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How A Single Wedding Photograph is Worth $18,000

By fotosiamo on August 21st 2012

Marketing is a critical component of the photography business that many photographers overlook. That is why more so than ever, having a multi-prong marketing approach to your business will not only help you in your genre, but may also land you clients from unexpected places. Whether it is Facebook, a photo competition, a blog, or even a guest article on our site, the more eyeballs see your work, the more you can get noticed.

If you are not a commercial or fashion photographer, you may not have worked with an art buyer before. An art buyer usually refers to the person in an advertising agency who seeks and licenses photographs for commercial use, and acts as the liaison between the photographer/agent and the client.

Depending on the client, the art buyer may look into stock images from sources like Getty Images or hire a photographer to shoot something specific. Other times, however, the art buyer may turn to the internet for ideas and may just run into one of your images.

And that is exactly what happened to Texas wedding photographer Allen Ayres, who was contacted by an art buyer from an ad agency who ran into his blog. The art buyer wanted to license one of his wedding images for one of their pharmaceutical clients.

As a wedding photographer with no experience in licensing, Allen turned to photographer and business coach John Mireles for advice. Allen’s goal was to get $1,000 for the image.

John’s article on Photographer’s Business Coach discussed the factors that go into a licensing fee, which if done right, can be more valuable and profitable compared to the shooting fee itself.

Here are the five criteria in the licensing usage rights that you need to find out:

    1. Size of the image to be reproduced in the final layout
    2. Nature and medium of publication
    3. Geographical area of publication
    4. Duration of use
    5. Exclusivity

If you read the article, you can see how Allen and the art buyer eventually agreed on the licensing usage fee of $18,000 for that one photograph. Not a bad pay, right?

I love John’s final thoughts in the article about how we as photographers don’t set the value of our work.

The client sets the value, we set the price. It’s our job to translate the value we’re generating into a dollar figure that accurately reflects that value.

All too often I hear photographers make excuses for why they should undervalue their work: “It only took me an hour to shoot.” “It’s only a half-day.” “I’ll do this one for cheap so that this client will give me more work later.” “It’s not my regular work so it’s not that big a deal.” “I’m not going to do anything else with the shot.”

Forget all that. It’s not about you. It’s about the value that you’re delivering to your client. There’s a lot of mediocre images out there in the world. If a client wanted one of them, they could use one for a song. If they want you, it’s because you offer something special. Don’t be afraid to charge for your specialness.

UPDATE: The license for the $18,000 wedding image was renewed twice and expanded to cover Europe. Allen has since earned $27,000 on it! Here is that photo!

Wedding by Allen Ayres


Joe is a rising fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs. Be sure to check out his work at and connect with him on Google Plus and on Facebook


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  1. Ed Rhodes

    that’s awesome that they were able to get rewarded for their hard work

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  2. Mrmagic1090

    I agree with you Allen. You never can tell what the value of a picture will be. I had a woman ask for a picture I did at a wedding 2 years ago. She was not the bride in fact she was not at the wedding at all but in the background of the picture was her mother. Her mother died 1 week after the wedding and that was the last picture of her taken. It was not an award winning picture but it was to her daughter. The hardest thing I ever had to do in photography was to put a price tag on my work. I am gald John gave some guildlines I can use to help me.

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  3. JKGear

    I’m just an amateur who uses photography as a form of escapism.  I was once told that a picture should tell a story or at least make someone feel ‘something’.  This photo does all that and I am thinking it must have been what the advertisers saw too :).  Surely goodness, there are numerous photos that were shot in poor lighting conditions, war zones, with cheap cameras and many unknowns whose work have been appraised and applauded just for capturing ‘life’ who have gone on to become infamous through their view(s) thru the lens started all because of a single shot.  I am huge fan of photographers and learn so much by following SLR and the other forums out there and I am shocked to see such blatant cricism of a fellow photographer towards another.  I applaud you Allen Ayres it’s always nice to see someone get kudos for profession that is so understated and misunderstood…keep up the great work !  By the way the photo rocks :)

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  4. JoeS

    BigD  – Life must be pretty horrible for you & all those around you to be consumed with such hatred & jealousy. Counselling maybe? 

    PS – Post the link to your work, we are all waiting to be blown away by your self-proclaimed talent. 

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  5. Reji Berrouet

    Wow! That is fantastic! Congrats on such a huge placement!

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  6. Lisaphoto

    Well BigD, I also hold a photography degree, have been in business for 11 years, have had a book published with my images, am a member of PPA, have multiple award winning images, and beat the pants off of some Master photographers in my very first competition while I was still in college.  I would hold a master’s except I stopped competing, partly b/c of people like you.  And I would never berate another photographer like you did, tell them my work was better than theirs and try to make them feel like crap.  Part of being a photo-journalistic photographer at a wedding is that everything isn’t going to be perfect.  You can’t jump in in the middle of the wedding and tell the ring bearer to get out of the way.  Not to mention, the photographer didn’t post it saying it was the best image in the world.  It was a bit of luck that a buyer found the image, especially b/c he wasn’t advertising it.  But good for him.  How about instead of following this story around and making rude comments, you try and sell some of your images.

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  7. Chantal Boutros

    Hmmm.  I would have probably shrugged that e-mail off as a con and went on my merry way.  I guess that would all depend on how they worded the e-mail, but chances are, I don’t think I would have taken it seriously.  Not to say that I’ll now trust every inquiry I get, but I might do a little more research before pressing the “Junk” button in my inbox.

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  8. Allenayres

    Thank you for the shout out Joe :)

    My original goal for the image was $100-150 – I had already shot the wedding and been paid right? John opened my eyes and made a rather significant difference :)

    They’ve since renewed usage twice and published it in Europe – $27k is more like it :)

    BigD, I am sure every one of the wedding photos you’ve ever shot are award-winning, I bow to your greatness ;) If that’s what you got out if the story you completely missed the point. I didn’t place that value on it, someone else did. I didn’t promote it as a great image, someone else found it several years ago in a routine blog post.

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    • Joe Gunawan

      Well, then.
      In that case, I updated the image link at the bottom of the article, haha. Congratulations Allen!

      – Joe Gunawan |

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    • BigD

      Well Mr. Sarcasm, I was just floored that you found someone dumb enough to pay that kind of money for a poorly composed image. The fact that you let that image out of your camera and onto your website shows that you obviously have no formal training. While every photo I shoot may not be award winning (or make a million dollars), I guarantee that every wedding shot I have given to my clients are MUCH better than this. 

      The point I’m trying to make here is that DUMB LUCK landed you this sale (that and a dumb art buyer). You can pat yourself on the back for being lucky, but don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a work of art just because someone paid you for it. 

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    • Allen Ayres

      Jealous much?

      You’re still missing the point of the story, enraged that someone else would get paid. I didn’t “find someone”, they found me. I am not/have not promoted the image as some big deal. It was a routine wedding image posted on my blog 3+ years ago. I know it’s not “award winning” but I’d much rather have the $$$$$, formal training or not ;)

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    • NaTuRn3r

      @BigD…You’re proof that common sense ain’t so common. That “dumb buyer” is no different than you who thought the time and money you spent on your formal training would get you a win similar to what Ayers got. Don’t be mad at Ayers though, be mad at your instructor. Better yet, be mad at yourself. It doesn’t matter if you, I or anyone else (including Ayers) thinks this photo is a work of art.  Fact is, his buyer did.

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    • sp

      Wow! Your ego sounds bruised! Take a breath…and realize that the exhale is jealousy, not good for you. at. all.

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  9. Ken Wong

    Depending on the clients usage, they could see or use this for other scheme to help deploy they brand, put a meaning towards an advertising campaign or just hang the picture in the CEO’s office.  As long as an agreed fee between the photographer and client is then both parties win in this case.

    From a wedding photographer’s perspective, I don’t see it as a ‘winning’ photo but I’m sure the client’s friends and family see no monotony value but huge personal value.  Its like your grandma or someone close to you passing you an item which can’t be brought and a buyer ask you to sell it for alarge amounts of cash – would you sell it for a bit of profit or keep their promise and cherish it and pass it onto your grand child? 

    Point is, everyone can see value in something which others don’t see.   

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  10. BigD

    Wow. $18K for that bad image?

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    • Joe Gunawan

      Correction. $27k now ;)

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    • Kbk

      Wow, BigD – you need a Xanax. Perhaps photography isn’t the best career for you.

      Congrats, Allen!

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