Licensing Photos and Videos: Audience Size Matters

A coaching client of mine recently inquired about how much he should charge a company that was looking to hire him to produce a series of national television spots. They were  hoping to save some money from the agency they were using, and as my coaching client is a 1-man shop, they saw a good opportunity to save some moolah.

What I informed him was that he could (and should) charge more for his services if the video he’s producing is going to be used on national broadcast TV vs. just the internet.

This is an area of business I think photographers have a better handle on than videographers. It’s very common in commercial photography to charge different rates for your photos when they are used in print vs. web; a local magazine vs. a national one; domestically or international; etc. But videographers (particularly small, mom and pop sized “studios”) don’t necessarily face this issue. Admittedly, even I only started really grasping the significance of this in the past year.

When you shoot photos or videos, unless you have a contract or some employment agreement in place stipulating otherwise, by law you automatically own the copyright and license. The license for your work is worth more to your client if they want to use it to reach a national broadcast audience, than if they want to use it to reach a local cable community, or if it’s only going to be on the web. Therefore you should charge accordingly.

Think about other art forms that require higher rates for broader audiences:

  • music licensing
  • stock footage
  • union rates for actors

The larger the potential audience, the greater the value of your craft.

How Much To Charge?

Whenever I get this question, I get wide-eyed, bite the tip of my pinky finger, and say “One MEEELYON dollars!” That’s how much you should charge.

Just kidding. The real answer to this is “However much the market will bear.” For photography there are programs like BlinkBid that can give you an idea for how much you should charge for broader licenses.

For video, you may want to consult a forum like where you can get feedback from high-end producers used to these kind of deals. If you’re interested in getting into larger commercial productions, you’ll definitely want to become familiar with AICP budgeting forms. An affordable software solution for that is the Excel-based Auto Actuals by Production Software. Point Zero is a popular proprietary program, but the list price for that baby is $800.

How do you handle your licensing?

3 thoughts on “Licensing Photos and Videos: Audience Size Matters

  1. Ron

    Love your work. I bet you meant to use “prospective” here instead of “perspective”.

    Best Jan

    Jan Selby Strategist/Producer/Director 612.889.3640

    Quiet Island Films Strategy+Video+Film 1595 Selby Avenue Suite 208 St. Paul, MN 55104

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