Why Does That Photo Cost So Much?

July 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I’ve had this question floating around in my mind for a while now. I know it’s in the minds of many of my clients, collectors and viewers. I also know that I’m not the first person online to ever address the issue, but I wanted to have a little say about how it relates to my practice.

I’m fairly small-time in the scheme of things. I still feel like an emerging artist, but know that I’m a little bit further out than others. I’ve held off on putting a shopping cart up, partially because I’m not sure how many people will really want to buy my work, but also because I don’t want to sell a tonne of images that may be old or average, just to justify the cost of my cart system. (This will come when I can accurately gauge when it will be financially, a good idea, for me to install and make prints and images available, until I know my real demand, I’m hesitant to buy into a bigger competition). I’ve said fairly openly all the time, if you want to purchase a work from me, message me, email me, let’s get talking about what you want. I want to make sure you’re completely satisfied with the image you choose!

No doubt it’s hard enough to make money in Photography these days, with what seems like “everyone’ doing it, it’s getting even harder and harder to make back the true worth of a photo.

I’ve had a number of images hit “The Big Time” recently (“The Big Time” being defined as in-demand from all different walks of life) and this has only become more frequent as I put myself in the right place at the right time. It’s no wonder that as soon as I’m asked how much my Licence Fee on an image is, that I hear crickets, dead silence.

It’s as if people want me to give it away for free.

When did art lose its’ value? When did saying “oh, I could take that myself” ever actually eventuate into someone going out and re-doing your photo, have it look exactly the same, ever happen? Answer: NEVER.

And you know what, I know they want it for as cheap as they can get it. I totally sympathize with that. We’re all bargain hunters.

But, knowing it’s one of a kind, why undercut the Photographer?

Let’s take a quick look into what it takes for me to go out and take a photo:

  • Travel… anywhere from 20mins to 90 mins of driving to chosen location, each way.
  • Fuel, currently, in SEQ, we’re experiencing the highest fuel prices ever… $1.62 PER LITRE of unleaded fuel. Whoa…  Tank is about $70
  • Equipment: Latest model, professional lenses, filters, batteries, tripod etc.. I must factor parts of this cost into the cost of a photo. This also extends to keeping a working PC/Laptop.
  • Protective clothing – so I don’t freeze to death or get hit by a car.
  • The time out of my day, I’m usually a write-off for the rest of the day after a sunrise, and on the same level, it takes just as much time out for a sunset.

On getting home, it’s even more:

  • Storage space on computer hard drive
  • Price of software to process
  • Time to Edit, and the time it takes to perfect an image
  • Internet subscription – cost of making it public.

And then, and these are the most important parts:

  • As the Artist, the Photographer, who spent her time, effort and skill, in taking the resulting photo/s, I have the right to price my artwork. Every image has a value, it might be the best of a set, second or third best. After everything that it took to produce the image, which are the points outlined above, I have to then price the work itself.
  • The hours I spend, fighting every single stolen image from those that think it’s OK to rip me off online. DMCA notices don’t write themselves, and I often lose hours trying to chase up stolen images. Why? Because I want my photos to hold their value, I want my collectors and buyers to know that they can only get it through me or my authorized outlets. It’s about being exclusive.
  • If I’m selling you a FULL RES, UNTAGGED FILE, I’m costing into never being able to use that image again. Never being able to print it as my own. Because it’ll be in use by a company/business, and therefore no longer a part of my SELLABLE FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY. This is why a Licence will cost you much more.

For example, let’s take one of my most popular Iceland photos, and examine the costs involved in taking that photo:


“The Epitome of Enchanted Elegance” also available here: FOR PURCHASE yeah, I had to take advantage of that!

  1. Flights to and from Iceland for the duration of my trip: $2.6k + insurance + airport costs ++++
  2. Sundry – anything that got me there, to that point, taking that photo: $3k+ (rough estimate)
  3. Cost of backups on the run $800~ish
  4. Equipment, spending money, everything that went into THAT Trip… =$ a whole lot more.

So, all of a sudden, my print, which is on sale at The Cow’n'Calf in Stanley, Tasmania, for under $500, kind of cheap yeah?

Look at it another way. Your Work expenses. You can claim your laundry, fuel in the car, materials, subscriptions… As an Artist trying to make a living, I roll all of those costs into the price of a Print/Cost of  Licence for Full-Res Digital File, plus other factors which may or may not influence the future of the work. It’s complex I know, but I want to be clear — this is what you must consider.

For fellow photographers, and if you’re one yourself, could you have spent all that and still gotten this image? Do you have the skill , the time off required from your dayjob, have a think about all the factors that would put you on location with your camera in hand. Could you have done it cheaper than I? Would you have spent 36 hours in transit to fly to the other side of the world to take the photo?

So please, next time you pass up an amazing image from a Photographer who probably put in as much, if not more, time, effort and skill into taking a photo, please consider it all and if you like the image enough, buy it. You’ll make someone happier -and you’ll have a beautiful work of art to put in your home and enjoy forever.Why Does


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