Recently, one of our East Coast photographers was contacted by a multicultural ad agency asking him to bid on a print campaign for a major airline. After the photographer got an idea of the concept and the picture requirements from the art buyer, he passed the comps, shot list and contact info on to me to work out the details of the estimate.
Interestingly, the photographer had met the art buyer years earlier when the photographer was just getting started in the business. The art buyer asked him to keep in touch. So he did—by sending him regular updates on the progress of his portfolio. Over time, the two became friendly enough that the photographer invited the art buyer to his wedding. Finally, years after meeting, the perfect project came across the AB’s desk, and he called the photographer to quote on it.
The campaign consisted of 10 ads, each featuring a single image:
The client needed unlimited print advertising, collateral and web use of ten images for a year.
After speaking with the photographer, we agreed that we’d be able to handle all five of the studio shots on one shoot day (plus a pre-light day). We would need one shoot day for the three local environmental portraits. And we’d need one shoot day for the portraits in the European city. With that in mind, I started pulling together the first version of our estimate.
I usually think in terms of a fee for the first image, then a discounted fee for the additional images within a project. In this case, given the caliber of the photographer, the complexity of the shoot and the usage, I would normally quote about $10k for the first and half that for each additional image. There were a couple of factors creating upward pressure on the value; the client was a big (Fortune 500) company, and the project required international production. But more significantly, there was downward pressure on the price by virtue of the fact that it was a “multicultural” campaign, and it was likely to have a much smaller audience than a mainstream ad (though it’s possible that it could still be viable as a primary market ad). I figured on $8500 for the first picture and $4000 for each additional, leading me to the sum of $44,500 for the project.
We estimated two days to do the “digital” casting. To save some time and money, the client agreed that picking from still pictures of the models (provided by model agencies) would suffice. I usually like to see talent in person before booking them. But we weren’t going to be able to do a live casting for the European talent anyway. (I tend to separate this out as a line item instead of lumping it into the producer days because it might be done by the photographer, the producer, or it may be farmed out.)
Oddly, the art buyer asked us to quote on “film and processing” rather than a “digital processing” fee in order to keep their cost consultants happy. Through the course of our pre-bid conversations, he mentioned that “digital processing” was always a bit of a sticking point for his cost consultants, and for whatever reason, they refused to update their jargon to reflect the current technology. Normally, I bill a 500.00/shoot day to edit and tweak the files and to run and upload web galleries. (This is different from what the digital tech does. The digital tech helps manage the file captures and makes it easy for the client to view the results in real-time for approval.) The photographer asked me to quote a lump sum of 2000.00 for processing.
We only budgeted for two digital tech days because we planned on running a light and fast production in Europe and wouldn’t even have the time to review images at each location.
The producer days broke down as follows: three prep days to get the production lined up (travel, talent, equipment, lodging, stylists, catering, local transportation, scouting, assistants, etc.), one tech/scout day in NYC, two shoot days in NYC, one travel day to Europe, one tech/scout day in Europe, one shoot day in Europe, one weather day in Europe, one return travel day, one wrap day to coordinate payments, conversions and billing.
The assistant would need almost the same number of days as the producer (one less prep day). Since we were planning to scout the day before the first NYC shoot day, we’d need an assistant to pick up gear and drop it off upon our return. It doesn’t take a full day, but it prevents the assistant from booking anything else.
A moderate amount of equipment for six days.
Our wardrobe stylist provided us with an estimate for her and her assistant’s time, along with estimates for the wardrobe and minor props. We decided that in order to keep things simple and cut down on costs, we would plan to have the NYC stylist get the European wardrobe, and we would take it with us to Europe and handle the primping ourselves.
Hunting down the airplane set was a bit of a challenge and turned out to be rather expensive. We considered using one of the airline’s planes but realized it would mean an extra day of shooting along with all of the associated production expenses since we wouldn’t be able to shoot the tabletop on the same day.
We got quotes for hair/make-up stylists from the stylist directly in NYC and from an agency in Europe. Whenever I’m working in an unfamiliar location, I prefer to work through artist reps because I find it easier to trust a company over an individual.
For the studio rental, I negotiated a rate that would allow us to load in and set up lights the evening before the shoot.
Model fees were dictated by the ad agency. If you were to call up a model agency and request a quote for this use, you could get a huge range depending on the agency and talent. I’ve found that being clear about your budget upfront saves a lot of time and aggravation for the ad agency, model agency and photographer/producer. Knowing the budget ahead of time, the agencies only sent pictures of models who were comfortable with the fee.
The location scout wouldn’t be needed on set, and our approach to the European leg of the shoot allowed us to save a bit on the scouting. The fact that the NYC locations needed to be close to one another limited the amount of time that could have been spent scouting as well. We expected to be able to mostly use free locations, but I added in 500.00 in case we needed to pay for one.
My estimate was starting to get pretty long, so I lumped together per diems, production books and shipping. Per diems are typically 75.00/person/day (factoring in that the catering charge will cover some of the meals). Production books (showing all the details of the cast, crew, locations, props, wardrobe and schedule) usually go for about 750.00 (it takes about a day to put together a nice one). And I accounted for 200.00 in shipping and about 200.00 in miscellaneous expenses for unexpected odds and ends.
Cars, taxis, shuttles and trains in NYC and in Europe (the client was providing air transportation to and from Europe).
I normally charge about 1000.00/day for photographer days that don’t involve shooting pictures.
The Insurance line covers the cost of obtaining a certificate of insurance from the photographer’s insurance company. Sometimes insurance companies charge a nominal fee for this, but most offer it as a courtesy. Either way, it’s additional time for the photographer or producer. In this case, the charge was higher than normal because we had so many locations to provide COIs for.
I figured on 10 people at 40.00 each.
I call it a production truck, but it’s actually an RV that’s decked out like a salon on wheels to make it easy to handle the hair and make-up. It has racks built in to handle the wardrobe. And it gives the caterer a place to put out the food. We happened to get a very favorable quote on this one because the RV guy wanted to work with the photographer.
Last was the lodging in Europe. I wanted to make sure we were close to the shoot locations. I found a great little hotel close by with American-style showers that quoted me 100.00/night. I would need three rooms (photographer, assistant, producer) for five nights. The art director billed his hotel separately.
Lastly, I made sure to note that the airfare would be provided by the client. It’s important to explicitly state which line items the production is not responsible for.
Here’s the first estimate we provided:
My early conversations with the client gave me some hints that they were fairly budget conscious, so my first quote was about as lean as I could justify making it. As it turns out, it wasn’t lean enough. The agency came back to us after a few weeks of consideration and meetings with their client and asked what we could do for $75k. The only way we could fathom shaving almost 50k off the estimate was to cut the number of days and shots. I asked them if there were pictures they could do without. They replied with a prioritized shot list. By cutting the studio day and one of the environmental portraits, we were able to come close enough to their budget to do the trick. Of course, cutting the number of images in half didn’t cut the licensing/creative fee in half. I had to explain to the art buyer that the first image was worth more than the tenth.
We presented the following revision, which they accepted.