Ask Anything – How Do You Estimate Video With Stills

- - Ask Anything

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.

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWERS:

ART BUYER:
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.
Just motion.

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.

AGENT:
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?

To Summarize:
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.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (hereand here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

There Are 26 Comments On This Article.

  1. At this point 50-70% of our shoots involve both motion and still. We charge usage for photos and a directors fee for the motion portion. If we have a DP we charge a DP fee and a Directors fee for the motion portion of the shoot.

    It feels a little strange to price the motion on a buyout but all the research we did into pricing for motion led us to this pricing method.

  2. Let’s not forget that motion often does have a ‘usage’ in the form of residuals.

      • Laurence Zankowski

        When I was tapped to join IATSE 600, I figured it would be a breeze till I saw the fees for joining as a second AC. I bring this up because, lets say you have a gig it is SAG, and the local grip/electric. Do you as a still/ motion guy get hit with not only 600 issues as “DoP” but potentially DGA issues? I feel something in the next few years is going to come out of 600 addressing HD-DSLR usage on union shoots.

        • Though this is why most talent that is good works toward union membership as fast as they can.

  3. Thanks for the excellent posting, but this reads to me mostly from a perspective of commercial/advertising — how does this same scenario impact on the editorial world where clients are more frequently asking for companion motion for web/ipad editions in addition to the still work for their print/web/ipad publications. And it’s not just the direction, but being the DP, sound guy and he editor as well — Anyone care to share a realistic framework not only for appropriate fees, but also how to approach billing for equipment and post-production as well. As more and more stills shooters enter the market dangerously unarmed with knowledge there’s a substantial risk of deeply undervaluing these productions and sending the market into a downward spiral.

    • I don’t think there are realistic frameworks for this as far as fees go.

      Editorial publications just don’t have the budget to pull off motion of the same quality as stills can achieve. No video-shooting DSLR’s going to replace the crew to lay dolly track and light a whole set vs. a single-angle shot, or the hours and hours spent in editting and color grading. Your local TV news has this down to a science – and look how that is.

  4. steven svengali

    how much would you charge for shooting stills and video at the same time?

    i have seen more and more people doing this.

    diyphotography.net/a-diy-9shooter-shooting-stills-video-simultaneously-audio-too

    “The post below shows a simple way to capture video while taking still pictures. Sure, there is some added weight and yea, video will not get a dedicated person and will just “follow along”, yet, this is a neat way to achieve video with just one person shooting, This is also a great instructional tool for yourself to see how you interact with your model, what things work and what makes them shrink.

    There are two versions for this mod – a dueler which mounts a DSLR with a video camera and a 9Shooter that also has sound attached.”

  5. This is interesting… The professional photography community is raving about video and advocating embracing it to every photographer, while the business model for this doesn’t really exist, and it’s obvious that the professional video production industry is also very well protected against this attack. If only the SLRs couldn’t shoot video, it would all be so simple, technology be damned!

    • My advice would be to pursue motion when you have stories to tell that require it. Otherwise, it’s a time and money pit.

      Don’t let the seminar slingers hear you say that though. They’ll say you’re “stuck in the past” or making the same mistake the film vs. digital holdouts did – even though digital is a direct substitute for film, while motion is a whole different medium and artistic genre.

      We occasionally get clients that want to add on video to their stills project – until they see the price it takes to bring it up to the same level. There’s no getting around this. Sure, you can dick around and lowball your directing fee, but will your crew? Nope…

      There’s pretty significant limitations on what you can do without a proper crew and time for edit, regardless of whatever format the camera can record. And all that stuff costs real money.

  6. @ Art,

    You raise a tangent question that’s been on my mind. For some time now the photography community has been raging against all of the “overnight photographers” who sprang into existence thanks to the affordability of decent DLSR cameras. Many photographers feel their business is threatened by amateurs who have no real rightcompeting in the field.

    At the same time, many photographers are pushing the business model of adding video products along with their still photography. They’re doing this because they now suddenly have quality video capability built into their still cameras. Yet very few are probably educated in motion photography or went to a film school to learn the art.

    I’m guessing that just as the professional still photographers are complaining about the amateur “hacks” ruining their business, somewhere out there veteran videographers and directors who have been in the field for years are now frustrated by all of the photographers who suddenly fancy themselves as the next Spielberg or Scorsese.

    Is there a double standard here, or is it acceptable so long as the newcomers charge appropriate fees and don’t undercut the market?

    • Exactly right. There’s WAY more to directing than being a great shooter, stills or video. Yet many photographers, now that they have dSLR cameras capable of high-quality video capture, seem to think they’re experienced directors or DPs or cinematographers. How is that different from the weekend warrior or digital Debbie with a high-end dSLR and Photoshop on their computers thinking they’re accomplished photographers?

  7. sven johnson

    interesting post/thread here:

    digital-photography-school.com/forum/earning-photography/159446-business-strategies-4-shooting-stills-hd-video-simultaneously-during-photoshoot.html

    Business Strategies 4 Shooting Stills and HD Video Simultaneously during Photoshoot?

    Greetings all,

    I have been shooting photography and video for some time, and I am enrolled in a summer-school class where we are to come up with a brief business plan for our future photography/videography ventures.

    Well, I am going to build a brand around shooting stills and video simultaneously, and I was wondeirng if anyone might have any recommendations as how best shoot hd video and stills at the same time throughout the shoot. Who are the leaders in this field?

    Do any of you mount two cameras together (Such as a video camera and dslr), or set up dedicated video cameras or still cameras DSLRs on tripods? What brackets/systems/methods do you use for mounting stills and video cameras, and/or shooting stills and video together at the same time?

    And of course, I will also be including a section on audio in my business plan, so any tips would rock!

    Just looking for some ideas! & if I use your original idea, I’ll be more than happy to provide you a reference!

    Thanks in advance for the advice and insights! I will look forward to sharing the final plan with y’all.

    MD

    • This post is about quoting for still shoots that have an added video component, not a simultaneous video component.

      I can imagine that you could cobble together cameras, but for what purpose? Two compromises instead of one?

      I visualize a shoot done by a “one man band” street busker, maybe a few pennies in the hat for the effort, but no one is going to a concert or buying the CD.

  8. Adele Hodge

    This is a excellent summary of the real world for still/motion photographers today. . . even the comments add the kind of depth to the discussion that working professionals need in today’s competitive and fast changing marketplace. Thank you, A Photo Editor.

  9. sven johnson

    Victor John Penner June 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm: “This post is about quoting for still shoots that have an added video component, not a simultaneous video component.”

    You can add a video component by shooting video simultaneously. Photographers need to innovate and come up with new strategies in this day and age of declines in the general industry. Please let innovators innovate.

    Victor John Penner June 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm: “I can imagine that you could cobble together cameras, but for what purpose? Two compromises instead of one?”

    When you walk and chew gum at the same time, are you compromising on walking on chewing gum?

    Victor John Penner June 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm: “I visualize a shoot done by a “one man band” street busker, maybe a few pennies in the hat for the effort, but no one is going to a concert or buying the CD.”

    Actually, the Canon Professional Network will post the results on their site:
    http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/interviews/ziv_koren_hf10.do

    “Ziv Koren has been a successful photojournalist for over 20 years and his work has been published in Time, Newsweek, The Sunday Times, Stern, Paris Match and Wired among others. Now Ziv is combining still images with video, and the results are powerful multimedia presentations that give a new insight into the decisive moment when the camera shutter button is pressed. CPN spoke to him about his recent work using a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III SLR camera in conjunction with the Canon HF10 1080 HD camcorder.”

    Finally, there is no need to condescend nor insult street performers and artists making a living serving others.

    Thanks in advance.

  10. To the readers of this forum:

    I was notified yesterday that the person that is posting as “Sven Johnson” and earlier as “Bruce Svengali” is actually an infamous internet troll by the name of Dr. Elliot McGucken ( a Phd. in physics ) who has started this exact same discussion on 15 or more photography forums. The one on digital-photography-school.com has gone to 17 pages of insanity.

    I was also given links to similar discussions on many gaming websites and his patent application for a gaming “system” alone is worthy of a documentary film.

    I can be brusk, I can be blunt but trust me when I say that any discussion here of a bracket that holds a dslr and a video camera together is a ruse.

    You can google Dr. Elliot McGucken, or some of his handle id’s, Majordslr, HJM Photography on Model Mayhem #903221

    I will not respond to any more posts or anything to do with this person. It is mentioned on more than one forum that he may be mentally ill. Sad.

  11. sven johnson

    What? lol! Why the need for ad hominem, personal attacks, libel, slander, and outrageous accusations? Lighten up, dude! :) Shooting stills and video at the same time is inevitable, as it is already happening. Instead of standing on the shore and yelling at the waves to stop, while calling the surfers crazy, join the fun in surfing the waves!

    Arthur Schopenhauer: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

    Steve Jobs: The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

    Albert Einstein: For an idea that does not at first seem insane, there is no hope.

    Sir Richard Branson: The best, most solid way out of a crisis in a changing market is through experiment and adaptation. Businesses surf the waves of changing circumstances, and I can’t offhand think of any industries whose best players are not constantly engaged in reinvention of one sort or another. Business Stripped Bare, p. 21

    Steven Jobs: Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

    :)

  12. I wanted to comment on the current practice of giving clients complete ownership and a total buyout of video content. We have negotiated with reasonable success to license video content based on time and media much like my still photography is. Basing video usage on a legacy usage structure for Broadcast TV commercials is not appropriate for new media. Like still photography, clients and photographers can both benefit by a flexible usage and pricing structure allowing clients to efficiently pay for the usage that they desire.
    Some background. Broadcast TV Commercials are produced at a considerable expense. The director’s fee is very different from the photographer’s fee. The director’s fee is literally the fee he goes home with. He is not responsible for any production company overhead, agent commission, promotion, office salaries, etc. All those costs come out of the Production Company mark-up (approximately 20% of expenses). Some very experienced directors also get a portion of the mark-up as well. So an advertising photographer would have to make about $35,000 to equal a $15,000 director’s fee after deducting nearly 50% for overhead costs, agent fees, promotion, etc. In Broadcast Commercials the client owns all the material and can use it forever and wherever without additional payments to the director or Production Company. But as you can see, the director and Production Company are compensated handsomely for giving these rights. Also, seldom does the client use the material for a long period as broadcast time is very expensive and SAG talent, if used, is paid per use.

    This is all very different from episodic television shows and theatrical films where directors are paid additional usage fees due to contract and DGA union rules.
    Enter new media, where video/motion can be used on the web, in apps, and other various future outlets, ad infinite, at very reduced costs especially with non-union talent.

    Clients who wish to have “all rights” to our video material because “that’s the way it is in Broadcast Commercials” should be charged the similar Broadcast Commercial creative fees and mark-ups. But of course, they don’t want to pay that and I don’t expect them to. As photographers we have the creative ability and the production expertise to pull off amazing video productions that allow the client to get great production value for a faction of the price of a Broadcast Commercial, much more suited to the avenue of new media. But having a usage structure that is flexible and priced to match the actual use is more equatable for all parties. Giving it away or clients failing to compensate our effort, produces a business environment that cannot support the creative individual. A portion of my annual income is based on this re-licensing of images and motion to my clients. The clients and I negotiated a fair price to create it and use if for it’s initial use; if the clients like it so much to run it again or somewhere else, they understand and pay some more to do so. That system has worked well in still photography and should be applied to video/motion as well.

  13. Correct me if I am wrong, but in Motion Pic, its the Producer who owns all rights to teh project film. Only the finished product has rights relesed to the Client, ie as is the stillimage. So then any outtakes or extra footage created in this shoot, is owned by the producing director. All crew are work for hire at day rates. So as photographers who do both, would it not be best to approach your project as Producer? I come from a video background, both staff and freelance. It has been my understanding on all projects that the ownership of anything created on the set is by the producer. Thoughts? Clarifications? Thanks.