Would You Pay $35,000 to Buy the Only Print of This Gorgeous Cape Town Photograph?

Beautiful Panorama of Cape Town South Africa

The general consensus is that photography as a business is competing in a ‘race to the bottom.’ Photographs are regularly devalued by people who steal them, agencies that sell them for a pittance, and photographers who are willing to work for free.

Given this rapidly worsening status-quo, wedding and commercial photographer Greg Lumley’s latest venture is either incredibly ballsy, or incredibly naïve: he’s trying to sell a single print of his viral aerial photograph of Cape Town for $35,000… no we didn’t add a zero by mistake.

Now we’ve seen more outrageous pricing, but in a world where viral photographs are often stolen at such a voracious rate that they become essentially valueless, the idea of selling one for tens of thousands of dollars seems completely out there.

What sets the photo apart is that the copy that went viral — garnering over 1000 shares and likes within 2 hours of Lumley putting it online — is low res. In other words, he has scarcity on his side:

To date no one has a high res version of this image except obviously myself. It is a stitched 40 Megapixel image taken from a helicopter on one of the most beautiful day’s I’ve ever seen in the Mother City! …

I wish I could claim true fame for this image but honestly I was in the right place at the right time, everything just worked and this is why duplicating the image is virtually impossible.

The image is for sale as a digital high res buyout with the exception that I keep a small print for myself autographed by the new owner.

If you have a print of this image it will be the only one, I don’t even have a print of it myself.

So, those are his terms. Be the only person in the world with a print of this photograph, a true one-of-a-kind because, upon sale of the image, Lumley says he will “relinquish all rights to the image to the new owner.”

Which brings us to the title question: would you pay $35,000 for the only print (and all the rights) to this — or any other, for that matter — viral photograph? Or is a photograph in this day and age just not worth that much money. Weigh in in the comments down below.

Image credits: Photograph by Greg Lumley and used with permission

  • HibikiRush

    40MP? So it is just slighly larger than a D800/810 file…

  • brianboyd

    The amount of megapixels is irrevelant to the quality of the picture. The picture itself is boring and to say that it will be the only print made of the picture is absurd, if the guy can admit to not making a print of the picture for himself then why try to sell one for 35 grand? This guy obviously has no idea how or why photography works in a fine art market, let alone for himself. Talk about a way to build up hype around nothing.

  • dpanch_89

    take a wide angle lens on a medium format camera. Job done.

  • Jernej Lasič

    The picture itself is boring?


  • Paolo Bubu

    I’d rather buy a complete Phase One kit, borrow and helicopter for one day, a couple of hours of training by Steve McCurry then take the photo myself… after that I would probably still have enough money to print it in a large format :P

  • Bill M.

    It’s a stitched panorama. After cropping, it came down to 40 MP. Before cropping, easily 60-75 MP. Additionally, this image has been out for quite a while now so this could have easily been shot with a Pro DSLR at 12 MP (example D700 or a D3s).

  • Toby Hawkins

    Two words; Andreas Gursky.

    Art is worth whatever someone will pay for it, and given all the unmade beds and virtually blank canvasses that sell for millions, I don’t see any issues charging this much for a one of a kind print + rights.

  • brianboyd

    Yes, boring. I see it doesn’t take much to get you excited, a blue sky, some clouds and an aerial view of a town. Aren’t we over this type of unengaging landscape yet?

  • Theo Lubbe

    As a Capetonian and photographer, no. There are countless photos not unlike that one, and many which are even more striking than that one.

    There is nothing about his photo which makes it unique compared to the others just like it other than it being shot by him, not someone else, and him only providing one print of it, which anyone else could also do.

  • Jernej Lasič

    I wouldn’t call this image unengaging. I see it as a well composed, good landscape photo taken from an interesting angle. And I can see someone buying a huge-ass print of in for a lot of money. But maybe that’s just me, a boring unengaging viewer.

  • Morgan Glassco

    Bet if it was your home town you’d have a little more understanding.

    But no, the image is not boring.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Happens it is practically my home town, and it is boring. There are many photos like this one.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Oi PetaPixel mod, why’d you delete my comment? You asked for an opinion and I provided one! Without any swearing, even!

  • brianboyd

    “..well composed, good landscape photo taken from an interesting angle.” Enough said.

  • brianboyd

    But it isn’t my hometown and that shouldn’t play a factor in how I read a photograph. A good picture should be a good picture regardless of one’s relationship to where it was made. We could go on and on about how the photograph is or isn’t boring, the fact of the matter is that this picture has nothing to offer but a landscape picture made from a helicopter on what just so happened to be a nice day.

  • Hassner

    “One of a kind” to me means that to produce something similar is out of the question. Living in Cape Town I have seen shots like this. More will be taken. Some even better.

  • Viorel Dudău

    I have seen many pictures sold (with all the rights) for thousands of dollars on Dreamstime, so why not? Especially with this kind of publicity, I think he will succeed.

  • Jernej Lasič

    it has nothing to offer… to you. To me, and to many others, it has.

  • Gerhard Bouwer

    Super idea if you are in the reselling business – unfortunately there is some blending issues in the blue sky … he only needs to sell 150 A0’s to break even – so yes – its a good idea if you are an art buyer ….and a cashoffer for half of that will always be on the table. High time photographers value their work! I hope it works out for him!

  • brianboyd

    Keep on keepin’ on!

  • mzungu

    It’s not that gorgeous, unfortunately. There must be 20 different 10¢ postcards that looked the same.

  • Morgan Glassco

    LOL, All pictures must be universally liked to be a good picture per brianboyd. If everyone doesn’t like it (or brianboyd) it’s not a good picture. Right…

  • Theo Lubbe

    But does it have enough to offer that you would pay $35k for it? If not, then you’re defeating the purpose of your own argument.

    The discussion is whether or not this photo is good enough to warrant paying $35k for sole rights to it, and there is absolutely nothing remarkable about it to warrant such a high cost (in my opinion, anyway).

    It would be much, much cheaper to commission someone to come to Cape Town to shoot something like this, to do a better job of it, and then to still give them a bit of an allowance so they can effectively come here on holiday (and make mulitple attempts at the shot).

    Unless the guy selling the photo is some sort of big name in “art” photography, I can’t see any reason why anyone would be remotely inclined to pay so much for the photo.

  • Morgan Glassco

    Well that’s funny. But I do like the picture and would have suspected the photo to sell for the asking price. BUT I took away from the article that this was a unique and or rare photo. I haven’t seen it or one like it before but if it’s just another “Grand Canyon” type of photo then maybe it won’t sell.

  • Mike

    Plenty of good aerial photos of Cape Town out there. This one is not special and not worth $35K. Duplicating it is virtually impossible? Why? It will never be exact, sure, but you can get a similar image.

  • Gerhard Bouwer

    Every government building, tourist office and airport in the Western Cape will buy one – so wil property developers and many in the hospitality industry ans well as corporate boardrooms and commerce facilitators – its an easy sell …

  • Greg Heller

    Where’s my go-pro and drone

  • Gerhard Bouwer

    So he sells 2200 prints and he doubled the investment ….semantics really …

  • Oj0

    I can see my house from here… Meaning I could’ve taken a truly one of a kind photograph of the photographer and made millions!

  • Chrisski

    its so boring its got you talking about it eh? guess more folk are talking about it than your exciting photos eh

  • Theo Lubbe

    And offering an opinion on something, especially where it’s called for by an article, validates it being ‘worthwhile’ or ‘interesting’ how?

  • Jim Martin

    I wish Mr. Lumley much success and hope he gets his asking price. Given that he is relinquishing the rights to the photo, it’s possible that the right buyer could make money off the photo even at that price.

    Personally I would rather see photographer’s price their work too high than price themselves into poverty.

  • Jernej Lasič

    So you’re telling me you can’t see some rich person (possibly from Cape Town) liking that photo, no matter if anyone of us thinks it’s boring or not, wanting it in a large format and paying top dollar for it?

    And on top of that, why would the author of the photo have to be some big name in art photography? That just doesn’t add up.

  • Theo Lubbe

    No, I’m not saying that absolutely nobody will want to buy it at that price. What I’m saying is that it’s not so remarkable that people will or should be falling over each other to try and be the one to get it.

    By that logic, if someone makes a remotely remarkable burger, and only one like it, they should be able to sell it at whatever price they want and people should be bidding much more than it’s truly worth on the assumption nobody else can produce something as good as or better than it. Problem is, many could make significantly better burgers than it for much less, so there’s no good reason for them to pay so much for it when they could either do it better themselves for less or pay someone else less to do it better.

    Or to put it another way, you can think of this as being a guy claiming to have the only gas for miles and thus he wants to charge many times more than the other gas stations which are, in fact, just a few miles away, would charge for the same thing. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Jernej Lasič

    So who determines what a photo is worth and how much someone is willing to pay for it?
    If the guy thinks it’s worth 35 grand, who are we to say it is not?

    There is not a universal rule by which we judge photos and burgers. You may like the sloppiest burger around and willing to pay much more for it than me. But I like that “premium” burger and think it is way better, so I spend more on that one. It’s all subjective is what I’m trying to say.

    Would you agree?

  • Victoria Harnum

    see a pic like this many places on the net

  • Theo Lubbe

    No, I wouldn’t, as it would be a $40 four-hour return trip for me to get to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, $50/night to stay at a hotel, less than $10 for more than two weeks’ commuting by MyCiTi bus, a maximum of $350 for me to charter a 1h30min helicopter flight from the Waterfront with the option to pay more -let’s say $2k- to charter multiple non-tour flights which take me to whichever point(s) I specifically want to take photos from and then at most $1500 worth of equipment for me to take a photo not unlike this one, with the option of renting much better equipment from one of several companies locally.

    That’s a total of up to, for argument’s sake, $5k if one assumes a $1.5k flight from another country to Cape Town (visas and other transport included), $2k worth of chartered helicopter flights and $1.5k worth of equipment to get the shot.

    So at $5k, which assumes I 1. don’t have the equipment necessary for the photo yet, 2. don’t live in South Africa and have to fly in on commission (or out of my own for a project) and 3. have to charter many helicopter flights to get exactly the shot I want, that leaves $30k profit to turn over.

    And at that, I sincerely doubt anyone is going to consider it worth $30k; again because they could have commissioned someone for $5k on top of the aforementioned -in other words $10k total- someone who could even be this very photographer no less to go and take the same photo.

    Why buy a lone print of this photo from this guy if I could offer him or someone else $10k to go do it again on a commission basis?

    That the photo has gone viral is irrelevant. That it’s a high-megapixel image is irrelevant. That it’s limited to “one print” is irrelevant. He may want to make a cool $30k+ profit off of the photo, but want and will are not the same thing. Selling the photo in this manner is a business-oriented move, and business-oriented people will take into account how much something is worth to them and how much they are thus willing to pay irrespective of how much the photographer wants for it.

  • Jernej Lasič

    So a guy walks into an art museum, takes a look at that 100k$ painting, calls up the artist and says: “Listen, I think your painting is overpriced. How about I just buy you the paint, the brushes and the canvas and you make another, similar painting?”

    Yeah, right. It’s not all about the costs and expenses with people buying art for that amount of money.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Yes, a guy walks into an art museum, decides he’s not willing to pay the price the artist demands for his piece and makes him an offer he deems reasonable. The artist can either accept the offer or reject it.

    The buyer is under no obligation whatsoever to accept the first price on offer, just as the seller is under no obligation to sell something for any less than he wants to.

    Whether or not he will sell it at the price he demands is an entirely different matter.

  • Mojo


  • Jernej Lasič

    Of course. No one is saying anyone is obliged to buy it for 35 grand. But someone might. That’s the whole point.

    I highly doubt that anyone is going to offer this photographer another “chance” to make a cheaper version of it, as you are implying. As I highly doubt anyone is going to buy that photo for 35 grand. But maybe there’s a person out there who might.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Someone might, but not everyone would. That’s the other side of the point.

    And I doubt that nobody will commission someone like him to do a shot like this (again). After all, if the guy manages to sell this print and rights to the image before they get to it, what else can they do than either buy it from whoever bought it or commission someone (maybe him) to do it again?

    That’s why the cost and the potential it’s “technically” overpriced is an entirely valid topic to explore.

    There are professionals out there who will happily go shoot a shot up to or exceeding the par set by this photo, ending up with handing over exclusive rights to the product to the entity who commissioned them, who will charge less in total than $35k. They’ll do so because 1. they will make a very good profit for a relatively simplistic job and 2. because if one individual or company is willing to do so the opportunity may arise again.

    I can tell you now, if this guy does manage to sell this photo for $35k, there is a very high chance he will go on to create more supposedly-one-of-a-kind images to try and sell for $35k or more as well. After all, once you’ve got a cash cow in your stall, why not milk it?

  • Jernej Lasič

    And that is bad because…? Sorry if I’m getting the wrong idea, but this sound really judgemental to me…

  • Theo Lubbe

    Why is what bad?

  • Jernej Lasič

    Milking that cash cow….

  • Theo Lubbe

    I didn’t say nor was I implying that’s bad. What I’m saying and implying is that this photo from this guy is not one of a kind no matter how he tries to sell it, and that once he has sold it there’s a chance he may go on to recreate it “better than before” and sell it again, which immediately diminishes the value of his prior version.

    That’s one of many reasons why this instance of this photo by this photographer with these specifications and terms is not worth $35k to anyone, because it can easily be recreated by anyone for much less and there is nothing which sets it apart from any other iteration of the same photo.

    Things which could have set it apart in the scene;

    * The controlled demolition of a large and noteworthy structure
    * A once-off lighting occurrence, whether natural or man-made which is unlikely to ever happen again
    * The appearance of uncontrolled wildlife contributing heavily to the photo, such as a very large pod of whales or dolphins visible along the shoreline
    * Something like the memorial procession held after Nelson Mandela’s death, which if I’m not mistaken proceeded along the boulevard visible along the coastline in the foreground of this photo, and definitely convened in the Greenpoint Stadium clearly visible in this photo
    * A fire (ideally remarkable due to its cause, spread or some other factor, as the hill sees several fires annually) on Signal Hill in the foreground, or on Devil’s Peak to the far rear left of the photo
    * A flock of migrating Egyptian Geese
    * Just about anything else which lends some remarkable content to the photo, even if it’s just evidence of a hijacking or mugging visible somewhere in the full-resolution/printed version of the photo, but invisible in smaller versions

    Yet here it is; just another generic aerial photograph of Cape Town as done by many other photographers before him and as will be done by many other photographers after him. He didn’t even choose to go shoot this during the Cape Argus Cycle Tour, which would’ve seen that boulevard covered in cyclists, adding at least one semi-unique aspect to it. Or the Comrades Marathon, which again goes along the same boulevard. Or the Toy Run, which occasionally sees motorcyclists form a riding party which slowly proceeds down the boulevard, being that it’s one of the most affluent areas in the Western Cape and thus a prime location for them to attract attention in.

    There are many ways the photo could have been made more interesting, yet again it’s just generic, far from warranting a $35k pricetag.

  • Eden Wong

    Well, if nothing else the guy has balls. Good luck to him. He’ll need it.

  • bob cooley

    He can charge whatever he wants for it – doesn’t mean he’ll find a buyer. If he did, I’d be doing this every week :)

  • Burnin Biomass

    It’s worth whatever he can get for it. If he can get 35k, more power to him.

  • Stephanie Sawyer

    I think that a person who would pay that kind of money for an original, one of a kind piece of art is looking for an investment. Meaning, it needs to have value, or actually increase in value over time if were ever to be resold. It would be nice to say that this photograph has that value, but sadly, I don’t think it does. First, I think the photographer would have to be internationally recognized, and secondly, reproducing a similar shot wouldn’t be too difficult.