Pricing And Negotiating: Executive Portraits For A Large Agency

Jess Dudley

Shoot Concept: Create executive portraits and corporate lifestyle images of employees at work in their corporate headquarters and on-site at one client location

Licensing: Digital collateral and digital advertising use of up to 40 images

Location: Corporate headquarters and one retailer location

Shoot Days: Three

Photographer: Corporate lifestyle specialist

Agency: Large agency in the Mid-Atlantic

Client: Business consultant

A well-known ad agency recently commissioned one of our East Coast photographers to shoot a library of images for their client’s rebranding effort. The agency’s B2B client provides consulting services to mid-large sized national brands. The goal of the shoot was to capture a range of corporate lifestyle images of real employees at work in their company offices and on-site at one of their client’s locations. The images were created for, and would be primarily used on, the client’s newly redesigned website, so while the production machine was in motion, the agency wanted to create 10 executive portraits to round out the website about page. On top of the web use, the agency also requested digital/web advertising use to cover their trade advertising needs.

Although all of the images would be used on the site, it was likely that only a handful would be used for any of the somewhat limited advertising use granted. However, as is often the case, the agency was unwilling to carve up the usage into different components, making it impossible to impose more than one licensing agreement on different sets within the library. Additionally, the agency was unwilling to bend on the duration of use. Just as with the extent of the usage, we determined that the likelihood of the client taking full advantage of perpetual use was low enough that we were willing to be flexible on that point. The images have a shelf life, and we assume that the value to the client degrades considerably after three to five years — executives change, services change, and imagery needs to be refreshed. After careful consideration and discussion with the art buyer, we decided to price the usage closer to the value of the intended use.

To determine the licensing fee, I considered the caliber of the photographer (in-demand), reputation of the agency (solid), size of the client (niche), intended audience (non-consumer), limited use (web/digital only), assumed shelf-life, number of shot days (2.5, but we priced as 3 — half days are a myth) and intensity of the production (pretty low). I also considered that 1/4 of the images would consist of executive portraits. After weighing all of the factors, we landed at $20,000. Other pricing sources like Fotoquote, Blinkbid’s Bid Consultant and the various stock sites would have us quote the usage fee in the six-figure range, but those pricing resources don’t account for the nuance and just keep multiplying, regardless of the influencing factors and/or diminishing value to the client, and photographer, over time.

From a production standpoint, this project was relatively low impact. The photographer would need to show up to the provided locations with his or her crew, and make pictures of the provided resources. That being said, because we were working through a fairly large agency, their expectations would be slightly more intensive than you may initially expect.

Here’s the approved estimate:

P and N July

Tech/Scout Day: I included a tech/scout day for the photographer and agency to walk through the offices and client locations to make sure everyone was on the same page creatively, and allow the photographer to consider lighting and equipment needs.

1st Assistant Days: I included four days for the first assistant — one to prep gear (and/or attend the scout) and three to shoot.

2nd Assistant Days: The second assistant would be on hand for all three shoot days.

Digital Tech Days: The tech would only be needed on the corporate lifestyle days. The agency wouldn’t need to review the executive portraits on set, so we were able to forgo that expense on the portrait day.

Equipment: $4500 covered costs for a DSLR, a backup, lenses, grip equipment and portable strobe kit, some of which the photographer’s production company owned and would be renting at market rate for the shoot and some that would need to be rented from a local rental house.

Producer: Even though a great deal of the production elements would be provided by the client and agency, we felt that a producer would still be beneficial during the shoot. Since there wasn’t much in the way of pre-production I only included one day for prep (arrange catering, book/confirm the five crew members and pull together a call sheet), one day for the tech/scout and three days for the shoot.

Production RV: The client couldn’t guarantee the availability of convenient staging area so I included a production RV for the two lifestyle days. Since we would be stationary for the executive portraits, it wasn’t necessary on the third day.

Groomer: The subjects would be instructed to arrive camera-ready. The groomer would be on hand to make sure they were finessed a bit and looked their best when on camera.

Shoot Processing for Client Review: Covers time, equipment and costs for the initial import, edit, batch color correction and upload of the images to an FTP for client review and selection.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: Color correction, basic touch-up and specialized processing of the 40 selects. As the result of considerable post-processing, all of photographer’s images all have a distinct feel, which increases the cost for standard file prep.

File Transfer: This covers the cost to deliver the 40 selects via FTP.

Catering: I estimated to provide lunch on the two corporate lifestyle days. Because the third day was a “half day” we didn’t need to cover catering.

Miles, Expendables, FTP, and Misc: This covered out-of-pocket expenses the photographer and crew would accrue between mileage, FTP costs and any other miscellaneous expenses that may arise.

Housekeeping (see the project description): I noted all of the production elements the client would be providing.

Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer shot the project and the client came back to licensing 10 additional images. We set the rate for those at $750 each, including processing.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at (610) 260-0200. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to big ad campaigns.

Wonderful Machine

There Are 34 Comments On This Article.

  1. I wonder how FTP fle transfer can possibly ever cost as much as renting a dedicated server for three months? :)

    • You kind of answered it yourself. Service fees cover the direct cost + overhead of providing the service. Transfer fee covers the upkeep over time. Most good ad photographers don’t operate high volume so the cost per job of things like this may seem high to those who aren’t knowledgeable about it.

      Same reason there’s an equipment fee and what it is.

  2. “the value to the client degrades considerably after three to five years”

    I did a shoot for a corporate about 7 years ago thinking exactly the same. Guess what there are three photos in that “stock library” that seem to be somewhat timeless as the client is still using them for internal campaigns.

    I think the biggest problem with corporate work of this type is that you rarely know what quality the “talent” is. In some ways there is always an element of winging it. Of course experience means you know what to look for and when magic is starting to happen.

  3. Photographer 1: It’s outrageous that you rent your gear. Do you think plumbers rent wrenches?

    Photographer 2: You are not charging enough for your gear rental. Are you trying to undercut the market?

    Had to get that out of the way.

    • Rather Beyanonomos

      Hehe, perfectly on point!

      It’s amazing how photography is the only business where they not only cut each others throats but, they cut their own as well. Askar’s comment above is a perfect example. You seem appalled that someone charges a fee to deliver a service. What difference does it make what they charge and why the seeming outrage over a pretty minor charge? You’ve never bought a car or a house or hired a lawyer or a plumber have you? They charge as much was they can for everything BECAUSE THEY ARE RUNNING A BUSINESS!!

      Photographers just seem predisposed to want to give as much away as possible and I’ve never seen or heard anyone in this business go “that’s awesome that you were able to get such a high rate and charge for all the necessary extras, way to go!” At least not in a sincere fashion. Instead it’s exactly as A Photo Editor described above, either you’re ripping off clients or you’re ripping off the business, either way, you’re failing the profession.

      Seriously people, stop worrying about how little you can charge and start cheering for those that charge more. This series about pricing is the best thing out there, everyone should be tweeting it and sending links to their clients to educate them on how it’s done. I bet the finished images from this job are some pretty beautiful corporate photography and it should be because they went to work knowing they’re getting a reasonable to great rate to deliver something special. There’s a 1000 jackasses with cameras who would have happily done this job for $1000 a day and done all the post etc themselves. The results would have been more of the forgettable dreck that most companies are using everyday and that has to stop or pretty soon or no one will take photography seriously anymore.

    • Just in case anybody was wondering (talking to you hypothetical photographer 1), plumbers do hire their tools. Some more serious equipment that has limited applications isn’t worth owning: not many plumbers have their own excavators (my Dad is a plumber so I know this first hand). So the plumbers don’t hire their tools argument is moot.

      A good question might be what is a wrench in photographic terms? Maybe a tripod — but my tripod cost a hell of a lot more than a wrench. I don’t charge rental for it but the overhead of owning it goes into the rate equation.

      • A camera would be the equivalent of a wrench because both would be used on nearly every job for each.

        The photography equivalent of a excavator would be a helicopter.

        • Good analogy with the helicopter. I don’t know where you have been buying wrenches from though, you’re paying too much. Lets say a wrench is a 50 mm 1.4 (second hand)?

  4. Wow. Wow wow wow.

    These pricing posts are always a good read, interesting, but, man, it seems like it is the 1% of photographers who get profiled in these.

    I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of photogs never see fees like this, much less charges of $200 for very special post production.

    I pray — and I’m not a religious man — that one day a job of mine will be written up here.

    “Because the job was the morning after a long drive, we decided to book Patrick into a luxury hotel. 1200 thread-count linens were of the utmost necessity so he could rise and shine feeling fully rested. After some discussion with the client, we decided that due to the nature of the work, charging them an extra $450 to cover his custom shoe “pillow insoles” was justified.”

    sheesh

      • The client said the job paid $1500 for a half day, one hour of travel included. I countered with $1750 and it went off without a hitch.

        I’ll think about it, something not quite as sad as this but close! It might open up discussion about the fees that many photographers survive on because, as you know, not everyone is pulling down that kind of “coin.”

        • We’ve done posts with modest fees in the past and have lots of comments about how low the fees were.

          The point of this column is to show how successful photographers bid jobs, but I’m not opposed to showing more than just successful NYC and LA photographers. When I’ve asked for bids in the past I’ve gotten the “I gave all rights for $500″ type that I don’t find very helpful.

          • It is important to keep job fee structures in perspective, and much of the pricing schedules are relative to geography.

            Rent equipment? Would never happen where I work, for two primary reasons: 1. Photographer is expected to have all necessary equipment (I have one client who demands a portable generator be part of the kit), and 2. There is no place to rent equipment within 1000 miles.

            As a suggestion, let’s see what small town America can charge … towns with populations less than 500,000.

    • Patrick, your comments kind of come off a bit snarky and bitter but, you might be part of the problem and not part of the solution.

      • snarky, sarcastic, whatever you want to call it. yes.

        Not sure what a GWC is ______ with camera i guess?

        i’ve never shot for istock or any stock for that matter.

        and my passion has been my job for 30 years, i’ve put kids through (expensive) colleges earned only by clicking a shutter and seeing the world through a viewfinder. not always a dream job, very hard to wake up Every Day of your life knowing you have to hustle.

        unlike you, i’ve never made $25K for two days work. i’m mining that part of the market where the fee, including post production, is about $5K for two days.

        i don’t agree that the majority of photographers work for massive fees, i’d wager that the majority find themselves in the same waters as me. trying to inch up the fees in our sector, putting our foot down at work for hire clauses, looking a pictures every day in magazines, online and galleries and museums and, finally, feeling lucky to be “living the dream.”

        $200 for 40 photos, post production. that’s normal? psshhh.

        • For a retoucher making $150 an hour, $200 is just over an hour per image…sounds about right for A-level agency work that doesn’t involve heavy work like compositing.

    • “I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of photogs never see fees like this, much less charges of $200 for very special post production.”

      Therein lies the problem, you’re completely wrong. This estimate is pretty much bang on, However, GWC’s who buy cameras and call themselves a photographer while dreaming of turning their “passion into a job” can’t believe we charge $25K for two days work but, what you don’t realize is, we don’t work 5 days a week, every week of the year, sometimes, a month goes by between jobs and if it’s your only source of income, this can get scary quickly, especially with all the necessary overhead of a “real” photographer.

      We’re crowd sourcing ourselves to death. ImageBrief and iStock are the devil and those who play these games are falling for the myth that these guys are creating that you can get rich or win the lottery, but, what you’re really doing it making the owners of these companies rich while ruining the industry for the rest of us.

      • This is really more like 2 to 2.5 weeks of dedicated work if you include pre-production, scout, shoot and post-production if it’s done in-house. Then there’s feedback and alterations requested by the client.

  5. The Server

    I really find these posts very useful, but I have to say with ftp I am with Askar. Charging for ftp had my web developer forehead in wrinkles. Yes, do charge for services rendered by all means, but don’t charge for bogus items. In the plumber example it would translate to a “wrench rotation fee”. And I am sure no plumber could get away with that with a sane client.

    And why again is it outrageous to rent a dedicated server, paying a professional to take care of uptime, redundancy and hardware config? I really find it hard to believe you have an “aphotoeditor”-machine standing next to your fridge.

    • Plumbers make markup on materials — that would correlate with making markup on transfers (I think $200 is steep too*, but I know that in my case it is something that takes up time uploading/managing files, and money to subscribe to a transfer service). The wrench rotation fee is there in the plumbers invoice, it is just part of the main service fee: just like we have a focusing the lens fee … No sane client would pay it (as a line item), but we need to know how to do it properly and charge accordingly.

      *If one of my clients would pay $200 for transfers I wouldn’t hesitate charging that much. It’s a business

      • it’s what i’m saying: bill it by all means. renting a server costs money, keeping it running and file transfer is, as you say, time consuming etc. but put it where the focussing (and wrench rotation) fee is. or give it a different label. a seperate item under that handle just seems ridiculous to someone who knows how ftp works.

        • The accounting departments at AAA agencies and large corporations greatly prefer line items to bundled fees. Bundle too much and your invoice may well be rejected.

  6. I think the big problem facing a lot of photographers isn’t being able to charge a lot of money for their work – it’s finding clients who can and are willing to pay this kind of money for their work. There are companies all over the spectrum. I’ve done jobs as high as $20K for companies in non major mountain west markets and in the same area have run across businesses trying to hire photographers to work in-house for literally $11 an hour – expecting them to shoot images for use in advertising collateral…. Needless to say, their photography typically blows.