Guest Blog: Sports and Entertainment Photographer Monte Isom

Blue Demon Luchador for HBO Habla and photographer Monte Isom

Unlike many guest posts you have read here I am not here to pimp my own images or career. Rather, I am here to push how much money you make on your images, and most importantly the money you can make on photography as a career. Warning: this my contain the least amount of photo information of any guest blog post… but hang in there if you like to be paid for photography. Doesn’t matter if you are in a small city or Los Angeles.

Photos are like baseball cards, they are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. Some may value a Jodie Davis rookie card and some may not – a little trivia there for anyone outside of Chicago alive post 1984. How to put a price on your images is a tricky business that many assume only photo reps and art buyers understand. I have news for you, the value of your imagery is between you and what the client is willing to invest to go to market with the message your images are included in.

Now how do you drive at that magical # that a client will pay and you as a photographer will accept? That is the million dollar question… or sometimes the $2,500 question. Getting to the answer starts with you as the photographer asking informed questions of your potential client.

The first questions to ask follow this format: who, what, where and how long.

Who is the client? Getting a sense of the budget based on who that client is starts with understanding the scope of their business and how much marketing they have done in the past. Are they a regional client with 12 stores across 3 states? Are they a local jeweler trying to make their first marketing materials? Are they a multi-national corporation selling carbonated beverages on 6 of the 7 continents? We all know that the latter may have more budget than the jeweler. Start your creative fee on what you think the client will and can pay per day.

How is the work going to used? Is it Out Of Home/Outdoor (OOH), Point Of Purchase (POP), print, digital only, internal, broadcast, Business to Business (B2B) or any combination thereof? If a client is at the stage of pricing photographers, then most of the time they also have a media plan of how they are intending to use the ads.

More and more clients are asking for unlimited use in all media in perpetuity. This tells you one of three things:

  1. They are planning on using the ads for a huge integrated media buy across many mediums.
  2. They do not know what their media needs are, so they just want to be covered from the beginning.
  3. Or their company’s lawyers said that is what they were supposed to ask for.

It is your job to find out which of the three it is. Often times you can get to that answer by suggesting in the initial reach out that you can quote for unlimited use in all media in perpetuity (often known as a buyout, complete buyout or all rights), but that usually is too expensive for a client’s budget. As a solution you can quote for more limited usage rights that include a time period and more specific media so the bottom line will be more approachable. This is when the client’s request goes from being vague to giving you a better grasp of their intentions. If you are not familiar with the usage terms I started this section with, it would be to your advantage to become versed in them stat so you know what you are talking about. 

Where are the images going to appear? This refers to locality. In Chicago only, in the state of Maryland, USA, North America, Asia Pacific, worldwide? The territory also indicates how big of a campaign you are working with and how much these images are worth. Now Maryland does not mean 1/50th of the price that USA would garner. Think of it like buying socks. You cannot buy 50 pair at the same the price per pair of 1 pair. Anyone in the world would pay more for 1 pair vs bulk rate on 5 pair or even 10 pair, let alone 25 pair.

For instance, the images below were licensed for 7 countries specifically. Wieden + Kennedy, the advertising agency, and EA Sports, the client, knew that the imagery would appear in only 7 countries and would tailor the colors and text to each country the ads would appear. This is a case of an agency and client knowing specifics regarding their media buy. Hats off to their strategy department prior to calling a photographer. But these are the things you are sniffing out before giving a quote. This saved them money by not asking for worldwide usage and got specific.

Brazilian soccer fan splashed with paint. Photo by Monte Isom for EA Sports World Cup 2010
Brazilian soccer fan splashed with France’s colors. Photo by Monte Isom for EA Sports World Cup 2010

How Long?
It is exactly what the title of this section suggests… How long does said media plan to be in circulation? 3 of 5 times the client will expand the length of usage or territory if the campaign is successful. If you have given unlimited use in all media in perpetuity, a complete full buyout of all rights, then you have given up any possibility to make more money based on the success of an ad.

Entertainment photography for a movie poster will always be a complete buyout as that image will always be associated with that movie or project. For instance, my work for HBO’s Hard Knocks falls under this situation. The client knows that it will appear in billboards, in print, digital and on HBO GO, which may keep that program available forever. We price the image on the front end understanding that I will never receive any renewal license for the work.

Photo of Hard Knocks one sheet for HBO 2018 Cleveland Browns. Photo by Monte Isom.
Hard Knocks artwork appearing on HBO GO navigation. Photo by Monte Isom
Billboard of Hard Knocks one sheet for HBO 2018 Cleveland Browns. Photo by Monte Isom

With these four questions, you will have enough working information to then assemble the usage and licensing to put in a bid. It is also helpful to gauge your usage fees in relationship to your creative fee/day rate to shoot. It is difficult for a client to understand you charging $25,000 usage if your day rate is only $750.

You my think you are not “big time” enough to license your work and simply include usage in your day rate. I only say you are selling yourself short.

You as a photographer are only worth as much as you are willing to convince your client to pay you. If you feel your days work is worth $85 then that is what you worth. It is your confidence based on information that will dictate your fee and usage $$$ regardless of the market you are in.

For example ask Gregg Shipman, photographer from Tulsa, OK. He purchased my tutorial Making Real Money: The Business of Commercial Photography, and after watching the tutorial, he increased his a bid for a local client by $26,000 from where he was going to bid prior to heeding advice from the tutorial. If you think you are operating in too small of a market for this information to help you, then you have never been to Tulsa.

Monte Isom is a sports and entertainment photographer based in NYC who loves to share information about the business of photography. He offers a 14-hour video tutorial covering in-depth and with real life examples of estimating, invoicing, marketing your work, and even taxes. Isom interviews people who actually hire photographers and gets extremely valuable information working photographers need. This tutorial can be purchased here.

Monte’s photography can be viewed at, and you can keep up with him on Instagram and Twitter.

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