Whittle Down That Contract

Publishers want to get as much out of you as they legally can in today’s contract negotiations. You’re going to find they want to make their contract as broad as possible. It’s up to you, the photographer, to whittle the contract down to workable (for you) reality. Here are some answers for you.

Contract says:  “Photographer hereby grants to Publisher one (1) time publication rights to Photographer’s stock Photograph(s), and ongoing rights, as described below. All rights are nonexclusive.”

Translation: This means you can sell and resell this photo to other publishers; it is not an “all rights” sale exclusively to this publisher. If it were, you’d want to charge three or four times your original asking fee.


Contract says: “All rights are applicable in all media, including, but not limited to, all electronic, Internet, disc, optical, digital and other media whether now known or hereafter invented.”

Translation:  As the Digital Age advances, publishers want to be sure they don’t run into any future snags where it is not clear that electronic rights are also included in the license fee.


Here’s a question for you: Should you tack on an extra charge in case the publisher wants to use the image for an electronic purpose, such as a one-time use on their Website or in a sample DVD? Unless your name is a household word in the industry, you should probably consider going along with their request for electronic rights. This might come as a jolt to long-time stock photographers who see electronic rights as an additional use. However, at this point in the digital age, “electronic rights” are pretty much a given and undistinguishable from standard print rights. You have the option of charging an extra fee for electronic rights, but in doing so you might (as a newcomer) price yourself out of the market.

The answer to this dilemma is probably to originally charge 10 to 25 percent more for your one-time use of photos when you get in discussion with a photobuyer. If they really are interested in using your image, they’ll find a way to cover the cost of your higher fee. This way you can assure that the negotiation will go smoothly when they ask, “Does this include electronic rights?” You’ll be able to say “Sure,” and sound like the good guy.


Contract says: “The right to publish the Photograph(s) one (1) time in any form throughout the world in the above-named Magazine.”

Translation:   This gives them “world rights,” which is ok But, remind them that you are talking about “the above-named magazine,” and that if they wish to use the photo for another, completely separate editorial use (magazine, book, etc.) the fee would be 75 percent of the original fee.


Contract says: “The right to publish and use the Photograph(s) in the same form as the image originally appeared for advertisements and promotions for the Publisher and/or the Publisher’s products without additional payment.”

Translation:  Whoa! For advertising use, ask them to contact you separately, and then use the chart in Chapter 8 of my book, “Sell & ReSell Your Photos” (available at Amazon.com and in most libraries) to come up with a fair fee based on such factors as circulation, print run, etc.


Contract says: “The right to publish and use the Photograph(s), which appeared in the Magazine, in foreign editions of the Magazine in consideration of a one (1) time additional fee equal to fifteen (15%) percent of the original…”

Translation:  – it should read: “… in consideration of a one (1) time additional fee equal to seventy five (75%) percent of the original compensation paid.”


When a publisher sends you a contract, you need to send the contract back to them with your cross-outs and annotations.  Pros do this all of the time. If you don’t make adjustments to the contract, they might consider you an amateur and might avoid you in the future because you don’t have a track record in the publishing industry. To them, this means you are not hassle-free, which they interpret as someone who needs some handholding. They’d rather pay a higher fee to a person who is hassle-free.





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