Shoot Concept: Images of plated food (soups, entrees and sauces)
Licensing: Advertising and Collateral use of 42 images in perpetuity
Location: In a studio local to the photographer
Shoot Days: 5
Photographer: Midwestern Food and Portraiture Specialist
Agency: Small Ad Agency in the Northwest
Client: Prepared Foods Manufacturer in the Northwest
Here’s the estimate:
Creative/Licensing: The agency approached the photographer with a request to photograph 42 items for their client, who primarily makes prepared soups. The client was branching out into manufacturing other items besides soup, and they needed images to showcase 8 sauces, 8 entrees, 10 soups and 16-holiday food items. We received one comp of a close-up of a bowl of soup, and we were told that they didn’t have any other specific information on the complexity of the dishes that needed to be captured. The agency mentioned that they were anticipating 5 days of shooting, and this meant that the photographer would need to shoot at least 8 dishes a day, plus one day where he would photograph 10 dishes…no small task.
When I spoke with the account director at the agency, she told me that they were planning to use the images in web ads, on product packaging, on their website and potentially in other printed collateral pieces (although she couldn’t think of any likely examples), and they intended on using these images for 5-10 years. I learned that not only is it rare for this client to manufacture new items, but also that the client has never done a shoot of this scale before and didn’t set a specific budget. This told me that while the shelf life was lengthy for these photos, the client might be easily scared away by an exorbitant bottom line.
Based on their licensing needs, and due to the inexperienced client and the small size of the agency, I chose to price the first four images in the main categories (sauces, soups, entrées and holiday items) at $3,000 each. I figured that the images of their best-selling items in each category would be the ones featured in advertisements and that all of the other images were worth a bit less due to a decreased level of exposure. So, for the second and third image in each category, I dropped the fee for each one to a quarter of the full price (8 images at $750 each totaling $6,000) and then lowered it to a sixth of the full price for the fourth and fifth items in each category (8 images at $500 each totaling $4,000) and then priced the remaining 22 images at one-tenth the full price ($300 each totaling $6,600). This all tallied up to $28,600. This felt a bit high based on other projects I’ve estimated for food clients, so I ultimately decided to drop it down a bit to $25,000, which also helped to keep the bottom line under $70,000.
After coming up with my own fee, I checked it against other resources. Getty would price that first image in each group at $2,530 ($735 for the web ads, $1,225 for the packaging, and $570 for the website use) for 3 years. This was in line with the $3,000/image I originally came up with. Blinkbid priced 1 image at $4,500 for “website” and “collateral” use for 1 year, and FotoQuote also priced 1 image at $4,500 for their “web pack”, which includes web advertising and use on a client’s website, however, this didn’t include packaging use.
Assistants: In order to stay on pace with the schedule each day, we’d need the first assistant available for a prep day before the shoot to set up everything, and then both assistants would be there for all of the shoot days
Digital Tech: We’d also need the tech for the prep day and each shoot day, and we included his workstation equipment in the equipment line.
Producer: The photographer had a producer he worked with at $600/day (a bit lower than I might include typically), and he’d be a crucial part of the shoot to make sure each day stayed on schedule.
Photographer Prep Day: This was for his time to set up in the studio the day before the shoot
Prop Stylist and Props: We didn’t actually need a prop stylist on set, but we did need someone to gather all of the necessary items and drop them off at the studio. The food stylists would be able to collaborate with the photographer for prop placement in each shot. While a handful of the items would be reused, the prop budget included items such as bowls, plates, cutlery, and tabletops. After speaking with a prop stylist, we decided it could take between $50-$100 per shot in props, which would be between $2,100-$4,200. Also, since we didn’t know how many items could be reused, the prop stylist needed ample time to source unique items, come to the prep day to drop them off and sort them, and then return any unused items after the shoot. The veteran stylist I spoke to recommended that I include 6-7 days for her, but I felt that this was too high, so I included 5 days…which I still felt was on the high side.
Food Stylists and Assistants: I included 5 shoot days for two teams of stylists with their assistants and also included an extra day for the primary food stylist to shop for supplemental food before the shoot. In order to shoot 42 dishes in 5 days, there would need to be 2 teams of food stylists with their assistants, and they would also need to follow a very strict schedule to complete the project on time. To help us think through how this would work, we created the following chart:
The chart details the schedule for each team over a 10-hour day. The numbers and letters in each slot correspond to the dish number and team. For example, 1a means the first dish for team A, and 3b means the third dish for team B. This schedule would allow the food stylist’s assistant to prepare a dish for 2 straight hours, one hour of which the food stylist would be lending a hand. After the hour when the stylist and their assistant prep the dish together, the food stylist will then spend one hour with the photographer shooting that dish while the food stylist’s assistant begins to prep the next dish. The photographer would switch back and forth between the two different teams with their own sets.
Supplemental Food: The client would be providing the majority of food, but the stylists would need supplemental items (like garnishes) to make the prepared foods look their best.
Studio Rental: The studio we had in mind had a weekly rate of $2,500. I included an additional $300 that the studio would charge for the few hours of prep time before the shoot days.
Equipment Rental: We always recommend that photographers charge for their own equipment. However, this photographer decided that he didn’t want to. The fee here represents $500 per shoot day for the tech’s workstation rental. The tech would be using a laptop on the prep day.
Image Processing for Editing: This covers the time, equipment and costs to handle the initial import, edit and upload of images for client review.
Selects Processed for Reproduction: 42 final images would be further processed and delivered.
Catering: I included catering for 12 people at $35 each for the 5 shoot days, plus an additional $600 for dinner on the day that there would be overtime.
OT Hours: On one of the shoot days, the crew would need to stay an extra 4 hours in order to obtain images of 2 additional shots needed in order to capture 42 dishes. I arrived at this number by calculating each crew member’s hourly rate (based on an 8-hour day) and multiplying by 4.
Miles, Parking, FTP, Insurance, Misc: I included an additional $100 per shoot day to cover these miscellaneous expenses.
Housekeeping: I made sure to note that all of the manufacturer’s food products would be provided to the photographer and noted the advance requirements.
Results: The account director told us that this estimate was competitive and definitely in line with the other bids they received, but they ultimately decided to hire a photographer located in the same city as the agency and client. The decision was also a creative one, as the client preferred the style of the other photographer.
Hindsight: If I had known that we were bidding against photographers local to the client and agency, and I was also told beforehand that our bottom line was comparable, I would have tried to adjust our estimate appropriately to offset any travel costs potentially incurred by agency/client representatives to fly out to our photographer’s city.