Is your Royalty Free stock photo pricing in the ballpark?

Pricing of my stock photography is something I am continually thinking about … am I too high? …  am I too low? …  am I using the correct licensing model?

Reviewing the pricing of my images recently, I searched for a solution that would indicate if I was even in the ballpark.

First I had to determine the licensing option to use … Rights Managed (RM), Royalty Free (RF) or microstock.

There is always a lot of talk and confusion on the internet surrounding pricing and licensing models. Browsing around iTunes I came across two episodes of the Photonetcast Photography podcast that helped make some sense of the issue.

  • PhotoNetCast #31 – Stock Photography and different Licensing Models (April 2009) – Takes a look inside the business models of stock photographers Rich Legg and David Sanger . They discuss  their respective choices, advantages and disadvantages, marketing their photography,  and compare licensing photography with a Royalty Free or Rights Managed  model.
  • PhotoNetCast #49 – Revamping the pricing model for Rights-Managed Licenses (March 2010) – A discussion with Jim Pickerell covering an alternative to Royalty Free and Rights Managed  licensing models.

Many of my new images are configured for Rights Managed licensing, and pricing is handled automatically by fotoQuote software integrated into my Photoshelter based website. I find this very useful as the software is based on industry rates, and can supply the buyer with the best price for the usage they require. (This price is often lower than the Royalty Free equivalent).

I also have a number of images that have been sold through various stock sites in the past. This limits me to selling them with a Royalty Free licensing model, as you cannot use a RM  license for an image once it has sold as RF.

Configuring the Royalty Free pricing profiles on my Photoshelter site, I am required to specify the individual prices for each size of image.  To try and establish a market rate, I looked around at other photographers sites and found the pricing varied widely.

Taking a more scientific approach to the problem, I decided to analyse a couple of the internet agencies that sell Royalty Free stock images, and settled on Alamy, Getty Images, Corbis and Ozstockimages.

The bigger sites have collections that are priced differently, so I sampled images from various collections, and also some underwater images to make the selections relevant to my own photography.

RF stock photography pricing comparison
Figure 1 – Royalty Free stock photography pricing comparison (1USD = 1 AUD) – click to enlarge

Each agency was assigned a colour (e.g Alamy is red), and different collections are represented by different line types (shown in the legend).

All samples except Alamy are priced in Australian Dollars (AUD), and Alamy samples are in US Dollars (USD). At the time I did this comparison the exchange rate was 1USD = 1 AUD.

Looking at Figure 1, there is a tight pricing window for images below 1400 pixels (on the longest edge), which I expect is due to fierce competition in this market space. Above 1700 pixels the pricing varies depending on the agency collection. This is expected as stock agencies will market different collections to clients with different price points.

Alamy seemed to be much lower than others at larger picture sizes. The Australian dollar is quite strong at the moment, so I decided to use the exchange rate of 1AUD= 0.85 USD from a couple of years ago. It had the effect of rising the Alamy price more in line with other agencies (shown in figure 2 below).

RF stock photography pricing comparison
Figure 2 – Royalty Free stock photography pricing comparison (1 AUD = 0.85 USD) – click to enlarge

Even with exchange rate compensation, Alamy still has some of the lowest pricing for images above 2300 pixels. If you are a buyer in a country which has a strong currency against the US dollar, this offers good purchasing value. If you are a seller you are earning less per image. (I expect that as with software sales, there is a mark-up applied to images sold through the Australian portals of the larger agencies, which might also explain some of the pricing difference.)

The advantage of looking at the sample pricing visually, is that I can now see a clear pricing window, which is really useful to determine if I am above or below the market rate.

Yes there is some variation at the larger end, but it is better than a stab in the dark, and allows me to make a more informed decision on pricing.

I hope this has been useful.

More reading:-

Carl Chapman

2 thoughts on “Is your Royalty Free stock photo pricing in the ballpark?”

    1. Hi Antonio,

      Thanks for the note. No problem on mentioning your PhotoNetCast podcast .

      I am a regular listener and enjoy the show. The two shows mentioned in the post were very informative, and helped to clarify some confusion I was having with stock photography pricing models.

      Keep up the good work.


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