Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

Despite all the angst from photographers about publications unwilling to license photography for standard rates, I’ve found that the licensing answer is exceedingly simple. Of course, this “answer” is really just my opinion and I openly acknowledge that others may choose to adhere to alternative solutions, but this works for me. In fact, it’s worked quite well so far this year. Follow the steps and it’s bound to work for anyone as I certainly have no patent on the approach. To be honest, it’s really just basic business.

  1. Don’t give your work away for free. Yes, this is THE single most obvious fact, but it’s also one that is far too often disregarded as an “outdated” business model in the digital world. Trust me, it’s hardly outdated. If you choose to skip Step One, then stop right here and don’t waste your time reading any further. Everything is predicated on adhering to Step One.
  2. Don’t place your work in the hands of third party distributors with rights to license your work unless you have a definitive pricing structure in place that is agreeable to you and your partner. That’s easier said than done. Most large archives and agencies live by the low price, high volume rule which benefits the agency, not the photographer, due to the agency’s ability to capture a collective percentage of every sale from every image housed with them. Photographer’s only receive the percentage from the licensing of their individual image. Big difference.

    Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

    Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

  3. Make sure your work is easily located and licensable. That means a steady workflow that includes uploading to an easily navigable website with built-in licensing options and working diligently to raise search engine rankings for your work. Social media presence is definitely key since the links back to your site will aid your SEO.
  4. If you have photographs that pertain to a particular subject or significant event, be sure to stay abreast of the topic and use social media to help build awareness of your work as it relates to the subject and/or event.

    Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

    Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

  5. Understand that licensing prices vary widely by use, size, duration and exclusivity. When you receive an inquiry, or when setting-up your online licensing, make sure your quoted rates and terms are reasonable for the images being offered.
  6. Be respectful and courteous when negotiating the use and terms. Even if you receive a ridiculous offer (which occurs frequently!), respond professionally in an attempt to lead the inquirer into a fair licensing deal. If it doesn’t happen, thank them for their interest. Remember, not every person who walks into a bricks-and-mortar store makes a purchase either.

    Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

    Licensed for use by Regards, a French quarterly devoted to cultural, political and social issues. April, 2014

  7. Ask for and receive specific terms for the use of the image(s). Those terms are vital in creating a license that assures the licensee receives what is desired while protecting the licensor (photographer) with a legal contract for use. That sounds difficult, but it’s truly quite easy. FotoBiz and/or FotoQuote (a part of the larger FotoBiz software bundle) can create the license for you with ease.
  8. Have a PayPal account integrated into your archive and/or separately. Although I will accept checks, I prefer PayPal since it eliminates the possibility of an unknown person promising to send payment after receiving the file for download. If a file is quickly needed for layout purposes, provide access to a low res, watermarked image with the understanding that the high res file can be accessed once payment is received. (I build a percentage into my license that covers the transaction fee imposed by PayPal)
  9. Track your license for the term expiration (if applicable). Doing so allows for a professional and friendly reminder to the licensee that the license is set to expire. Often, I offer a discount to re-license the image at that point. If the licensee no longer requires the use of the image, it alerts them to the fact that you are aware that the use must be terminated. (Again, FotoBiz allows for tracking of licenses).
  10. Register your work with the US Copyright Office. Doing so is relatively easy online, but not all images can be registered online. Nevertheless, registered images allow for much stiffer sanctions to be imposed for willful infringement if a licensee (or anyone without a license) uses your image beyond the term or usage restrictions of the license.

Todd Bigelow Photography

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