Need some help pricing photo for t-shirts and posters


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Aug 22, 2008
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Every year, a local car club holds a drag race event. I took a butload of photos at last year's event. I was not commissioned to take photos, it was just for the fun and love of photography (and drag racing ;)).

A few weeks ago, a member of the club asked me for a sample CD of the photos I took, so I gave him one which he presented to the board. He got back to me earlier today asking for one particular image that they'd like to use for printing posters and t-shirts.

I have no idea where to start on pricing...

Do I ask for a commission on t-shirts and posters? Plus a creative fee? What are reasonable creative and commission fees/percentages?

Do I just figure out a reasonable flat fee for these uses of the photo?

Do I charge for my hours spent out at the track?

Any other ideas?

I'd say I spent 14 hours over the two-day event if that makes any difference. I'm not quite sure what sort of organization they would be classified as, but I think it's probably non-profit.

He also mentioned that they're willing to print attribution on the merchandise. Perhaps if they are unwilling or unable to pay a reasonable amount, this would be an option for me to gain some exposure.

(yes, I did a search, I didn't find much of anything)
Price according to how many times they are going to use the image. Do club members pay dues? Does the club have other sources of income?

How many t-shirts and how many posters? Front and back on the t-shirts or only one side. What size posters? 11x14?, 16x20?, 20x30? 4'x6'?

Do they want exclusive rights to the image or can you sell it to other clients that may appear later? Do they want All Rights?

What was the paid attendence at last years event?

There's not a bunch of photographers out here selling t-shirts and posters.

They'll sell a whole lot more t-shirts with your image on 'em than just the name of the car club and they won't sell squat for posters with no image. Consider how much leverage you have.

Hope that gives you some ideas.
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Thanks, KmH, that's really helpful information. Blank, thanks for the link, your first response there has some good stuff.

I've written up a worksheet for myself...


- What type of organization are you?
(ie.: non-profit, profit, charitable, etc.)

- What are your sources of income?

- How many t-shirts? How many posters?

- How will the artwork be edited or manipulated for publishing?

- Who is printing the t-shirts and posters?

- At what size(s) will the posters be printed?

- What will the posters be advertising?

- What are you willing to print for attribution if necessary?
(ie.: name, website, email)


Total Time Spent out on track last year: 14 hours

Guides for my own use:
@ $45.00/hr = $630.00 (desired rate)
@ $30.00/hr = $420.00 (acceptable rate)
@ $15.00/hr = $210.00 (acceptable rate for non-profits)
@ $8.75/hr = $108.50 (minimum wage on May 1)
@ $9.00/hr = $126.00 (minimum wage on Sept 1)

- Figure out percentage for t-shirts based on:
> production numbers / sales numbers (lower percentage / higher percentage)
> net profit per sale

- Figure out percentage for posters based on:
> print numbers
> income generated from last year's event

- Work the percentages towards a goal listed in the guide
- Adjust and apply attribution where amount is insufficient towards goal

Discounts Applicable:
- for non-profit and charitable organizations (to be negotiated)
- - for credit / attribution on merchandise and prints (discount to be negotiated based on how attribution is displayed)

What do you think? Look OK? Anything missing?

Tell me why you give non-profits a big break. They aren't the same as a charity.

I know some non-profits where the employees make huge salaries. If you want to help them out that's fine and admirable. But protect the photographic industry; charge them full rate but make a separate personal donation that you can also deduct on your taxes.
This is a situation alot of us end up in. How you handle it now, will dictate your future with this "club". Me personally, I would tread lightly. Since you were never asked to cover the event by anyone, invoicing for any figure on your worksheet may have a negative reply.

This is what you have:
  • Interest in 1 image
  • An interest in licensing of 1 image
That (if I read your post right) is all you have.
If I were you, I would sell the image with licensed restrictions based on application:

  1. A poster desinged by you with "x" copies. Just as I pointed out in the attached link. Your price for design = $x/hr x however long it takes to put the poster together. Then apply a margin to "your cost" to having that quantity printed and delivered. Poster size for designing is irrelevant when working in Photoshop or whatever program you intend to use. Poster size for print reasons will obviously alter your price.
  2. If they want an image for use of print on a tshirt, have a licensing agreement drawn up for use of that particular image, for "x" amount of t-shirts. Some even state a period of time the image can be in production. Some even request visual credit (like an art signature). There should be a sliding scale for this image license. My question would be "how many t-shirts do you intend to print?". If they say no more than 100, that should be in your license agreement and you might charge as follows:
100 t-shirts at $15.00 each = $1,500. Since your image is probably the focus of the t-shirt sales, 5 to 10% is not an unfair asking price. Therefore, say 7.5% of $1,500 is $112.50. That $112.50 for that many t-shirts is reasonable. License is the key. $112 for 1 image to give some guy to put on a t-shirt is a pretty good pay for you! Of course, put in your own percentage justification.

I honestly beleive, if you go to this club with any of your worksheet prices, you will be turned away and your chance to work with these people may in future may dry up on the spot. The above desription is exactly how I have handled exactly the same situation with short track dirt racing (cars). I am now have the only media access to the inner part of the track where all the best vantage points are and have exclusive rights selling images through their website.

These guys/gals probably dont care if it took 4 days to get that 1 image, their logic is "why are we paying $400-600 for 1 picture?" Would you?

This is completely different than what you are proposing, I wanted to make you aware of.
These guys/gals probably dont care if it took 4 days to get that 1 image, their logic is "why are we paying $400-600 for 1 picture?" Would you?
I didn't mean for it to look like I was going to ask $600+ for one photo on a t-shirt, but I can see why it may have looked that way. I just displayed those amounts as a generic outline.

A poster desinged by you with "x" copies. Just as I pointed out in the attached link.
They have already said that they have a business in mind for designing the poster. I assume they have some relationship or standing deal with said business (the poster they had for last year's event looked pretty good; I wouldn't mind a photo of mine being on it).
No need to overthink the matter my man.

If you charge more than $20 for a t-shirt, they're going to laugh and walk away. All that other stuff is just numbers.

Same with the poster, really. I don't know anybody that would pay more than that.

Frankly, there's not a lot of money to be had selling posters and t-shirts to people, unless it's on a very large scale.
I'll have to find out how many t-shirts they're going to be making before coming up with any final numbers.

If you charge more than $20 for a t-shirt, they're going to laugh and walk away. All that other stuff is just numbers.
Surely you don't mean $20 in total for all the t-shirts they print... ?
To buy the t-shirts and get them silkscreened will cost them say $14 a shirt that they will sell for $20.00. That leaves $6 in profit for each t-shirt. You get a cut of their profit, up front. They still have a bit of work to do to actually get the t-shirts sold so.........Either way you can check with local shops that do silkscreening to figure out about what their costs are going to be. Just go to a silscreen shop and get an estimate as if your were a customer.

Without YOUR image on them (or someone elses) they are'nt likely to sell any t-shirts.
I agree, which is why I'm going to find out how many t-shirts they will sell and what their net profit per sale will be. I'll gauge my cut at somewhere from 5-10% based on that.
OK, so I talked to the guy today. They plan on printing 400 t-shirts @ $20/shirt. It sounds like t-shirts are more of an advertising expense for them than they are a source of income; they only expect to be just above breaking even.

I was thinking 1.5% on gross profits or 5% on net profits. Both methods arrive at $120 total. Which way do you think is a better way to spin this?

As for posters, they will be printing 200 copies. This is where pricing becomes more tricky, because I will not be designing the posters. They have a successful template from previous years that they will be reusing (for what it's worth, I have no problem with how the poster looks).

My thinking on pricing for posters is this:
Last Year's Event Attendance (~ 2400) x Entrance Fee ($10) x 1% = $240.

That would bring the total to $360, but, to me, that just sounds... steep.

How can I work this out so that it comes to something more reasonable?

Maybe it's worth discounting that heavily for attribution on the poster?
You have, what is known as, a "Stock Photo" or "Photos". These people don't want the print, they want the digital image for use as advertisment to generate interest in what they have to sell (spectators to their events). They liked your image(s) and would like to use them in a campaign to get more butts on seats. This is what you have. Stock Imagery.
There are basically 2 types of stock. Advertising and Editorial. Advertising may use an image to promote (multiple uses). Editorial may use an image of the event to highlight or run a story (generally 1 time use unless license is issued for newsagency stock reasons).
Either way, both types of stock should be accompanied by a license. You have the information you need from them:
They plan on printing 400 t-shirts @ $20/shirt.
You should produce a license for this application. Here's where you buy into the negotiation. If they supplied t-shirt's for sale with nothing on them, how many do you think they'd sell? None right. Now, if they had "X Car Club" on them, how many do you think they'd sell? Educated guess would tell me probably less than 50/400. Their expectancy is to sell at least 75% of those t-shirts and unless there is something i'm not seeing in your post, looks like your image has alot to do with getting those sales figures. You have to come up with a percentage of "potential sales". I doubt they are producing 400 shirts to hopefully sell 72 of them. They intend on selling 400. Do not be swayed by this whole " breaking even line". A licensed image is a licensed image and should be priced accordingly. You have to assume the potential is there for them to sell 400 shirts. Here's the math as a guide:
Research first -
A 100% cotton, preshrunk, blank tshirt is about $3-4 landed.
Silk screening per shirt on a 400 quantity will be a generous $8 per shirt.
Total cost to Car Club for 400 shirts - approximately $12
Selling for $20 is a profit margin of 40%. Break even my ass!
If they sell 400 shirts (it's not your fault if they don't), here's the math for sales:
375 (25 less for giveways) shirts at $20 ea = $7,500. Take 40% margin off that for their potential profit and that leaves an actual cost to the club of around $4,500 (you have yet to get a slice of this action, after all, your image helped sell that many). This is where you have to be comfotable in what you did versus what you want. As I said earlier, 5-10% of sales is very fair considering your image is doing alot of work. Here we go with the math again:
$8,000 in potential sales (you don't count the 25 giveways to Granda Jo and family!)
A very conservative 7.5% on your behalf = $600
Let's go back to their cost figures again. Remeber that thier cost was an estimated $4,500 before you stuck out your hand; less $600 and they are looking at a cost of $5,100. If they sell 375 shirts at $20 each, they stand to make $2,400 profit, that's a profit margin of 32%. Any business person on here will tell you that's a great margin to work at.
The research I did was straight off the internet. I am a photographer who has a business. I am not a slik screener nor am I a shirt retailer, but the information is staring you right in the face. If you are getting into the world that your images has a price tag, make the price tag right, don't think your image is too much, know what you need to charge for a fair price. Are you really going to give up an image for $120 for a tshirt that could generate them not only potentially $2,400 in profit but potential revenue at another event because there is 400 tshirts on people's backs circulating around the area?
$600, for the license to use a selected image for a number of times not exceeding 400 for the purpose of t shirts used as an advertising medium. Should be stated in a basic license to this club.
If it were me, and they baulked on this, I would go back to being a spectator and taking happy snaps from the stands. This whole market is heading down the crapper because people expect images for nothing. No one said you can't be flexible and offer new client discount or similar, but if they have you for $120 on this go around and they actually ask you to be their "track photographer", you will be offering 8 x 10's for $6.50! before you know it.

Posters. You never stated if they are selling them or not. Really, it doesn't matter. If they are being circulated amongst the community, you need a new license with the similar math above. It is still a form of advertisement which has the potential to generate ticket sales for future events.

At the end of the day, you need to do what you think is fair for you. You also need to be very, very conscious that the event in 2010 has the potential for 2500 people at maybe $12 ea. That's $30,000. You think $360 for both the used mediums to help attain those figures are justifiable? Your not being greedy. If they dont go for it, even if you can justify your invoice. they are really not worth working with, because they will nickel and dime you to death.

License, license, license.

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