When hiring a photographer, the idea of return on investment, ROI, is often rendered instead as “you charge how much?!” That reaction sees photography not as an investment, but as a mere expense — and keeping expenses down is the foundation of a desirable profit/loss statement, right?
But photography should be treated as an investment and, as such, should be held accountable for a beneficial return. Fortunately, if a photography project is structured correctly, with clear goals and strong support, the return can be surprisingly robust.
If an artist sells a photograph, its value is the sale price, but for a commercial concern paying for the services and deliverables of a photographer, the value of an image may be more complicated to assign or discern. Being on the “photographer” side of the discussion, I have sought to find an analog by which a reasonable value can be assigned. One approach, as imperfect as it is, equates the value of a full-page photograph to the cost of a full-page ad in an appropriate magazine or journal.
In other words, if providing quality imagery to an editor entices them to run a single photo at full page, or multiple images that occupy a full page of space, the value of that imagery is reasonably commensurate with what it would cost to run a full-page ad. Magazines need quality content and helping them can, thus, help you.
So, how much is good photography worth? A quick survey of current media kits across a range of aerospace publications yields these numbers for a full-page, interior, advertisement:
Niche-market industry publication: $4,500
Broad-market industry publication: $8,500
Pan-aerospace industry publication: $18,000
General-interest aerospace publication: $27,000
These numbers reveal the potential value of photography. Hire a professional photographer for a day, pay them $3,500, and the value of even a single photograph is less than the cost of a full-page ad in even a niche-market magazine. The ROI for a full-page photo in a pan-aerospace pub? Five-to-one looks great to anyone’s boss!
Two extensions to this model: One — if you can wrangle a cover photo, an important and coveted position, magazines typically charge from about a 50% to over 100% premium for ads inside the front cover or on either side of the back cover, so bonus value for you! And two — ads are available at smaller sizes, but their pricing is not in proportion to their full-page brethren. One niche-market industry publication I surveyed charges $2,200 for a third-page ad, while a broad-market title charges just shy of $4,500 for a quarter-page. Either way, the ROI is still solidly in favor of quality photography because that photo will serve you for years.
And you know what else you get from a professional photographer? Multiple quality photos that support your marketing and advertising and social media efforts, again, for years to come. And if your product or service changes, then feel free to again hire a photographer and keep reaping those returns!