Open Dialogue

An Honest Discussion About Money

Podcast Coming Soon.

Im sure we have all been victims of clickbait - videos or podcasts that try to have a deep and “honest” discussion on the business of photography. But lets be honest, the majority of us want to know how much the photographer made/makes because we want to make comparable money too - right? To our frustrations, we discover their final answer is “it just depends.”

While this is generally true (due to a multitude of factors), I usually believe withholding information often hurts us as a photography community. So with that said, do not take this knowledge and automatically believe you can apply it to yourself. Think about where you are currently in your career - a non-bias outlook towards your skills/knowledge and can you realistically demand what you believe your work is worth?

With that said, lets dive in - To date, the highest paid commercial project I’ve been apart of paid $15,750 for 30 images. Thats roughly $525 per image. This sounds like a lot, but lets be honest, I didn’t make $15,750 profit. Big difference there.

I can’t specifically state all the contents of my contract or who the company is but I can give you a break down of the good, bad, pricing break down, and what I would do different in the future.

The Good:

  • I received an invitation to be apart of a project that doesn’t come along often even to creators or infulencers with 100x the following I currently have.

  • The project looks great on my portfolio and resume - unique project.

  • The money.

  • The knowledge and experience would come in handy for planning and executing future projects.

The Bad:

  • The company outright owns my images.

  • The deadline was very impractical.

  • My proposal / estimate had specific notes that stated a requirement of least 50% of the approved estimate to be paid before I started this project - It was ignored and I had to pay for all the costs upfront.

Pricing Break Down:

Lets go back to the approved estimate - $15,750 - this is the final number. In order to figure out my profit margin, let’s list out all fees and expenses and start subtracting everything.


  • Combined Creative/Perpetuity Fee(s) @ 3,000.00

  • 5 Post Processing Day(s) @ 2,000.00

  • 10 additional assets (50% of original budget) @ 5,250.00


  • 5 Assistant Day(s) @ 1,000.00

  • Airfare @ 1,000.00

  • Lodging and Meals @ 2,000.00

  • Car Rental and Local Transportation @ 500.00

  • Misc. (Wardrobe, Parking, Gas, etc.) @ 500.00

  • 5 Model Talent Day(s) (Include Usage and Payroll) @ 500.00

Profit Margin: $10,250

What’s left are my creative fees - $10,250. After 30 images, each photo was purchased and owned for $341.67.

After Thoughts

Im a believer that there are very few circumstances when a company should own your images. What the company actually purchased was my creativity and my ability to execute. It’s what probably makes me regret selling the rights. There were many photos I love and can see follow my career. Now, I can’t really do anything with them. But, I think thats where my “wants” conflict with this company’s “needs.”

Here are some of my take aways from this experience:

  1. Always set defined parameters such as “time” for licensing within your contracts. In this circumstance, I believe the approved fees estimate of $10,250 is in line with a ”licensing” price for all 30 images. This is $341.67 per image lets say for 2-3 years? Sounds VERY reasonable for a large company but this price does not properly reflect “owning” prices. This is where I personally messed up.

  2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms companies just hand you. If something doesn’t sit right with you - negotiate and if you can’t, respectfully walk away.

  3. Keep in mind what you’re trying to do for a job. Are you trying to create “art” or are you trying to create “advertising/marketing” content? Often times you’re not creating work for yourself which I believe creatives often have trouble separating - and because of this, I don’t believe we price accurately. For this specific project, I proposed an idea that I wanted to execute - not the company. Technically they just said yes, which I believe blurred the line between “job” and “fun.”

This is where I wrap things up for part one. By the time I finish part two, I may condense these two articles together in the form of a podcast or possibly even a Youtube video. Until then, hope this helps and if you have any business related questions, feel free to reach out via my Instagram DM @grayloo.k


March, 2018
Photos: 35mm Film

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