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Pricing & Negotiating: Studio Portraits Of Spokesmen For Social Media

by Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Portraits of two spokesmen previously featured in television commercials in various lifestyle scenarios

 Licensing: Web Collateral use of up to 13 images for 3 months

 Location: A studio in California

Shoot Days: Two

Photographer: Portraiture and lifestyle specialist

Agency: Mid-sized, based on the East Coast

Client: Large food company

Here is the estimate:

estimate_terms

Creative/Licensing: The agency had recently produced a series of television commercials introducing two spokesmen for the brand, and they were now interested in extending the concept into their social media marketing. Specifically, they wanted to promote a contest on the brand’s Facebook page, and they hoped to capture a series of images of the spokesmen in different environmental settings with various props. We initially discussed shooting the project in multiple locations, but the potential costs and necessary prep time required to take the shoot on the road warranted a shift in the creative scope. In the end they decided to do the shoot in a studio on a white background, and planned to retouch various background settings into the shots.

The agency planned to release about one image per week on the brand’s Facebook page over the course of three months. Rather than breaking up the licensing and integrating language limiting a one-week duration per image, we included use of up to 13 images on their page for the entire length of the 3 months. Taking the intended use and limited licensing duration into account, I decided to price each image at $700. I’ll typically reduce the cost of additional images, but I felt that each image was unique, and therefore each one carried the same amount of value. Also, in many cases when negotiating much more substantial usage, I feel that the value of the licensing can outweigh the photographer’s creative fee. However, in this case I felt that it was appropriate to also include an increase to the rate to account for the photographer’s time, so I included an additional $1,500/day. This “creative fee” is on the lower end of what we typically estimate for a creative fee per day, but I felt it was appropriate given the experience level of the photographer and the scope of the project. The licensing and creative fee I calculated added up to $12,100, and I decided to round down to an even $12,000 to simplify the proposal.

The agency asked for a price to license additional images as well as options to extend the licensing duration to include 6 months and one year. I felt $1,000/image was appropriate for additional images based on the prorated cost of the fee and the number of images already being conveyed. Additionally, I felt that doubling the licensing duration was worth 50% of the fee, and extending the duration to include one year was worth 100% of the fee.

After compiling a creative/licensing fee that I felt was appropriate, I checked to see what other pricing resources suggested. While Blinkbid and FotoQuote don’t offer a price specifically for social media use, they do suggest a price between $300-$750 per image for use on a client’s website for 3 months. Getty and Corbis both suggested a price of about $300 per image for use on multiple social media platforms for 3 months. As for the licensing duration options, Getty and Corbis added about 30%-40% to go from 3 months to 6 months, and about 80%-90% to go from 3 months to 1 year, and this was pretty similar to my calculations. FotoQuote suggested just about half of these rate increases (15% to go from 3 months to 6 months, and a 40% increase to go from 3 months to 1 year). Taking all of this into account as well as the upward pressure being placed on the photographer to create 13 completely unique images (as well as the size of the client), I felt that I was in a good starting place with the fee.

Photographer Pre-Light Day: Since the 13 scenarios would require a significant amount of time to set up (especially due to prop styling), we wanted to account for a prep day in the studio for everyone to get on the same page in order to hit the ground running on the first shoot day. Also, these concepts would actually require arranging and shooting in two different sets in the same studio throughout the day. One set would be staged and then broken down while the other set was being shot, and this process would continue over the course of two days with all 13 scenarios. This made the pre-light day even more valuable, and the photographer would have time to work with her team and plan how they’d move back and forth between each set and arrange the lighting setups the day prior to the shoot.

Assistants: We planned for the first and second assistants to attend the pre-light day, and we included additional days on the front and back ends of the shoot for the first assistant to pick up equipment and prepare for the shoot with the photographer. The first and second assistants would each lend a hand on their individual sets in the studio, while the third assistant would bounce back and forth between sets for additional support.

Digital Tech: We included the cost for a tech ($500/day) plus their workstation and equipment ($1,000/day) for each of the two shoot days. The photographer planned to set the tech up in an area between both sets, so they wouldn’t need to keep moving back and forth.

Producer and Production Assistants: The producer would help wrangle the crew and make arrangements for all of the logistics, and we planned on three prep/wrap days, one pre-light day and two shoot days. Given the scale of the shoot, we accounted for the producer to have two assistants on each shoot day to help manage each set and lend a helping hand for miscellaneous tasks throughout each day.

Hair/Makeup Stylist: With only two talent, we were confident that one hair/makeup stylist could prep them in the morning and monitor the talent throughout each shoot day.

Wardrobe and Prop Styling: The talent had a signature wardrobe look from the commercials that the client had been sticking to for the most part, but each scenario would still require a slight wardrobe change (mostly accessories) and a complete refresh in the way of props. We included two shopping days for the wardrobe stylist, and accounted for the fact that they’d attend the pre-light day and each shoot day prior to spending a day returning the wardrobe. We also included four assistant days for the wardrobe stylist to account for two days on set and two days helping out with procurement and returns. The prop styling would be more robust than the wardrobe styling, and we accounted for three shopping days for the prop stylist prior to the pre-light day, shoot days and return day. We also included two assistants for the prop stylist, both of which would attend the pre-light day, and one of which would also lend a hand with shopping and returning. At the time of estimating, the agency was still developing the exact scenarios they hoped to capture, but we figured on $600 per setup based on some of the ideas initially presented. Some scenarios would likely require less than this, but others would require more, and we felt this was an appropriate budget as a starting point.

Van Rental: In order to bring all of the props and wardrobe to the studio, we included the cost of a van rental for the week, including insurance and gas.

Studio Rental: We’d need the studio for three days to account for the pre-light day and both shoot days.

Equipment: Since the photographer would be working on two different sets, we needed to account for double the amount of equipment. We figured on $2,400/day for two sets ($1,200 each), and figured most rental houses would offer a “3 days same as a week” deal. While the shoot would be three days, we’d actually be picking up and returning the equipment before and after the shoot.

Shoot Processing for Client Review: This covered the time, equipment and costs for the initial edit, as well as the upload of the images to an FTP for the client to review and ultimately select the images they wanted to license. 

Selects Processed for Reproduction and Delivery by Hard Drive: While the agency would be compositing in the backgrounds, the photographer was still responsible for color correcting each image and processing the portraits, and we anticipated it would take about an hour per image to bring the quality level of the images to a place that would satisfy the agency. We also included the cost to purchase a hard drive and deliver it to the agency.

Catering: We anticipated that there would be about 20 people on set including the crew, talent and agency/client representatives each shoot day, and anticipated that $50 per person would cover light breakfast and lunch each day.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Production Books, Expendables, Misc.: This was to account for additional meals on the pre-light day ($300), the cost to professionally print/bind production books ($200), mileage/parking/misc. expenses on the shoot days and pre-light day, as well as shopping/return days for the stylists ($900), and miscellaneous expendables and expenses that might arise on the shoot days ($650).

Results: The photographer was awarded the job. Additionally, the client added on 3 more shots/scenarios, which justified a fee increase of $1,000 per shot. However, the shots didn’t require much in the way of additional props/wardrobe, so the expenses weren’t impacted.

Hindsight: It can be a bit tricky pricing various durations of social media use since so often the exposure of an image on Facebook seems to just last for a day or two (at least for images posted in the “photos” section of a Facebook page as opposed to the “cover” images at the top of the page). While it was great that we could limit the duration on these images, many agencies assume that social media use should be perpetual since the images live “forever” in follower’s feeds and in the “photos” section of the brand’s page. However, it’s most certainly possible for a client to pull down images from their Facebook page, and it can be regulated the same way as any other advertising or collateral use.

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.

Expert Advice: How To Invoice A Client

- - Expert Advice

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

I have to admit that one of the most satisfying parts of producing a shoot is when I compile an invoice and every dollar and cent is perfectly accounted for. That’s partially because it proves I did a great job and made sure the project stayed within budget, but it’s also satisfying because I have a habit of being overly organized. That mentality extends to invoices, and I wouldn’t think of sending a client a document that was in any way incomprehensible.

From a photographer’s perspective, I know compiling an invoice isn’t as satisfying as receiving payment or seeing your images on a billboard or in a magazine. However, a client will most definitely appreciate the neatly organized paperwork, and it’s these sorts of mannerisms that might just make them want to hire you again. There is of course no right or wrong way to compile an invoice … wait, strike that … what I mean to say is that there is no right or wrong format for an invoice, as long as it’s clear and easy to understand.

Since every project is different, the information included in the invoice and its presentation can dramatically scale up or down. Sometimes a client will require receipts for all of your expenses, but other times you might be working on a bid or for a flat project fee where you don’t need to show receipts for anything. The latter of the two of course makes for a simpler invoice. Sometimes you may also have receipts within receipts. For instance, it’s ideal to present receipts for all “meals” together, but your assistant might include a copy of a receipt for a coffee on their invoice to you along with an invoice for their time, which you then need to pass along to the agency. So, while each project will be billed on a case-by-case basis, you should simply do your best to organize everything appropriately, which might mean setting invoicing requirements for the subcontractors you hire. Also, always be sure to keep the original copies of your receipts for absolutely everything you buy for a shoot, whether you plan to charge your client for it or not.

The following is an example of an invoice that I feel is straightforward, clean and easy to comprehend:

The first page of the invoice acts as a summary of all fees and expenses, and also notes the advance payment received as well as the final balance due. All of the following pages are either invoices or scanned receipts to justify the expenses. When estimating the project before the shoot, you might consider including items such as “shoot processing for client review” and “selects processed for reproduction” as expenses rather than fees since you might ultimately outsource retouching, and because it helps to potentially increase the amount of an advance (if you’re only permitted to receive an advance on expenses). However, since we do not need to include a receipt or invoice to justify these items, I’ve included them in the “fees” section at the top. Organizing it this way makes it clear that the pages following the front of the invoice are to justify the expenses only.

You’ll see that each receipt/invoice used to justify the expenses is formatted differently (because they all come from different vendors) and it’s therefore important to add uniformity to make them easier to digest. That’s why on each page I use Adobe Acrobat Pro to add a title to the upper left hand corner, then circle the total and note the total again on the bottom right corner. The titles help to clarify which line item on the invoice the page corresponds to, and while adding the total at the bottom may seem redundant, it helps to summarize pages where there may be multiple receipts (like for meals).

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.48.34 AM

I also use Adobe Acrobat Pro to create PDFs of each invoice/receipt and to compile the final invoicing packet by merging all of the PDFs into one file. To create a page of receipts (for meals in this instance), I lay the receipts down on a flatbed scanner and set the preferences on my computer to automatically save a PDF. You might try to use your phone to take a picture of your receipts (or even take photos of your receipts with a DSLR), but the quality of the images you’ll receive from a flatbed scanner will be well worth the investment, and prices for scanners have dropped dramatically over the past few years.

_B3T0115

Sometimes you might not be able to get a receipt for an expense (like a tip for a bellman or charges for mileage) but you’ll still want to be reimbursed. In these instances we use the petty cash log below to document these expenses.

petty_cash_log_production

As I mentioned previously, the scale of your production will determine the formatting and length of your invoice. For instance, an invoice I recently submitted for a large production had 30 pages dedicated to wardrobe styling alone. In cases like this, it may make sense to have cover pages for each section (to correspond to the line items on the invoice) rather than just adding section titles to each page.

No matter how you format an invoice, you just need to be organized and present everything in a manner that is easy to comprehend. If you take a few extra minutes to create a well-formatted invoice, you’ll save the time and energy you’ll otherwise spend going back and forth with your client to justify your fees and expenses. In the end, it should help you receive payment faster, and will make your client (and their accounting department) enjoy working with you.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating, producing or invoicing 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

Pricing And Negotiating: Forbes Magazine Contract

by Bill Cramer, Wonderful Machine

Over the years, I’ve shot for lots of business magazines, but my favorite was always Forbes. The photo editors were experienced, smart, and nice. They appreciated good photography and they used it well. Not only did they have a reasonable contract, and decent budgets for assignments, but I was often able to generate additional revenue from those assignments by licensing the pictures to other publications or by selling article reprints to the subjects or their companies. However, with Forbes experiencing the same financial pressures that most print publications are facing, their contract has changed dramatically. (After several years on the market, Forbes Media announced recently that a group of investors has acquired a majority stake in the company.)

In an effort to save money on assignment photography (or even make money on it), Forbes has created The Forbes Photography Collection to license pictures generated from their assignments through Corbis Images. They hired Robyn Selman, formerly of Corbis, to guide that process as their Director of Photography. Forbes Media isn’t the first publisher to syndicate their photographers’ pictures (Condé Nast comes to mind), but still, it’s a dramatic shift from the way most magazines and photographers have historically done business with each other.

In a nutshell, here’s how their new contract differs from their old one:

Instead of photographers getting compensated separately for residual use of their photos (including space, foreign Forbes editions, and article reprints), those rights are bundled into a flat shoot fee, and the photographer gets a maximum of 12.5% of third party sales through The Forbes Photography Collection. (The contract specifies that the photographer gets 25% of Forbes’ half of the gross fee when Corbis is the only agent involved in the sale. If another agent gets involved in the sale, the share to the photographer could be less than 12.5%.) From what I gather, the shoot fees are 1000.00 or more (plus expenses) now, as opposed to 700.00/day (plus expenses) against space with their previous contract. It’s hard to compare flat fees to day rate vs. space, but my own experience was that my Forbes assignments frequently generated space rate payments. So while the fees and expenses for the initial shoot may be about the same, photographers are giving up significant money (not to mention control), on foreign editions, article reprints (which are often worth more than the original assignment), and stock sales to the subject and to other magazines.

The flat shoot fee is negotiated for each assignment. In the past, photographers and the magazine would renegotiate day rates and space rates every couple of years (as a practical matter, the magazine would simply have standard day and space rates that they would pay). With this contract, Forbes no longer ties the fees directly to the amount of time it takes to shoot the job or the size/number of photos that appear in the magazine. That’s problematic in several important ways. First, if the value of the assignment isn’t tied to the amount of time it takes to shoot the job or the space the pictures occupy in the magazine, then what will be the basis of that negotiation? Second, putting the photographer and the photo editor in the awkward position of renegotiating the fee for every assignment wastes valuable time and energy at exactly the moment when you need to get a job done fast, and it sets up a regular source of conflict that will have the effect of eroding rather than building and streamlining the relationship between contributor and editor. Third, it creates a conflict of interest between the photographer and the client. It’s natural and sustainable to put the photographer’s economic interests in line with the client’s. Lastly, anyone growing a business (even a freelance photographer), needs to build equity along with revenue. For photographers, the rights to their photographs are their main source of equity.

I can understand Forbes Media’s impulse to capture this additional revenue in the short-term. But is it in their long-term interest?

I’m not sure it’s sensible for Forbes to enter into the business of syndicating photographs. For starters, it’s clearly outside their area of expertise. Though there is a modest amount of residual value to the photos for Forbes, I wonder how much of it is negated by the administrative costs of starting up and maintaining the infrastructure required to support those sales, and the additional up-front fees they have to pay the photographers. Also, the minuscule back-end split they’re offering photographers not only removes any incentive for them to produce lots of excellent photos (which would otherwise earn those photographers space rates and other residual fees), but they’re also making it less attractive for good photographers to work with Forbes in the first place. So the photos they’ll end up with won’t look as good in the magazine and they won’t have as much residual value as they otherwise would. A smarter approach would be to maintain the day vs. space fee structure, and simply lower or raise the fees as their ability to afford high-quality photography shrinks and grows. (Another approach might be to maintain a higher fee structure, and increase or decrease the number of hand-out and stock photos that they use, as their budgets ebb and flow.) Either way, it’s naive to think that you can reduce the compensation to photographers without adversely affecting the quality of their photos.

Here’s the contract. It’s separated into an Artists’ Agreement (which gets signed once), and a Schedule A (which gets signed for each assignment):

1_forbes_contract_four_up

If you are a photographer (or a magazine), and need help building an estimate or reviewing a contract, please feel free to contact any of our producers. If you’d like to read more of our Pricing & Negotiating articles, you can find them here.

Pricing And Negotiating: Directing Video For A TV Commercial

by Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Video of a restaurant interior

Licensing: Use of all video content captured in multiple broadcast television commercials

Location: A single restaurant location

Shoot Days: One

Director: Architectural and portraiture specialist

Agency: Medium-sized, based in the Northeast

Client: Large restaurant chain

Here is the estimate:

Creative/Licensing: A few months ago I worked with a photographer to successfully estimate an exterior architectural shoot that you can read about here. Within a week of delivering those files, the agency wanted to add on an extension to the project, and this time they needed video content to integrate into their commercial along with the stills. The concept was to capture video of the interior of one of their restaurants and stage a scene of professional talent interacting within the environment in the evening after the restaurant closed to the public. The final video would ultimately be edited down to just a few seconds, and the agency/client would be providing the location, casting, talent, wardrobe, styling and all of the video editing.

The photographer did not specialize in video, but based on his previous successful execution of the stills and the scope of this portion of the project, the client and agency were very comfortable with him taking on a directorial role, as opposed to being the man behind the camera. Therefore, rather than including a combined creative/licensing fee for the photographer, we simply labeled it as a “Director Fee” (hereafter I’ll refer to the photographer as “director”).

My first approach to determine the director fee was based on the previous estimate for the still photography. You can read how we arrived at a $50,000 fee in my previous article, but when analyzed in a pro-rated manner (which is how many agencies view estimates), it broke down to $2,500 per location or around $10,000 per day for 5 days of shooting (which is ultimately how long it took). Based on this information I felt that $6,000 was appropriate for a director fee, taking into account what the director had ultimately made as an effective fee on the previous shoot. I did, however, want to double-check this rate against other resources, and found that Getty charges around $4,200 for a 15-second clip for national broadcast TV use. Similarly, Corbis charges $4,500 for a clip with these specs. Based on my research I was confident that we were in the right ballpark.

I should also note that the format of our estimate in which we present the creative/licensing fee and the following expenses may be atypical for a video project. Since this was an extension of a still photo shoot, and since we were working with a print producer at the agency, the presentation and formatting of our document was appropriate. However, much larger video productions may warrant different formatting, and there are even industry standard documents (like theAICP bid form) that video production companies are accustomed to working with and are well received on the agency/client end.

Test Shoots: Prior to the actual shoot date, the agency and director agreed that a day was needed to not only scout the location, but to do a very rough test shoot using minimal gear to capture naturally lit video of the restaurant interior. It was an opportunity to give the agency a feel for the how the location actually looked, while also allowing the director to test out gear with the camera operator that would be working on the actual shoot. The fee included $1,500 for the director, $1,000 for the producer, $300 for an assistant and $750 for the camera operator, along with mileage, parking, meals and equipment expenses.

Director of Photography: The director was very proficient in lighting still images, but the level of production the agency required for the video meant bringing in an expert to help guide the grip and gaffer to set up the lights. We were shooting at night, but the interior needed to look like daylight was flowing in through the windows, and the DP would help to accomplish this while the director could primarily focus his attention on the overall concept and execution.

Camera Operator: While the director would be managing the talent and determining the primary camera settings, we accounted for the camera operator to be the one who would actually manipulate the camera while capturing the content. The rate we included accounted for a very experienced camera operator who would also be able to provide monitors/feeds for live client review.

Producer: The producer would be responsible for wrangling the crew, compiling a production book and handling pre-production arrangements. Additionally, the producer would make sure the shoot day goes according to schedule while ensuring the project stayed within budget.

First and Second Assistants: I accounted for two extra sets of hands to help out with gear on the shoot day, and to support the producer and all of the crew members throughout the day with miscellaneous tasks.

Digital Tech: While the camera operator would be providing equipment for the client to see the video on monitors in real time, the digital tech would be able to quickly process the video content for the client/agency to watch repeatedly in order to approve the content. This included $500 for their day, and $750 for a workstation. On a larger scale video shoot, this role might be labeled as DIT (digital image technician), but as I mentioned earlier, we were integrating formatting and terminology more in line with a still photo shoot.

Grip, Gaffer and Grip Truck: The DP would give lighting direction to the grip and gaffer who would then be responsible for setting up and adjusting all of the lights. Both the grip and gaffer that I corresponded with about the project worked for an equipment rental company, and they would be bringing the gear with them in a truck. Given the last minute nature of the project, we weren’t quite sure what exact equipment would be needed, so I included the cost for a very well stocked grip truck. In addition to the truck rental (which would cost $675), this included a long list of HMI lights and generators, as well as an even longer list of stands, modifiers and grip equipment.

Additional Equipment Rental: This accounted for all equipment other than lights/grip, including two 5D Mark III camera bodies, multiple lenses, extra large memory cards and a buffer for any other last minute gear the photographer would need once he scouted the location. Some of the gear he owned, and some he would need to rent or buy.

Delivery of Video by Hard Drive: The digital tech would dump all of the video onto a drive after the shoot, and this included the cost of purchasing a drive large enough to hold the video content and the shipping fees to send it to the agency.

Catering: There would be about 20 people on set including the crew, talent and client/agency representatives, and I included $50 per person for dinner and snacks throughout the evening. Typically, I’d figure a client like this would provide meals, but since the shoot was happening after business hours, the restaurant wouldn’t be able to provide food.

Miles, Misc: The restaurant wasn’t located in a very convenient place, and I expected to pay the crew mileage to get out and back. I included $200 for mileage, and then added $300 to help cover any additional unexpected expenses that might arise.

Results: After submitting our estimate, the art buyer told us they had a budget of $20,000, and asked us to see what we could do to reduce the price. I knew we wouldn’t be able to come down by that much, but revised the estimate by removing the tech’s workstation (she’d just be providing a laptop which the client was ok with), reducing the assistant rates to $250/day (the director had a few assistants that were willing to work for this rate) reducing the fee for the grip and gaffer (which they confirmed they’d be able to be flexible on) and reducing the catering to $35 per person (and noted that it wouldn’t be quite as an elaborate spread). Those changes reduced our bottom line by $1,500. Even though we weren’t able to get under $20k, our estimate was approved and I produced the shoot a few days later. Here was the final estimate:

Blinkbid

Hindsight: As the still photography and video worlds merge, it’s inevitable that clients will soon expect all photographers to offer video services (or at least expect to get stills and video from a single production). However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a photographer has to have experience shooting video. As in this case, photographers can take on the role of a director without actually being the one to light the scene or operate the camera. The director role still comes with great responsibility and pressure, but it’s ok for photographers to rely on lighting experts and experienced video crews to collectively get the job done.

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.

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.

Expert Advice: Emailers & Print Mailers

by Joey Pasko, Wonderful Machine

All photographers should have a variety of promotional tools in their arsenal to help garner clients and bring attention to their work. Among these tools are email promotions and ever-popular print mailer promotions. If used correctly, both can help bring in a lot of new business and keep your name on the radar of your existing clients. However, it’s important to know the difference between email promotions and print promotions.

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An email promotion may seem like a cheap and easy method to get your name out there, but by no means should it be your sole marketing effort. In fact, the best way for photographers to promote themselves is by using both print and email promotional tools very strategically and specifically. Email promotions are a good way to send a large group of clients a quick reminder to check out your website and your new work. If you use the email analytics to see who actually opened the email and clicked to your website, you can create an even more tailored and effective list of clients to send a memorable print mailer to. Think of it this way: your email promotion should go out to a large general list of clients, and your print mailer should go out to a targeted and tailored list of clients.

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Print mailers are a great way to give a potential client something tactile and cool to constantly remind them that you’re the person to hire. But how do you make your mailer stand out? It’s easy to fall into the trap of a typical postcard. Many photographers would say anything more is a gimmick, but remember that your clients receive lots and lots of postcards from great photographers all the time. “Letting the photo speak for itself” sometimes isn’t enough to push your work above all the other promos hanging on the bulletin board.

The solution is to embrace the medium and create something that stands out. Utilizing modern design and printing techniques can help make your promo the most unique one in the crowd.

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At WM, we typically advise photographers to go one of two ways with print promos. The first option is to create a promo that is beyond just a postcard. By elevating the piece beyond the norm, you automatically are guaranteeing that what you send out will stand out amongst other print mailers. A great example of this would be Nashville photographer Josh Anderson’s printed promo. Rather than a single image, Josh added interest by utilizing a printing technique called foil stamping. His print promos included a hand printed board and buttons for the recipient to keep. These small additions to the concept turned what might have otherwise been a simple and forgettable card into a packet that feels more like a gift than anything else.

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Two printing options that people must also consider are digital printing versus offset printing. Digital printing applies ink to a page using a digital printer and offset printing applies ink to a page using metal plates and rollers. There are pros and cons to both. While you can get good digital print quality using a digital printer, offset printing’s quality is superior and has better color matching. Digital prints are far cheaper and better for small batches of prints, while offset is better for larger batches due to its higher set-up price for creating plates. However, unlike digital, offset printing gives you far more options of paper. Offset printing allows you to print on thicker paper, rougher paper and all sorts of specialty papers. It’s important to decide which of these methods will best suit your print mailer campaign. This designer’s humble opinion: while digital can be cheap and easy, offset printing is truly the way to show off photography.

There are a number of other printing techniques that can also be used to elevate a project! Here are some that could easily make your print promo stand out amongst the crowd:

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Letterpress: Letterpress printing is just that — pressing ink (traditionally type) into paper. Letterpress printing has been around since the 1400s, and with the more recent advancement of using photopolymer plates instead of traditional wood type, there are even more possibilities in this print method. With photopolymer plates, much more detail can be achieved. Nowadays, letterpress is prized for the deep impression that can be achieved when the ink is pressed into the paper, and offers really tactile and beautiful results. Whenever I’m given anything letterpressed, I’m more inclined to keep it.

Foil Stamping: Similar to letterpress, a foil press is used to apply foil to paper. Most popular are metallic foils applied to the print, giving an eye-catching and shiny appearance to specific elements on the page.

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Laser-cutting: Laser-cutting is a technique where machines are used to burn intricate designs into or even through various materials. From paper to metal to wood, the results can be dramatic. This technique can transform a simple mailer into something that gives depth and elegance to your work.

For advice or assistance with your own print or electronic promotions, contact us through our Consulting page.

Pricing & Negotiating: Architectural Shots For Ad Agency Portfolio

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Architectural shots of a locally-run ad campaign

Licensing: North American Collateral and Publicity use of all images captured in perpetuity

Location: A downtown cityscape and airport

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: A local architectural specialist

Agency: A southern branch of a large NYC-based ad agency

Client: n/a

An art buyer from a large ad agency reached out to one of our photographers, interested in hiring him to shoot two out-of-home (OOH) advertising placements (billboards and transit posters). The ads had just been posted; one was a single three dimensional billboard in a downtown cityscape environment, the other was a series of posters and back-lit displays inside the local airport, both promoting the same client. It’s not unusual for an agency or it’s client to request a shoot to document ads for press releases, awards submissions and/or their portfolios. In this case, the client wasn’t commissioning the shoot, so the licensing would be conveyed directly to the agency.

To take full advantage of the day, the photographer would need to shoot the cityscape billboard in the early morning and late afternoon light, and the interior shots at the airport in the middle of the day while the sun was high. It would definitely be a full day shoot. Other than the long day, the shoot was pretty straight forward. The local film office didn’t require a permit because it was only the photographer, a tripod and one assistant. The agency would be providing the necessary escort and access at the airport, so the prep time would be minimal.

Here’s the estimate:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.55.32 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.55.57 PM

The licensing was fairly minimal, however we needed to grant perpetual use to account for the collateral use of the images in the agency’s portfolio. This is an instance in which the photographer’s time is worth about as much as the fairly limited licensing, and as a result has more weight in the calculation of the overall value. Although the license was perpetual, any use beyond the first year of awards submissions would be minimal and presumably taper off pretty quickly. It seems unlikely that the agency would want to promote work in their portfolio that was more than a few years old, which limits the value a bit. Based on the number of activations, intended use and pricing from previous projects of this nature, I arrived at 4500.00 for the creative/licensing fee. Not surprisingly, this rate was a bit lower than the other pricing resources recommended, which don’t take into account the subtleties of the project, but nevertheless provide a solid point of reference. Blinkbid suggested 900.00/image/year and Corbis priced comparable use at 1300/image for the first year.

Assistant Day: The photographer would have been able to handle the shoot solo from a gear perspective, however he wanted an assistant to drop him off for the cityscape shots, in the event that parking proved to be difficult to find.

Equipment: This covered the one day rental costs for a DSLR, a backup DSLR, tripod and a few specialty lenses, all of which the photographer owned and would be renting to the production.

File Transfer: The agency insisted that raw image be delivered via hard drive. This covered the time and cost necessary to dump the images and ship out a hard drive. It’s pretty unusual for an architectural photographer (or any photographer for that matter) to provide unprocessed files, but due to the nature of the project, the photographer was OK with it.

Insurance: We included the cost of providing a certificate of insurance for the airport portion of the shoot. The property management company required standard business liability insurance to shoot on premises.

Miles, Parking, Shipping, Meals, FTP, and Misc: This covered the basic out of pocket expenses the photographer would accrue between mileage, FTP costs, lunch for him and his assistant on the shoot day, 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: processing, necessary location access, escorts and releases to be provided and secured by agency

Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer was awarded the project and shot it a few days later.

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.

Pricing & Negotiating: Industrial Lifestyle Shoot

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Industrial lifestyle shoot

Licensing: North American collateral use of all images in perpetuity (15 per day)

Location: Manufacturing facility

Shoot Days: Up to 20

Photographer: Lifestyle and portrait specialist

Agency: Client direct

Client: Not a household name, but well known within it’s industry

One of our west coast-based photographers was approached by a fairly large industrial manufacturer and asked to shoot industrial lifestyle images of their employees at work, manufacturing a variety of products in a number of different locations in North America. They were mostly interested in using the images on their website and in a self-published coffee table book that would be given out to investors, executives and employees. Their products are generally larger than a semi-truck and manufactured in facilities on the scale of an airplane hanger. Think big.

The client wasn’t accustomed to hiring photographers (it’d been nearly 20 years since they’d hired a professional). Thankfully, they thought it was wise to get us involved pretty early on before they firmly established their needs, so that they didn’t develop a creative concept and plan that would break the bank. Their initial thought was to shoot 10-15 different locations, 1-2 shoot days at each, for a total of approximately 20 shoot days. This presents a bit of a dilemma. Because we were in the planning stage and they wouldn’t commit to 20 days or any specific number of images (although as usual, they were expecting a deal because of all of the potential work), we couldn’t approach the presentation of the fees for this project in our typical way. We had to present an estimate that was scalable from a single day on up, but also factored in a discount for a volume that the client was unwilling to commit to. Also unknown was the number of scout and travel days. Here’s how we addressed all the issue:

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We needed to create a fee structure that the photographer would be happy with if the client only booked one day and that the client would be happy with if they booked 20. I’m sure just about every photographer has had this same experience— a client asks for a quote and pushes back on the numbers saying something along the lines of  “if there’s a lot of work down the road, can you be flexible on your rate/fees?” It’s not an unreasonable request, however the work down the road almost never materializes. The approach we took here protects the photographer’s interest, keeps the client honest and gives them a break for the volume.

We based the day rate on the typical collateral library rate we’ve negotiated with other industrial clients. The rate usually varies from 2500.00-3500.00 depending on the size of the client and scale of the project. In this case, we started a bit higher because of the self-publishing use requested, though if the client did ultimately book the photographer for 20 days, the fee would average out to just over 3500/day. Although we didn’t explicitly limit the number of scenarios or images, in the course of our conversations we determined that the photographer would probably be able to shoot in five different scenarios per shoot day and that the client could expect 2-3 variations of images per scenario. We didn’t want to commit to a specific number in the estimate because certain factories may be easier or harder to shoot in than others, which would seriously impact how much could be accomplished in a given day.

The client signed the proposal and requested a detailed estimate for the first leg of the shoot – one-day, local to the photographer. We extrapolated a one-day version which the client approved. During the course of the pre-production, the client requested a certificate of insurance. Since we hadn’t been asked to provide any sort of unusual coverage, and the photographer carries a fairly standard business liability policy year round, we’d opted not to charge a fee for the insurance in the estimate (however, like equipment, it would not be unusual to charge the client a fee for the use of your insurance policy). As it turned out, the client’s legal team was requiring the photographer to provide workman’s comp insurance and specialty insurance specific to their industry. I’ve seen this a lot lately and it’s getting old. The client presents a project, approves the estimate, then comes back with unusually high insurance coverage requirements. If the client requires you to provide coverage that substantially exceeds a standard business liability policy (ie workman’s comp, weather, specialty, etc.) and they don’t tell you about it beforehand, it’s considered a change in the scope of work and the cost should be approved as an overage. In this case, we gave the client two options – pay for the insurance or waive the requirement. They opted to pay for the insurance, so we resubmitted the one-day estimate. Here’s the final version:

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Tech/Scout Day: We included a half tech/scout day for the photographer and agency to walk through the location, determine the ideal scenarios and try to nail down a shot list.

Assistant Days: The photographer wanted two assistants for this shoot. Although there wouldn’t be much in the way of equipment, the size of the space and materials was daunting, so the photographer wanted an extra set of hands.

Equipment: This covered the one day rental costs for a DSLR, a backup DSLR, grip equipment and a small portable strobe kit, all of which the photographer owned and would be renting to the production.

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

Selects Processed for Reproduction: This covered color correction and basic touch-up of the 15 selects. Any necessary retouching would be estimated and billed separately.

File Transfer: This covers the cost to deliver the 15 selects via hard drive, including overnight shipping.

Miles, Expendables, FTP, and Misc: This covered the basic out of pocket expenses the photographer would accrue between mileage, FTP costs, lunch for him and his assistants on the shoot day, and any other miscellaneous expenses that may arise.

Insurance: We included the cost to provide the specialty insurance the client required.

Housekeeping (see the project description): I noted all of the production elements the client would be providing: Location, releases, subjects, escorts and safety equipment.

Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer is in the midst of the project and has already shot two additional days.

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.

Expert Advice: Estimate Worksheet

- - Expert Advice

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

If you ask anyone to describe me (especially my colleagues or clients that I’ve produced shoots for), one thing they will all tell you is that I’m organized. When I head out of the office at the end of the day, my desk looks like an overhead shot from a Wes Anderson movie. Folders and post-it notes are aligned, and my pen, notepad and calculator are purposefully positioned next to each other. My orderly way of doing things extends to many aspects of my job, especially in the note-taking process when developing estimates.

Aside from determining creative and licensing fees, a lot of the skill required to create a proper estimate is about asking the right questions and having a method for taking notes. Large projects often require a handful of questions to be answered, while small projects may just need some points to be clarified. Either way, you want to be prepared for when you speak with a client by asking intelligent questions that will emphasize your ability to deliver the most cost efficient estimate based on their specific needs. I’ve developed the following worksheet that I use to write down my questions prior to hopping on the phone and to organize my thoughts as I compile an estimate:

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The first page starts with basic contact information, and I’ll use this space to write down the name of the photographer, client and agency (when applicable) along with the name of the agency/client contact as well as the estimate’s due date.

The next section is all about the W’s: who, what, where, when and why. Some of these questions can be answered based on general correspondence with the client before the phone conversation, and some I might be able to answer on my own. Keep in mind that every project is different and some require additional information. I use the large blank section to write down extra project-specific questions. To be even more organized, I’ll often write down the information I already have and the questions I want to ask in blue ink, and record the answers in red ink. This may sound like overkill, but it keeps the information clear and easy to read afterward.

The last section is dedicated to licensing. On the most basic level, I always want to know how many images a client wants to license, how they plan on using them and for how long they want to use them for. Oftentimes the client’s requested use doesn’t match up with their intended use, and that’s the reason why I have two different sections to record this information. It’s common that a client will request unlimited use, but really they only intend on using the images on their website–that’s a huge difference. (You can read our pricing & negotiating articles for tips on reconciling this.)

The very last item on the sheet is a section to record a client’s budget (if they are willing to tell you this information). I placed it last because it’s always important to show enthusiasm for a project and talk about the creative approach before asking about money. However, I do always ask this question because it certainly impacts my approach to the estimate.

The second page of the worksheet helps me organize the estimate as I’m building it. It primarily acts as a list of production elements to think about to keep all of the major elements in mind. As I mentioned earlier, each shoot requires a different approach, but this list helps me consider every aspect from start to finish. Here is how it came in handy for a recent estimate I compiled:

This is an email I received from a client about a shoot:

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As you see, the information is a bit vague. I wrote down all of my questions on the worksheet before I called the agency contact, and below is the filled out version after the phone call (blue ink shows my questions and missing info, and red ink shows the responses)

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Once I had the information I needed, I used the second page of the worksheet to think through each line of the estimate. Here is what that looked like:

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Here is the final estimate based on all of the above organized information:

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Read all of our Expert Advice articles here, and visit our consulting page for information on the estimating services we offer.

UPDATE: 2/28/14
To address the comments to this post, I’d like to note that the scope of the project changed from when I reached out to acquire information to the time the final estimate shown above was delivered. The following estimate was the original one I compiled based on the original description:

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Pricing & Negotiating: Interiors For Residential Appliance Company

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

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:

pricing and negotiating, photographer estimates, wonderful machine

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 we 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 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.

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.

Pricing & Negotiating: IEEE Spectrum Magazine Contract

by Bill Cramer

While I’ve shot my share of assignments for name-brand publications over the years, I’ve enjoyed working for niche magazines just as much. IEEE Spectrum is one that you won’t find on any magazine rack unless you happen to be standing in an engineering school library. Published monthly by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, they have 380,000 readers. My dad was one of those readers. He was an electrical engineer (you can’t spell geek without “E.E.”). He thought enough of the magazine that we transported stacks and stacks of them to California when we moved there in the 70′s (then back to PA four years later). So, I always have a little extra sense of purpose when I get to shoot for them.

I recently got a call from their photo editor, Randi Silberman Klett, to make some pictures for their annual “Dream Jobs” issue. She asked me to photograph a guy named Simon Hager, who runs a program for high school students in Philadelphia called The Sustainability Workshop. Most of his work focuses on teaching kids how to build electric cars. Even though I had shot assignments for Spectrum before, it was time for a new contract. Some magazines have contracts that last indefinitely. Others send out a new contract with each assignment. Spectrum prefers to renew their contract with their photographers each year.

Here’s a look at it:

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Here are my comments:

1) Photographer Responsibilities. They set up a purchase order with a budget that you’ll never reach. It says $40k here, but I’ve never billed them for more than a few thousand dollars a year.

2) Rights Granted to IEEE.

a) First worldwide publication rights in any form. Theirs exclusively for 90 days from first publication, non-exclusive after that. This implies to me that they can use the pictures in subsequent editions of the magazine without additional fee. That’s not ideal, but it’s unlikely enough that I decided it wasn’t worth fighting for.

b) Use of the pictures in the context of the magazine, to promote Spectrum, as well as use of my likeness. If I was famous, I would probably want to get paid for that. But I’m not.

c) Use in article reprints only after agreeing on a separate fee. Many photographers underestimate the value of article reprints. But I’ve sold enough to know that they are generally worth more (sometimes much more) than the original assignment. Though some magazines try to bundle those rights into the shoot fee, it makes more sense to separate them.

d) Electronic use is included. Fine.

e) Photographer retains copyright. Naturally.

3) Compensation. 600.00/day vs. space. Historically, it’s been customary for magazines to structure their fees in terms of a day rate against space. This way, the photographer makes a nominal fee for one or two small pictures, and the fee automatically scales up when the magazine uses more or bigger pictures or if they use one on the cover. It’s an elegant system for magazines, who don’t always know in advance how they’re going to use the pictures. In this case, Spectrum is agreeing to pay 600.00/day at a minimum. If your picture appears a full-page or larger, you get an extra 200.00. And if it shows up on the cover, you get an additional 1200.00. I like that they’re paying for space, but the wording is a little vague. Do you get paid the same amount if your picture runs one full-page or two full-pages?

4) Expenses. You’re an independent contractor. You’re going to provide receipts to get reimbursed for expenses. Sure.

5) Timing and Form of Submission. You’re going to turn in your photos on time. Of course.

6) Warranties. You made the pictures and they aren’t obscene. Okay.

7) Indemnification. You agree to pay for Spectrum’s attorney’s fees if you do anything to get them sued. This sounds pretty scary, but then you read further and discover that the limit of your liability is the amount of the assignment fee. I think that’s very reasonable. In an ideal world, they would likewise indemnify the photographer in cases where they do something to get the photographer sued.

8) Termination. They can terminate an assignment at any time, though they’ll pay you some or all of your fee depending on how much work you have put in on the project. Fine.

9) IEEE is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Nice to know.

10) Entire Agreement. Okay.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty fair contract. I give it “two thumbs up!”

I shot the assignment. Simon and his students were super-cooperative and photogenic. Their workshop turnout out to be a big, old warehouse that provided a great backdrop for the photos and there were tons of props to work with. If only every assignment was this easy! Here’s the web gallery.

Randi loved the pictures. She used one for the opener, across nearly two full-pages (I didn’t make the cover – rats!) She also used a second picture about a half-page. Here’s how it looked in the magazine:

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I was thrilled with the display, plus it was nice to know that there would be some extra space rate. But looking at the contract, I couldn’t figure out what it should be. I emailed Randi and she told me to bill her 800.00 for the big picture and 600.00 for the small one. I saw the logic that the big picture was “…used at a full page or greater ($200 additional).” Meaning that it was the 600.00 day rate plus an extra 200.00 for that first picture being big. But as far as I can tell, the 600.00 for the second picture was arbitrary. Not that I’m complaining, I think it’s fair. (After all, I’m the one who signed an ambiguous contract.) If we were counting space in a more typical fashion, thinking in terms of 600.00/day vs. 600.00/page, I would count about 1100.00 for the opener (nearly 2 pages at 600.00) and 400.00 for the additional picture (about 2/3 of 600.00), resulting in 1500.00 rather than 1400.00. But what’s 100.00 between friends? I was happy with the fee. (I probably would have asked for more clarification ahead of time if it wasn’t a client that I didn’t know and trust.)

My expenses were pretty typical. One assistant at 250.00. Web gallery at 300.00. Strobe rental at 300.00. Two file preps at 25.00, and mileage. I bought my assistant lunch, but I usually don’t bill meals unless it’s a full-day assignment. Here’s my invoice:

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Please let us know what you think in the comments. And read more about our Pricing & Negotiating services on our new Consulting page.

Pricing & Negotiating: Shooting Real Patients For Regional Hospital Advertising

by Craig Oppenheimer Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Portraits of real patients against a seamless background in a studio and environmental portraits at a single location

Licensing: Advertising and Collateral use of eight images for one year, geographically limited to two states in the US

Location:  A studio and a house located in the Northeast

Shoot Days: Two

Photographer: Portraiture specialist based in the Midwest

Agency: Large NY-based agency

Client: Large hospital based in the Northeast

Here is the estimate:

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Creative/Licensing:

The concept for the shoot was pretty straightforward. The agency wanted to photograph four former patients of the hospital in a studio against a seamless background with minimal props, and then photograph four additional patients, each with family members in a single residential environment. While each portrait and scenario would be unique, it was likely that there’d be one image from the studio shoot and one image from the location shoot that would ultimately end up in advertisements, and the rest would be used on the client’s website and in collateral pieces. Based on the geographic limitation of two states and the limited time frame of just one year’s use, I priced the first studio image and first environmental image at $4,000 each, and then priced the rest of the images at $2,000 each. These fees were also based on previous projects I’ve estimated for similar clients, and I had a good sense of what a client like this might be willing to pay. The agency asked us to provide a price for an option to extend the licensing to two years, and I felt that and additional 50% of our fee was appropriate for this extension option.

After coming up with these fees, I checked them against other pricing resources. Getty priced one image around $3,000 for use in a full page print ad for one year, and around $2,500 for use in brochures and in direct mail pieces for one year as well. This didn’t completely cover all of the possible uses that our licensing would cover, and it also didn’t take into account the limited distribution in just two states within the US. Blinkbid priced one image similarly to the combined Getty rate at up to $5,500 for use in advertising and collateral pieces for one year. Fotoquote offered a package for “all advertising and marketing”, and suggested a price of $4,000-$8,000 when the licensing was limited to just a few states (as opposed to around $20,000 for the entire US).

Assistants: The photographer would be traveling in to the location and bringing his first assistant with him. Five days for the first assistant accounted for one travel day there, one scout day, two shoot days, and one travel day home. The second assistant would be hired locally for the two shoot days.

Digital Tech: The tech would also be traveling in for the shoot, and we decided to only charge for their workstation on the shoot days, rather than for all of the travel and shoot days.

Photographer Travel/Pre-Production Days: The photographer would be driving in to the shoot, rather than flying, but the drive was long enough to constitute a full travel day on both ends of the shoot. We also estimated for a full scout day before the shoot.

Equipment: The photographer would be bringing all of his own equipment and we estimated $1,000 per shoot day. This covered his DSLR camera system, strobes and grip equipment  at standard rental rates.

Producer: This accounted for two prep days to wrangle the crew and organize all of the shoot details, two travel days, one scout day, and two shoot days.

Production Assistant: With all of the moving pieces to a shoot like this, we included a PA (who would travel out with the photographer) to be an extra set of hands during the scout and shoot days.

Lodging: We accounted for $200/night, and there would be five crew members traveling in and needing accommodations for four nights.

Studio Rental: We would just need the studio for one day, and I received this quote directly from a studio in the area.

Hair/Makeup Styling: We estimated to have a hair/makeup stylist for the studio shoot day since we’d just be photographing 4 people, and we anticipated them bringing an assistant for the location shoot day since some of those shots would likely be of more than one person, and would therefore require some extra styling.

Wardrobe Styling: We anticipated three shopping days, two shoot days and one return day to obtain wardrobe. The stylist would be bringing an assistant to the shoot days to help organize and prep the clothing.

Prop Styling: We estimated three shopping days to acquire props, two shoot days and one day to return the props, and their assistant would be present on the shoot days as well as one of the shopping days and return day.

Wardrobe and Props: The comps supplied to us were still a bit loose during the estimating process, but through a series of conversations about the project, we determined $350 per person would be adequate for wardrobe (up to 4 people on the first day, and possibly up to 12 people on the second day), and $3,500 would likely cover props in the studio (like chairs and minor environmental items) and at the house (which would already be furnished).

Prop/Wardrobe Van Rental: Since there would likely be a lot of clothing to transport, and since some of the props included furniture for the studio, we anticipated needing a rental van to transport these items. We anticipated needing the van for five days, and that it might cost around $125/day. We then rounded up a bit for fuel costs.

Talent Fees and Vendor Payment Processing/Bookkeeping: While the talent would be provided, they agency asked the photographer to handle their payment. We were told that they wanted to pay each patient $1,000, and that there might be 16 people. We charged $1,000 for the photographer’s time to handle payment and processing.

Catering: We anticipated that there would be 20 people on site during the studio shoot day, and 29 people on the location shoot day, and estimated $55 per person per day for catering. We then rounded up a bit just in case any unanticipated additional client/agency contacts decided to come to the shoot.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Misc.: Four people would be traveling in for the shoot, and we estimated a $50 per diem for each person for the five days they’d be traveling ($1,000). On top of this, I calculated that the mileage for all of these people driving in billed at $.565/mile would be about $900. I then added on $200 for both shoot days and the scout day to account for any additional unforeseen expenses that might come up.

Location Scout Days and Location Fee: The location would be a residential property, but since the requested shooting city was a bit off the beaten path, we anticipated four days for the location scout to find the perfect spot. After speaking with a scout in the area, we determined $2,000 would be more than enough for the type of residential property we hoped to find.

Production RV: In my experience, a production RV has proven to be well worth the money on shoots where a big crew is shooting in a small space. We estimated to have an RV on the one day on location to be used as a hair/makeup/wardrobe staging area and a space for the agency/client to relax and have Wi-Fi if needed.

Housekeeping: I noted that in addition to the talent and releases, the client/agency would also handle all post processing include a drive to transfer the images on at the end of the shoot.

Results: The photographer was awarded the job.

Hindsight: In determining the initial shoot/licensing fee, it is important to consider all of the factors impacting the value to the client and incorporate appropriate “discounts” based on those factors. That’s how you end up with an appropriate number. However, I don’t think duration and volume discounts should necessarily apply to options or extensions. First of all, most of our clients aren’t breaking down fees in the same way we are. Secondly, production expenses need to be factored into the equation to some degree. As we priced it here, exercising the usage extension would increase the bottom line by a mere 10% while increasing the duration of use by 100%. That doesn’t necessarily correlate to a 100% increase in value to the client, but it is almost certainly an increase in value greater than 10%. Whenever possible/appropriate, push for a straight prorate when it comes to usage extensions and options. In hindsight, I think we should have priced the extension at 20k.

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.

Expert Advice: Print Portfolios

- - Expert Advice

by Sean Stone, Wonderful Machine

I’ve had the opportunity to consult with hundreds of photographers over the years, and while I love working on websites, promos, or creative coaching, print portfolios have always been my favorite. Just as art buyers tell us how much they enjoy the chance to thumb through books at meetings, I love to see the work come to life on paper. Photographers will sometimes ask “what’s the best kind of portfolio?” to which I can only respond, “well, that depends…” and launch into a questionnaire about budget, marketing strategy, overall brand, and zodiac sign.

You need to consider a number of factors to help you choose the type of portfolio that will serve your needs:

How much to spend? Like all marketing materials, a portfolio is an investment. It’s going to require time and money to put together, and you need to decide how much of each you can realistically afford. The biggest consideration is just how big of a part this book will play in your marketing plan for the coming months/years. If you are going to travel, meet clients as often as you are able, or attend a lot of portfolio events, the book is critical and needs to be a priority. Similarly, if your goal is to get more advertising assignments, expect your book to be more critical to successful marketing. On the other hand, if you are shooting mainly editorial, your website is going to do most of the heavy lifting. A book is still a must have, but may not require the same level of investment.

What are you going to show? Your website is a much larger piece of real estate than a print book. A good book edit shouldn’t exceed thirty spreads. I have seen books come into our office that are gorgeous, but so lengthy that I jump forward ten pages at a time, even though I love the work. It’s better to create an edit that is short and sweet, with every page a superstar, than to risk a potential client skipping right past a winning shot.

If you shoot strictly one thing, like automotive, the choice of what goes into the edit is pretty much made for you. If, on the other hand, you shoot industrial, corporate portraits, and food, one book might not be the best way to go. Creating a single book that is geared towards several different types of clients doesn’t effectively serve them, nor will it benefit your own marketing goals. Consider the types of clients you shoot for, would like to shoot for, and how much they will realistically want to see your book. You might decide that it makes sense to have two or three separate, specialized books. And remember that you might not need to include everything you shoot in a book at all!

How will it compliment your brand? A web portfolio can have infinite variations in design and edit, but in the end it shows up on a screen. The presentation options at your disposal for a printed piece are pretty much limitless. As you start thinking about the look and material that your print portfolio should have, I recommend you grab a friend to brainstorm. A consultant, editor, or other trusted collaborator will do nicely. Think about words that describe your photographic style, and consider materials that speak to those descriptors. Are you shooting bright, cheerful, kids lifestyle? Maybe steer away from the carbon fiber binding or glossy, cool-tone paper. Photographing surfers and rockstars for edgy youth brands? The stoic leather book with plastic sleeves might not be best for you. The materials you choose to work with can work like a logo; not the star of the show, but can go a long way to reinforce your visual brand and create a more polished, memorable presentation. Here are a few of the more common print portfolio styles I recommend:

iPad: Not a print portfolio per se, but it can be useful in meetings. If a client calls without much notice, you can download an app like padport or foliobook, and build a presentation in a couple of hours. It can be most effective as a supplemental tool; containing your motion reel, and a very broad range of images to share if the client asks about work not seen in your book. Looking for something versatile and a little different? Take note from Mark Katzman, whose portfolio consists of a walnut box with a built-in iPad as well as printed images.

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Pros: Fast and flexible for in-person meetings.

Cons: If you don’t already have one, they aren’t exactly cheap. Also not a good option if you are shipping for a client to review. They might have a hard time figuring out where to find the work without you there, pushing the buttons.

On-Demand book: These days, there are dozens of options for printers, some are very inexpensive, and they generally top out around $400. While your options for sizes, papers, and cover materials will be limited, there is nothing stopping you from gussying the book up yourself. Matthew Carbone printed his book with Artifact Uprising, then worked with a local press to imprint his logo on the cover. Letterpress, slip cases or a clamshell box, you can use an inexpensive book as the basis for your presentation, not the final product. Many companies will have set numbers of pages that they accommodate, so you will have to take that into consideration when editing. Check out a full list of printing companies on our resources page.

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Pros: Cost effective and convenient. Upload your layout to an online template, get a book a week or two later!

Cons: No control over printing. You send images off and hope for the best. Prints are not interchangeable, so when the time comes to update, you need a whole new book.

Screwpost book: The ol’ standby. Usually just two covers held together with long screws. Traditional materials are usually leather or cloth, but a custom bookmaker like Nicole Andersen can help you get creative and build a presentation that will stand out. If you choose to skip the custom route, companies like Pina Zangaro and Lost Luggage offer slick, modern covers in metal, acrylic, carbon fiber etc. I’ve also found some beautiful wood books on Etsy.

Roger Snider’s book is one of my favorite examples of getting creative on a budget. We used an inexpensive Pina Zangaro aluminum book that was customized to reflect his brand of big rig truck photography. Roger didn’t have to break the bank to make something memorable and distinctive. All we needed was a good idea and a really, really good painter. View Roger’s full portfolio here.

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You can find a few types of paper drilled and scored, ready to pop right into one of these bindings. If you’re not afraid of a little hard work, you can always cut and punch the pages by hand, as I have done when building books with luster or glossy papers. Some paper vendors sell sample packs of double sided papers, so you can pull a few test prints before you commit to the stock that’s best for you!

While plastic sleeves have largely fallen out of favor, they are unquestionably convenient and shouldn’t be ruled out automatically. Creating single prints and loading them into sleeves is worlds faster and easier than printing double sided. Constructing books with double sided prints has more than once left me in a screaming rage, pacing the office and violently threatening the printer. If you are in a hurry, sleeves can save the day. Better to have a current portfolio with prints behind plastic than an outdated book.

Pros: Very customizable, whether you work with a bookmaker or portfolio manufacturer. Lots of options for sizes, style, and material means you can create a look that reflects your style and brand. The same goes for papers. Pages can be removed and replaced, so once you have invested in a good binding, the cost of an update is just paper and ink.

Cons: Will almost always require a larger investment of time and money compared to an on-demand book.

Box of prints: I don’t see this done too often, but it can be quite effective. Nick Nacca put together a great example; a nicely branded leather box packed with sturdy prints. What makes his portfolio clever is that each print includes his logo and contact information right on the front. When he is meeting with clients and they comment on a particular image, he invites them to keep it. So he is essentially using a box of leave behinds in place of a bound book.

View Nick’s portfolio here:

Pros: Completely flexible, easy to update and replace images. If you are in a meeting with multiple creatives you can pass prints around and keep everybody’s hands busy.

Cons: No real control of sequencing. Depending on your style and edit, this can be a deal breaker.

Especially if it’s been a while since you put together a book, I know the number of choices can seem intimidating. Thoughtfully considering your branding, work, and marketing strategy can help you whittle down these options and create a book that you and your clients will love. Whether you spend $20 or $2,000, the most important thing is to have a book! If you have strong photography and a comprehensive edit, your stylistic choice for presentation will only serve to enhance an already strong portfolio. The short answer to the question, “what’s the best kind of portfolio?” is really, “the one you have ready for meetings.”

For more video examples of print portfolios, check out our YouTube channel. If you would like help editing and designing a print portfolio, or any other promotional materials, send me an email! You can also find links to on-demand printers, portfolios, and bookmakers on our full resources page.

 

Pricing & Negotiating: Album Cover and Collateral for Rock Band

By Craig Oppenheimer Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Environmental group shots and individual portraits of a well-known band.

Licensing: Advertising, Collateral and Publicity use of 12 images for 1 year. However, the images would primarily be for use on the album cover and in the album booklet.

Location: An outdoor scenic location in California.

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Lifestyle and Landscape Specialist.

Client: Grammy Award-winning alternative rock band represented by a mid-sized record label with offices in the US and UK.

Here is the estimate:

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Creative/Licensing: The record label originally approached the photographer with a request to create 12 images of the band. One of the images would be placed on the cover of the band’s upcoming album, and the other images would end up inside the album’s multi-page art booklet. It was also likely that the images would appear on the band’s website, iTunes page, various collateral pieces, merchandise and publicity materials.

Before speaking with the record label about their budget, I had an idea of what we might be up against. The music industry is notorious for paying very little while obtaining a lot in the way of licensing. While larger budgets might be available for shoots with big name artists, those projects account for a very small percentage of the shoots that take place in the music industry. Based on a few other projects I’ve worked on in the past, my inclination was that the photographer could expect to get around $5,000-$6,000 for his creative/licensing fee plus expenses, and I was hoping to limit the licensing as much as possible.

When I spoke with the record label, I learned that they had a bottom line budget of $12,500 for the project, and they wanted this to not only cover all creative/licensing fees and production expenses for the shoot, but also to include the layout and design of the album booklet. The photographer and I decided to create an estimate that was appropriate for his photography work only, and leave the design services out of the conversation because it wasn’t a service he offered.

When compiling the estimate, I tried to keep as much of the budget in the creative/licensing fee while also factoring in payment for pre/post production (all of which adds to the photographer’s “effective fee”). In most cases, I approach the creative/licensing fee first to determine what I believe is appropriate without taking a budget into account. However, in this case, I laid out all of the expenses, and determined that the amount left over in the budget lined up with my expectations for what his creative/licensing fee should be.

Before submitting the estimate, I did check a few other pricing resources. Getty priced one image for “retail product and packaging” use on the cover of up to 500,000 products for 1 year at $2,300. Corbis had a specific pricing category for CD packaging, and priced 1 image just under $2,000 including use on the cover as well as inside of up to 500,000 albums for 1 year. FotoQuote priced a similar use at $2,700 and BlinkBid didn’t offer specific pricing guidelines for this use. While they would be obtaining licensing for 12 images above and beyond album cover use, extrapolating the prices suggested by Corbis and Getty would put us far outside of a range I felt was appropriate for a project and client like this.

Assistant: The photographer paid his assistant a bit higher than the rates I typically include, and we would only need him for the one shoot day.

Digital Tech Day Including Workstation: The digital tech would help to manage the flow of file intake and display for client approval on location, and I included $500 for their day plus $750 for the workstation.

Location Scout: The record label/band wanted to shoot at a “scenic” location, and suggested the possibility of photographing the band on a beach. This opened the door to a lot of possibilities in California, and we included two days for the photographer to scout locations in his hometown. If he wanted to outsource this task to a professional location scout, this would have also covered their time and expenses as well.

Location Fees/Permits: I spoke with a few scouts local to the area, and we determined that a few hundred dollars would cover a permit for a single location and the time it would take to acquire it.

Photographer Pre-Production Day: Before the shoot, the photographer planned to meet the band and the record label contacts to discuss his approach. He’d also be arranging transportation, hiring his crew, managing the scouting results and essentially acting as a producer to pull everything together, all of which we charged for his time to do.

Van/Prop Rental: The only prop that would be needed for the shoot was a vintage van that the band would be posing in front of. The photographer happened to have a friend who owned just the right vehicle they were looking for, and he negotiated this fee for the van to be used and driven to/from the location.

Equipment: This would cover 2 camera bodies (~$400), several lenses (~$100), a couple power packs and heads (~$200) as well as additional modifiers, reflectors and grip equipment (~$100)

Basic Color Correction and Delivery of All Images on Hard Drive: While the client would only be obtaining licensing to 12 images, they wanted all of the hi-res images delivered to them on a hard drive. This covered the photographer’s time to do a minor edit of the files and deliver them to the client.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Misc: I included a few hundred dollars just to cover any minor unforeseen additional expenses on the shoot day.

Feedback: While the client wanted their original budget to include the design work, they were willing to seek out a designer and come up with a separate budget for that. The only other feedback they provided was that the photographer had to sign a work made for hire agreement, which was not originally discussed despite clearly stating the requested usage in the estimate and defining the language in our terms and conditions agreement. After I explained the differences between the licensing in our estimate and their work made for hire contract, the label asked to see a revised estimate showing fees based on their requirements. Given the fact that we were already a bit over their budget (and the fact they’d still need to pay for the design work separately) I knew we probably couldn’t push the price up that much. After a series of phone calls and candid discussions about their budget, we ultimately presented this final estimate:

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Results: The photographer was awarded the project, and the images will be featured on the band’s upcoming album. Here is the contract they presented:

WORK-FOR-HIRE-2013_original_Redacted-1Click to enlarge 

We were able to tweak the terms of this contract to be more in line with our terms/conditions, specifically in regards to turnaround time, payment, indemnification, and the fact that the fees were a good faith estimate and that actual time and expenses would ultimately be invoiced. Lastly, I revised their contract to say that they would need to register the images with the US copyright office, rather than the photographer doing this (which should be part of every photographer’s workflow).

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.

 

Expert Advice: Identity Design

by Amanda Friend, Wonderful Machine

There’s an ongoing battle at my parent’s house. The culprit: pasta sauce. Here’s the scoop. My father is a thrifty shopper. He isn’t swayed by packaging or marketing when it comes to groceries. The generic sauce’s quality doesn’t concern him. According to Dad, the store brand tastes just as good as the kind advertized on TV.

Not so, says my mother. Mom prefers the name brand pasta sauce. Nothing too fancy, but she’ll shell out a dollar or two more at the register. She enjoys their taste, and the fancier label doesn’t hurt either. Simply put, my mother likes quality goods, and is willing to pay more for them.

So, what’s really going on here, and how does it relate to photography? I won’t weigh in on the pasta sauce debate—I’m sure you have your own opinion. The big take away for me is that your brand determines what types of clients you’ll attract. Reread those first two paragraphs, and replace the words “pasta sauce” with “photography.” Who would you rather be hired by?

If you want an edge attracting quality clients, you need a solid graphic identity. As a photographer, your brand is made up of your photographic and graphic identities. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume your portfolio (photographic identity) is in good shape, and will focus on improving your graphic identity.

What is a graphic identity?

The term graphic identity describes all the visual elements that help communicate to the world who you are and what you do. They’re the typefaces, colors, illustrations and design that support your photographs, and give structure and personality to your marketing materials. It starts with a logo and branches out into your stationery, website, print portfolio, promotional mailers and more. A great graphic identity stands the test of time and is flexible enough that you can use it over the years with only minor updates.

Here are a couple examples of successful identities used across a variety of materials/platforms:

Mike Tittel’s business cards, leave behinds and print mailers.

Peter Baker’s website, portfolio, business cards, blog and more.

How do I know if I need a new graphic identity?

Does your logo consist of your name spelled out in Helvetica? Then you might be ready for a make-over. Beyond that, there isn’t one right answer to this question. Some photographers start focusing on different specialties and realize their old identity won’t fit with their new work. Others target new clients, and want their brand to attract them. Some haven’t updated their brand in years, and want a fresh look.

If you’re considering updating an existing identity, don’t be afraid to ask for an outside opinion. When you’re close to your work, it makes it hard to be objective. Ask someone in the field, as opposed to a family member. You want to work with someone who deals with this stuff for a living and will give you a real, objective opinion.

Where do I start?

I’d recommend hiring a professional designer to tackle your new visual identity. A designer’s experience is an invaluable asset. They not only will have more resources available (like a larger typeface library for example), but will probably consider design options/ideas you wouldn’t think of on your own. If you have an existing brand, they can think of inventive ways to update it, should you want to keep some elements the same.

That being said, if you’re going to tackle this yourself, start with some good ol’ fashioned research. The subject? You. Yes, you should research yourself. It might sound silly, but it pays off. Lots of factors can influence your brand, so write them down before you open up Illustrator (or more likely Photoshop in this case). If you change you mind later on and still need an identity, you can pass along your research to your designer.

Here are some questions I’ll ask photographers when creating new identities:

Who are your current clients? What new clients are you trying to appeal to?

Important questions. Your visual identity isn’t just a form of personal expression—it’s a tool to help you get hired. It should appeal to your clients. Now, by this, I don’t mean that you should pander. Nor do I mean that your identity can’t have any personal flourishes. But there is a difference between what appeals to you personally and how you present yourself professionally. You might like an industrial look, but if you want to shoot lifestyle, your logo shouldn’t include steel bolts and gritty textures. There would be a disconnect.

One example of good connection with clients/style: Matt Dutile’s business cards. Matt is predominantly a travel photographer, and his luggage tag business cards express this nicely.

Matt Dutile’s business cards.

What type of photography makes up the core of your work? Is there a type of photography you’d like to shoot more of?
Use your work as a compass to guide you. I wouldn’t create a delicate, ornate brand for an action adventure photographer. When designing, I often keep sample photos on hand so I can compare how a logo or colors work with the photographer’s images.

Some photographers shoot a few different specialties that would benefit from being shown on separate websites or in separate portfolios. In cases like this, consider creating a new brand for each portfolio. Some elements can carry over to each to establish a connection between the two.

Pretend you currently had no brand at all. What important aspects would you want your brand to convey clients?
Keep you list pertinent, but concise. A simple message will translate better than a complicated one. Some things, like a level of professionalism, are given. Beyond that, what else do you want clients to know about you?

Are their any brands, whether they be a another photographers or a company’s, that you particularly like?  Think less about the visual design and more about the message behind each brand.
Branding is a visual language, and one person’s “sophisticated” could be another person “simple”.  Here’s a reference board I sometimes send to photographers:


These photographer logos provide a range of styles, and I would consider them all well executed.  I’ll ask clients to let me know how they feel about each of these. I find out what they like and dislike, but I also find out what each of these logos express to them.

Complete this exercise so you can help define the look you’re searching for. Don’t be afraid to check out companies unrelated to photography for this either—inspiration can be found in strange places. Maybe enlist the help of a friend to gather example logos. They might find something you wouldn’t have considered on your own.

Who is your competition?
Alright, I confess: I don’t usually ask photographers this, but I do handle this research on my own. It’s a good thing to review before you get to work. It helps me see what others are doing, which forces me to be more innovative. Also, there’s less risk of accidentally copying someone. I wouldn’t define a brand solely one what your competition is doing, but I definitely recommend seeing what’s out there.

Design Tips

You’ve done your research, and you’re ready to execute. Grab a cup of coffee or two, and heed this advice:

  • Sketch. You’ll find better ideas faster by sketching with a pencil and paper, or by playing around with lots of rough drafts on the computer.
  • Location, location, location. Where will you use your logo? There’s your portfolio,  your print promotions and your email campaigns. But where else? Are you an avid tweeter, and need a killer avatar? Make sure you know everywhere your brand/logo will appear before getting started, so all of your needs are covered.
  • Start in black and white. When you’re ready to mock-up your logo ideas, hold off on color until you finalize the logo form. Your logo should look well executed without the assistance of color (though color can enhance its appearance).
  • Use appropriate typefaces. This relates to knowing your work and your audience well. You might need to purchase new font licenses to find the perfect match. Try FontFontH&FJ, or House Industries for typefaces with flair.
  • … and don’t stretch them, ever! You wouldn’t stretch the proportions of your photos, so don’t stretch the letters of another artist.
  • Pick colors that complement your work. Your color choices should enhance your brand and help you stand out. Again, think about all the places where you’ll be using your identity.
  • Execution above all. Spend extra time refining your work to make it top quality. Pay attention to small details like proportion, kerning (adjusting the space between letters), and scalability. Better to put time in now rather than after you’ve spend $1,000 on printing.

Additional Takeaways

Rules are made to broken. Yes, I am willing to put this in the section after dos and don’ts. The truth is that brands are complex. Sometimes, something that wouldn’t work for 99% of other photographers will work for you, or vice versa. The key is to know when a concept clicks, or if it’s too forced.

Branch out. A little variety within your collateral will go a long way. You can use the same layout for your emailer and postcard, but you’ll keep client interest longer with subtle variations throughout your brand. Ideally, your collateral will look like it belongs together without being exactly the same.

Oooh, shiny! If you have it in your budget, consider using different print techniques to distinguish your collateral. There’s foil stamping, die cutting, spot varnishes, and letter press to name a few (and for the look no one has, try printing your business cards with thermo-sensitive ink). Even selecting a heavier paper stock for your business cards can change the tone of your identity.

Don’t design in a vacuum. Take breaks. Look at your work with fresh eyes. Ask someone for feedback. Think about it, and then go watch a movie and come back later. Your work benefits when you’re in a good state of mind.

You can read about Wonderful Machine’s design services on our consulting page.

 

Pricing and Negotiating: In-Store Display for National Retailer

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Beauty shots of professional talent in a studio

Licensing:  Use of three images in any media (excluding Outdoor and Broadcast) in North America for 2 years. Although we avoid vague language whenever possible, the client insisted on using this language, effectively conveying Advertising, Collateral and Publicity use of the images as defined in our T&C.

Location: A studio in New York

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Up-and-coming beauty and fashion specialist

Agency: Mid-sized, based in the Midwest.

Client: Prominent retailer with approximately 2,000 stores in North America.

Here is the initial estimate:

estimate_1_terms

Concept/Licensing:

When the project was first presented to us, the scope was to capture individual close-up portraits of three female talent. We were presented with a creative deck that included these three shots along with details for additional projects featuring product and lifestyle images, which told us that our shoot would just be one part of a larger overall project. The creative deck also made it clear that the primary use of the images was for in-store displays, but this didn’t quite match up to the broader use that the client requested.

Upon speaking with the art buyer I learned that their intended use was limited to in-store display and use on their website (no additional advertising or printed collateral) and would likely be up in the stores for less than a year (rather than 2 years which they’d requested). It’s often the case that a client’s requested use doesn’t correspond with their intended use. In cases like this, we do our best to structure the licensing language to be more in line with the intended use. In this instance, however, I was told that limiting the licensing would not be an option.

The fact that this shoot was part of a larger project and that the photographer was eager to land his first assignment of this scale put downward pressure on how I approached his creative/licensing fee. However, the size and prominence of the client as well as the exposure level of the images put upward pressure on the fee. Another factor to consider was the value of each image in proportion to one another. Typically a shot list can inform you as to which shot might end up being the “hero” image and likely used in a much broader way than the others. Many times I will price the “hero” image (or scenario) at full price, and then discount additional images of the same nature. However, in this case, each of the three images were unique and would be promoting a different line of products for the retailer, and therefore I thought they should all be priced at their full value, which after weighing all of the factors, I determined was $5,000 each.

I checked my fee for the intended use against a few other pricing resources to see how they compared. Getty suggested $3,200 for in-store display use with a circulation of up to 5,000 for 2 years, and Corbis recommended $2,350 for this same use. FotoQuote suggested $2,700 for this use (although they didn’t offer an option to limit the timeframe) and BlinkBid didn’t have a breakdown for this specific use.  While I took these rates into account, they however did not include all of the additional licensing the client would actually be obtaining (even though they were unlikely to take advantage of it) above and beyond their intended use.

Assistants: I included two assistants to lend a hand with the lighting, grip and equipment.

Digital Tech: I included $500 for the digital tech, and then added on $750 for the workstation. The digital tech would help to manage the flow of file intake and display for client approval on set.

Stylists: For a beauty shoot, the hair and make-up styling is much more important than it would be on most other types of campaigns, so the client is typically involved in the stylist selection process. I secured quotes from experienced and represented hair stylists and makeup stylists. These rates include a typical 20% that a talent agency will add on to the stylist’s day rate. For many shoots I’d hire someone to handle both hair and makeup, but for a beauty shoot, it’s more appropriate to hire stylists with specific skills.  Sometimes stylists will bring their own assistants if many people need to be styled, but since we were only planning to shoot three talent, they did not need any extra support.

Producer: I included three days for a producer to handle the pre/post production (hiring the crew, booking the studio, arranging catering, facilitating the invoicing) as well as to be on set to make sure the day went according to plan.

Studio Rental: There are a ton of options for studios in NY ranging from small loft style shooting spaces to large soundstages. We didn’t need a giant space, so I aimed for a medium size studio at a convenient mid-town location.

Casting Days: When I started to speak with casting agents, I learned that many of them had previous experience working on shoots for this client, and they recommended that we account for 2 days of casting since the client may be quite picky. This fee covered the casting agent’s time, shooting space and booking of the talent.

Adult Talent: I settled on this rate after speaking with a few casting agents and obtaining their opinions on the fee for a shoot/usage of this nature. This was tricky since the requested usage was quite broad, but the intended use of the talent’s likeness was rather restricted (hmmm…this sounds familiar). We determined that a rate of $6,000.00/talent would bring in a decent pool to choose from.

Equipment: This would cover 2 camera bodies (~$400) a few lenses (~$100), a couple power packs and heads (~$350) as well as additional modifiers, reflectors and grip equipment (~$150)

Image Processing for Editing: This covered the time, equipment and costs to handle the basic color correction, edit and upload of all of the images to an FTP for client review.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: I worked with the photographer to determine an average of three hours to retouch each photo. Though the photographer would be handling the retouching in house, we priced it at $150/hr to ensure all costs would be covered should we have to farm it out unexpectedly.

Catering: I’ll often include $35/person for light breakfast and lunch catering, but things tend to get pricey in NYC, so I bumped it up to $50/person.

Miles, Parking, FTP, Misc: This was to cover any additional minor miscellaneous expenses during the shoot day.

Feedback: After reviewing our initial estimate, the client decided to trim the concept down from three images to two. They also told us that they weren’t interested in a live casting, and preferred to hire talent based on images in their online portfolios. This was surprising to hear because casting from cards/portfolio is a somewhat risky maneuver since there’s no way of knowing whether or not the images are current. With the caliber of agency we were working with, it wasn’t a serious concern, but it was definitely worth reiterating to the client. They also capped their talent budget at $5,000 per talent for five hours of their time on set and the usage. Their last piece of feedback was that the client rarely spends more than $8000-9000 on “beauty shoots”, however, they couldn’t tell me how the requested licensing for this project compared to that of their previous similar shoots.

On top of those changes, they were willing to limit the licensing duration (although they initially said this wasn’t an option) to six months. It still included broader usage than they needed, but the reduced duration and number of images was a justification for dropping the fee to work with their budget. Here is the final estimate:

estimate_2_terms

Results: The photographer was awarded the project, and I produced the shoot. The images will be in stores later this year.

Hindsight: While we were able to stay within the overall budget for the shoot, equipment costs ended up being higher than anticipated. The photographer required more equipment than initially discussed and the studio we booked insisted that they provide any rented equipment, and their equipment rented at a premium. If I had to estimate a project like this again, I’d probably include close to $1,000 for the digital tech’s gear and $1,300 for the photographer’s equipment.

After the estimate was approved and pre-production was progressing, I was discussing usage terminology listed on a talent contract provided by the client with the art buyer. The contract listed “unlimited” usage in addition to “in-store marketing” and “digital”. I try to refrain from using the word “unlimited” (and even “digital”) in general, and from my point of view it seemed redundant to list “unlimited” use and then specify a specific media. However, upon clarification, the agency/client understood “unlimited” to essentially mean “unlimited insertions” rather than “unlimited media”. For instance, they did not want to put a limitation on the number of printed posters they could hang in the store. While I tried to obtain clarification on this at the beginning of the estimating process, if I knew from the start that their request for “unlimited” use was really about unlimited use within in-store display and web collateral, I may have approached the fees differently.

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.

 

Expert Advice: Blogging for Photographers

By Maria Luci, Wonderful Machine

The blog… While some have embraced it as an easy and fun way to keep others up to date on their latest projects and daily activities, to others, the mere mention of the word makes them cringe. Keeping a blog up to date, knowing what to write, or even how to begin, has become the bane of many photographers’ existences.

But whatever your feelings towards blogs, I do believe they are an important part of every commercial photographer’s business. As Wonderful Machine’s publicist, I have been writing daily blog articles on photography for several years now—and I’ve picked up a trick or two along the way.  So, for all your blog-aphobics, or even for the blog-aholics looking for tips, here are a few things I’ve learned…

Why Blogs Matter

Why have a blog anyway? I’m sure a lot of photographers ask themselves this question—and then many come and ask me. There’s no one answer, but the reply I give most often is that a blog is the perfect way to keep creatives updated. While your website should only contain the best of the best, and most appropriate work for each portfolio, a blog allows you to expand on this. You can show your latest work, interesting personal projects, maybe some photos that aren’t exactly in line with the rest of your portfolio. It’s also a great way to connect and show some personality—and the chance, if you’d like, to show a different side of yourself. Sharing behind the scenes info and fun stories helps creatives get a better sense of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Another great thing about blogs? They’re free! While promos, emailers and just about everything else related to sharing your work costs money, a blog is a free way to share your work with the world.

A few more reasons to have a blog:

  • Creatives love them! I’ve heard from a lot of art buyers and photo editors that they like looking at photographers’ blogs.
  • Search engines love them! While your website may have little to no copy on it, blogs can be filled with keyword heavy copy and tags, making it easier for search engines and creatives to find you online (increasing your SEO).  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words is worth more to Google (not that you have to write a thousand words in every post…)
  • Blogs offer RSS feeds, which automatically allows for syndication of your entries to a wide audience. It’s a simple and free way for creatives to follow you.
  • It can help further your brand. Have a fun, quirky logo and photo style? Fun, quirky commentary on a blog (with matching branding, of course) will enhance your brand. Structured architecture photographer? A blog discussing the structures you shoot can help cement your style, and help you be known as the photographer as opposed to a photographer.

Types of Blogs

There are a number of great blog platforms out there. At Wonderful Machine, we use WordPress, which is easily updateable and good for those who like to write. One factor I really like about WordPress is how easily I can schedule posts in advance. Going on vacation for a week? I can write articles ahead of time and set them to post each day, at whatever time I desire. Also, WordPress is chock full of plug-ins to help design, share, promote and otherwise make your blog simple to use and snazzy to look at. I’d recommend this platform to anyone who enjoys both customization and writing.

For those who find posting a gaggle of photos preferable to writing prose, I’d highly recommend Tumblr. It’s a snap to post photo upon photo—and then have those pictures shared across the web. Effortless is a word Tumblr uses to describe itself, and I certainly agree.

As a side note, Tumblr is also customizable, but you may not find the same ease, or at least support, as you would with WordPress. I’d also like to add that Tumblr can be a great way to share a personal project—like with Julian Love’s Clara Hayward project. Tumblrs are a cinch to set up, making it an ideal way to highlight a special series or to separate your corporate from lifestyle work.

For inspiration, here are a few of my personal favorite photography Tumblrs:

Other blog platforms to consider:

What to Blog About

Your blog can take a number of directions, but I’d recommend deciding which works best for you before you get too involved. Plan, plan, plan! For many photographers, posting daily pictures, Instagrams and behind the scenes photos works just fine. They’re not big writers, but they want to keep clients and fans informed on what they’re up to. Then there are the Chase Javrises and Zack Araises of the world, who enjoy sharing knowledge and opinions. Their blogs are populated with photo industry news, tips and insights. Their astute posts have earned them huge followings and have helped propel their brands and careers to the next level (but as I bring up in the next paragraph, this type of blogging isn’t for everyone). Then there are the photographers who simply post tear sheets from their latest assignments. All of these can be viable options, but before you jump into one particular style, make sure you can keep up with it and that it fits your brand and personality, as well as your time constraints.

When you’re planning out your direction, make sure you also consider your audience. I frequently find photographer blogs that are targeted toward other photographers, rather than the creatives who can hire them. And yes, Zack’s blogs are aimed at photographers, but he can get away with this because he often hosts workshops and speaks at events. This means he earns revenue off of his audience. He also seems to really enjoy being a spokesperson for the photography community and dedicates a lot of time and energy into it. But, if your primary goal is reaching art buyers and photo editors, make sure you shape your blog accordingly. Ways to do this can include writing posts that highlight your technical skills or sharing BTS shots that demonstrate how fun/easy you can be to work with.

Once you’ve chosen a direction, and acknowledged your target audience, the next step is more planning (sorry, but only fools jump in!). Before you start posting away, I recommend putting together an editorial calendar. Do you have interesting assignments coming up? Make sure you plan on taking behind the scenes images and set a date to sit and write about the job. If you’re more of a knowledge sharer, keep up with trends and current photography news. Also, plan out topics you can write about in advance—and schedule dates to write and post these articles. And stick to it! Here at Wonderful Machine, I post seven or more articles a week—which believe me, is pretty much a full time job, and I don’t expect this from you—but, the way I accomplish this is by having a printed calendar on my desk at all times. I pencil in article ideas and check them off (by filling in a little black circle) once they’re scheduled. Then I know I can move on to the next post. This way, I never miss a day and I know what types of articles I’ve been writing about and what’s missing. I also keep a running list of all Expert Advice articles written by the WM staff, along with ideas for future articles. Again, this lets me see what we’ve covered and what needs to be covered in the future.

My calendar for the WM blog.My WM blog calendar. 

Sample of our Expert Advice calendarExcerpt from our Expert Advice calendar. Initials indicate who I’ve assignment to write the article. 

Categories are also a good way to keep yourself on track. Come up with a few before you get started. Here, we haveWeekend Links every Friday and SaTEARday posts on Saturdays. Ideas for individual photographers could include designated behind the scenes days, weekly advice posts, monthly video shares or an interview column with fellow photographers or favorite clients. Creating categories and setting schedules makes blogging easier and helps keep you going when you’re feeling stuck.

Mostly though, I’d say stick to what you know. If you’re the person everyone comes to for advice, share that advice on your blog. If you’ve got ton of Instagram followers or great personal pics that just don’t work in your portfolio, post those on your blog. If you have interesting behind the scenes photos, share those. If you’re a writer, write! If you’re funny, be funny! If you’re lazy, well, maybe don’t start a blog…

Sharing and Tracking

Just as it’s important to track your website’s analytics, it’s also important to track your blog. Through analytics, you can see what posts generate the most buzz and which may be falling flat. This is valuable information, you don’t want to be wasting your time on posts no one reads. There are a number of ways to track how well your blog posts are doing. Number one being Google Analytics. It’s easy to set up and will give you a great deal of useful information. A few things you can track through Google Analytic’s include:

  • Number of visitors to your blog
  • How long each visitor stayed, what pages/posts they viewed
  • Where those visitors live, what language they speak
  • What pages they entered on, what pages they exited from (which can help you see which posts continue to be popular over time. For example, our Writing a Photographer Bio post continues to bring in thousands of visitors a month, even though it’s over a year old)
  • Traffic sources to your blog

In tandem with Google Analytics, I would also recommend using some sort of RSS feed with your blog. Google Feedburner (which unfortunately looks like it may be going the way of doomed Google Reader) allows you to see how many people are subscribed to your blog through RSS, how many people view each post through RSS daily, and which posts are the most popular via RSS each month. This is important to add to your Google Analytics results since many people never actually click through to a site when viewing through readers and/or email feeds.

I’d also advise posting links to your blog posts on your other social media pages, like Twitter and Facebook. To do this, I  use a link tracking service called bitly. Bitly creates trackable links for you, so you can see how many people click each one.

BitlyBitly example 

If you’re using a Facebook page, you can also see how many people view each post, even if they’re not clicking—this is called the “total reach.”

Photographers Doing It Right

There are plenty of photographers out there already doing everything right, blog-wise. Reviewing and keeping up with their blogs can help inspire you to write your own follow-worthy blog. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Zack Arias’s Ask Me Anything blog. Recently back from hiatus, Zack’s “Ask” blog brings in thousands of viewers and helps brand him as the go-to man for any and all photography related questions.
  • Chase Jarvis‘s blog. Chase’s blog has helped make him a “household” name in the photography world. Everyone knows about it and a heck of a lot of people read it.
  • Dana Neibert’s photo journal. Dana’s blog lets his images do that talking. It’s all photos. Let me rephrase that, it’s all beautiful photos (and a few videos). It gives the viewer a glimpse into Dana’s assignments while also solidifying his elegant photo style and brand. And, unlike his well curated website, his blog allows Dana to share all of his best photographs, whether they work in his portfolio’s edit or not.
  • Joe McNally’s blog. Joe’s blog takes you behind the scenes, and gives insights into his recent and past projects. His thirty plus years of experience shines through and makes for an interesting feed to follow.
  • Matt and Agnes Hage’s blog. The Hages are adventure/outdoor sports photographers, and their blog sure lets you know it. They’re constantly updating about their wild adventures from across the globe. If you’re into skiing, climbing or hiking, their site is interesting, whether you’re interested in photography or not.

Well, that’s about all I can cram into one blog post. If you’re looking for more individualized attention, or have questions about blogging I haven’t addressed here, shoot me an email at maria@wonderfulmachine.com.

Expert Advice: Marketing to Fine Art Galleries

- - Expert Advice

by Sean Stone, Wonderful Machine

Fine art photography is something that very few photographers can support themselves on. But what photographer hasn’t dreamed of trading assignment work for the life of an artist? Most commercial photographers continue to produce personal photographs of some kind or another throughout their career, and while a blog is all well and good, there’s nothing like the thrill of seeing your photos on the pristine white walls of a gallery. So how do you get there from here? Is promoting to galleries different than to commercial clients? I came to Wonderful Machine with a background in art gallery management, where I handled just about every medium; oil painting, sculptures made of teeth, bronze, and yes – photography. Gallery owners Brian Clamp and Jennifer Schwartz were good enough to answer a few of my questions about how commercial photographers can show their fine art work. And in addition to their insights, I’ll offer some advice of my own on how to get your foot in the door of an art gallery.

Commercial art buyers are accustomed to seeing “personal” or “fine art” categories on photographers’ websites, and in my experience they are generally positive on that. But how does the gallery world view commercial shooters? I spoke to Brian Clamp, owner and director of ClampArt, about how photographers can effectively move between the worlds of commercial and fine art. Many of the artists that Brian carries, including Jill Greenberg, Stephen Wilkes, and Manjari Sharma, are sought-after assignment photographers who also exhibit widely. Brian told me that while there was a time when commercial photographers weren’t taken seriously by curators, this is no longer the case. “I like to know that my photographers work commercially. Successful commercial photographers have artistic ideas that they can better realize with the resources they gain from assignment work. They also tend to have more business savvy than some photographers who shoot exclusively fine art. Experienced photographers understand that they are partners with my gallery; they have their own work to do to get pieces sold, and it doesn’t end when they drop off the work.” Collectors, too, like to know that photographers have created an ad or editorial piece that made a strong impression, which Brian says makes their work easier to sell.

So what are the actual steps you have to take to see your work on a wall outside of your own home?

1) Evaluate. Take a good look at your photographs. Do you have something to say? Do you have a unique, compelling, and cohesive body of work or just a mish-mash of “personal” photos without any unifying theme? Though it’s rare for collectors to purchase an entire series of photographs, a group of photographs that somehow relate to one another are much more interesting to galleries and collectors than one-off pieces. After all, it’s hard to make a profound artistic statement with one photograph. Successful fine art photographers tend to dig deep into a particular subject or style not only to make great art, but to build a brand. Cindy Sherman does self-portraits. Andreas Gursky shoots architecture and landscapes. Gregory Crewdson shoots elaborately staged scenes. What do you do? If you don’t see a cohesive body of work when you look at your photographs, keep shooting until you do.

2) Edit. Once you’ve decided that you do have something worth showing the world, you’ll need to select a finite set of pictures. I find it helpful to edit using tiny prints (the size of a playing cards). (My colleague Paul Stanek prefers editing on a screen using MoodShare.) You might start with a couple of hundred of them spread out on a big table or on the floor. Be open-minded about the editing process. Rather than thinking about how, when and where the photographs were made, let the photos guide you. Look for photographs that naturally go together and that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Edit down to a manageable number (30-40 images), eliminating the weakest photos, redundant photos and photos that don’t support the group. Next, work on your sequencing. People look at photos one at a time, but the order in which you look at them can affect the overall impact of the group even if there’s not a literal narrative. Start with one of your strongest images and one that exemplifies your theme well. Then see how the others fall into place. You might have a slightly different sequence for your website where you will typically display horizontals individually and verticals in pairs. Make sure that those pairs match up well.

3) Marketing materials. You’ll need some basic marketing materials to support your pictures, to make it easy to communicate with people, and to demonstrate your professionalism.

Most important is your portfolio. Commercial clients like to see photographs in book form because it makes it quick and easy to look at and it’s not so different from how they use photos themselves. Galleries will tend to want to see your photographs loose in a clamshell box. It helps them to see your individual photos as objects of art that they can hang on a wall and sell. Each photograph in that particular collection should be printed on the same type of paper. All of the prints should be the same size, which should match the size of the box. The images should have 1-2″ of white space around them. They should be unsigned on the front. The back of each print should be neatly labeled with your name and the title of the work (that way if you’re discussing the photos over the phone, they know what to call each print).

You’ll need simple stationery including letterhead, #10 envelope, crack-n-peel label, note card, and business card. If you don’t have a graphic identity already, working with a professional designer is well worth the investment.

You’ll need an artist statement. It should be just a few paragraphs describing your artistic journey in general and providing context for those photographs in particular.

You’ll need a website. There are so many excellent, inexpensive website templates out there now that there’s no excuse not to have one. (You can find a list on our Resources page.) It’s a great way for anyone anywhere to see your photos instantly. I recommend keeping it simple and elegant, with big pictures and intuitive navigation. The menu should include 1-5 sections of images, an artist statement page, a CV page, and a contact page with your name, email address and phone number (once you have gallery representation, you can substitute in that information).

4) Research. Get the lay of the land. There are many galleries, group shows and competitions out there, but they’re not all going to be right for you and your photographs. Some galleries don’t show photography at all. Some will be too competitive for you. Others will be not competitive enough. Before you contact anyone in the business, you should educate yourself about the industry and start to get a sense of how you might fit into it. See what’s going on in your local area and also nationally and internationally. There are lots of sources for this type of information. Every year, Art in America magazine publishes an extensive list of galleries, museums, and artists in North America. In September, they plan to launch an online versionArt-collecting.com has a great list of retail galleries by city and state. Wonderful Machine also has a list of galleries that show photography on our Resources page. Check with local arts organizations for exhibitions taking place in your area. And you can find opportunities to participate in group shows around the country through the Society for Photographic Education.

Younger galleries tend to be less concerned with exhibition history, and more willing to take a chance on a new photographer whose work they think is interesting and salable. Before you approach a more established gallery about carrying your work, it can be good to gain a bit of experience and exposure from group shows and contests. Jennifer Schwartz, owner of the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta, recommends that photographers consider entering even smalls shows at first. “But be selective about which open calls for group shows you submit to. Enter your work only to shows by jurors with a good reputation, and exhibitions that you are excited about.” She points out that nearly all of these require a submission fee, but not all are equally valuable. Consider the background of the organization putting on the show, and be aware that some are more about making money from those fees than curating top-notch work. As you participate in group shows, make sure you set your sites higher and higher. Galleries want to look at your CV and see that you’ve progressed to bigger and better shows over time. One group show tip from my own gallery experience: when participating in larger shows, sometimes you’ll be told to deliver work ready for hanging between “day x and day y.” This gives them time to deal with new inventory, but it can also mean that they plan to start hanging before the final deadline. Better to get your work in early and increase your chances of a prime spot!

Every time you discover a relevant gallery or industry contact, you’ll want to add them to your contact database so that you can refer to that information in the future. You might not be right for a particular gallery today, but at some point down the line you might be.

5) Submissions. Mass marketing can be an effective tool for commercial photographers. But you’ll need to take a more personalized approach in order to appeal to a gallery. Unless you’ve got a serious reputation already, I’d recommend starting locally. Compile a list of a handful of galleries that might be a good match for you. Then pick one and begin. Read their submission requirements carefully and follow them precisely. If they want to see your photographs on a CD, organize the photos in a way that makes them easy to view. Have the file name match the name of the image. Save them in a universally readable format like JPG or PDF. The files should be large enough to see clearly, but not so large as to take a long time to load or move around. Include in your package a hard copy of your cover letter, CV and artist statement and include digital versions on the CD as well. If they want to see prints, make sure you package them in a way that they won’t get damaged in transit and if you’re not going to pick them up yourself, make it easy for them to ship them back to you. At the submission stage, you don’t necessarily have to have prints framed and ready for hanging. There’s normally plenty of lead time for gallery shows, so you’ll have time for that. And the gallery may want to have a say in how big the prints should be and how they should be framed.

6) Feedback. If you’re doing your art strictly for your own pleasure or artistic expression, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks. But if you want other people to show it and buy it, you’re going to need to pay attention to how they respond to you and your photographs – and perhaps make adjustments along the way. Of course, you’ll have to take what any one person says with a grain of salt. Even the most experienced people will misjudge you from time to time. But the sum total of the feedback over the long term will tend to be pretty accurate. Keep in mind that your personality will play a big part in your success or failure. The way you interact with gallery owners and collectors will color the way they perceive your photographs. Everyone who buys your art is also buying a piece of you.

7) Pricing and editioning. At some point, you will have to start thinking about pricing and (gasp) editioning. As with advertising photography, pricing fine art is not a simple equation. Jennifer suggests that new photographers be prepared to price their work lower than they might like, in order to start building a base of collectors. She recommends that you consider your production costs and compare the price to similar artists’ work. When I asked Brian and Jennifer for some pointers on editions, the response I got from both was a cautious, “…it’s complicated.” Since (most) photographs are not unique objects, editioning is key to creating the perception of scarcity and value. But don’t feel like you have to rush into a finite number of prints before your market requires it! Brian recommends that photographers avoid printing in editions until they have a relationship with a gallery to help guide them through that process. Editions can feel artificial and limiting, but Jennifer points out that it does work in your favor; beyond rarefying your work and commanding higher value, prices tend to climb as an edition is sold off, giving buyers incentive to move quickly on a purchase. Keep in mind that editions are also made by size. The framed 18″x24″ print that looks great on the wall might not sell right away, but the less expensive, unframed 6″x8″, printed in a larger volume, might be easier to move.

8) What not to do. Jennifer Schwartz has written some helpful articles about how not to submit to a gallery that took me back in time to my days at the gallery. I received submissions just about every day, and they looked virtually identical: plain cardboard envelope containing a business card and a sharpied CD. The disc typically contained only images, no resume, no artist’s statement. Often the artist did not have website. Take the same care in branding your fine art materials as you would for your commercial work, and you’re already ahead of the competition. Time and space are precious things for gallery owners, so don’t think that you’re doing yourself any favors by going above and beyond the submission guidelines. Don’t send sample prints or finished pieces unless they’re requested. Most importantly, don’t drop by without an appointment and expect them to talk to you! Artists used to do this to me and it drove me crazy. Stick to their guidelines and work within them to create the most distinctive, eye-catching presentation you can.

For more assistance, contact me by email at sean@wonderfulmachine.com or by phone (610) 260-0200.