The Top 7 Tips for Licensing Your Video or Photo Content

If you’re in the business of producing professional video or photography, there may come a time when an organization will reach out to you to license your work for commercial use. I often see questions about this on various social media boards, so I thought it would be a good idea to address the issue.

(Note: I won’t be addressing the business of selling your content to various stock footage sites. That deserves it’s own separate topic. This post is strictly about how to go about charging for footage you already have that someone else wants to license.)

1. Uniqueness

The first thing to consider when pricing your content is whether or not the footage/photos you have is unique. How easy is it to replicate that content? Two lovers walking hand-in-hand along the Champs Elysées would be worth more than the same two lovers walking down any ol’ Main Street U.S.A. Two lovers walking down the Champs Elyées during a snow fall with Christmas lights twinkling along the trees worth even more so.

2. Quality

What’s the quality of your content? Are we talking 6K raw files shot on an Epic, or 720p iPhone files. Naturally, the higher the source quality, the more you can charge.

3. How Bad Do They Want It?

Can you determine how badly the organization wants your content? Given the proliferation of stock footage and photo sites, if they want to specifically license your content, it must be for a reason. There’s something about it that they can’t find among the literally hundreds of thousands of stock clips and photos already for sale at relatively inexpensive prices. Keep that in mind when negotiating.

4. Usage

How will the content be used? The wider the audience, the more you should charge. Is it going to be for a non-profit fundraising video that will only be showed at a benefit dinner with a few hundred people in attendance? Or is it going to be used in broadcast TV? Is it for a feature film or an indie short? A full page magazine ad in People Magazine, or a 1/4″ ad in the back of the Little Rock Gazette? And for how long? What regions (domestic and/or international)? All that should be taken into consideration.

5. Length

With respect specifically to video content, how long is the clip you’re licensing? Theoretically, the longer the more you can charge.

6. Do You Have Releases?

If there are people in the footage or photos, do you have proper releases from them allowing you to license/sell their image? If not, you should reach out to them before releasing your content. Some of your clients may say “no,” in which case, you’re out of luck. Don’t risk your reputation by licensing imagery of your clients without their prior consent. And don’t risk a law suit by licensing content of people (or places) that you happened to capture that normally require such releases (e.g. major brands predominantly composed in the shot, shopping malls, etc.)

7. Charge Whatever You Want

Keep in mind there is no right or wrong price. It’s all based on the market and the factors I mentioned above. But ultimately, you can charge whatever you like. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. I’ve licensed 10 second clips of my previously shot footage for as much as $400. My wife once licensed a personal photo she took at an event to a foreign publisher for $800. The quality wasn’t even that good, but it was a unique photo and they really wanted it for their book cover.

There are lots of tools and blog posts out there related to the topic of how to price the licensing component of a photography assignment. The NPPA has a good article about it here. And here’s a handy-dandy pricing calculator I found on However you price your content, don’t use traditional stock image sites as a basis. That would be like charging a custom painting based on the price of Hallmark card. They are two totally different things.

Do you have any experience licensing your video or photo content? Please share in the comments.

Feature image © Mathieu Marquer on Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0.

One thought on “The Top 7 Tips for Licensing Your Video or Photo Content

  1. Really cool write-up on this and the timing couldn’t be better. The last few months I have been getting requests to license clips for a lot of my family type videos. Mostly a second or two and an still frame image from another this morning. Some are being used for big company names but mainly internal usage and not broadcast. I’ve licensed before so that helped with the recent requests so I could negotiate based off what I was paid a few years ago. Pretty cool to see my old videos on vimeo being sought after by these companies.

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