agreed on their budget price of $750 - even though that was far below the few thousand dollars that I really needed.

Well low and behold, when I get to the shoot - the company had hired a big city company to design the three pages for them and after talking with the fellow who was there to make sure the right photos were taken to fit into their layout ----- told me that the fee for their layout was $5,000. The reality hit me. Layout is important but my photography is at least just as important and valuable if not more.

Thus the school of hard knocks. I had my portfolio pieces, never got further work from them because the next time they contacted me my prices were adjusted, and they even tried to negate my written agreement of use of the images for one year and only for those brochures - by 5 years later demanding that I give them all of the negatives so they can use them in their advertising - because they had 'paid for them'. I gave them a fair price for the new usage of the files, which they refused. Thank goodness I didn't do the job for nothing as many photographers are inclined to do.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Robert,

Everything you have said supports a healthy business model for a professional photographer. However, at times there might be a "work for hire" opportunity where one is not interested in the vague future returns, but rather cash on the table right now. Here, if one does take this step, for sure, it's almost impossible to reverse that position for that client.

@ Jean,

If one is drawn to sell the total rights to a set of pictures, then it MUST be worth one's time and effort. Unless it is secret, future ability to secure commercial work and retain rights can be compromised.

So one has to balance one's joy, (at being so sought after), with the stark reality that once they brand someone as a "work for hire" person, it's going to be tough to walk back from this position.

Still if the money is there in abundance, check it out! It all depends on the kind of business one is building.

Asher
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Thanks Robert and Asher for your replies.

@ Robert

In my gut last night, as I reviewed the earlier exchange, I did some more research and came across the "work for hire" usage. This is DEFINITELY how I do NOT want to be seen. (I am your basic fine art photographer doing work for myself; then, if others like the results in an exhibition or local art show, they may purchase my prints.)

I had already been toying with the idea of moving from a hobbyist who is attempting to operate as a business, to taking the leap and officially become a part time business. Before this opportunity came along, I was deep into research of the basic elements of operating a business without any concern for art. Part of my research over the last 4 years has included much time spending studying marketing in general and art marketing in particular through many available online resources. (I am delighted to say that I just ordered Alain Briot's 2 fine art marketing books a few days ago!)

Last night, I discerned that these guys were ready to take me at my lowest bid based on my business inexperience. I had asked them what their marketing campaign budget was since the rule of thumb is to charge accordingly. The main guy refused to see the website as marketing. I asked what length of time they wanted to license the images for and was told "Forever." In point of fact, they want, in addition to the local images I have already created, additional local color from the surrounding communities for the main website's page slide show. They want some of my existing flower images to use behind the online obituaries and those remain online in perpetuity. Right there, I sensed a seeking to take advantage.

Then I was asked about doing the additional landscapes from towns in the region and, not having figure any kind of day rate established in advance, made a ridiculously low verbal quote (under $100). As I continued to research this morning. I kept running into the idea that the photographer needs to educate the client.

Long story short, I composed a modest Letter of Intention that outlined the different requests they had made, the specific number of shots they want the copyright to (and went on to describe exclusive rights and how it would less expensive for them) which amount to 5 definites and 1 optional as they had described them to me in the tour of the building we took.

The main partner had taken shots that are currently on the new site and they SCREAMED amateur. They also had absolutely no humans in them and came across very sterile and cold instead of the warm friendly atmosphere they really want to portray. I suggested that the conference room include that partner along with an unidentifiable model as customer. The other partner wanted the wall with all the framed certificates on it in the shot but they were both "thinking the shot".

I went on to list the surrounding towns and the shots that would most be identifiable as the particular community for viewers. The list includes 10 towns. I pointed out in the Letter of Intention that this would require a day's worth of travel and digital capture and stated my day rate as being a modest $500. But, as you experienced with your 1992 shoot, I KNOW they are spending thousands on the website development, using a Boston based company and a separate vendor as liason.

I added in a modest fee to license the already created images that was quoted to me by a friend and local photographer. But that $300 was supposed to have a licensing limit which the client claims can't be done (as described above). In our meeting, they expressed neither surprise nor concern. As our area is seriously economically depressed, I added in only a $20 per image post processing fee based on a national photographic organization's suggested range. An additional licensing fee must also be under discussion.

The main partner had also promised to give me credit on the website so I asked how he envisioned carrying that out since watermarked photos will distract from the image. Of course, I could prepare the watermark very faintly screened but, to me, that would defeat the purpose of getting my name out there and would do so in a way that is less than desirable.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience, Robert.

Jean
 

Jean Henderson

New member
@Asher

Your points are very well taken. I know my work is worth more than what I have suggested for prices, but the wide popularity of this funeral home in the area seems to be a valuable way to get my name out there with work that I am proud to share -- NOT the virtual tour of the physical plant, mind you! In fact, after the tour, they wanted to know if I could also do head shots for their use. I quickly declined as I could see where this was going by that time. I explained it was not my style of portraiture and they accepted that when I added that I didn't really have the right equipment for it -- which is only partially true, but I just don't want to do that or I would open a bona fide portrait studio somewhere.

At the moment, I think I handled the situation reasonably well and am even quite comfortable if I have priced myself out of the work. My main focus is to be the area's best fine art photographer and I have learned to keep my eye on the prize.

In the meantime, I delivered my letter before noon and have not yet heard from them so I know they are at least talking about it before getting back to me.

Jean

PS: I have decided to go out and make those community shoots on my own time and nickel if they think my price is too high. If nothing else, this has been the shot in the arm I needed to get back out there and shoot regularly again!

I particularly like your suggestion to keep it private if I decide to sell the copyright.
 

Robert Watcher

Well-known member
So from what you have described Jean, you are providing two different forms of photography. On the one hand they are requesting stock photography (kind of) by using images that you have already taken around local communities. Pricing for that would be handled differently than the other requests of commissioned where you are considering a day rate. Now the interesting thing is that such a company would demand that you give up total rights to a stock image that you have already taken - that is why I say 'stock photography (kind of)'. Pricing for such an image is usually based on your ability to resell the image over and over again or to use for an art show display or whatever purpose. I'm not saying that how you have approached the job is right or wrong - just educating you to help you see the full extent of your choices and decisions.

While most of my commercial work is commissioned work, I have on occasion licensed existing images for use in brochures and websites. I can be a bit more flexible with this type of work as the effort and costs are already fulfilled. In fact a couple of years ago I was contacted by a quaint local Playhouse to use an image of mine that they saw on Facebook - that I had taken of a street event in the town where they were located - - - for the cover of their next seasons Playbill. But because they are a volunteer type of operation, they asked if I would be willing to receive payment in 2 seasons tickets of the best seats for 2 people (ended up to be a value of $350 per ticket). They also let me know that credit would be included in the appropriate place in the brochure. I request that include my name and website url if possible. I was fine with that as I benefited on a few different levels including it benefiting a good local organization. I must say that I personally would not put a business like a funeral home in the same category as a good local organization, though.

I probably would refrain from including or requesting a watermark be put on your images. Besides it detracting from the webpage, it does absolutely nothing for you to promote your business unless you figure someone will look and recognize your name. What I would do (especially so if you are being asked to work at a reduced rate or are having other demands put on you) - - - is request that they provide a live link to your website on the webpage. Not that anyone will ever click on it - but at least it is something live that viewers of the website can click on and be directed to you as a photographer. As well, it is a link that aids your search engine visibility. I consider it a reasonable request to ask for that inclusion. Just some things for consideration - that you may or may not have thought about.

All the best in your negotiations with the company.


-----
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Yes, Robert, you are quite right that they are asking for two different forms of photography.

I like your example of the season tickets and have used a lessor value option approach when local organizations have asked for silent auction items. In my case, it only means admission to the event (when the tickets are much higher than I cold afford).

Your suggestion to ask them the funeral home to post the link to my website is perfect and not something I would have thought of without your mentioning it. Thank you.

At this point, I am thinking that I may have dodged a bullet because it has been over 24 hours since I dropped off the letter yet I have heard nothing from them! That's ok by me. I have, with your help, learned a whole lot for future use no matter what they end up deciding.

Thanks again for taking so much time out of your day(s) to respond and instruct me.

Jean
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Well, the verdict is in. The funeral home never answered my letter of intention (which I hand delivered so I know they got it). So, periodically, I went to their site to see if the new version was posted yet. Yup! They went with totally free photography that just loosely might possibly be local places. So, money was the factor even though I presented a fair and low price!

Thanks so much for your help to get me through this and to learn all that I did!

Jean
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Jean,

Just have a good cup of coffee and say, "Next!" and just be prepared for the next opportunity. Good luck!

Asher
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Even better, Asher -- I have decided that it is too commercial for my liking (since I have to manage my stress levels). I will still consider licensing should the opportunity present itself, but only of images I have already created. It helped me redefine and keep my focus where it needs to be for me. I felt mostly a disappointed amusement that they were not professional enough to let me know their decision. I moved right along, though and am better for it already in my work.

Jean
 

Andy brown

Active member
Jean, I think it's extremely short sighted on their part.
They liked your work, you were very happy to work with them and charge an extremely reasonable rate.
Imagine if they'd struck up a decent working relationship.
Everyone would win, themselves most of all.
Nothing particularly surprising about it but disappointing all the same.
The good news, they liked your work!
 
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