There is no simple answer to the question of how to charge for your work.
But there is a simple beginning to the process: Examine your Cost of Doing Business to understand the minimums you must charge to meet your income goals.
Once you know your costs, you must consider the market for your images and/or footage. What you "sell" in that market is a license to use your intellectual property, a right granted to you by U.S. Copyright law and by the laws of most other countries. The license can be broad or narrow, perpetual or time limited. This license and any agreement to fulfill an assignment are a Contract.
Coming up with a license - or assignment contract - and a fair-market price for the visual work(s), rights and services delivered will likely involve some Negotiation.
Pricing for Value
Before you discuss price, consider the value your client will derive from your pictures. In general, if your client reaches a larger or more desirable audience with help from your images, you should be paid more. This is the basis of Rights-Managed licensing (the approach NPPA recommends) for the use of images and footage.
Usage metrics are particularly important when licensing existing, or "Stock", pictures and footage. Regardless of whether you are an award-winning photojournalist with lucrative endorsements and workshop gigs, or a mom with a camera, the product you are licensing is there to see. Either it's worth the investment for the usage, or it's not. The photographer's name doesn't affect how the picture looks, its unique value or the story it tells.
Assigning editors, producers and art directors seek photographers they can count on to deliver the pictures or footage they need and want. If your portfolio, education, experience, list of awards, recommendations, and most importantly, previous work for and with them suggest you will more reliably deliver exceptional visual reports, you're more valuable to them.
Some other value factors include time, difficulty, experience, special techniques or equipment required, market segment and the intended use for the images. As with stock, print runs, circulation, viewer numbers and page views are measures of value. The demographics of those who view the images are important.
Advertising, corporate, public relations, retail portrait and editorial photography are all priced differently. Some of the resources linked below can help you with these different markets as well as the visual journalism and documentary photography we focus on at the NPPA.
Day Rate, Plus Space
For news and sports assignments, the NPPA believes the traditional "day rate, plus space" approach to pricing remains both practical and fair. In our digital age, pictures, photographers and usage are all easy to track, for both small and large organizations.
Under this approach, assigned photographers receive a guaranteed fee ("day rate" or "assignment fee") for fulfilling an assignment. If the pictures or footage are used more, the photographer gets paid more. Assigning organizations maintain schedules of usage values, listing fees based on prominence of display, time on screen, size, etc. Some clients add these payments to a low assignment fee. Some media companies with higher day rates only pay for usage if it exceeds the value of the guaranteed assignment fee.
For instance, the assignment fee from such a publication for a news event might be $800, with the fee for use of a quarter-page image set at $400 and use on the assigning magazine’s cover worth $1,600. If a picture were used as a quarter-page only, the photographer would receive no additional payment. But if her picture were also chosen for the cover, the photographer’s final payment would be $2,000 ($1,600 plus $400), plus any other usage and expenses.
This assignment model has changed at many media organizations. Some proffer contracts demanding broad rights, even copyright transfer, for low compensation. A few publications include all immediate usage in the assignment fee and pay space rates for any reuse. This latter approach is better from the photographer's perspective than a total-rights grab. But as you can read in our Best Practices lists, NPPA continues to support paying a day rate, plus space, as a fair method for contracting news photography.
The resources listed below may help you navigate a course to successful pricing choices.