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How Much to Sell Photo Rights For?

Published: 08/11/2023

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You should find the right approach for setting prices when offering real estate photography services. This is crucial if you want to sell photo rights and give up the license of your digital files. We're explaining how much to sell photo rights for and how you can set reasonable rates.

How Much to Sell Photo Rights For?

The cost of selling image rights depends on your level of work, resources, photography experience, marketing, and terms of use. Generally, you can get anywhere between $20 to $50 per image. However, you can ask for more if you want a complete copyright buyout.

As real estate photographers, you must ensure you're not giving away your files for free or looking like you're not selling the license rights. The following are basic pricing considerations when computing the rates depending on whether the image is in digital format or print.

Want to learn more about how to protect your images and how to control who has the rights to them? Check out the Photography and Copyright: Complete Guide for Photographers course so that you're not letting others use your images for free!

Udemy Photography Copyright Course for photographers

Digital Images

Because of the broad online market, digital images appeal to real estate buyers, sellers, and agents. The goal is to assign an attainable value to the license of a digital photo by being affordable, yet the overall price isn’t negatively impacting your earnings. Simply add the inputs, like materials and labor.

  1. Multiply the total value of resources by the markup factor. For instance, if you charge the labor at $1 per minute, and then it takes 5 minutes to retouch, and 2 minutes to upload, you get $7 for labor. 
  2. Add expenses such as the photo editing application charges of around $15.50. This gives a total of $22.50.
  3. Multiplying the figure with a 2.85 markup factor gives you a selling price of $64.13 or $65. 

The computation tends to make the digital files look expensive. However, this price is affordable and preferable as clients can reproduce the photos.

Printed Images

Even if printed photos might look professional and aesthetically appealing, they can't be manipulated even after selling the rights, which many clients don’t want. However, if you sell the photos as prints instead of digital files, you still need a pricing plan that will give you worthwhile returns from your prints.

For instance, you can use the following computation for an 8 x 10 print. 

  1. Labor of around 9 minutes from retouching, ordering, packing, and meetup.
  2. Total material costs for printing, shipping, and packaging at around $11.25. This gives you a total of $20.25.
  3. If I use the same markup factor, like when selling digital photos, you will get a total of $57.71 or $52 for an 8 x 10 print. 

Printing may take longer and more resources than digital images, resulting in lower net returns. 

Pricing Models for Selling Photo Rights

Remember that being a professional photographer also means managing a profitable business. You want to earn money by selling your photo rights or license with proper computation.

Woman pensive, as she sits in front of her laptop

The following pricing models can help you know how much to sell the photo rights. They depend on the quality of the photo, the use, and whether it's in digital format or print.

Opportunity Cost

This model considers what income you might lose by selling the photo's rights. For instance, offering digital files means you will lose sales of print versions. 

  • If you think you would most likely sell an 8 x 10 print for at least $50, then the digital file should be greater than $50.
  • Suppose you'll have a whole-day shoot of a property and have a fixed package of $1200 for the digital price. In this case, you can increase it to at least $1500 to include rights.

Per Usage

Unlike the opportunity cost pricing model, per usage involves selling the rights for around $2000 per photo per year. This typically applies when the client wants to use the image for advertising. 

  • If your customers plan to print 10,000 brochures, that means they may only pay about $0.20 per photo.
  • Remember that if the client's listing website gets thousands of page views, you will have charged the photo around $0.002 or less for every view. As a result, if the images are for posting on popular websites, you can increase the price for a total licensing buyout.

Per Image

One of the common mistakes real estate photographers commit is the failure to include the charges for post-production time they take to retouch the photos as they try to beat the competition. Usually, this results in a loss of income.

Per image is ideal if you want more control over the budget. I have more advanced pre-production applications in today's real estate photography industry than years ago. However, I also have more demanding post-production tasks.

Consider the price per image depending on the time and photography resources you have invested. You can then incorporate the licensing into pricing and make each photo pricier.

Laptop and phone on a desk

Per Package

Like commercial project costs, this model involves selling photos in bulk and offering bulk order discounts. You can present a range of reasonably priced options that suit the needs and budget of your client if the client wants a large collection of photos.

For instance, set a lower price for the copyright of 200 photos compared to when the client buys the rights to each image.

Rights Managed

For this licensing model, clients would buy and get the rights to a photo for a specific project or timeline. While rights-managed tend to sell less than the previous models, they can generate a higher income.

This model also gives you solid control over the use of your images by managing the selling rights. It works like a subscription plan. Thus, it’s not advisable to charge high fees for the exclusive use of your pictures over a period of time.

Royalty-Free: One-Time Payment

Royalty-free refers to a system where a client secures permission to use your photograph through a one-time payment. 

  • Unlike the previous types, royalty-free allows clients to use your photographs in multiple ways without additional payment.
  • Royalty-free is a good starting model if you want to make a high volume of small sales as you gain exposure. 
  • Royalty-free is an easy way to sell the rights to your photos without complex computation, mainly when you use sites like Shutterstock, iStock, and AdobeStock.

Find a microstock website with a commission offer of $0.25 to $40 for a single photo. As the demand for the photos increases, consider increasing the prices per image or switching to the other pricing models for better rates.

Essential Things to Consider When Pricing the Real Estate Photos

Even with these pricing models, prices are not cast in stone and can vary from client to client depending on the value the client is getting from the photos. That means you need to consider what the client intends to do with the photo, even if you are using the royalty-free, one-time payment model.

For instance, you might want to sell the photo rights with a higher markup to a client who will generate $1 million dollars from your photo and a lower markup to a client who plans to use the photo as one of the photos in a single article. 

You should also consider the overall view of the clients, and how the industry is evolving. Some of the essential considerations to make when setting the prices include:

Remember that Publications Are Businesses

Publications such as magazines and newspapers are sold at newsstands, bookstores, and retail outlets. Advertisers pay to place ads in printed editions of newspapers and magazines. The cost is typically based on the ad's size and placement, as well as the publication's circulation.

With the rise of digital media, magazines, and newspapers are also generating revenue through subscription plans. Usually, readers need to sign up for an account and pay in advance to receive publications over a set period of time, such as weekly, monthly, or annually.

Nowadays, many publications also run ads on their websites, such as display ads, video ads, and sponsored content. Considering all these income streams, and your photos might be the pillar behind their success, use the following tips to get the maximum value from your photos. 

A man looking at his laptop with a DSLR camera beside it

Use the Rights-Managed Pricing Model

It's advisable to use the rights-managed pricing model, so the magazine purchases the image for a one-time print, meaning they can't use the photo again in the future without renegotiating. Usually, this means you will be making money every time they need to make money through your photo.

However, it's common for major publications to want exclusive rights to your photo. In such cases, you should charge a premium.

Consider the Placement

Set the price depending on where the photo will be placed in the magazine. For instance, a front-page image in a national magazine will be priced higher than an image used in the inner pages.

In the same way, if they intend to use the photo as the main image on their website homepage, it should attract a premium value. Knowing where they intend to place the image, you can increase the price accordingly.

Check the Reach and Ad Costs of the Publication on the Press Kit

As a real estate photographer who might not have enough exposure in the media and publication industry, you might not know the actual prices in the industry. Fortunately, you can take advantage of the Advertising link or Press Kit link that is usually in the footer of most publication sites.

This link directs you to a page that contains information and resources for advertisers, journalists, and interested parties who might want to collaborate with, write about, or advertise in the magazine. 

It also contains information about the magazine's readership demographics, circulation figures, advertising rates, and ad sizes. Here is how you can use the information to gauge the publication's budget and how much they might be willing to spend on your photos.

  • Circulation figures: Knowing how many people receive the magazine in both print and digital versions can give you an idea of its reach. Generally, the larger the readership, the higher you can price your photos.
  • Demographics: If the magazine targets a high-end, niche audience such as luxury, lifestyle, and specific professionals, they might have a higher budget for premium content, including photos.
  • Ad rates: Ad rates give you a general idea of the magazine's budget and how much they value their content. If they charge advertisers a premium, they might also have a higher budget for contributors, including photographers.
  • Overall quality: Assess the overall quality and style of the magazine's content. If it's a high-end publication with top-notch design and content, they'll likely seek quality images and may be willing to pay a premium.

What About Small Publications?

It's essential to consider the size of the publication. For example, a magazine with a vast circulation or a significant newspaper typically has higher budgets than smaller publications. In terms of value, a publication with minimal reach also means it can't benefit as much from your photos.

However, this doesn't mean you should give them the photos for free. Considering that small publications might not have Advertising links or Press Kit links that give you a better understanding of their budgets, the best way is to consider the industry pricing standards.

Usually, you can get this information from photography organizations such as the American Society of Media Photographers. However, if the publication is not making a profit and can't meet the industry pricing standards, you can negotiate for a win-win price. 

The Client Dilemma

It's common for clients to think they have the right to publish your photos for free, especially if you are a beginner real estate photographer building a portfolio. This misunderstanding results in license issues, as the client might want to use the photos against the licensing terms.

In most cases, this happens when you sell the photos under the right-managed model, and the clients mistakenly believe they have more rights to an image than they do. For instance, if the client wanted to use the photos to advertise real estate properties for one year, the client should stop using the photos when it's over. 

However, most clients find themselves in a dilemma where they don't want to pay for the photos anymore, yet don't want to sell them to another client, especially a competitor. However, the client should not prevent you from reselling the photos. The best way to avoid these issues is to set expectations upfront about licensing rights.

The Value of Your Photos

Knowing the value of your photos is vital when pricing them. For instance, you can shoot a large collection of photos and then sort and group them into good-quality, high-quality, and premium quality. You can give good quality photos for free to royalty-free websites for downloads.

A room with a laptop and high-quality camera setup placed on the wooden table

Sell high-quality photos for a small fee, or give them for free to major publications with terms on how you want to be credited and where the credit should appear. You should also specify how the website can use your photo, such as single-use in an article.

You can then sell the premium quality photos at a higher price. This allows you to get your name out there using standard photos, show potential clients where your work has been featured using high-quality photos, and then sell the premium photos to clients. This ensures you get value from every photo.

The Transformation in the Industry

With the advent of digital cameras, drones, and advanced editing software, the barrier to entry for becoming a real estate photographer has decreased. This has led to an increase in the number of photographers in the market. 

At the same time, websites, social media platforms, and real estate apps have proliferated the demand for high-quality images. This increased demand, however, has also led to stiff competition among photographers to get their work showcased.

As a result, some photographers, especially those new to the industry or looking to quickly build a portfolio, offer their photos to agents and publications for free in exchange for exposure. This has brought negative implications for professionals in the industry, and here is how you can adjust your pricing to beat the competition.

  • Since photographers who provide images for free might not deliver the same quality as established professionals, emphasize the value of your work in terms of attention to detail, post-processing skills, and overall expertise.
  • Offer different packages of service, such as basic for standard photos, premium for drone shots and virtual tours, and platinum for full package with video and 360-degree views.
  • Provide discounts to repeat clients or those who refer others to your services. This can help in retaining loyal clients and encouraging word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Stay updated with the latest photography techniques, tools, and software. Investing in your skills and equipment can justify higher pricing due to the superior quality you're offering.
  • Be transparent about your pricing. Break down the costs for the client so they understand where their money is going. Periodically ask for feedback so you can understand their needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Increase the Photo Rights Fee?

A good option is automatically increasing the rates for selling photo rights by around 5% yearly. Another way is to consider the cost of the camera gear, photo-editing applications, and general expenses when you only want to increase the rates. Generally, keep inflation in mind when changing fees.

Can the Photo Rights Be Revoked After Selling?

Yes, the photo rights can be revoked after selling. Usually, the client or photographer can initiate the revocation process. However, the party that revokes the consent might need to pay indemnification for any damage or loss accrued.

How Do I Give Rights to an Image?

You must first submit an application form to the U.S. Copyright Office to file a copyright. Check with the office whether you should submit a physical or digital copy of the picture. Lastly, pay the filing fee, and wait for the processing to finish.

How to Explain Image Licensing for Real Estate and Architecture Photography


Knowing how to sell photo rights can help you determine whether to sell the images while reserving the copyright. The above pricing models can help you set the correct prices depending on the time, skills, and resources invested in taking and retouching the photos.

12 comments on “How Much to Sell Photo Rights For?”

  1. I won't touch the 'rights' bullet point but I think travel charges is sorta interesting: I've had plenty of jobs that pay the same or less than what I make with my camera - that I drove 30 or 45 minutes to get to - zero write off. Now the IRS 'gives' me 54c for that (and any tolls along the way). And you think I should charge another 54?

    I can see an expense charge for an hour down the road, but less of a drive seems silly. Most people drive to work. Many can't write off a dime of it. Sometimes I think people lose track of the real world while they're calculating 'cost of business'.

  2. A builder "wanting all rights" may not be the same as having to "give up my rights." Do they want unlimited use forever? Do they want to own the copyright to the images? No one is going to get any value out of this post and the heated discussion that's sure to follow until the OP clarifies what exactly the builder wants from her.

  3. There a 2 popular ways to license ones work. Rights managed and Royalty free.

    Since you don't sound like you are going to be dealing with managing rights and usage over a set amount of time, look into the Royalty Free pricing. Check out Getty images to get an idea of what they charge per image and build your licensing pricing accordingly.

    Remeber your work has lots of value if someone has approached you for it.

  4. Before doing anything, I suggest that you read the ASMP's information on licensing: Also, look into their other business tutorials.

    This website has a lot of good info on pricing and negotiating:

    Do not assume that, just because someone says that they want a lot of rights, that they actually need them. Try to find out how they actually intend to use the photos.

    This may help to illustrate the range of pricing for different levels of usage: However, you have to set the starting point for the price, and then build up from that as you add more usage.

    1. Thank you for your comment. aphotoeditor is a great site to review proposals and get an idea of what a 'real' corporate production line sheet looks like. And, they'll help you put together one if you need help with a proposal.

      Your first link was broken or the resource isn't available anymore. I'd love to read it though.

  5. @Dave Spenser, I charge for driving long distances mostly because of the extra time it takes. Time that I could've spent on another shoot or editing..

    I apologize for not answering the main question.

  6. For travel, I charge for anything outside of my general area, at $75 an hour (as calculated by Google Maps). That's how much my time is worth. You can't be driving all over town or outside of town for $15 an hour. That's ridiculous!

    For example, let's say one customer wants you to drive an hour north of where you are based. That's two hours of driving. That's time you could spend doing other things or working on jobs closer to you. So let's say you have to drive one hour north for the first job then one hour south of your base for the 2nd job of the day. That's 4 hours of driving for only two jobs. You'd better be compensated for your time.

    I'd say you charge in a way that's easy to calculate for you and easy to understand for you clients. Charge per mile, per minute, etc. Then you can say (first 15 miles are free or something like that).

    I am signed up on a Virtual Tours website called When realtors plug in the listing address, the pricing in their shopping cart automatically calculates based on your predetermined driving fees (based on zip codes). So I enter each zip code where I want to do work. I can list some zip codes as normal price, and other zip codes at $15 extra and still other zip codes at $25 extra. It takes a bit of time to set it up, but once it's done, it's completely transparent to your clients.

  7. When someone says they want all rights it's always worth clarifying whether they're including roadside billboards in Australia, television adverts in South America, ambient media in London underground tube trains, worldwide advertising in all Conde Nast pulications etc.

  8. Unlimited rights, assignment of Copyright - Creative work is priced according to the cost to produce it and the amount of use the licensee wants. Some photographers say they don't charge for the production but only for the usage and others will charge for the production and allow unlimited usage. I take the middle ground and charge for both. A National company will be familiar with paying for each type of usage, but they will still fish for photographers that will work cheap and give away the farm. There are forms for the different types of usage (web, print, tv, billboards, magazine ads, Op/Ed, corporate internal communications, bus stop ads, trade show booth art, etc) to help you develop a standard pricing structure for licenses. Check out the PFRE Flikr forum and search for Ashley Morrison. He frequently posts a link to a "BUR", a Basic Usage Rate form. It's a good starting point that shows how the creative industry commonly breaks down separate usage line items. Another aspect is time; licenses are generally specified as being valid for a set period of time for new uses, printing runs, TV ads. Each additional usage or time period has value.

    A National company may use images in a wide variety of ways for many years. Chances are that if you create some images for them and hand out an unlimited license or assign them the copyright, they won't need any new images for several years by which time they may have forgotten all about you and you won't be getting any repeat business. On the other hand, if they need to renew their licenses on a yearly basis or when they want to put the images to different uses, they will contact you and you may get additional new work.

    With RE work we are typically selling a license good for between 1 and 6 months, the life of a listing contract. It might run longer for more expensive or unique properties or if the market is slow. The usage is usually limited to selling the property with no restrictions on media type or region. I also allow the agent that contracted for the photos to use them to market themselves after the home has sold or they are no longer involved. They do not get the ability to transfer the images to any third party for a fee or free. An agent taking over a listing has no license to use the images provided to the first agent without purchasing a new license. This packaging of licensing makes it easy to market to RE agents that are not used to working with the Creative industry. Their usages are very clear cut and it's futile to approach them with an ala carte menu of licensing options. They might find it too complex and forgo using you.

    Pricing per usage is completely up to you. I would suggest that you not be shy about asking for what might seem like a lot of money per image. $1,000 per image/year might not be out of line if they intend to use the photos in their advertising (not exclusively for listing a specific property). If they were to print 10,000 brochures, that's $.10/image/brochure. On their web site they may get hundreds of thousands of page views so an image might only be costing them $.001/view or less. The images may also wind up in many other places making their cost per use vanishingly small even if you were to charge the $1,000/image. For a total buyout of your Copyright, you will want to charge even more. It's not outrageous to quote $25,000 for 10 finished images. A large company is going to use the images you make for them to generate millions of dollars of business so don't feel guilty.

    If you haven't scared off the client, they may come back to you for a quote on only the usages that they really need, so the BUR form I mentioned above is a good tool to calculate your licensing fees and re-figuring them agains consistently when the customer wants to talk options. Whatever you work out, be sure you have the rights to use the images in your own portfolio in writing.

    Last but more important, register all of your images with the Copyright office before you submit them to your client. Don't pick and choose, it's the same price to just submit all of your raw work at the same time. You will have a tangible piece of official paper to convey to your client if they really do want to buy out the copyright.

    Travel - I provide around 20 images for each RE job as my standard service. Each image takes about 6-7 minutes to shoot, process, deliver and bill. That's roughly 2 hours per job. I know what I need to make to break even and I know what I want to make to reach the goals I have set for myself. I made a chart of the surrounding area, it's a fair sized service area but low density, and I can estimate how long it takes to get to each region. These regions are outlined on a map with 30 min travel time lines like a topographic presentation. When I get a request for a quote, I take the bare photography price and add the travel time/mileage charge from my region map. I charge the same for my time whether I'm making pictures or driving. There is no sense in taking a job two hours away and billing any less just because I'm behind the wheel. I could do 2 more local jobs and make more money. I will happily drive as far as a customer wants to do a job if they are willing to pay me for the service. Strangely enough, I've only had one job in the city where I live. The agents here seem dead set against using professional photography. One told me that the ONLY reason she takes any pictures is due to the MLS requirement to have one of the front of the house. I can get from one end of town to the other in 15 minutes or less, so I don't charge for mileage here in town. I offer a substantial discount for jobs in town as I can eat lunch at home and do a few errands while I'm out running around.

    It's easiest if you can offer a total price for each city you service with your travel expenses built in. Agents will then know that if they want you for a job in City B, it's $XXX, City C, it's $XXX. If they have to find the distance from your office/home to the listing, they won't because it's too much work. If they can just look at your pricing page (if you have one) and can see that City B is priced at $XXX you won't get calls to quote every property individually and they are less likely to try and talk your price down. People will dicker over a stated price but they are far less likely to want to negotiate if the price is written down. Something I learned from from other business people I know. They advised me to always provide a written quote over telling a customer a price over the phone. They were right, when I started faxing (yeah, I'm old) quotes out of my accounting system, I received more orders with less negotiation. (This is in the USA. Other parts of the globe are far different).

  9. Some photographers say they don’t charge for the production but only for the usage and others will charge for the production and allow unlimited usage.

  10. I guess it really does depend on the region, although you can get lower fees through stock photos. I can only get high rates when working with corporate clients as they honor contracts.

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