Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
I had the Art Buyer from a major Worldwide Agency ask me about how we estimate video when it is a still photographer shooting the video. Is it a director’s fee or do we tag a usage fee? According to the agency, when they hire a Director for a broadcast commercial; he/she will get paid a director’s fee and the client will own the commercial outright. Now that photographer’s are shooting video, they want to be paid a usage fee for the video. This is creating confusion between agency and photographer’s contracts. Is online a different usage than broadcast? Is anyone else having this issue?
First, it’s important to recognize that there are great distinctions between the world of motion and the world of still imagery. It is important for still shooters to know all of the ins and outs of motion before venturing into that world, much less declaring competency.
Videos shot for broadcast vs. videos shot for non-broadcast purposes require adherence to different rules and regulations. Either way, hire the appropriate motion producer to help you navigate through this complexity.
Shooting for broadcast is often a regulated and regimented process when adhering to guidelines created by the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) and there is an added layer of complexity in union vs. non-union shooting. Use of union talent or union crew adds an exponential degree of complexity to the situation, so again, contract a producer or production company that is well versed.
Like photography fees, director rates can fluctuate. However, since still photography isn’t unionized or standardized, day rates and subsequent production costs and usage fees are all over the board. This, of course, is both a blessing and a curse. In motion, it is standard practice for the person who contracts the work to own all rights to the video or film footage without additional charge.
Directors make their money on day rates and their production companies make their money via a mark-up. This rate is negotiable, but it often starts at 20% of the overall production, not just the fee. Before you think to yourself what a lovely situation that is, better ask a few production companies how it’s going for them during the economic downturn. Many will tell you that the mark-up percentage has been shrinking to virtually nothing.
Note that just because a video is online does not mean it is not regulated. There are new regulations that been put into place by SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) that require payment to online talent to match broadcast rates.
There are many more complexities that I haven’t gone into detail about, but suffice it to say that it’s important to do your homework before venturing into motion. And hire the right producer/production company.
Okay, let’s say that you’re ready to enter into that world. Let’s also presume you are shooting non-union video for an online video shown on the client’s primary website. Talent payments are not factored in.
Here are the possibilities:
Stills with motion as an add-on.
Motion with stills as an add-on.
IN MY EXPERIENCE (this is not to say that others don’t do things differently, but at my agency we often integrate productions and always default to the standards and regulations that we have pledged to uphold) we have paid separate fees for the stills and motion portions of a shoot.
In the case of shooting stills first, it is typical to be paid a separate fee to capture video. There would not be an additional fee for usage of the video, but you may be asked to bundle fees for efficiency. Basically, a package rate. We have paid capture and usage fees on the stills portion as normal, although I must say that usage rates have gone down due to tighter budgets.
If a director is contracted to shoot motion first, we’ve paid additionally for stills capture and usage commensurate with normal photography rates. Again, often the price is bundled as a package rate.
Still photographers shooting just motion would typically follow the same price structure as video or broadcast directors, although with many photographers trying to enter that market, they are often offering reduced rates to build their reels with work that gives them credibility and production experience. Will this drive down prices for the future? I really can’t say for certain but all I know is that rates have declined across the board anyway – including what the agency can charge clients. On the plus side, photographers tend to be adept at shooting with fewer crew while maintaining high production value, which helps the bottom line and may provide more opportunities for photographers-turned-director.
Our normal approach is that our still photographer will shoot the stills and simultaneously direct the video. Therefore, we charge our normal print/still creative fees PLUS a director’s fee which is anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000/day. The art buyer from the question is correct – broadcast directors charge a day rate and that gives the agency/client complete usage for any reason and for any time. It is the same for video. And yes, more and more clients are demanding/asking for still shooters who can direct — and of course they will want to see samples of previous work.
PHOTOGRAPHER THAT SHOOTS MOTION:
We separate the still image licenses fee and the director/DP fee. The still images are based on usage, and the motion is owned outright by the client. It’s, at best an awkward arrangement, but to our knowledge, this hybrid process does not currently have another viable approach. I think the bigger discussion could include what’s the value to an agency art buyer in the still shooter/DP/Director. Certainly not a animal that fits all needs, but there is demand, so what’s it worth when it works?
Here is great advice from a buyer, agent and photographer and you should use this information to help gauge how you would do your estimates when charging in this new area for still photographers. The buyers and your peers are paving the way for you.
Call To Action:
This area is an ever-changing area as we see the still arena branching in to many different directions from pure motion to stop action motion. It is an area that we need to continue to educate ourselves with and keep our ears to the ground. Be open to ask questions of your peers. Ask for help. If a client asks you if you do motion, how will you respond? Are you ready? Think about this now and prepare.