Most of the estimates we work on specify a finite number of photos and for limited licensing. But sometimes a big client needs to produce a wide range of images that might be used by many different departments within their company. These pictures typically become part of a corporate image library.
Earlier this year, an up-and-coming photographer asked me to help him quote on a library shoot for a US-based airline. The airline’s primary ad agency had contacted him to share some rough information, and had requested an estimate based on somewhat vague details. The concept featured business travelers interacting with airline employees at various stages of a typical travel day: curbside drop off, checking in, walking through the airport, using wireless devices in the boarding area, etc. While an exact shot list wasn’t available, the art buyer did give me information about talent, props and wardrobe, as well as additional details about the logistics of shooting at airports. The project would involve 3 shoot days, 2 airport terminals, 11 models, 18 scenarios and they would require unlimited use of all images captured.
The AB also shared that they’d shot a similar library for the same client within the last two years. This gave us a good idea of the shelf life of the images, which would influence our pricing. Even though they’d requested unlimited use in perpetuity, it was apparent that the client was in the habit of refreshing their images frequently (either that, or they weren’t happy with the last shoot).
The art buyer also shed some more light on the usage. The images were intended just for publicity and collateral use, however the client couldn’t guarantee that the images wouldn’t appear in an ad at some point. It’s very difficult for corporations to control how images get used when so many different people in different departments (and sometimes in different countries) have access to them. So it’s understandable that they wouldn’t want to limit the licensing and risk an infringement somewhere down the line.
Two other photographers had been asked to submit estimates, one of whom shot the previous library. This wasn’t a great sign because it indicated that we would be a second or possibly third bid (which turned out to be the case). This would have a significant impact on our approach to the estimate and, in combination with my photographer’s level of experience, encourage us to price this on the lower end of an appropriate range of fees.
Most of the shoot would take place in locations open to the general public, but a portion of each day would require at least some of the crew and talent to enter a secure area of the airport. The airline would provide access to those locations, but we would have to pay for our own TSA security escort. Apparently, one escort is required for every five people on the crew, and since the agency had recently shot a similar project, the AB was able to provide us with the rates for the security necessary (500.00/day).
The airline wanted to cast “real people” in order keep the costs down. The AB told me they had paid 2700.00/day per model the last time they did the shoot. This comment hinted at the cost-consciousness of the agency and client. However, I’ve found that 2700.00/day is a pretty middle-of-the-road rate for this type of shoot. A regular model agency might expect to get around 3500.00/day/model including agency fees for experienced, polished professional models. On the low end of the pricing spectrum, there are companies that can do “street castings” or Craigslist castings to find regular folks for about 1500.00/day including agency fees. 2700.00/day is about what I’d expect to pay for actual professional models who just happen to look like the rest of us.
We would need to coordinate the casting and handle props and wardrobe (with the exception of the employee uniforms) as well.
To keep things simple, we planned to arrange the catering through one of the restaurants in the terminal. We budgeted 35.00 per person, per day.
A digital tech is often needed on large productions like this to help review and approve images, but since we would have to move quickly, a digital tech wouldn’t be practical. In the interest of time, the client was comfortable reviewing images on the back of the camera.
The airline was going to be able to provide us with a staging area for the stylists, talent, client, agency and crew to prep, store gear, eat and rest between shots.
Lastly, the AB specified a per diem which included all local travel expenses, meals and lodging for the producer and photographer.
With all the info in hand, I set to work drafting the first estimate.
Though we generally try to avoid the term “day-rate,” when dealing with library shoots it’s often the most logical way to build an estimate. However, even when asked to quote a day rate, I still try to present a project fee combining the creative/licensing day rates together into a single photography fee line. To determine the day rate we consider a variety of factors that impact the value. The main factors are the number of scenarios, uniqueness of the concept/images and number of consecutive shoot days. If there are fewer unique scenarios the client will have a limited selection of images to use. More scenarios should translate to a higher the fee, and the uniqueness of each scenario should also be taken into consideration. The greater the diversity in the final library, the greater the potential value to the client. Lastly, the number of consecutive shoot days should be factored in. More consecutive shoot/production days often warrants a slight discount.
The usual pricing resources don’t offer applicable rates for library shoots so we had to base this estimate on our experience with previous library assignments. Most recently we’d presented estimates and were awarded library projects for comparable shoots/clients for between 7500.00 and 10,000.00 per shoot day. In one case, the client came to us having already budgeted the photographer fees at 10,000.00 per shoot day.
After considering the complexity of the shoot, number of days, the photographer’s level of experience and using these recent library rates as a baseline, we decided to price the project at 8500.00/day.
For the production we including the following:
Four assistant days @ 350.00: 1 prep day to pickup/drop off gear and 3 shoot days. In a perfect world I would have liked to include another assistant, but the crew would be limited due to security concerns and the shoot would primarily use available light rather than strobes.
Seven producer days @ 750.00: 3 days to prepare for the shoot, 1 day for a walk through, and 3 days for the shoot.
The capture fee covers the time, equipment, software necessary for the initial image download, editing, basic color balance, archiving and web gallery posting (if necessary). We typically price this at 500.00 for each shoot day.
The photographer would be renting two camera bodies (approx. 600.00/day) two lenses (approx. 100.00/day) a variety of Scrim Jims & reflectors (200.00/day) for a total of 900.00/shoot day.
The tech/scout day covers the photographer’s time to walk through the locations the day before the shoot. We typically price this around 1,000.00/day, but since there were a lot of locations to cover in secure areas, we bumped this up to 1,200.00.
We contacted a local casting agency to get a quote for casting 11 talent. 2500.00 covers an average casting day, but in a smaller market you may be pay less.
We used the talent rates dictated by the AB. We made sure to note that the talent fees would be billed direct to the agency.
Again, in an attempt to minimize crew members, we found a wardrobe stylist who was comfortable managing the small prop list consisting of a few sets of luggage, briefcases and electronics. She also provided the quote for the wardrobe and prop budget and recommended using her assistant for the returns. This saved a considerable amount of time and money.
The hair and make-up needs were pretty basic for this shoot, so I was comfortable hiring one person to do both.
We included per diems and travel fees for both the photographer and producer using the rate that the art buyer provided. This covered all mileage, taxis and incidentals.
For catering, we accounted for 6 talent, 6 crew, 3 agency and 2 client at 35.00 per person, per day. This would cover light breakfast and a hot lunch.
As I mentioned, we were responsible for providing and paying for the TSA security escorts that would be needed in the secure locations.
The car rental was a prop for one of the scenarios, rather than actually being used for transportation. The agency didn’t need a specific car, so we planned to just rent a car for one day from Enterprise at the airport.
Constant and clear communication throughout the day would be a necessity, so I included the price for 3 walkie-talkies per day.
Most projects net just a handful of final reproduction images. We normally charge corporate and editorial clients for each file we process for reproduction. Since advertising jobs tend to require a lot more retouching, we tend to charge for those reproduction processing/retouching by the hour. But in this case, with hundreds of files to process, it made sense to charge for that by the day. We generally estimate a 1:1 shoot time to processing time ratio when there are a large number of images to be prepared for reproduction. We made sure to price the processing rate high enough that the photographer could farm it out to a retoucher if he chose not to do it himself.
Since we were going to have to deliver so many images, it made sense to send the client a hard drive rather than uploading to an FTP.
Lastly, we made sure to include a line stating what the client and agency would be responsible for providing, and our advance terms.
Here’s a look at the final estimate:
We submitted the estimate and anxiously waited. Finally, we heard back from the client that although the rates were right on, they decided to stick with the same shooter as last time.