Getting to know the Real Value of your Photos and Services

January 26th, 2011
Shakodo website

This post comes to us from Juergen Specht and Ken Lee, founders of “Shakodo”, a service that aims to educate and put photographers on the road to profitability. The partners talk about why they founded this service and what it can do for photographers.

Shakodo – Getting to know the Real Value of your Photos and Services

Have you ever been in this situation?

A client approaches you to use your photos for an international magazine with a circulation of 500,000 copies over one month. They make you an offer and want to own the rights to your photos.  

What would you do? Accept? Negotiate? Should you even sell all the rights to your photos?

Most photographers face these kinds of questions everyday and do not know the proper answers. If you type “How much can I charge for my photo?” in Google you will get over 235,000,000 search results. But when you look for specific answers, you get a lot of “it depends” and a lot of beating around the bush.

As a solution to this, in December of 2010, a new service called “Shakodo – the road to profitable photography“was launched.

As you know, Photography is one of those professions without any fixed prices; everything must always be negotiated. However, you will be more successful if you go into every negotiation with the knowledge of what questions to ask and a ballpark price that the client and market finds acceptable. As part of the negotiation, if you bid too low, you leave money on the table. If you bid too high, you will often not have a second chance to negotiate a more realistic price.

Shakodo was designed with this in mind and is a free and open collaborative tool to ask questions and find answers to enhance your knowledge and improve your bottom line.

Lets face it, even if you are an amateur and have no plans to ever go professional, you might get a request one day from a company to use your images. Knowing the worth of your images or services and knowing how to license properly can be very satisfying and may even contribute to the new lens or flash you have always wanted.

Lets have a closer look at the different photography business categories found and some samples of real life questions being asked on Shakodo.


In a nutshell, Assignments (also called “Commissions”, or “Jobs”) refers to the task of creating pictures on request. The biggest difference between Licensing and Assignments is that in Assignments the photos are not yet created when the picture request is made.

Let’s take a look at a typical Assignment Question:

What to charge for images on a web site for a local restaurant & bar?

“I spent approximately 3 hours shooting pictures of food and interior of a bar, to be used on their website and spent approximately 2 more hours in post production. I traveled to the restaurant-bar, met with the owner and he told me what he wanted me to shoot maybe 200 hundred photos.  I then downloaded them there so he could eliminate the ones he doesn’t want. He wants 24 pictures. These will more than likely be rather small images since there going to his web site…”

This is a very possible scenario; a local restaurant likes your photo skills and wants you to shoot some images of their food and interior for their web site. This question got 11 answers and 7 additional comments until the price was settled on a range between $500~$700 dollar as the base of negotiation. It seems fair if you take all parameters into account, the photographer qualifies himself as an amateur, which is known to the restaurant owner. It is also a local restaurant, which probably has a low budget for advertising and marketing and cannot afford a high-end food photographer.

A very valuable lesson came up in the answers, which is to settle on a price *before* the job and not to negotiate after you have done the work.


Licensing refers to the task of allowing an end user to use some of your photographs usually in exchange for payment. The biggest difference to Assignments is the fact that these pictures have already been taken and are owned by you. The end user paying for this License does not have the right to use your images beyond the scope of your agreement.

A typical Licensing Question is this:

Licensing images of a dancer?

“A dancer for a large company wants to use an image I took of her on her website. What kind of fee and what duration would be reasonable for private use such as this, either for the image to be the main one, or simply one of a handful in a gallery?”

As you can see, Licensing is a very complex topic. This Question received 5 answers and 5 additional comments until they could settle on a suitable price. However, there was a lack of information given in the Question and people wanted to know things like, “Will she use her web site to promote her as a professional dancer?” and “Does she have a budget for marketing?”

The important thing to note here, is that when dealing with clients, you should always ask the following questions and get this information in advance:

  • What will be licensed?
  • Where will it be published?
  • How often?
  • For which period of time?
  • In what size?
  • Where will it be placed?
  • What is their budget?
  • Any other items that may be negotiated?

Being prepared and educating the client are some of the keys to being a successful photographer and proving that you can work like a professional.

Shakodo offers the resources photographers need to expand their knowledge and to be prepared. There are resources and Q&A type forums for photographers out there, however the reason why Shakodo stands out, and is much more effective, is because it was built around one particular photography business question, “How much can I charge?”

By being direct and asking specific Pricing Questions, the Answers given are detailed and of high quality.

With its member managed built-in Reputation system, its easy to know if an answer comes from a more trustworthy source, because Reputation must be earned and shows how much members trust each other.

Shakodo’s membership is growing every day and the quality of member contributions is incredibly high. One of the reasons for this is the active participation from many professional photographers and industry experts like Seth Resnick, Blake Discher, Stanley Rowin and many others, who also contributed helpful articles about the business of photography.  Members really benefit from this knowledge and also have an opportunity to communicate with these experts in an open forum.

Shakodo has filled a void – the void being a place for photographers to ask specific pricing questions and be given up-to-date and realistic answers.  We invite the members of Zenfolio to visit Shakodo, finding the answers to all your questions and join “the road to profitable photography.”