Shoot Concept – Interior Architectural and Detail images of installed small residential appliances
Licensing – US Advertising and Collateral Use of up to 24 images in perpetuity
Location – Two residential properties
Shoot Days – One
Photographer – Lifestyle, Architectural and Home & Garden Specialist
Agency – N/A
Client – A small residential appliance company – a household name to those “in the know”
Here is the estimate:
Intro: Last year I worked with one of our Midwest-based photographers to put together an estimate for a small residential appliance company. The shoot was fairly straightforward, without much in the way of production prep on the photographer’s side. The photographer was to shoot architectural interior and detail images of the appliances in use in two nearby homes. The client would be providing homes with the appliances already installed. After reviewing all of the details and correspondence and researching the brand a bit (I wasn’t familiar with the product and wanted to get a better sense of the size of the company and their product line), I connected with the client to discuss the project and sort out licensing and our approach.
After confirming that the photographer would be shooting two scenarios at each of the homes, and that we’d be shooting 2-3 architectural/wide shots and 3-4 detail/tight shots in each scenario, we dove into the licensing. The locations, product, installations, props and props styling would be provided by the client, which simplified things for us considerably on the production front.
Creative/Licensing: Initially, the client requested “unlimited use of all images captured.” Although you won’t always like the response, you need to challenge a client when they request, all images, a buyout or unlimited use. These are all vague terms we try to avoid (or elaborate on at a minimum). In this case, I needed to clarify if the client truly wanted the license to use all of the images captured. I also wanted to pin down their intended use. After a little push, the client was willing to limit the licensing to US Advertising and Collateral Use of 24 selects. The duration was still a sticking point, they were still insistent on a perpetual license. We don’t usually press very hard on the duration because there is an inherent shelf life on any given image. The value of a given set of images will taper off over time. The slope of that taper will vary based on the style, styling and subject matter. So even though the licensing was drastically limited from the original request, the client would still be able to use the 24 images in a manner that felt unlimited to them, so they were content with the restrictions.
After developing a firm understanding of the project and a decent rapport with the client, I pressed for some insight into the budget. About half the time I ask about the budget, I’ll get a valuable response. The other half of the time the budget either hasn’t been set, or the client is unwilling to reveal it for some other reason (triple bid, etc.). In those cases, you can press a bit further and find out if they’ve shot anything similar in the past, and if so, what they spent. You’ll also want to know who else is bidding if they’re willing to share that info with you in order to alter your approach to the estimate. In this case, the client was forthcoming, and had a firm 10k budget. At first glance, considering the usage, it seemed low, but I took the news in stride and set about drafting the estimate.
Because the budget was tight, I decided to approach the estimate differently. Typically, I’ll determine the creative/licensing fee, then build out the production estimate. Since we had a tight budget to begin with for this project, I opted to work backwards and price out the production first. With my production expenses dialed in, I was able to see that I had about 6000.00 left in the budget for fees. This is quite a bit lower than I would like to see for this usage. However, after considering the likelihood of any major consumer advertising (minimal), the straight forward nature of the production, the photographer’s level of experience (pretty fresh) and the size and prominence of the client (all of which apply/allow for downward pressure on the fee and/or value) I felt it was a reasonable fee. I calculated the fees on some of our pricing resources as well: Blinkbid’s Bid Consultant – 5,030.00/image for the first year, Fotoquote – 21,454.00/image for the first year and Corbis – 12,000.00/image for the first year. Though definitely valuable tools, these resources assume that each of the images will be used in every conceivable manner within the prescribed parameters, so you have to take their suggestions with a grain of salt.
Tech/Scout Day: We estimated a half day of tech/scouting time for the photographer and client to walk through the locations to nail down the shot list and angles in advance of the shoot. This would be crucial since the shoot day schedule would be somewhat ambitious. It would also allow the photographer to choose a staging area and determine which gear to bring and which to leave at home.
Assistant: The photographer generally shoots without much grip or supplemental lighting so he was comfortable including just one assistant. We opted not to include a second assistant, instead relying on the tech to be an extra set of hands to load in/out, etc.
Digital Tech: The digital tech would help to manage the flow of file intake and display for client approval on set. Because it takes much longer to dial in and bracket an architectural shot, the selection process happens on set, during the shoot, in realtime (the client approves the shot composition, the photographer covers exposure and focus and processes those approved shots in post for final delivery). In the case, a tech essentially eliminates the need for a “shoot processed for client review” fee.
Photo Equipment and Workstation: This covered the one day rental costs for a laptop workstation, two DSLR bodies, a variety of lenses, grip equipment and lighting (some of which the photographer owned, but planned to rent to the production at the market rate).
Images Processed for Reproduction: 50.00/image is in the lower end for architectural selects processing but the photographer was open to reducing the rate a bit to hit the client’s budget. Normally, I’d like to see that rate closer to 75.00-200.00/image for architectural processing, depending on the shoot.
Miles, Expendables, FTP, COI and Misc: This covered the basic out-of-pocket expenses the photographer would accrue between mileage, FTP cots, Certificate of Insurance (ranging from free to 50.00/COI depending on your insurance company) and any other miscellaneous expenses that may arise.
Overtime: Because the shoot day was fairly ambitious, I wanted to make sure it was clear to the client that if the time on site exceeded 10 hours, that the crew would bill OT at time and a half.
Housekeeping: For the sake of clarity (read: cover your ass) I made sure to note all of the production elements the client would be providing.
Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer did not get the job. Although it seemed like we had the project locked up, in a excruciatingly frustrating turn of events, another photographer estimating on the project neglected to ferret out the client’s budget and priced the project at less than half of our estimate, all in. The client was eager to work with us, but felt that the difference in quality between the two photographers was negligible while the difference in fees was substantial. It was particularly tough to hear because the budget was borderline unreasonable to begin with. I’m sure there are some who would look at our willingness to work with the budget with a judging eye, but the fact of the matter is that the client had a finite amount of money to spend, we’d limited the licensing as much as we could and the photographer rarely, if ever, shoots five figure budget projects. No matter what, the client could not spend more than 10k. For some, that’s not nearly enough. For those who are willing, but fail to ask the right questions (ie ignoring a client’s budgetary threshold) end up carelessly undervaluing their work, seriously undercutting the market.
Ask the uncomfortable questions. Usually they are only uncomfortable for you.
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