Building a Successful Photography Business in a Small Market


Lesson Info

Educating Your Client

So in a small market it's a crucial step in the process of licensing to educate and talk to the client about licensing. I run into people every single day that have never heard of the photography license, and or it's completely misunderstand, they misunderstand the purpose of licensing. In the past, I would often hear someone say, well I'm paying you, so shouldn't I own the photos? That's a common thing in a small market. So, it's important to dumb down that licensing and sort of use verbiage to, use verbiage that's easy to understand. In Louisville I often provide like blanket licenses, which offers more cushion and the client feels more confident. Make it simple as possible. But put value in your photography, remember that. So, before generating an estimate, it's important to understand the usage of the image in detail, and ask these questions. It's your job to flesh out what this license is going to look like. How will the image be used, for how long, in what medium, and where? Is i...

t exclusive? So we're going to dive into those. How long will the image be used. I think this can scare a lot of people, especially in your market where people aren't used to licensing photography. A lot of potential clientele want to use the image forever. So, but it's really rare in the commercial space for a company to use a photograph more than two to five years in a marketing campaign. So, you know, after a long time the image will be completely dead. So, if you put a time period on, it gives the ultimate opportunity to relicense it in the future. Quantity of use, how many times can they use the image. Is it limited? Meaning can they only use it once or twice, three times, four times. Is it unlimited, can they use it as much as they want, or is it a full buyout? They can use it however they want, in whatever medium, anytime, anywhere. That's an expensive thing though, for a lot of companies, a full buyout. Exclusivity, is it exclusive to this prospect. Is it industry exclusive, meaning that is the image just, can I, for example, relicense this to say a client that's not in the same industry as this particular client. So for example in the photography industry, let's say I do this fashion editorial, and it's a non exclusive license, so I'm able to license the image to both my client and then say somebody in the photography industry that wants to, like a photography magazine or something like that. So, exclusive would give them that they can only use it, I can only license it to them. Industry exclusive means that I can license it to other people outside of their industry. And then of course, non-exclusive, I can license it to anybody I want. This comes back to loyalty though a little bit. You know, you don't want to license an image to their competitor. That's important. So where will this image be used? What region, international, local? Country specific? Where is it going, that plays a role. Will the image be used in a market to consumer or a specific trade. What's the exposure? Will it go directly to a consumer or will it go to businesses? Something to remember. How will the image be used? Will it be used in advertising? Will it be used for publicity, promotional purposes, such as a politician? Or will it be used in editorial? Some sort of editorial spread with copy and a story? The medium, what's the medium. In what medium will this image be used. Will it be put in print, will it be put in newspaper, will it be put in a magazine, will it be put in collateral such as brochures, or web collateral, such as websites, social media, things of that nature. Or electronics, say electronic billboards. That's a big thing. You've gotta understand the medium, where it's going. So let's look at some real, hardcore numbers. These are rates that I bid in Louisville, Kentucky. These rates are very much under what I would bid for somewhere, say like Chicago. So the time is one month, the quantity is limited, it's one time use. The exclusivity, it's exclusive to that client. The region, it's just local. The market is to consumers. The trade is advertising, and the medium is print. So I do a lot of work for, like say hair salons, local hair salons. This is a great example of that. They're only, they want to promote their brand. So this $800 through $1,800, I know it's a wide range. But this is, these are numbers that I charge for one photograph, for one license. A magazine advertisement. While these may be industry standard rates, remember it's your photography, you own the image, so you can do whatever you want, and you can charge whatever you want for the license. It's on a flexible sliding scale. There's not really anything that's, this is how it is. It's your photography. So with a magazine advertisement, say the time is one month, the quantity is limited, it's one time use. The exclusivity is non-exclusive, the region is local, the market is to a consumer, the trade is advertising, and the medium is of course a magazine. I would charge $600 to $800 for one photograph. And I know these numbers can be a little overwhelming, but this is how it is in the commercial business. And, if they don't want to pay that, sorry. Say no guys, you know. You're gonna brand yourself as an expensive photographer, and they will come.

We all aspire to success professionally and personally, but the journey can be hard in a city where opportunities aren't beating down the door. Clay Cook's experiences and work ethic have paved a path for success in less than eight years as an editorial and advertising photographer in Louisville, Kentucky. From an arduous life as a touring musician to documentary work throughout Tanzania, Iraq and Bangladesh, Clay has learned the importance of going the extra mile and taking critical risks. In this unique course, Clay will expose how to break through the small-town mentality and strategically move up the ladder with targeted marketing tactics, practical pricing and pragmatic perception.



  • Clay Cook gets into the nitty gritty of the business side of photography. He is super informative and confidently concise about his knowledge and experience in the industry. As a modestly-small business owner, I found this course to be insightful and motivating. It is very helpful, and I highly recommend it!
  • I really appreciate how he just lays out numbers. I think that's super helpful for the industry as a whole, and it sets some perspective of how much guac photographers can really make.
  • Personally one of the most helpful and to-the-point courses I have taken on CreativeLive. Huge thank you to Clay.