This Photograph Is NOT Free, It’s  ,695

Like anything else in life, this photograph is not free. If I chose to allow someone to use it without paying me, that’s one thing. But you (random person in the world) cannot use this photograph without asking me first. Or paying me first.

This photograph costs $10,695, even though I license it for much less. Let me explain.


This photograph was made with help from the following products. You’ll see the prices next to each item and the total below. Close observers will notice I also rounded each product higher slightly. That’s to simplify because there is also tax included on many of the products.

  • Nikon D700 – $3000
  • Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 – $1900
  • Promote Control – $330
  • Really Right Stuff Tripod – $1280
  • Adobe Lightroom – $150
  • Adobe Photoshop – $500
  • Photomatix Pro – $100
  • ColorChecker Passport – $100
  • ColorMunki – $400
  • Memory Card – $100
  • Local Storage – $600
  • Offsite Backup – $600
  • Cloud Backup – $200
  • Website Hosting – $1200
  • Photo Proofing, Sales & Delivery – $150
  • Gas & Tolls – $30
  • Copyright – $55

The total cost of all of these tools and services is $10,695, and that does not include my own time which is also extremely valuable.

This also doesn’t include my time gaining experience, like college and photography classes, online courses, in-person workshops and so on.

The point of all of this is to remind photographers to charge for services and licensing what you’re worth. I’m not saying to charge by adding up all the little things that go into one single photograph. I’m not saying to charge every customer the cost of your camera. I’m saying to remember that a lot goes into every photograph, and you need to take that into consideration.

And for customers to remember how much is involved with a single photograph, beyond just the physical aspects. Photographers require training beyond college. They require experience. All of that comes with a price.

So next time you’re asked for free usage of one of your photographs, do something like this. Show what makes the photograph so valuable. But also explain the value of a good photograph beyond the numbers. Go into the creativity behind the photograph.

Lastly, if you are still thinking you should charge $10,695 for a single photograph only because of the software and products you purchased to make the photo, you’re taking this article way too literally. And if so, please re-read it.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. I get the idea, but weak argument. Only the last 3 items are specific to this image, so it’s really worth $235 + wear on your gear. Assuming your stuff is good for 150,000 actuations, that’s about $0.07 a shot.

    1. If you want to calculate the camera divided by every photo every made on it, sure. Or you could divide it by just this job. Or you can not divide it as without the camera the photo couldn’t be made. So the argument can go in any direction.

      1. So in the direction you took in this article, would the next image also cost the same amount with a variation in the last three items? Or would it cost much less due to the cost only being the last three items for images going forward? I get what you’re saying about the cost of an image being more than just your time and printing costs, but this seems to have the pendulum swinging completely the opposite direction.

        1. If you use this mindset then every photograph is worth that much, or more. It all depends on what is used for the job.

  2. As much as I am with you Scott, but this would also mean that you would have to pay the whole workshop and anything within it if your car has to be repaired. ;-)
    Dividing the total value by the number of estimated jobs + your personal effort and all the special costs for this job would make more sense imho.

    All the best for your future work!

    1. I don’t think you understand the point of this article :-)

  3. Absolutely right in that the Asking Price of your photo and all rights thereto is set entirely by you. “Less right” in that the Price is only tangentially related to the cost of production. Rather, it is your estimate of its maximum Market Value, as filtered by your perceptions of the market and/or any emotional distortion your work imposes on you. Similar comment relative to the value of your time. It’s great that you value your time highly, as we all should. However, that’s Perceived Value, whereas Actual Value is once again determined by the market. Most likely your time is actually worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50-$100/hour, depending on many factors of which I am ignorant. Like the cost of equipment in the pricing discussion, the cost of education and experience is irrelevant to the Actual Value computation. It is a sunk cost of doing business.

    1. I never said that a photographer should price the photo at the $10,695. Please re-read the article to understand the point.

  4. Scott,
    While I agree with the concept that no one should use your work without compensation, your math is off.
    Any asset must be amortized over the course of its use and you can choose to do that over time , or per job, or as some pointed out, per image.

    I think you understate the value of your time and experience, which is arguably the largest contribution to the cost of a single image.

    The “License fee which is much less” is probably the appropriate price for such an image.

    There are some consumables listed, but then again, this single image would not eat those up, either.

    If you would have quoted this price to a client, a paying customer (real estate agent, etc.) I doubt that you would win the bid. Especially if you presented him with this itemized estimate.

    To sum up:
    1) No one should use your image without permission, with or without compensation, regardless of declared value.
    2) Your copyright is created the moment you take the photo.
    3) You can take extra precautions and register your copyright, which would allow you to pursue infringement in the court system with no other burden of proof.
    4) You may choose to value the photograph at $10, 695, just a Peter Lik may choose to value his photo “Phantom” at $6.5 million, my similar image, maybe not so much. Don’t get value mixed up with cost.
    5) I believe that this article is a disservice to photographers and puts working photographers in a poor light (pun intended) with the public when they see this sort of nonsense.

    If you shot it. It’s yours. If it is used copy/pasted/lifted without your permission it is a violation of your copyright. Period.

    1. As I said, I would never charge that much for the photo. Please re-read to understand the point of the article.

      1. Just saying. That if so many readers missed the point, then maybe your point wasn’t stated clearly enough. I don’t get the point of telling so many they missed the point.

        What’s your point?

        1. The point is – STOP WORKING FOR FREE! – Many customers ask for photos and say “we will put your name out, it might give you another – well paid job!” – I believe this is pretty much what the article is about – so re-read it again… :)

          1. Stop working for free and stop devaluing your work. Thanks Mikael :-)

  5. I want to know how you use the software without a computer! Also where is the car you used or did you walk through the toll booths and drink the gas? You have missed how it works you do not get new equipment, software and etc. for each photo.

    1. Good point. Adding a computer on this would drive the cost up even further.

  6. Hi Scott,

    I really got your point, but the argumentation with the list of your equipment is wrong on so many levels.

    Would you pay a cab driver 50k for one drive because his car is worth that much?

    A photo is a creative work. Its worth is calculated by different parameters including content, creativity and actuallity.

    Cheers Michi

    1. You missed the point :-)

  7. Great article! I didn’t read all the replies but it seems the gist of them is forgetting the experience and skills acquired over time that goes into making a photograph. That could be priceless. The value of a photograph can be difficult to put a price tag on. Keeping in mind the cost of all the equipment used can help justify a cost to someone who thinks they could do good enough with a smarthone pic.

  8. Great article Scott!
    Ugh, the arguments from all the keyboard warriors / monday morning quarterbacks / s#1t-house lawyers and non bloggers.

    Photography as a profession has almost disappeared due to cheaper equipment which makes everyone a “pro” and the entitlement attitude that has taken hold in society.

    All the best,

  9. This is a a great article to get a general point over. It is an overview, not specifics of cost as you say. Don’t understand why people don’t get it. Keep up the good work. Bob

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