How Much Does an Image Cost?
Stock photos are not sold; they are licensed. This means that the photographer retains the ownership of a photo, but grants permission for others to use it, usually for a fee. The following overview of stock photo pricing is provided for authors or publishers who may not have licensed photos before and wonder what to expect with regard to prices, or who would like to compare our price quotes with typical industry rates.
Two Methods of Pricing Stock Photos
Generally speaking, there are two main ways of licensing and pricing stock photography:
Royalty-Free. This method simply charges by the size of the digital file. Once licensed, royalty-free photos can be used for almost any purpose. So a photo would cost the same whether it is used on a local flyer, the cover of Time magazine, or a major corporate advertisement. Advantages of this method include simplicity and flexibility. But there are disadvantages to Royalty-Free, too: the price doesn't take into account the photo's actual value to the buyer (which may be higher or lower than the rate reflects) and it is impossible to track where the photo has been published. (This can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations for the publisher!)
Rights-Managed. Rights-managed images are licensed for specific one-time uses, such as a particular book, magazine article, tourism brochure or advertising campaign. Some stock photographers and agencies have standardized calculators for determining rights-managed prices (common among large agencies like Getty Images), while others consider each use on a case-by-case basis (more common among independent photographers).