Final Pricing – What the Market will Bear

The final pricing method that is the ultimate decider “what the market will bear.”

Fancy_Stone_EnhancerThe last and perhaps the ultimate way to figure a photograph’s price is “what the market will bear.” The must answer question for this is “for someone seeking a photograph of their jewelry or product or person how much are they willing to pay or what is it ultimately worth of the photo to them?” This ultimate marketing question they teach graduate business school classes on so to much to try and answer completely here. If you want to know it all sign up for an MBA program and all will be revealed. But here are some simple “fly by the seat of your pants” ideas. The basic of this is your supply and demand situation (in economics photography is considered a sick industry – easy entry, easy exit so easy for a lot of people to get into it and easy to fail and get out). Also this is your “everything is negotiable” situation. You can do a nice job of figuring out what you need to make for your hourly or day rate but if no one will pay that much because they can get it for less elsewhere you will go out of business. To stay in business you must figure and charge at least your minimum hourly or day rate price. This also applies for usage fees. There are a lot of factors playing against this right now and those factors will prevent you from being able to charge enough to stay in business. What are some of those factors – to start with is changing technology and how we communicate with one another. This is having a big affect on quality of photos needed and pricing (think selfies rather then professional portraits). You can also add on foreign competition (Photoshop work going to India or if they make it in China photograph it in China) and changing cultural values along with shifting economy to the mix (why not just go to Walmart for everything). Other factors can include an over supply of photographer (this has always been an issue but more so today), location, clients willing to use lots of bad photos (if everyone is using selfies who needs a professional portrait), less advertising dollars being spent (small business has cut way back), internalizing of service (I will get my assistant with her iPhone to shoot everything), fewer clients (especially in manufacturing), all lead to a downward spiral of price per photo. This is our current state.

I can tell you that in the last 40 years I have never seen such a flux and uncertainty happening in the this market place. All of this is having an effect on photography prices. So how much does a photograph of a piece of jewelry cost – everything is negotiable – lets talk about it.

Jewelry Photograph Pricing – Copyright Pricing

Continuing with” how much for a photo?” another pricing method that has never been well received by jewelers is licensing.

Grain_RingThe next type of pricing method is far less straightforward. It is based on the idea that a photograph is an original creative work and as such is covered by U.S. and international copyright law (intellectual property). So the photographer just took a photograph of you or your product (jewelry) and may have even charged a fee (sitting fee) for it. You do not own or cannot use the photograph without the photographer’s permission. The photographer has ownership of this original creative work. This is where usage fee or licensing comes in. A photographer can assign to you the rights to use that photograph for a given limited purpose for a given length of time. The photograph cannot be used for another purpose or past the agreed upon time without paying additional fee. So for a given fee a photographer might give permission for you to use the photograph in ads in your local or regional newspaper for two years. If you then decide you want to use it in a Christmas mail piece you would have to pay an additional usage fee. Failure to do so would violate the copyright held by the photographer and you could end up in federal court. To give a jewelry example if you are a wholesale designer jeweler and you have an originally designed copyrighted ring you are selling, you are sell the right for someone to own and enjoy that ring forever (limited personal use), you are not selling the right for someone to mold that design, make a ring and then sell it as their own. They may say I just bought this ring from you I can do what I want with it. No. Under copyright law you are selling a limited use of your copyrighted design not all rights to that design. Of course if they live in China this means nothing where they really don’t recognize intellectual property rights.

This type of photograph pricing most often comes into practice for editorial photography; photography for magazines and newspaper. A magazine my buy first time North America usage. After that usage a photographer is free to resale the usage for other purposes. It also comes into play for larger corporate situations. In this case pricing is based not on time and material but what is the value of the photograph to the organizations communication effort and their expect return on that effort. So as you might guess this gets very subjective and complex to figure a price. Many years ago there used to be a blue book that was produced that gave some idea of standard pricing for this type of situation.

Because of copyright law, it is always important to know when you purchase a photograph or photography services what rights of usage come with the photograph. Often if you submit a photo for a magazine or book to use they will want a release to publish statement from the photographer before they will use the photograph. It has been my experience book publishers can be pretty strict on this and magazines far less so.

So do all photographer charge usage fees? I am sure all photographers would like to but for jewelry projects that are small in scope many do not. One of the big reason is the photograph is a derivative work. This means you need two copyright releases for the photograph to be used. One is from the photographer for the original copyrighted photograph and the other from the jewelry designer or assigned for the original copyrighted jewelry design shown in the picture. So the photographer cannot license the photograph to be used by anyone other then the original jewelry designer or assigned. I have had inquiries in the past from businesses who saw a photo on my website of a client’s original ring and wanted to buy usage of the photo for their advertising use. I could not sell usage because I did not have a release from the design of the ring. So other then retaining personal promotion rights the photo has no value to me. The other part of this is trying to sell usage to a jeweler I just got paid for taking the picture. When you do this they feel like it is extortion and head off to find someone else to do their photographic work. This plays into the last pricing method, what the market will bare.

Next post market forces.


(This post touches on legal issues so for the usual disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. If you have issues in this area please find a good copyright attorney and get so competent legal advice.)

Jewelry Photography Pricing

How much does a photograph of a piece of jewelry cost?

How do you put a price on a lovely photograph of a piece of jewelry or other product. It should be priceless, right. Not quite. Over the last 35 years this has been an endless question that has come up. So to give some insight into how one figures the cost of a photo I am about to give more information then you ever want to know. Enjoy.

Traditionally there has been three different means for setting a price for taking a photograph.

MJSA_Journal_Cover_12The first method is fairly straightforward. A photographer is offering their time to perform a creative service – taking a picture. As with most service projects or jobs it is normal priced by how much of a photographers time it takes to perform the task. So it is often billed by the hour or fraction of hour. In photography we also have day rate or a half-day rate which a photographer charges per day to be on the project. Now there might also be materials or other expenses that are needed to complete the task and those get added on (in the past film and processing would be a significant material cost). Sounds simple time plus materials and expensive equal cost of a photograph but it starts to get complicated real fast.

How do you figure what to charge per hour or per day? This time period fee can make a big difference on what a final photograph will cost. As with any service base job, whether it is photography, jewelry repair or custom jewelry design, you look at operational overhead and expenses and reputation. There are college course taught (having taken a few) on all of the factors that go into calculating this so I won’t attempt to go into it here. But the calculation for operational overhead and expenses is pretty much just a break-even analysis. The calculation for reputation gets more complex. If you are a jewelry designer you may already have a feel for what goes into this. I will note that two important factors of reputation are quality/creativity of the photographer’s work and speed of completing a project. Through all of this you come up with an hourly rate or day rate for taking a photograph. It is not just pulling a number out of the air but is based on sound business practice.

There is a sub category of time and material pricing which is piecework. This would be a fix price for doing a certain type of photograph. This type of pricing is often used for portrait work. There is often a fix sitting fee that is charge or a package price. With this type a photograph it is something that is done repeatedly and has certain boundaries for what is done. The photographer knows how long it will take and how much materials are needed to complete the project. In product photography this might also occur and for me this is my Classic Photo Service.


Next post will be on licensing.

Color on the Web

How do you get photographs on your website to look great on any computer, tablet or smart phone? The easy answer is you can’t. There is no color or density standard for all devise that can access the web. In the last couple of months I have had this issue come up a couple time. I am use to preparing my photographs to go to print. So what I see on my monitor needs to look like what comes out on the press. To do this I use an on screen sensor that builds a profile of my monitor and what I am seeing. Essentially it say this is what green looks like on my monitor. The printer also has built a profile for their equipment that makes their green look just like my green. This is part of devise independent profiling that Adobe Systems brought in with Photoshop 4. So the printer’s equipment and my monitor are talking the same language when it comes to color.

Now for all of the devices that can access the Internet their initial color settings were set at the factory to who knows what to standard and all of the manufactures vary on their standards. Because none of the devices are talking the same language as far as color, a photograph on device can look completely different on another. So what impacts my work process is that I will produce a photograph that is dialed in for my calibrated and profile monitor and then I will have a client proof an image by email, CD or online. They might view it on a laptop, tablet or smart phone. All of these devise normally have the original factory settings or some my have played with them. None of these devices have been properly calibrate or profiled. So when a client views my photo they will wonder why it is to light and to yellow or something like that. If I adjust the image to look good on their smart phone or other devise then it will be off when it goes to the printer. This type of color is called device dependant color. It will only look good on that devise and not on any other device. What we want is device independent color. Devise independent color will look the same on any device that has been calibrated and profile. When working with print shops we have achieved this. When working on the web unless someone has gotten a sensor and profiled their monitor then there is no telling how the color and density will come out. Not what you want to hear when trying to sell fine colored gemstone in the Internet.

Finishing Fall

Sycamore Creek Catalog update and reprint
Sycamore Creek Catalog update and reprint
Wonderful pieces by Mariera of Spain. This photo was create for Smith and Bevill Jewelers
Wonderful pieces by Mariera of Spain. This photo was create for Smith and Bevill Jewelers

After a slow summer it has been a little busier this fall. I am just finishing up an update photo shoot for a couple of wholesale catalogs. I have also had several photo shoots for retailers, some old and some new customers, to get their advertising ready for Christmas.