This Photograph Earned One Wedding Photographer a $18,000 Payday

Texas wedding photographer Allen Ayres was recently contacted by an advertising agency that wanted to use one of his wedding photographs for one of its pharmaceutical clients. Ayres had in mind to ask for $1,000, but wisely decided to ask for advice over at Digital Wedding Forum.

His request was spotted by wedding photographer and photo business blogger John Mireles (AKA The Photographer’s Business Coach), who advised him to find out five aspects of how the agency intended to use the photo: the size of the reproduction, the nature of the publication, the geographical area, the duration of use, and the exclusivity of the use.

After learning that the image would be used in a series of medical industry ads, both in print and online, and that the agency was asking for exclusive use, Mireles advised Ayres to ask for $15,000.

Not only did the agency find that price reasonable, but they even asked to increase it for better terms. The two sides ended up agreeing on an $18,000 contract for two years of exclusive and unlimited national use in the medical industry.

Mireles’s advice for photographers?

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.

The $18,000 Wedding Photograph (via SLR Lounge)

Image credit: Photograph by Allen Ayres

  • Al

    How’d they get screwed exactly? They got what they wanted, and they paid what they were willing to pay. Simple. Win- Win.

  • Al

    says the anonymous man.

  • B

    So if they have exclusive use, how come you can publish it here?

  • Stan Kaady

    Really? Why? It’s a great image! And I bet the bride loved it, too.

  • Stan Kaady

    Nobody got screwed. You have no idea how the business of licensing for the advertising market works.

  • Stan Kaady

    Ok pixel peepers. Christmas is just around the corner. Ask Santa for clue.

    Did you really read the article? “Not only did the agency find that price reasonable, but they even asked to increase it for better terms.” Why? Because the client loved the image and knew it was a perfect fit for their campaign. They most likely would have paid twice that if they hired an advertising photographer to create a replica. Good for Allen for seeking the advise of John first. Not like the GWAC who sold a picture of a gum drop machine on white for a Time Magazine cover for a whooping $30 bucks (which doesn’t even buy you a tank of gas BTW).
    My guess is that the agency required that the model’s in the image understand the terms of use and sign a model release. I bet they even paid the models more than “a couple of hundred dollars” to use the image. Think $3000. That’s why they asked Allen to increase the amount from $15,000 to $18,000. If the client decides to use the image after the two year license expires, they will have to not only negotiate another contract with the photographer, but pay the models a fee as well.
    If you think that the pharmaceutical would have just paid Allen $18,000 and called it a day you really have no clue how the advertising business works. I applaud every one involved in this transaction for taking the responsible and professional route. Indeed a happy ending.

  • lmcr

    Been an art buyer for years, do not guess what he did or did not do.. Personal images for a wedding are not to be used for commercial use unless releases are signed. I am sure he paid the couple a standard talent fee. That being said, ad use, editorial use, commercial use etc are all very different.. Please consult the right art buyer or rep. before you guess on what you can or cannot do with your images.. Yes, you retain the copyright always, no you cannot use images with people in them any way you want unless you have the paperwork to back it up. It is very discouraging to me to see anyone answer or guess the answer. That is why we have jobs. Consult do not guess!

  • Shaw

    A photo is a photo, good or bad should it matter? I’ve heard here and there about people thinking the 18k photo is crap…to you who says this is the most ignorant among photographers. Why? Because not everyone has the artistic skills and visions as we good photographers have. It’s like us watching our favorite star athlete on TV and as much as we can be fascinated by their abilities, we may never possess that skill therefore we applaud them. So what may not be the most interesting wedding photo to you may be interesting and have impact to the majority of people (who lacks or doesnt care about photographic ability) viewing it. It will always be easy to over-analyse a photo for it’s perfection or lack thereof.

  • D

    Writing about it is covered by fair use.

  • Matt Vardy

    I can already imagine the cheesy pharma
    tagline, “So You… Can Be There”. Lol. In other words, be there on her
    special day (rather than dead) thanks to X drugs keeping an aging man

    There’s been some talk about the quality of the photo (being bad). Although that blurry head in the foreground is pretty awkward, it allows for another potential spin on an advertisement in big pharma’s mind. There’s the boy, the young adult, and the old man… 3 Generations of men in one photo, and all there on a girl’s special
    day. There’s some emotional impact to be played with for an advertisement geared towards men’s health and important life milestones. Even though the image may be terrible from a ‘quality photography’ perspective (in terms of composition etc), it does have have these other important elements that could prove useful in an ad campaign.


    years ago when I wasn’t as involved in photography as much as now, I worked with a wedding photographer for my own wedding, we didn’t really have any written contract.. what happens when someone wants to have my pictures in their ad or something like the above story.. can I refuse them using it?

  • cj

    Hey the kid isn’t even in focus.

  • Wombat

    The agency couldn’t have produced this for $6k? Nothing like throwing other peoples money away for a pastime.

  • facebook-589541018

    I work in Canada and have usually relinquished the rights (and pre-digital, the negatives) to the wedding couples I’ve photographed, for a premium. I don’t do this for any other subject, but weddings I consider private. Nevertheless, I still regret the loss of some amazing images, especially since so many of the marriages ended, and what were once precious moments are no longer for the people involved. I sincerely doubt though that under any circumstance the families would want me to capitalise on them.

  • Peter

    I have a model release in my contract that specifies this type (and other kinds) of usage. However, as dad is recognizable and also in this photo, I’d get a release from him, too.

  • Guest

    I hope he took the family’s permission & shared some of the money.

  • bart4u

    I am sure the photographer got everyone that was recognizable in that photo to sign a model release. He must had paid them for the usage. I could not imagine any wedding contract giving the photographer full advertising rights of the wedding session. The father or the man kissing the woman must had signed a model release too.

  • Peachy

    Slice of life shots are used for many product ads. Pharma ads are no different. It personalizes the need for the product.

  • Markee

    So…yeah…buy a lottery ticket instead. Your chances of getting this kind of reward are about the same. And did anybody else notice that it’s a crappy picture…or is it just me?

  • Emily Heizer

    Every single one of my clients must sign a model release. It’s a standard part of my contract. If a client is not comfortable signing a model release, then I am not comfortable working with them. Out of 7 years, an over 300 weddings, no one has not signed it. The images appear online, on my blog, on Pinterest, Facebook, and I always submit the images for publication in magazines and on blogs. I want to be covered just in case. The topic of the release (whether it really needs to be signed or not) allows us to discuss where the images appear and how they may be circulated by fans of the wedding- or family members sharing them online. Pretty much all brides are pretty stoked to have their wedding published too, but a magazine will require a model release. I also require it for children in the wedding party just because they are minors and heavily photographed. Their parents should be aware the images are going to end up online on my website for preview purposes for the couple and I want them to be 100% aware of that. the release brings that to their attention, and basically, nobody cares. If they do, that brings it to MY attention.




    I don’t ‘get’ it. What is it about that photo is so compelling? All I see is an old dude kissing his bride. Viagra ad?

  • Steven Solidarios

    I guess cropping wasn’t an option?

  • TM

    You sound jealous.

  • TM

    The “service” is coming to shoot the picture. Sometimes they even receive products as part of a package deal. But they are not paying for the copyright. I have the model release as well as the terms of copyright in my contract and have never had an issue. If someone were to have an issue they would be more than welcome to go find a pro photographer who would release the copyright…though most would charge several hundred to several thousand dollars per images.