How much is a License in Commercial Photography?

commercial photography licensing

You finally did it, you found a photographer to take some pictures for you. You ask them what are their rates, they reply with "what kind images are you needing and what type of usage? "Usage, what does that matter?" you ask. Well, it actually matters a lot! As we discussed in a previous post, A Guide to Licensing Photography, the type of usage is extremely important. 

Intro to Getty Images

Getty Images is one of the largest sources for editorial and commercial image licenses. Hence, it makes sense that many e-commerce stores use them for image sourcing. E-Commerce retailers primarily use blogger images from various events to display on their website. Their goal is to motivate users to buy clothes from their store (to visualize – see what Zalando is doing on their website below). The following article will help you understand how much of a budget you would need to have for a project of your own, due primarily to image licenses. 

Getty Images E-commerce

Getty is the world’s leading provider of high quality photography, video, and music, for creative and editorial use. One of the reasons they are the best is their simple business model. It works like this: browse and search for images on their website. If you want to use something, purchase the rights to use that specific image. The actual price can change according to many different factors. Let's dive into some data we’ve collected on average prices for the most common uses.

Editorial

Let’s get down to business. Most photos from fashion shoots are priced with the same standard. See the pricing below. (note – this is ONLY for editorial needs, not for commercial) and is determined mainly on photo size.

editorial pricing & sizes

Commercial Use

The next and more interesting question: How much would it cost you to use an image for a commercial license? The way this is determined is by the actual terms of usage of the image, (How it will be used, Where it will be used, How long it will be used).  You're probably thinking "what a minute, I paid $500 for a photographer to take pictures for me, now I have to pay to use them too?" Yes and No. If the photographer agreed to let you use them, then you're fine, but most professional photographers will charge you a license fee for a commercial use. 

Due to the variety of options, it’s not always easy to instantly find the correct use-case for a project. Let’s remember: our goal is to display images on the commercial store website to motivate users to buy. It seems like our project can be licensed using a mix of these two:

  1. Digital Media / Corporate and promotional site, Commercial or promotional use on a website, including as a design element on a corporate website or in branding/profile designs on Social Media. (Does not include paid advertising; for example, "Web -- advertisement."), up to 1/2 page, repeated use for 1 year usage. Price $1,335.00 USD
     
  2. Advertising – Print, display and TV / Advertorial – “Use in a TV - Infomercial, Long-format advertisement over 90 seconds total duration for 1 year usage” Price: $2,665.00 USD

As you can see, commercial licensing can get a little pricey depending on the type of usage that is needed.  If you would like to look this up on your own, here is the link for the calculator.

Types of Models

In addition to the basic pay-as-you-go pricing we discussed before –  what else is available?

  • Pay as you go – For the casual users. As in our previous example, the model is simple. See an image? You buy it. This is the most common type of licensing for small and medium businesses. Bulk packs are available (called Ultrapacks) and give you approx. 20% discount. 
     
  • Company subscriptions – More common with larger organizations / publications. The company pays a fixed amount per month or year and can use a large/unlimited number of images. Exact pricing data here is harder to come by, but we can assume it’s anywhere from 30-40% discount on the original price. More info

Project cost

So let’s get back to our example. Your company wants to display a shoppable discovery page using influencer images. You would need around 20 different images. Furthermore, a commercial-use license for each image is needed. Above, we saw that those range from $1335 to $2556. We’re optimistic, so we’ll use the lower price of $1335 USD per image. Let’s add a bulk discount of 30% for a medium-sized organization. We’re down to $934.50 an image. That would come out $18,690 USD for the set of 20 images. 

That doesn’t include the post production work it would require for someone to edit and retouch each image. Nor does this cover the pre-production, hiring of models (if needed) and the photographers creative fee.

Summary

In conclusion, licensing images aren’t cheap. Getty is the de-facto market leader and thus, has a monopoly over the industry and charges high prices. The license required in order to promote a product turns this great idea into something only very large companies can afford. Unless, you can find a photographer who is willing to work with you on price, you will end up spending a large portion of your photography budget on licensing.