We recently helped one of our food/people photographers quote on an ad shoot for an agency that specializes in reaching Hispanic audiences. The ad agency’s client was a major food brand, and the product they were promoting was a household name. The campaign was aimed at Hispanics and was to be used only in Spanish language media (primarily grocery store point-of-purchase). The agency needed pictures of a celebrity chef (standing, wearing chef jacket, looking at the camera), a recipe she makes using the product, and four still-life pictures of various products in their product line. All of the pictures would be shot on white background, at a studio near the agency and talent, in one shoot day. The usage was six images for “unlimited use in the U.S. for one year.”
When I build an estimate, I like to figure out the production costs first because it helps me really understand the scope of the project, which can influence the licensing/creative fee. One of the things that made this estimate interesting was that the agency asked us to use their estimating form (see below). That was nice because it gave us prompts for all the information they expected to see. And from their perspective, it makes it easy to compare quotes.
Production Crew. The photographer would have to fly in from another city for the shoot. She would plan to take her regular first assistant. She didn’t feel the need to add on a local assistant. My ideal is having one assistant who is familiar with the photographer traveling along, and one local assistant who is familiar with the local people and places who can help get us out of a jam when the unexpected arises. I put in for one assistant shoot day and two assistant travel days.
I find that hair/makeup, wardrobe, prop, and food stylists tend to be in the same general price range. But for this job, the food styling was the most critical component, so I budgeted more for that. The product itself isn’t very glamorous, so the recipe really needed to shine. In addition to looking through every food stylist website I could find, I spent a lot of time talking with local food photographers, folks at kitchen studios, and local magazines, to make sure I knew who the best food stylists were in that area. I planned on a day of prep for the food stylist to sort out the recipes and to buy the food, and a day on set for the food stylist and their assistant.
For this type of shoot (one subject, non-cosmetics shoot) one person can handle both hair and make-up. One stylist could handle the wardrobe (which would be provided) and propping with one prep day and one shoot day. Even though the wardrobe was to be provided, we still needed someone on set to steam the clothes and fuss with the fit. Chef uniforms are not the most flattering, so some time and attention would need to be spent pinning the uniform properly to give it a more fitted appearance.
I factored in three days for the production coordinator (me). It would mostly be pre-production to pull all the elements together and make the travel arrangements, and then just tying up loose ends after the shoot. The shoot was simple enough, and due to the photographer’s needs and the client’s budget concerns, I didn’t need to be there for the shoot.
Photographic Medium. We put in 300.00 for basic digital workflow. That’s less than we normally charge for a project like this, but it reflected the photographer’s comfort level. The retouching needs would mostly be file clean-up, smoothing wrinkles, smoothing skin, and fussing with the food a bit. I figured an hour for each image. The client requested a proof print of each of the final images because the final colors of the labels and product itself are so important.
Studio Rental. I had a couple places in our database, and got some more from some friends in the area. We found a great studio with a nice cyc wall close to the agency. As I’m checking on price and availability for all my support services, I generally put my favorites on hold. That way, I don’t have to scramble when the job comes through. When you put someone on hold, it’s like a tentative booking. If something else comes in for them on that date, they call you and ask you to confirm or release them from the hold. If you confirm and then cancel, you are obligated to pay them whatever cancellation fee you have negotiated. If you release them from the hold, or if the job doesn’t come through and you haven’t confirmed, there’s normally nothing to pay for.
We expected a cast and crew of about 10 people for a light breakfast and a normal lunch. I normally factor in about 40.00/head for that. If I have time, I’ll make some calls to confirm that with some caterers. If not, that amount is a safe bet to account for.
Equipment. The photographer was traveling with her own gear, for which she was charging a modest rental fee.
Location. Just needed a certificate of insurance for the rental studio.
Travel. We’d need round-trip transportation for the photographer and her first assistant. Estimating travel costs can be tricky. Airfares can vary wildly depending on when the travel is taking place and how much advance notice you have. Between the time you quote on a job and when you get it, fares can double—especially if the shoot dates change. Make sure you’re clear in advance about who is going to pay/get the difference when the fare goes up/down. In this case, we were charging our actual cost on the expenses and the client understood that it was subject to change. I normally figure on single occupancy hotel rooms. It wouldn’t be unusual to ask two assistants to share a room if the budget is tight, but it would have to be an extreme case to have the photographer share a room with the assistant. I chose to rent a car so we could run last minute errands. But I could have shaved off a few bucks by using a car service to and from the airport. Excess baggage is important to pay attention to these days. It’s a good idea to have your own scale to make sure your equipment cases don’t exceed 50 pounds. And unless you’re flying Southwest, you’ll have to pay close attention to the baggage charges, because they add up fast. In the past, I’ve been able to get discounts from airlines for photographic equipment (especially if the photographer had a valid press credential). But these days, with airlines trying to make money any way they can, it’s rare to get that kind of treatment.
Props, Wardrobe and Sets. The pictures required only simple plates for the food, no props for the chef and just white background for all the pictures including the product itself. But it’s better to have extra stuff that you don’t use than wish you had a wooden spoon or an oven mitt to put in the subject’s hand when the art director feels inspired. I talked to the prop stylists and the food stylists to get a better sense of what I should budget for plates, pans, place settings and the food. Depending on what else they’re responsible for, it would be reasonable to have the food stylist or the prop stylist handle the cooking-related props. It’s not unusual for food stylists to bring along a small selection of serving dishes which can fill in for whatever the prop stylist gets. Just be sure to be clear on who’s bringing what avoid any confusion on the shoot day. And of course, you can plan on the prop stylist being able to buy and return items that don’t get used.
Talent and Casting. The celebrity chef was the only talent and we didn’t have to pay her out of the photography budget.
Miscellaneous. The client requested delivery by DVD. More often we simply upload the files to our FTP and send the client a link. The “Shipping and Messengers” is actually a car service for the chef.
Photography Fee. Lastly, I nailed down the fee. The key points to consider were: national brand enlisted a mid-size agency and relatively unknown “celebrity chef” to promote a small segment of their business to the Spanish-speaking population of the U.S., using six images for one year (see “usage license required” on last estimate page). Some of these factors create upward pressure on the value and some push it down. The fact that only 17% of the US speaks Spanish as a first or second language seriously limits the audience of this campaign and drastically lowered the licensing fee. This brought the fee down from what would have otherwise been 10-12k to under 7k. Majors and minors refer to the prominence of the image in the ad. In this case, they expected to use the portrait and a couple of the other pictures big, and the rest much smaller.