Buying a license from a photographer

I have found a wildlife photo I want to use in a painting.

What is a reasonable rate for a licence?

What is a “reasonable price” for a painting? There is no standard rate. It depends on the photographer, his/her reputation, whether he/she is willing to license it for the usage you intend, and whatever he/she wants to charge. Sometimes photographers will allow an artist to use a photo as reference for no charge. It also might depend on whether you intend to use only parts of the photo or to copy it exactly (which he/she might not agree to at all,)

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I’ve had answers that were in the hundreds for one photo, and all the way down to free.

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Possibly useful in the future: are you aware of the thousands of photos online with a Creative Commons or free re-use license?

Google Images has a Tools > Usage Rights filter where you can select from a variety of free re-use license types., under “Advanced” search, has a license drop-down (it reads “Any License,” but when you click on it, you’ll see a range of usage rights.)

PaintMyPhoto maintains a huge source of free-use photos at

Creative Commons has a fairly universal requirement that you acknowledge or reference your source, but that shouldn’t be a huge stopper. I don’t remember any restriction whatsoever at PMP.


Thanks for the links!

Facebook also has several pages with available photos. Photos For Artists is the biggest.


Oh yes. That is why I haven’t painted portraits of Prince, Bowie, and so on. I can find very few photos that are free for reuse.

The United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service have thousands of public domain photos also.

It just happens that the red fox I wanted to paint is not in the public domain!

I belong to those as well. Primarily, I paint from my imagination unless I am doing detailed works.

I was hoping I could find a range. I am talking to the photographer and she has no idea what to charge.

Thank you all for the replies, links, and helpful insights. Very much appreciated.

When I get that kind of answer from someone I tell them how about 10% of the profit…only because I do small inexpensive paintings usually. And yes, all those free photos but sometimes you have an idea for that one photo you saw. I know how it is.

AGree with all everyone said here. Most I’ve paid is $40 but it was an exceptional shot of a horse. I use, pixabay, belong to numerous groups on Facebook who allow their photos for artist ref material for free, and many times when I see a photo and ask they simply allow its use with agreeing to credit the photographer’s site. The Stribbling family (animal artists) have a great site where I think the photos are all $5 each.

I have paid 10% of what I plan to make in the sale of a painting. I do pay up front when I go this route. And honestly, there have been only two: my son was one and a dear friend, the other. I pay up front because there is no guarantee the painting will sell, but I have used the photo as a reference, regardless.