Pricing Photographs for Public Art Commissions Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What is Public Art Commission?
  2. How to assess the value of your photographs
  3. Factors to consider when pricing your photographs
  4. How to negotiate with commissioners
  5. Tips for creating a pricing structure
  6. How to protect your photographs
  7. Resources for photographers
  8. Why transparency matters in the art world

Deciphering how to price photographs for public art commission can feel like finding your way through a maze. With each turn, you encounter different factors, considerations, and challenges. However, fear not! This guide will help you navigate through the twists and turns, offering practical advice to ensure a smooth journey into the art commission world.

What is Public Art Commission?

Before we dive into how to price your artwork, let's take a moment to understand what public art commission is. It's the process where an artist—in this case, a photographer—is hired to create artwork for a public space. This could be anything from a community center to a city park. The artwork is then displayed in that space for everyone to enjoy.

Public art commissions provide a fantastic opportunity for you to showcase your talent and make your mark in the community. These commissions often attract wide-ranging audiences, meaning your work gets to be seen and appreciated by many. The flip side is that you need to know how to price your photographs appropriately for these commissions. Undervaluing your work can lead to financial loss, while overpricing may discourage potential commissioners. So, let's figure out the best way to price your photographs for public art commissions, shall we?

One important aspect of public art commission is that it often involves creating work that reflects the spirit of the community or the intended space. This might involve taking photographs of local landscapes, capturing the essence of community events, or portraying the unique characteristics of the location. So, when you price your photographs for public art commission, remember to factor in the time, effort, and creativity you put into capturing the essence of the community or location.

Public art commissions aren't just about selling a photograph; they're about selling a story, a moment, an emotion. And that's priceless! So, while we're about to delve into the nitty-gritty of pricing, remember that your work has value beyond any number.

How to assess the value of your photographs

Pricing your photographs for public art commissions is more than just putting a dollar sign on a picture. It's about recognizing the value of your work. But how do you do that, exactly?

First, consider the uniqueness of your photographs. What makes your work stand out from the crowd? Perhaps it's your unique style, your eye for detail, or the emotions your photos evoke. This uniqueness is a crucial part of your photograph's value.

Next, consider your expertise and experience. The hours you've spent honing your craft, learning new techniques, studying the masters, and experimenting with different styles — all of these contribute to the value of your work.

Finally, consider the time and effort involved in each photograph. From planning the shot to shooting and post-processing, each step adds to the value of your work.

Remember, understanding the value of your work is a vital step in learning how to price photographs for public art commissions. It's not just about what people are willing to pay; it's about what your work is genuinely worth.

Factors to consider when pricing your photographs

Now that you have a better understanding of how to assess the value of your photographs, let's look into some factors you should consider when pricing them for public art commissions. It's not just about the cost of materials or the time spent — there's more to it than that.

First, you should take into account the intended use of the photograph. Is it going to be a centerpiece in a public park or a smaller piece in a public library? The prominence of the placement can impact the price you set.

Second, you should think about the longevity of the piece. Will it be a permanent installation, or is it just temporary? A photograph that's going to be on display for years should definitely be priced higher than one that's only going to be up for a few months.

Third, consider the size of the photograph. A larger piece generally requires more resources — not only materials but also your time and effort. Be sure to factor this into your pricing.

Last but not least, think about your reputation as a photographer. As you gain more recognition and your work becomes more sought after, you can — and should — increase your prices accordingly.

Remember, pricing your photographs should reflect not only their artistic value but also their practical aspects. It's all about finding a balance between what you feel your work is worth and what the market will bear.

How to negotiate with commissioners

So, you've figured out how to price your photograph for a public art commission. Great job! But wait, there's another hurdle you need to clear: negotiation. Here's how you can navigate this process.

First, remember that the price you've set isn't set in stone. It's a starting point for discussion. The commissioner may have a budget in mind, and it might be lower than your asking price. Don't be discouraged; this is where negotiation comes in.

Secondly, be prepared to explain your pricing. You've factored in all the relevant aspects — use, longevity, size and your reputation. Be ready to justify your price by highlighting these factors. This shows the commissioner that you've thought it through and it's not just a number you pulled out of thin air.

Thirdly, be open to compromise. This doesn't mean slashing your price in half just to secure the commission. It could be agreeing on a slightly lower price, or maybe the commissioner could provide some of the materials to help bring down costs. Remember, a successful negotiation is one where both parties walk away feeling satisfied.

Lastly, always keep your cool during negotiations. Yes, it can be tense, and yes, it can be frustrating. But keeping a calm and professional demeanor is key. After all, this is a business transaction, and how you handle it can impact your reputation in the industry.

So, there you have it — your guide on how to negotiate with commissioners when pricing your photographs for public art commissions. Remember, negotiation is a skill that takes time and practice to master, so don't be too hard on yourself if you don't get it right the first time. Keep learning, keep improving, and you'll get there.

Tips for creating a pricing structure

Now that you're familiar with how to negotiate, it's time to dive into creating a pricing structure. It might seem like a daunting task, but don't worry — I've got your back. Here are some tips to help you navigate this process.

Firstly, you need to understand your costs. This includes everything from the materials you use to the time you spend on creating the photograph. Don't forget to factor in overhead costs such as studio rent, equipment maintenance, and even your website hosting fees.

Next, consider your market value. What are photographers with similar skills and experience charging? A little research can go a long way in helping you price your work competitively.

Another factor to consider is the usage of your photograph. A photograph used in a national ad campaign should be priced higher than one used on a local restaurant's menu. Remember, your work is not just a product — it's a service that brings value to your client.

Finally, be flexible with your prices. As much as you'd like to stick to your guns, there may be times when you'd need to adjust your prices to secure a commission. Just remember to never undervalue your work. You've put in time, effort, and creativity into your photographs, and they deserve to be priced accordingly.

Creating a pricing structure isn't just about numbers. It's about understanding the value of your work and communicating it effectively. With these tips, you're well on your way to creating a pricing structure that's fair to both you and your clients.

How to protect your photographs

Once you've figured out how to price your photographs for public art commissions, the next step is to protect your work. After all, you don't want anyone to use your precious creations without your permission, right?

The first line of defense is copyrighting your images. This means registering your work with the appropriate copyright office. This process may seem tedious, but it's an invaluable step in protecting your rights as an artist.

Watermarking your images is another precaution you can take. A watermark is a visible overlay, usually containing your name or logo, which you add to the image. However, remember to strike a balance so that the watermark doesn't detract from the image itself.

Next, ensure you have clear usage terms in your contracts. When you sell a photograph, you're not selling your copyright. Instead, you're granting the client a license to use your image. Make sure to define this clearly in your contracts.

Lastly, keep an eye out for unauthorized use of your work. You can use reverse image search engines to check if your image is being used without your consent. If you find an instance of this, don’t hesitate to take action.

Protecting your photographs might seem like a lot of work, but it's a crucial part of being a professional artist. By taking these steps, you're not just defending your work — you're also protecting your livelihood.

Resources for photographers

As you journey on the path of pricing your photographs for public art commissions, having the right resources can be a game-changer. Here are a few that might come in handy:

Photography Pricing Guides: There are many resources out there that can guide you on pricing your work. "The Photographer's Market" is a book that gives insights on how to price and sell your photographs. Moreover, online platforms like PhotoShelter offer a range of free photography business and marketing guides.

Photography Associations: Joining photography associations such as the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) can provide you with a wealth of information and resources. These associations often offer workshops, seminars, and networking opportunities that can help you grow your career.

Legal Resources: Understanding copyright laws and contract terms can be daunting, but it's a necessary part of protecting your work. Websites like ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) provide photographers with legal resources and advice.

Portfolio Websites: Showcasing your work to the world is an integral part of your photography business. Portfolio websites like Behance, 500px, or your own personal website can be a great way to present your work and attract potential commissioners.

Online Communities: Joining online photography forums and communities like Reddit's r/photography or Digital Photography School can offer invaluable advice. You can ask questions, share your work, and learn from the experiences of fellow photographers.

Remember, success in the world of public art commissions doesn't happen overnight. It requires patience, hard work, and continuous learning. But with the right resources in your toolkit, you'll be on the right path to achieve your goals.

Why transparency matters in the art world

Transparency, in any field, is a cornerstone of trust and understanding. When it comes to the art world, and more specifically, pricing photographs for public art commissions, transparency takes on a whole new level of importance. But why is that so?

Firstly, art, unlike many other products, doesn't come with a fixed price tag. The value of a photograph can vary greatly based on factors like the artist's reputation, the uniqueness of the piece, and the market demand. This often leads to a lack of clarity and understanding for both the artist and the buyer.

When you, as a photographer, adopt transparency in your pricing, you take a big step towards eliminating this confusion. Providing clear, detailed information about why and how you price your work can help potential customers understand the value they are getting. This not only builds trust but also fosters a stronger relationship with your clients.

Secondly, transparency plays a pivotal role in setting and managing expectations. If a commissioner understands your pricing structure, they are less likely to feel blindsided by the cost and more likely to appreciate the effort and creativity that goes into your work.

Lastly, being transparent about your pricing can contribute to a more fair and equitable art market. By openly sharing your pricing methods and standards, you encourage other artists to do the same. This can help to level the playing field, ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for their work.

So, while pricing photographs for public art commissions might seem like a complex task, remember that transparency is your ally. It not only aids in building trust and setting expectations but also contributes to a healthier, more equitable art community.

If you're looking to further understand pricing for public art commissions in photography, don't miss Kayleigh June's workshop, 'How to Price Your Photography'. This workshop offers valuable insights on how to properly price your photographs for different projects, including public art commissions, ensuring you're compensated fairly for your work.