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Value Your Work

A Perth camera store has begun selling client’s images as ‘Photo Art For Sale’

This isn’t the first time photo labs have made images available for customers to print on demand, in fact the service has been around for a long time. Shortly after the Fuji Frontier digital minilab was released back in the 90’s, there was a print on demand service. Essentially stock photographs and artworks were held on a server accessible from the lab and a client could order a print or canvas of that image for a few dollars more than the cost of printing one of their own images. The idea was cool for customers, they could have professional quality images hanging in their home for peanuts. It also worked well for stock photographers who relied on volume sales to make a good living.

Stock photography used to be a real money spinner for photographers. The agency would put out a ‘wish list’ of images they could sell or had been asked for. On a quiet day, any shooter could go out and work their way through the wish list and submit the images to the stock library. The libraries had some fantastic clients that every day shooters just couldn’t get to. Government departments, tourism companies, huge multinationals, magazines, the list was huge. A common rule of thumb was you’d make a dollar per image per year. This doesn’t sound like a lot but once you put a few thousand images into stock, it soon made up for your quiet days.

With the advent of digital, the stock photo market quickly became flooded with great images as virtually anyone would eventually nail a great shot of just about anything… spray and pray! It was so much easier and the stock libraries saw this and it all changed wildly. Getty became enormous serving everything from super high end sports, fashion and journalism all the way down to free images on iStockphoto.

At this point, I feel it is critical to point out that just because there’s a pretty sunset on iStock for .99c, that is not your image’s worth. That is not the benchmark and not in any way a guide as to how much your image is valued at!

Print on demand comes from stock. If your images are treated as stock and you want to earn $50,000 a year from your photography, well, you know from what I’ve just said how many incredible images you need to create per year to reach your goal. Let’s slim this equasion down a little for the hobbyists and part time shooters, let’s say you want a nice full frame body, two or three good lenses, a tripod, a few cards and a nice bag… you need to replace the body every four or five years, the lenses longer but lets roll with five because the accountant probably does. That’s $10,000 worth of equipment, $2000 per year. If you’re creating stock images and would like your photography to just cover it’s own costs, well you need to create 2000 saleable stock images a year just to cover your gear. That’s kinda crazy right!

Seriously, are you going to sell your images for 99c each? NO, of course you’re not but if you follow the print on demand program we’re talking about, you’re probably settling for $20-40 per image! Let’s say a customer of the lab orders a 20×30 inch print of your best image, the lab is selling it for about $95.00. $8.65 goes straight to the ATO in the form of GST so the sale price is more like $87.00. Of course the lab needs to cover the cost of their print, that’s say $45.00 plus $20 for a cheap matt board, that leaves you the photographer the princely sum of $22.00. We now need to sell 90 prints a year to cover the cost of our gear… and that’s before turning a cent of profit to buy a new blower brush, pay for a sensor clean or replace a scratched filter.

You’re running on empty! That’s not sustainable!!!

Now lets talk real value of images and saleable price. Many career professional photographers are selling their 20×30 inch prints for $300-$600 without matting. Let’s take off the cost of proper printing, I charge around $50 to print this size on Ilford Gallerie Pearl, so if we shoot for the mid point of $450 sell price, you’re left with $400. Let’s assume you’re not registered for GST as a hobbyist turning over less that $70K p/a, that’s $400 hitting your bank account. You sell five per year and your gear is covered! Five prints!!!!

Let’s add a canvas or two in there, maybe a big print here and there and that exotic lens or photo safari to Angkor Wat is not looking quite so out of reach.

I’m not telling you how to run your business here and certainly not trying to detract anyone from selling their work but seriously do the maths before you agree to a print on demand scheme, your images are worth more, your time has value, your equipment doesn’t pay for itself and your car doesn’t pay for it’s own fuel to get you to Dingo Beach at 4am to get the shot!!!

If I can help you make money from your photography, just give me a shout.



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