Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Pro Business Discussion => Topic started by: Paqart on March 14, 2021, 07:08:22 pm

Title: Editorial rates
Post by: Paqart on March 14, 2021, 07:08:22 pm
I just tried to respond to a post about Nat Geo rates (National Geographic?) but got a warning that the last post in that thread was over 120 days old, so I should start a new thread. So, that's what I'm doing.

One of the posters linked to an article on editorial rates ( published by I took a look and was pretty horrified by how low those rates are. This is in part due to my brief career as a freelance illustrator from 1987-1990 (before drawing comic books, then art direction in video games), and because the costs involved to put together a photo shoot far exceed the expenses involved in making an illustration.


1) the lowest fee I was ever paid was $160 for each of 10 illustrations for Restaurant Business magazine. The illustrations were printed at no more than 10% the page area and each took no more than an hour to make.

2) The average fee I remember for spot illustrations (1/4 page to less in size) was $500, but this was sometimes as high as $900.

3) Time magazine paid $1800 for an illustration that went across the top half of two pages. Not sure if that counts as full page (surface area) or double page spread (it covered two pages). Typical fees from Time were $750 for a spot, $3,000 for a cover.

To make the illustrations, I rarely had to spend more than $10 for supplies. A photo shoot, as everyone here knows, is far more expensive. Many of my test shoots have cost around $3,000, which sounds like a much higher figure than even Vogue will pay for two days' work.

More recently, I was paid $300 for a 3/4 page portrait photo in a bicycling magazine. I took it because it was my first editorial sale as a photographer. Advertising fees on the other hand, make more sense. I've only done one advertising job as a photographer, but was paid $2,800 for each of two images. On the other hand, I have been paid more as an illustrator for book jackets and as a fine artist.

I am curious if illustration fees have also gone down, or if illustrators are paid more than photographers. If so, why? It costs a lot of money to produce a decent photo shoot but practically nothing to make an illustration. At one time, I might have thought that the uniqueness of an illustrator's style could explain the price difference, but after learning more about photography, I doubt that is the case.

In the end, after a full year of lockdown inertia, I am wondering whether it makes any sense to pursue editorial clients. I use only Phase One and Broncolor gear, none of which could be paid off in a reasonable amount of time shooting editorial. ( (Art) ( (Photos)

Title: Re: Editorial rates
Post by: tcphoto1 on March 15, 2021, 11:57:13 am
When I was assisting back in the early 90's, my mentor made a living shooting for Time, People, Fortune and ESPN the Magazine plus Advertising and Music Industry shoots. He never shared the numbers except that his Getty stock sales averaged $1200 a month. In my own career, I shot for a Not for Profit that had a magazine and they had a little budget to work with. A series of images shot in a single day could be as low as $700 plus expenses to $1700 and a cover was $2800. I licensed the images for one time use and they came back and licensed images for reprint and subscription cards. Those days are gone, rates have not been adjusted for some reason and I recently was asked by another magazine to license an image at 300dpi for $200. Needless to say, I politely declined. Only you can decide if the project is interesting, provide good exposure or offers a reasonable fee.
Title: Re: Editorial rates
Post by: David Eichler on March 22, 2021, 03:57:04 pm
 "It costs a lot of money to produce a decent photo shoot but practically nothing to make an illustration." This is not an entirely apposite comparison. While production costs are certainly a component of fees, so is talent and technical ability. Plus, the mediums are simply different aesthetically, which might cause publications to assign different monetary values to each, depending upon their particular needs.
Title: Re: Editorial rates
Post by: KLaban on March 22, 2021, 04:33:27 pm
My experience as a freelance illustrator for around 25 years was that publishing illustration commissions paid comparatively poorly whereas advertising illustration commission rates were through the roof.

I loved the publishing work but hated the money and hated the advertising work but loved the money. Not the happiest times of my life. 
Title: Re: Editorial rates
Post by: tcphoto1 on March 23, 2021, 09:55:43 am
KLaban, you make a good point of how we should approach Editorial work. I accept Editorial projects that I can turn into something I can use to promote my own work and possibly a long term relationship with the client. The rate is almost secondary but needs to balance my financial and creative needs since it's usually a short production and shoot time.