When you call a photographer or agency for an image, it’s important to really share with them that for which you are looking. We are inclined to say that we just want this picture of a red widget. If that is all you tell the seller, you are probably selling yourself short and aren’t going to get either the best image, the appropriate Rights or a price that fits your budget. Here are some suggestions to make the process much easier for you and the seller, be it an agency or a photographer. I’m just going to use photographer, but the concept and method apply to both.
Your goal is to buy the right license for the right image at the right price. The best way to do that is to take a little time and build a relationship with the photographer. Describe the image you’re looking for and share as much about the project as you know and your budget range if you have one and feel comfortable with that. Include the client’s industry and their name if you can. Send them a layout if you have one. If you’ve seen a red widget that you like, show them. With this information in mind, the photographer can show you just what’s relevant instead of all of the red widgets they have. Even if you’ve seen what you think is the right image, they might have a better one. You won’t have to look through lots of irrelevant images and that will save you time. A few extra minutes up front is worth it.
It’s essentially important to share exactly how you want to use the image. A quality photographer selling a quality image needs to know what Rights you really need. When you say you want to ‘own the image‘, a ‘Buyout’, you have said something that is of huge importance to photographers. Photographers make their living creating and licensing images. It is their livelihood. Images are their assets. You’ve just told them you want to own their asset. And really, you probably don’t need to own it. For a photographer to transfer the Copyright of an image, they are going to consider what it cost them to make and inventory the image and any future revenue stream they might expect. If it’s a good image, which is what you want, that’s going to be a very big number. If you really just want to use the image two or three ways, you only need a License for those. That’s the difference between buying a License, the right to use an image, versus owning the image.
It’s good if the photographer asks you a lot of questions. By asking questions, the photographer is getting clear about what you want. If you buy a License for just what you need, then the price is going to be appropriate. If you need to use it some other way, you can call and buy those Rights. The photographer wants you to buy Rights and you want to use the image. You should take this opportunity to ask questions as well. The License you receive will govern how you can use the image. Make sure you both understand the exact language describing the usage. You might want to take this opportunity to pre-negotiate a potential usage. Don’t expect a discount at that point. You aren’t buying it just then. If you buy multiple images at once for multiple usages, it would be fair to ask for a discount. You will have both saved the ‘transaction cost’ of making multiple purchases and you will have given the photographer a lot of business. Again, remember this is a deal you both want to make.
Be fair to the photographer. When the invoice comes, shepherd it through Accounts Payable and make sure they get paid in a timely manner. The hard truth is that you don’t have the right to use the image until they are paid. Be open to future communication from the photographer. Keep the metadata with the image so everyone knows where it came from. If you got the best image at a fair price, you look good. The photographer helped make that happen, so keep that photographer in your pocket. The next time you need something, finding the right image and negotiating the price will go faster because you know each other.
We live in a time when you can do a transaction on the Internet in no time. You can’t have a relationship with the internet. You are doing the research, which means you are spending your time doing it and time is a finite quantity. If you have advisors and resources, the return in the end will be worth it and everybody wins.