Book Gives Down-to-Earth Advice About What to Charge for Pictures


You know the question is coming. It should be a moment you’re looking forward to but somehow it isn’t. Worst of all, you don’t know what answer to give.

How much do you charge for your photography?

Most likely your answer won’t be the right one. Because you don’t want to scare off a client, you will probably end up charging less than you should.

Unless you consider the cost of your equipment, insurance, film, processing, time, mileage and those years in the darkroom learning your trade, you will wind up virtually giving away those photographs.


The 1988 edition of “Selling Photographs,” by Lou Jacobs, can help you formulate the proper answer. The $16.95 book, published by Amphoto, is a simple, straightforward guide to establishing the rates you should charge.

It also helps you understand your rights as a photographer. Topics include starting a business, copyright laws, new technologies, photography and the law, and methods of communication. The book is broken down into individual sections detailing editorial, stock, book, fine-art, annual report and advertising photography.

“I think new photographers have always run the risk of being exploited,” Jacobs says. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of the hope that I can help a lot of photographers protect themselves and avoid being ripped off by all kinds of clients.

“Photographers do make more than they used to but we don’t have a union. The people who get paid the best are the ones with good reputations who say, ‘Look, this is my price. If you want me, this is what you’ll pay.’ ”


Jacobs, 67, who lives in Cathedral City, says one of the big problems is that amateurs are so happy to have the pictures published that they don’t care about the money.

Jacobs originally wrote the book in 1978 but says the 1988 version is almost entirely new. “All I took out of the (first) book is the table of contents.” His other books include “Developing Your Own Photographic Style,” which was published last year, and “How to Take Great Pictures With Your SLR,” which sold 350,000 copies between 1974 and 1982.”

Jacobs says another major problem is that people don’t understand copyrights. He says photographers need to protect themselves with a copyright, which is as simple as placing a copyright sign on a slide or a print. The photo doesn’t have to be registered in order for the copyright to be valid.

Ownership of photographs is another misunderstood area, Jacobs says. “You own the pictures unless you’re working on salary or unless you sign an agreement to turn them over to the client.”


The photography column, which runs each Saturday in Orange County Life, is intended to help both the serious amateur and weekend shooter. Questions and ideas are encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Chief Photographer, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif., 92626.