Category "Pricing & Negotiating"

Pricing & Negotiating: Still Life Shoot for Clothing Retailer

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine Producer

I was contacted recently by an East Coast photographer to help quote on a project for a well-known clothing retailer. The retailer’s mid-sized ad agency had approached the photographer and shared layouts for a catalog promoting the following season’s clothing line. The catalog would feature a combination of fashion portraits and still life pictures on seamless backgrounds. Our photographer, a still life specialist, was asked to just quote on the still life portion of the project which consisted of 23 pictures. The comps showed shirts, pants, shoes and accessories shot from above, on a flat surface, arranged as an outfit. Along with the layouts, the agency provided a detailed shot list specifying 3 days of shooting at a local studio.

A few days later, the photographer and I dialed into a creative call with the agency to learn more about the project. As with all creative calls, this was a great opportunity for the photographer to show his enthusiasm for the assignment, share creative ideas and convey confidence to the agency. During the conversation, we learned that the catalog was part of a much larger rebranding effort for their client that would help the brand reach a younger demographic. This was our first hint that the project may be a larger production than your typical studio catalog shoot.

Here’s what we discussed on the creative call:

  • We talked about the possibility of shooting variations where the clothes were stacked or organized more abstractly rather than the paper-doll way shown in the comp. We spent a lot of time talking about the look of the pictures. Clearly the styling was very important to the client.
  • The licensing needed to include use of 23 images in the fall catalog and on the company’s website for a period of 3 months.
  • The agency wanted us to deliver the raw files from the shoot – organized, renamed and tweaked. Their in-house retoucher would finish them off.
  • We would plan on a pre-light day so that we could hit the ground running on the first shoot day.
  • Our wardrobe stylist would need to attend a “fit-day” to review the clothing with the client and agency. The stylist would also need a prep day to make any necessary alterations prior to the shoot.
  • The client would provide all of the clothing and accessories but we might need to provide some minor props.
  • They couldn’t tell us how big the press run would be but given the client, we knew it would be huge (>1m)

With this information, I could start to put together some numbers. For a typical national catalog shoot, we normally quote $4,000-$6,000 a day for the creative fee including licensing. Catalog use is certainly advertising use (which might otherwise command a higher fee), but unlike other advertising that might show up in magazines or on billboards, catalog use is normally limited to the actual printed piece.  And because of the nature of fashion, the images tend to have very short life spans and tend to require a lot of shoot days (both factors providing some downward pressure on the day rate). Some catalog work is so much about volume and so little about skill that rates can be as low as 1000.00 per day. In those cases, the work is usually done directly for the client (rather than through an ad agency)—and often using the client’s studio and equipment.

In the mean time, we got another call from the agency explaining that they would like us to quote on broader licensing. In addition to the catalog use, they needed 3 months of paid advertising use and print collateral use. A few hours after that, I received another email saying that they now were planning on a 2-day shoot with licensing for just 12 images and they’d like to make it happen for under $100k.

I checked to see what our pricing guides suggested:

Blinkbid: For catalog, web use and print advertising Blinkbid quoted $11,550-$16,500 per image per year or (arguably) $2,887-$4,125 for 3 months. So in the neighborhood $30k for 12 images (factoring in a bit of a quantity discount).

FotoQuote: Their advertising and marketing pack for 3 months suggested a range of 13,728 and 27,456 for one image.

Getty Images: Using their Flexible Licensing, an Advertising Pack of print, outdoor and web for three months in the U.S. would be $12k per image.

Given such a short licensing duration (3 months), I think it’s unlikely that the agency is going to make ads out of all 12 of those photos. So considering all that (not to mention the budget suggested by the client), I decided to price the first two images at 5,500 each and the remaining 10 at 2,000 each, which brought us to a total photography fee of $31,000.

We included the rates for an assistant and a digital tech for both shoot days as well as the pre-light day, and included a second assistant for just the shoot days. The photographer had a producer that he worked with regularly, and at his suggestion, we budgeted 7 days to account for his time to hire the crew, attend the shoot and manage all the post-shoot paperwork. (This seemed a little fat to me given the project.) I also included (at the request of the producer) a production assistant (also a little excessive). I budgeted 1200.00 for the photographer for the pre-light day (which in retrospect, might be a little thin.)

The stylist was just as important to the agency as the photographer, so we included rates for a seasoned soft goods stylist who would also be shopping for the supplemental props. The quote we received from the stylist broke out separate fees for their shoot days and prep days, and we included them as separate lines in the estimate. The stylist would be bringing their assistant and a tailor/seamstress to alter the clothing. We budgeted 4 prep days for the stylist – 2 to get props and 2 in the studio to prepare the clothes, make any necessary alterations, and set up at least the first couple of shots. The stylist assistant would handle the returns.

While the props were originally supposed to be minimal, the agency ended up sending over a few sample images of nice travel accessories and other items that they wanted to have on hand. For those props, we budgeted 2000.00. We included costs for seamless paper and foam core for the stylists to lay out the clothing on and pin it to if needed.

We would need the studio for the two shoot days, a pre-light day, and the additional wardrobe stylist prep day. The photographer also specified 5000.00/day for equipment rental. That might sound like a lot at first glance, but it would allow us to run 2 sets at a time so the stylists could be setting up one shot while we were shooting another.

I tend to include a nominal amount of crew overtime charges as a matter of course to avoid any surprises later. It also gives us some wiggle room in the budget in case other unexpected costs arise.

We also included a post-production day for the photographer to organize and do final tweaks, then deliver the raw files on a hard drive. (The ad agency would be handling the retouching themselves.)

I chose to add a line-item for insurance. It’s customary on motion picture projects and increasingly on bigger still projects to add 1-2% to cover the cost of equipment insurance, liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

I budgeted 1250.00 for mileage, parking, messengers, etc. for all the little things that add up when running around town looking for props, picking up equipment, etc.

I always put “plus applicable sales tax.” That covers me in all cases and it doesn’t unnecessarily inflate my bottom line when we do have to charge it. I always spell out items that the client is going to provide (I forgot to mention that the client was going to do the retouching). And we normally expect to get at least half of the production expenses up front.

The whole project came in at $92k.

You can view the estimate here:

I heard a few days later that the client chose another photographer. But I wasn’t able to get any more information than that.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.

Pricing & Negotiating: Spokesperson Advertising Shoot

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine Producer

One of our photographers recently contacted me to help him quote on some advertising photographs for a prominent international corportion. He had recently completed a self-assigned fashion shoot, and a promotional mailer from that project caught the attention of the client’s ad agency. Over the past few years, the ad agency had helped the client completely revamp their image, and in the process they had developed one of the most recognizable campaigns in recent years. The agency had now developed an updated concept (which happened to be very similar to the photographer’s promo) representing the next step in the evolution of the campaign, and they wanted  to consider our photographer for the shoot. After an initial phone call, the agency sent over a shot list and requested an estimate.

Here is what we knew: The project would involve 2 days of photographing a celebrity spokesperson interacting with various props and products in a West Coast studio. The agency was hoping to cover 5 situations per day, including very specific but subtle variations within each situation. These variations were intended to create a range of expressions and angles from which the agency and client would choose their final selects. The shot list for day 2 was almost identical to day 1, except it consisted of shooting against a different background (at the same studio), which was still to be determined based on further creative direction.

The agency would be coordinating and paying for the talent, hair/make-up, wardrobe stylists, wardrobe, props and a trailer for the talent. All we needed to account for was the photography fees, photo crew, equipment, studio and catering.

I wanted to start by determining the photographer’s fees, so my first question for the art buyer was about the usage and number of images. She replied that they needed licensing for all images captured, though they only wanted 10 selects retouched and delivered. The licensing language that she asked me to include in the estimate was:

All print media now known or hereafter invented (to include, but not limited to consumer newspaper, industrial, in-store, direct mail, brochures and any other collateral material, out-of-home (to include but not limited to billboards, bus shelters, wild postings, kiosks, wall murals, window signage and display work), electronic media (to include but not be limited to worldwide web and client brand portal archiving)

Even though the client intended to use up to 10 images in the campaign, they asked that the quote include licensing for all of the images created rather than just a limited number of selects. Naturally, licensing for more pictures is going to be worth more than licensing for fewer pictures. But if we’re shooting 10 situations with subtle variations of each, it’s not going to be worth much more than those first 10. We do our best to reconcile the discrepancy between what they’re asking for and what they’re likely to do with the images. The licensing needed to include advertising use in the U.S. and Puerto Ric o for 1 year from first insertion.

Digging through similar estimates that we’ve done recently and other pricing guides, here’s what we found:

BlinkBid: National advertising use in print publications, on websites, in collateral and on OOH (out of home/billboards) = a range between $9,450 and $13,500 per image, per year, though these rates didn’t quite cover the scope of the use.

fotoQuote: The new version of fotoQuote has “quote packs” that cover a wide range of usage in various media outlets. The most extensive pack is labeled “All Advertising & Marketing.” This pack includes print advertising in magazines, newspapers and directories, as well as web advertising, web collateral, use on mobile devices, promotional emails, direct mail, in store displays, billboards and transit ads along with a few additional items as well. For this use, their suggested range for 1 image is between $16,090 and $32,181 for 1-year use. This is more in line with our expectations.

Getty: They also offer “Flexible Licensing Packs” including one labeled  “All Advertising Pack.” This includes unlimited collateral, print advertising and web use, which is further detailed to include direct mail, electronic brochures, billboards, magazine/newspaper ads, freestanding inserts and directory advertising, web advertising, use on corporate websites as well as on mobile devices, and any indoor or outdoor display. Their price for 1 image in the  specific industry for 1 year is $18,790. Again, this is comparable to what we expect to see on projects of this scale with clients of this size and prominence.

Armed with this information along with past estimating experiences, I decided to price the 10 images at $110,000 for this use. Each of the images generated would be somewhat similar to the others. The photographer wasn’t shooting 10 different concepts, he was shooting 10 adaptations of the same concept. The greatest impact and greatest value comes with the first image. In situations like this we feel the first image is worth the full rate and each subsequent image has a lower value. By pricing the first image at 20,000, the high end of the range for this type of licensing, and the additional images at 10,000 each, the low end of the range, we came to rest on a fee of 110,000.00.

Here’s the first estimate we sent over.

 

In addition to the photographer, we accounted for two assistants and a digital tech. The agency wasn’t looking for any extraordinary retouching or compositing on set, so a basic digital tech was sufficient.

The production day accounted for time to arrange the assistants, equipment, catering, etc.

We included the photographer’s own studio at $2,000/day (the normal rental rate which includes a basic lighting setup and grip equipment) and equipment rental of 1600.00 for a camera system and supplemental lighting.

With a project of this scale, in addition to the work that the digital tech does to manage the files on the shoot day (helping the clients see the pictures and making sure the files are backed up), there will typically be additional time required afterwards to organize, edit and process the images, run web galleries, upload/deliver them to the client. I budgeted 2 digital processing days for that. Then we allotted 20 hours of retouching time to process and retouch the 10 selects.

For catering, we accounted for 15 people at $35 per day for 2 days.

Insurance and miscellaneous accounts for various items that may come up during the production and helps the photographer pay for his standard liability insurance.

We made sure to indicate what production elements the agency had committed to manage and pay for directly.

Still no word on the second day’s background, so we left that off this estimate.

Lastly we highlighted that an advance equal to 50% of the bottom line would be required to initiate production.

A few days after submitting the estimate I received a phone call from the art buyer. Our numbers landed in the middle of the two other estimates she’d received. She wouldn’t reveal names or exact numbers, but did share that the other photographers were not local, and they would be traveling from as far away as Europe. She then told me that all of the estimates would put them over budget, and asked for an estimate limiting the duration to 6 months.

So I had to figure out how cutting the licensing duration from 1 year to 6 months would affect the fee. Of course, I can’t just cut the fee in half. Most ad campaigns are going to have maximum value early on and then diminishing value over time. We generally figure that doubling the duration of use might increase the value by a factor of 1.5. Moving in reverse, if we’re cutting the duration in half, we could divide by 1.5 which would leave us at $73,333. However, at that point I was having second thoughts that my 1 year rate was too low to begin with. So I decided to divide by 1.25 instead which got me to $88,000, and submitted the following estimate:

After more waiting, our contact returned with some news. While they were still deciding on creative direction, she let us know that their budget for set construction for the background on the second day was $10,000. So we included it in the estimate and noted that it will ultimately be based on final creative direction. Also, she told us that instead of using the photographer’s studio, they had a specific LA studio in mind, for which I was able to find rates for.

The additional production coordination warranted bringing on a production coordinator so we added one to the estimate. The photographer had a inexpensive young producer he wanted to use. Also due to the studio change, we had to increase the studio fees and equipment rental fees. He was going to need a medium format camera with a digital back similar to the Phase One P65+ ($550/day) with an 80mm lens ($35/day) and a 120mm lens ($50/day). Also included in the rental would be 3 Profoto Pro7B Packs ($70/day each) with 4 PRO7 heads ($20/day each), as well as various stands, modifiers and accessories.

We then submitted the following revised estimates for 1 year and 6 month usage.

The AB came back and simply asked us to reduce the cost of the 1 year estimate by 8500.00. Remarkable considering the the bottom line. After carefully reviewing the estimate I found that the only thing I could really cut was the licensing fee. One of the most basic rules of negotiating is don’t give up something for nothing. But in this case, that’s what we did. Of course, there’s a range of what constitute a reasonable fee – especially on a large project like this one, and the photographer and I agreed that this one was still reasonable. Here was our revised 1 year estimate:

A few days later, an email popped up in my inbox with the subject line reading “Congratulations.” I was delighted to hear that they awarded the project to our photographer! In spite of our hand-wringing over the 1 year quote, in the end the client opted for the 6 month licensing for $88k.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.

Pricing & Negotiating: Public Service Announcement

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine Producer

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are advertisements intended to raise awareness of a topic and to change public attitudes (rather than sell a product), often advocating better health practices or safety. The typical patron of a PSA is a government agency or non-profit aimed at improving public welfare.

Recently, one of our photographers was asked to submit a cost estimate to produce some photographs for a PSA. Though the concept was simple and straight forward, the details were still a bit vague when the photographer contacted me for pricing help. Here’s what he knew:

  • He’d been contacted by the creative director of a mid-size East Coast ad agency.
  • The client was a large non-profit organization whose primary interest was in public education and health policy.
  • The PSA concept featured a close-up portrait of a woman in a light filled, airy environment. About half the frame was negative space for copy, and there was a “gritty” treatment layer overlaying the image.
  • The talent would be a real patient who had realized the benefits of the non-profit through improvements in health care practices.
  • The use was described as a PSA that will be distributed on the non-profit’s website, possibly in print publications and in the form of posters hung in airports and train stations.

After reviewing the details and discussing possible production approaches, the photographer and I developed a list of questions to ask the creative director and got the following responses:

Wonderful Machine: Would you like us to cast the talent or will the talent be provided?
Creative Director: We’ve already selected the talent and determined availability.

WM: The comp hints at more environment than a studio sweep, would a white daylight studio work as a background?
CD: We’re open to shooting at a daylight studio. We just don’t want flat seamless. We want some texture to the background. A window, horizon, clouds. Something to subtly break up the negative space.

WM: What duration of use will you need?
CD: 3 years.

WM: What is the geographic distribution?
CD: Southwestern United States.

WM: Do you have a budget in mind?
CD: Nothing set in stone, but we need to mind our “Ps and Qs.”

WM: We think this can be accomplished at a studio in a few hours, are you expecting to shoot for more than about half a day?
CD: We only have the talent for 3 hours in the early afternoon. So it will have to happen in half a day.

WM: Will anyone from the Agency and Client be attending the shoot?
CD: Yes. Two people from the agency and one from the client.

Although the PSA would be displayed like a typical commercial ad, it’s purpose was not to generate revenue, but rather to promote public awareness. So it’s not worth nearly as much as a regular ad shoot. Additionally, the concept was straight forward, the talent would be provided and the shoot wouldn’t take more than 6 hours including set-up and break down, which is a consideration. BlinkBid shows the fee for regional Collateral, Out Of Home and Print Use at 2800.00 – 4000.00/year. Additional years aren’t discounted in BlinkBid’s Bid Consultant. So for 3 years they price this use between 8400.00 and 12000.00. Also, there’s no specific selection for PSA use in BlinkBid. Corbis doesn’t provide regional pricing, only national. They price the OOH Use at 1170.00 for the first year, Print Use at 7815.00 and Collateral Use 2550.00. To extend the use to 3 years, Corbis multiplies each of those numbers by about 1.66 bringing the total for this use to 18,456.00. They also don’t have a specific selection for PSA use. Adjusting for regional rather than national use might bring it down to around $10k which is in line with BlinkBid. This is really the kind of project where the fee could be anything, depending on the cause and how the photographer felt about it. After discussing it with the photographer, we decided that we wanted to come in at about 1/2 of the normal advertising rate, so we settled on 4500.00 for the fee.

Since the lighting would consist entirely of natural light, the photographer only needed one assistant on set during the shoot. The digital tech would provide an extra set of hands to help load in, set up and break down. During the shoot, s/he would man the laptop, wrangle images and process galleries.

The photographer owned all of the equipment he needed for the shoot. He’d be using a camera body (@250.00/day), two fast lenses (2@75.00/day), and some miscellaneous items like a reflectors, flags, silks and stands (@200.00/day).

The photographer also had his own shooting space. He charges 500.00/day to rent the small studio which would be ideal for this shoot; white, with a couple nice big windows.

Since we were only shooting one subject from the shoulders up, we were comfortable working with a stylist capable of light wardrobe styling and hair & make-up. We budgeted a half day to buy 200.00 worth of wardrobe. We would ask the subject to bring some of her own clothes as well.

Since the crew and agency would be setting up for the shoot around lunchtime we included catering for the crew, talent, agency and client. Generally we’ll budget 35.00 per person for light breakfast and lunch but were able to trim it down to 25.00 per person since we wouldn’t be providing any breakfast.

Indexing is what that photographer likes to call it, but we normally call it Digital Capture and Delivery by Web Gallery for Editing.

Retouching hours to apply the gritty treatment layer to the image after basic processing.

Miles, parking, shipping, insurance and miscellaneous was pretty low since the shoot would take place at the photographer’s own studio.

Lastly, we made sure to clarify that the talent would be provided by the client or agency and that a 50% advance is required to initiate production. After attaching our standard terms and conditions we sent the estimate to the client.

Wouldn’t you know it, a budget materialized 10 minutes later.

WM: Just calling to follow-up on the estimate. Do you have any questions?
CD: What can we do to get this down to 7600.00?

WM: Right off the bat, one thing we might be able to do without is the additional wardrobe. Would you be comfortable relying entirely on the subject’s own wardrobe? (That would knock of 200.00 for the wardrobe and 325.00 for the stylist time.)
CD: Absolutely. I’ll ask her to bring a dozen tops.

WM: Are you comfortable reviewing images straight of the camera or do you need a separate display? (That would be 300.00 for a second assistant rather than 500.00 for a digital tech.)
CD: If it gets me closer to 7k, I’m cool with it.

WM: Aside from the licensing, there’s not much else than can be easily trimmed. Let me check in with the photographer to figure out a way to come shave off another 600.00.
CD: Great. Let me know what you can do. This is a hard 7600.00.

After contemplating the peculiar budget, we dialed down the use from 3 years to 30 months, reducing the fee and bottom line by an additional 500.00. The last hundred came out of the equipment rental line. Since he’d be using his own equipment he could bend a bit on the rates, particularly for the miscellaneous stands, reflectors, etc.

We submitted the revision, the creative director quickly approved it and the shoot went off without a hitch.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.

Pricing & Negotiating: Custom Publication

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine Producer

One of our Midwestern photographers recently asked me to prepare a cost estimate for one of his custom publication clients. Custom pubs look very similar to regular magazines, but they’re commissioned by a single sponsor and they’re designed to reach a targeted audience of customers, users, members or employees. Custom publications can be produced in-house, by custom content firms or by traditional ad agencies and design firms. It’s big business. They even have their own association, the Custom Content Council.

Custom publication estimates can be structured in the same way as a regular magazine contract but the rates tend to vary more widely. If the publication is focused on a commercial brand or product, you can expect to charge more than your typical magazine rate. If the custom publication is for an association or charity, you might get less. And if it’s a magazine for an airline or hotel, which tend to have content that’s comparable to regular editorial (and often contain third-party advertising), the fees will be about the same as regular editorial.

The publication in this quote was produced by a small ad agency. Though they aren’t a custom pub specialist, they are definitely experienced with custom pubs and their client is a Fortune 500 company. The assignment was to shoot an environmental portrait of a worker at a manufacturing facility in New York City that uses the client’s services, plus to provide documentary coverage of other aspects of the factory.

To get started, I called the art director at the agency to learn more about the project:

  • Who is the audience? Company employees.
  • How often does the publication come out? Quarterly.
  • How many copies do you distribute? 500,000.
  • How many images do you plan to use? 2-4.
  • How many pages have you allocated for the images? 2-3.
  • Would you like to see pricing on any other licensing options? 6 Months Intranet.
  • We’d like to scout the location the day before the shoot. Will we be able to get access to the facility? Yes. The art director will attend the scout as well.
  • Do you have an opinion about the style of the pictures – available light? Strobe? Existing light for the manufacturing shots. Strobe for the environmental portrait.
  • Will we need to handle any wardrobe, propping or styling of any kind? Subject will arrive camera ready. No additional styling, props or wardrobe needed.
  • Will anyone from the Agency or Client be present at the shoot? Just one art director from the agency.
  • Will your AD want to review images on a monitor the day of the shoot? No. No need for a digital tech or display.
  • Should we include catering on the shoot day? No. You can just order in lunch on the day of the shoot. The AD will pay for his own meal.
  • How many other photographers are you considering? 2.
  • Are any of them local to the shoot or would all of them have to travel? All three would have to travel.
  • Do you have a budget in mind? Nothing set in stone, but generally we don’t spend more than about 10-12k per assignment.

With all that in mind, I assembled the estimate and terms & conditions:

-For the fee I looked at a comparable editorial space rate as a starting point. If the space at a publication with a comparable circulation (like DetailsLatina or Town and Country) was in the 500-750.00/page range including concurrent web use (check out our day v. space rate post for more on how to structure that type of contract). Three pages would be worth 1500.00-2250.00. I looked at previous projects I had quoted for this agency and other similar custom pubs. I considered the prominence of the client and the fact that the assignment was coming through an agency that liked the photographer enough to pay for travel to a market saturated with photographers. I decided that the fee was worth 3500.00.

-We budgeted 350.00 for a local assistant (assistants in New York City tend to be a bit more expensive than in other parts of the country).

-The Digital Capture Fee covers the time, equipment, software, internet access and expertise necessary to create the web gallery for the agency to edit from. For most editorial clients, we charge 150.00-300.00 for a simple shoot (for bigger productions, we’ll charge for a digital tech instead). But 500.00 is more reflective of the actual value of this part of the job.

-We budgeted for 2 tech/travel days. The day before the shoot, the photographer would travel and scout the location. And the actual shoot day looked pretty long, so I planned on a third day to travel home.

-The photographer used his own photographic equipment (in this case, two camera bodies, four lenses and a lighting kit), but we tend to charge a separate line item for that instead of bundling it into the fee. We looked at what it would cost to rent the gear locally, then backed out the baggage charges.

-I got a quote of 468.00 for the airfare, but I rounded up. Airfares can change a lot between when you send out the estimate and when it gets approved. So it’s important to say that you’re going to charge for the actual cost.

-The photographer told me he’d need to check three bags, so after referring to the airline’s baggage policy (25.00 for the first, 35.00 for the second and 125.00 for the third – each way) it came to 370.00.

-Lodging in NYC is expensive (and it’s one of the reasons that we chose to hire a local assistant). I found a hotel near the factory for 378.00/night. Again, I rounded up. I’d rather have the invoice come in a little bit under the estimate than a little bit over.

-The file prep charge covers color correction, blemish/spot removal, minor retouching and delivery of three high resolution images.

-Miles, Parking, Meals, Taxis, Tolls, Certificate of Insurance & Misc. covered all of the estimated miles to/from the departure airport, parking at the departure airport, meals for the entire trip, local transportation in NYC, a certificate of insurance likely required to shoot at the manufacturing facility and any unforeseen miscellaneous expenses that may arise.

-Lastly, just to avoid any confusion, I listed the items that would be provided by the client, the agency and the subject.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.

Perhaps Many Photographers Don’t Understand The Value Of Usage

A reader sent me this story, so that it might instill confidence in young photographers like herself. I think you will find that it does that:

I worked with one of the local college’s ex-students on a shoot for a magazine editorial about a year ago. The ex-student lied about having my permission and gave the image to the college, which then used the image on a billboard advertisement that wraps around a 20 story building on a very busy road in the city. It is a recognizable image of mine, and shows the faces of two models from a local agency. It was actually one of the models who spotted it first and I received a very embarrassing phone call from her agent who asked me how that shoot ended up on a billboard.

I went online and researched some suggestions of how I could handle this, but I couldn’t find much available. Crawling through some forums, I found that a few photographers had their images stolen and placed on a billboard, and they charged $500 for the use. The billboard was already up there for 1.5 months and it was supposed to be up there for 3 months total. I called the model agency and they told me that they ended up with $1500 for each girl for a year’s usage. They said that they knew the figure was low, but at least they would receive some pocket money.

I also consulted with a couple of local creative agencies who also offered some advice. They were helpful at first, although once they started talking to the college they decided to back off. I think they probably thought it wasn’t worth it (despite that I offered them the incentive of a commission). They were perhaps scared of losing a potential client over a nobody photographer like me.

So I spoke with the college directly and they asked me to come in to discuss this and negotiate a pay-out. I didn’t want to go in – I couldn’t see a reason to apart from them using this opportunity to intimidate me. They were a little manipulative over the phone, suggesting that my photograph would potentially be featured there for 12 months and it would be great exposure for me if I didn’t charge too much. I offered them $1500 per month, which they thought was ridiculous (I thought what they paid the model agency was ridiculous!). They told me the billboard space was only costing them $2700 per month. So I said I’d seek further advice and come back with a figure. They were desperate to get me to come in.

After much research, I found that it’s tricky to put a price on usage. I found the best advice to be 10 – 30% of the marketing budget (from small to large scale). In this scenario, they hadn’t commissioned this shoot and it wasn’t just about using my image, it was also the humiliation I went through explaining to my team members (particularly the model agency) how the image got into the advertiser’s hands. It also concerns the disassociation of my image to me (now known as the face of that college and it impacts my professionalism – even the creative agency that I sought advice from assumed I stupidly gave the files to the college (I had given them to the ex-student to use for his portfolio).

So I went with my gut instinct, and ended up charging them a figure that I thought was fair. I wrote them a letter a week later, explaining my situation, the inconvenience this has caused me, my humiliation to those involved, and that I thought after all this the figure was fair. I stuck with this:
2.5 months and they take the image down – $1500 per month = $3750
3 months – $1500 per month, $4500
12 months – $1250 per month, $15000

In the end, they decided they wanted my image for 12 months. After a few emails back and forth, I ended up settling on $9000. That’s ok, it’s a little less than what I was asking for but it’s a little more than 30% of their budget for the billboard space, I didn’t want to pursue this any further so I was happy to settle on that. They even offered me the incentive for future work with them.

After a google search, it seems like this problem occurs often and perhaps many photographers don’t understand the value of usage.

Pricing and Negotiating – Non-Fiction Book Cover

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine Producer

A well-known publisher recently commissioned one of our New York photographers to shoot the exterior of a building for the cover of a non-fiction book. The publisher initially agreed with the photographer on a price just to execute the shoot with the understanding that if they decided to use one of the images, they would then negotiate a separate licensing fee.

It’s somewhat unusual for a client to pay for a shoot and not get any reproduction rights to the photos (or at least the option to use the photos at a predetermined price). This is normally a recipe for an awkward negotiation. But in this case, the publisher wanted to get moving on the art, and they were comfortable that they could come to an agreement with the photographer once they saw the photos and once they knew how many copies they were going to print. Worst case scenario, the client wouldn’t license any of the images and the photographer could put them into her stock archive.

The shoot fee the photographer had already negotiated was 3000.00, plus digital capture and web gallery (500.00), equipment rental (315.00 for her own camera body and two lenses), transportation (50.00), meals (50.00) and misc. (50.00).

As it turned out, the publisher loved the pictures and wanted to license one for the front cover of the book, with an initial printing of 500,000 copies. At that point, the photographer asked me to help negotiate the usage fee. The publisher sent over the following contract:

Rights Granted – In consideration of the payment of fees as outlined below, you grant Publisher and its affiliates, exclusive rights to use and reproduce the Artwork, in whole or in part, on the cover of all print and digital world English editions and formats of the Work or derived from the Work, throughout the world, now known or hereafter devised, and for such other uses as set forth below, and for use in advertising, publicity or otherwise in connection with the Work for the life of the Work as set forth below (“Book Use”), and such other formats and uses as outlined below. You will retain copyright in the Artwork itself and all other rights to the Artwork, except that you will not license or sell any rights in the Artwork (including any other photographs from the same photo shoot or artwork substantially similar to the Artwork) for any Book Use. Publisher will own the copyright in the cover of the Work. In the event Publisher receives a request from a foreign publisher to use the Artwork for its foreign translation editions of the Work, Publisher will direct such foreign publisher to negotiate directly with you.

Fees - (a) Book Fees: For all rights granted herein with respect to all Book Use, Publisher will pay you a fee of $ [insert fee here] (the “Book Fee”), following acceptance of the Artwork to Publisher (together with any required releases) in accordance with Publisher’s instructions plus preapproved and documented travel expenses in a form acceptable to Publisher. (b) Fees for Additional Formats/Uses: In the event Publisher elects to publish, use or grant to a third party the right to publish or use the Work in formats set forth below, Publisher will pay you the following additional fee, which will thereafter cover all exclusive uses in that category: (i)  CD, DVD and other physical audio and/or video editions: $750.00. (ii) Ancillary/Merchandise: [insert fee here]

In simple terms, they wanted use of the picture in English language editions of the book, in any format, world-wide. They want to use the picture to promote the book. The photographer will retain the copyright to the photograph (including the right to negotiate separately with foreign language publishers of the book), but can’t license it to any other book project. The publisher wants to own the copyright to the cover art containing the photograph. They want to split the licensing fee into three parts: print (book) use, digital (cd/dvd/audio/video) use and merchandising use. They specified that they want to pay 750.00 for the digital use, but have asked us for a price for the book use and the merchandising use.

There’s a subtle difference between a printing and an edition. A new edition happens when there are revisions to the content. There can be multiple printings within a given edition.

The fact that they’re printing 500,000 copies on the first go-around gives us a good sense of the value. But since they’re asking for the right to use the picture on all future printings and editions makes it hard to know what it’s ultimately going to be worth. It’s not unusual for clients to ask for very broad usage. But it’s up to the photographer to figure out whether to quote a big price for big usage or to offer a more moderate price for more moderate usage. In this case, I was concerned that the price for all editions might be too steep, so I chose to amend that language and work up a price for just the first printing (keeping in mind that part of the value of the picture is that it would be used in advertising to promote the book). I also crossed out the line stating that the Publisher would own the copyright in the cover of the Work which would conflict with my “first printing” revision.

To determine the “Book Fee,” I consulted a number of estimates I had done in the past as well as BlinkBidFotoquote and Corbis. BlinkBid’s pricing consultant doesn’t seem to cover book publishing and Corbis and Getty require you to contact a sales rep to get pricing. The projects I’d worked on previously were stock quotes for somewhat smaller projects, with print runs of 5000-10,000, and the negotiated fees generally landed around 1500.00. Fotoquote provided a lot of options and good information for this particular use (English language, front cover, 500,000 print run) and suggested a licensing fee between 2173.00 and 4397.00. Considering our revisions, the fact that it was a much better than average photograph, the fact that the publisher had already paid the photographer 3000.00 to shoot the picture and that an additional 750.00 fee would be paid for digital use, we decided to price the book use at 3000.00 for the first printing. The 750.00 fee for supplemental CD, DVD, Audio and/or Video Editions was fine considering all of our pricing sources included the concurrent digital use in the base fee. Lastly, we wanted to negotiate Ancillary/Merchandise fees as needed, since the term is so vague and could include any number of uses. So, instead of inserting a fee, we wrote “to be negotiated separately.”

After reviewing the changes with the photographer and initialing the amendments, we sent the contract to the publisher. They flatly rejected it, saying they did really want those terms. So that left us to decide what the value was, not knowing how many copies the book would sell. Fotoquote suggested a range of 3600-7200.00. My gut instincts told me to double the book rate to 6000.00 for the unlimited number of printings (we left the digital at 750.00). Almost immediately, the publisher came back and offered 5000.00. The photographer accepted the fee and signed the agreement.

The 3000.00 shoot fee and 5750.00 licensing fee brought the total fees for the project to 8750.00. That might seem like a lot of money to some people, but considering that an author’s advance for a big non-fiction book can be $500k, $8500 is reasonable and proportional. Also, as useful as the pricing guides are, they don’t in themselves justify (for better or worse) the value of a photograph. The value ultimately comes down to how much the client is willing to pay for it and how much the photographer wants for it.

One little detail I’m still not sure about are the ramifications of the publisher owning the copyright to the book cover (which of course contains the photographer’s photograph). I can understand that they would want that. I’m just not sure that they need the photographer’s permission in order to resister the copyright to the whole package or to defend an infringement. (See more about derivative works.)

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.

Real World Estimates – AARP.org Contract

by Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer.

For about six years now, I’ve been shooting assignments for AARP. I’ve mostly worked for their member newsletter, AARP Bulletin. And more recently, I’ve shot a few things for their website. They also have a nice magazine called AARP The Magazine, which has a paid circulation of over 22 million according to Audit Bureau of Circulations. The subjects they have me shoot tend to be senior citizens (as you might imagine) and the stories cover just about anything, from nursing home romances to social security swindlers.

Recently, photo editor Bronwen Latimer hired me to do an environmental portrait of a guy named Bob Dunn, who each year flies from his home in Delaware to play Santa Claus at a mall in Oklahoma. (Interestingly, I learned from him that there are three main companies who are in the business of representing professional Santas, and until recently Kodak was one of them.) The photo was for a story on seasonal workers and Bronwen asked me to make a picture of him at home in his Santa suit. I’m not sure how many photographers would think to put AARP on their list of dream clients, but I’ve always enjoyed working for them. Everyone there is really nice, they pay pretty well, they have a pretty reasonable contract and they have a massive audience.

I’ve found that a small percentage of magazines I’ve worked with over the years have no contract at all. In those cases, I send them mine. Of the rest, about half have a contract that governs assignments into the indefinite future, while others, like AARP, send out a contract for each assignment. When I do get contracts with no time limit, I tend to add an expiration date. Here’s the AARP.org contract (click to enlarge):

Here’s how it breaks down:

1) Assignment. Who my assigning editor is and how the pictures will be used.

2) Description and Logistics. Who the subject is and when the shoot is scheduled. I can’t recall if it was the case here, but I frequently get calls for shoots that have already been scheduled. I find that some clients like to lock down the subject first, then find a photographer who’s available on that date. In cases where I’m already booked for that date, I’ll ask the client if I can check the subject’s availability for another available date rather than turning down the shoot, and often that works out.

3) Due Date. Strictly speaking, my normal schedule to turn around a web gallery is 48 hours. But as a practical matter, I deliver it as soon as I can. I don’t necessarily charge a rush fee even if the client asks to see it sooner than that. My normal turnaround time for reproduction file preps is another 48 hours and I frequently do charge rush fees (usually 75.00 additional for 24 hour delivery).

4) Compensation. I normally get 600.00 or 650.00/day plus expenses (assistant, digital fee, mileage, parking, tolls and meals (when appropriate) for assignments for The Bulletin and AARP.org. Many publications pay based on the actual space the photos occupy in the magazine in addition to or instead of a day rate. But space has never been a consideration because the pictures tend to be small in the Bulletin and on their website. They’re capping the expenses at 700.00, which I think is reasonable for web assignments. They seem to have a bit more latitude on Bulletin assignments (and I suspect even more for the magazine). Most contracts will establish that the photographer is an independent contractor rather than an employee, which is fine. However, there may be situations for some photographers who work at the client’s office/studio and with the client’s equipment, that then should be paid as an employee, with the client matching the payroll taxes.

5) Use. Even though the Assignment paragraph says that the picture is for “online and other digital media,” the Use paragraph says that AARP can use it “in any media provided that the photographs remain associated with the Assignment Article.” It’s vague to me whether that means any AARP publication or whether they’re referring just to AARP.org. They can use it for promotional purposes. Third party use is extra. Even though I think it could be more clearly written, I chose not to try to correct it. However, I’ve seen many cases where magazines offer very low budgets and ask for lots of use beyond the basic first print use and I’ll usually strike most of those extras.

6) Recording. Not sure if this applies to “behind the scenes videos.”

7) Deliverables. They ask that the photographer add metadata to the images. That’s unusual, but perfectly reasonable. (Now I just have to get into the habit of doing it.)

8) Representations and Warranties. Fine.

9) Miscellaneous. The agreement lasts as long as the term of the copyright to the photographs. I’ve never seen that before. It’s fine though, and I don’t know that it makes any difference. We will all be long gone. AARP returned a signed copy of the contract to me, which is really nice. Typically, whoever sends the contract signs it last. In cases where the photographer sends a client their contract, the photographer shouldn’t sign it first, because if the recipient makes revisions, it looks like the photographer agreed to those revisions.

Santa was a good sport, as you can see:

Here’s how they used it: http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-09-2011/holiday-jobs-for-retirees.html

Here’s the invoice and model release (click to enlarge):

Invoice comments: I always refer to the date of the contract on the invoice so it’s clear which contract applies to that job. I have a full-time assistant, but I find most magazine accounting departments want to see an assistant invoice anyway, so I just create one. I usually charge magazines 300.00 for a web gallery and 25.00 for basic file prep. I normally only charge the client for meals if it’s a full day shoot. This one was just a few hours, so even though we had lunch on the way, I didn’t bill it to the client (though I did pay for my assistant’s meal.)

Release comments: I’m not sure what the “good and valuable consideration” would be in an editorial situation like this, but I don’t normally pay subjects for magazine shoots unless they’re hired as professional models. The release says that the model “understand(s) that AARP owns the copyright to the photos.” Not sure why it would matter why the subject would need to understand that. It contradicts the photographer contract.

Interview: When I cornered Bronwen for an interview, she deferred to MaryAnne Golon who was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. MaryAnne is Consulting Director of Photography & Multimedia for AARP. And for those of you who don’t know, she has had a very accomplished career as a photo editor, including running Time Magazine’s photo department for a while and winning lots of awards along the way. She will be on the POYi jury this year for the University of Missouri and she is an advisory board member for Facing Change: Documenting America (www.facingchange.org), “a group of seriously talented photojournalists and writers creating a historical look at America during these turbulent times.” You can read more about MaryAnne at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MaryAnne_Golon.

I know that AARP hires photographers for AARP: The Magazine, AARP Bulletin and AARP.org. Does AARP use photography in other ways or for other products?

AARP assigns original photography for the magazine, the Bulletin, and the website based on established industry editorial rates and licensing.  Other areas of AARP may assign photography for advertising, marketing, and promotional uses across all platforms including print, broadcast, and the web.  The Brand area of the Association handles celebrity ambassadors and experts and assigns accordingly either for specific uses or as work for hire.

I’ve read that AARP has over 50 million members. Roughly how many people see the magazine, the bulletin and the website?

All 50 million members of AARP receive AARP, the magazine, and AARP The Bulletin by mail.  Web usage by members has been on the rise.  Here are some interesting factoids from 2011: AARP.org has 5.5 million unique visitors every month with 825 million individual page views.

How frequently do the Bulletin and the magazine come out?

The Bulletin publishes 10 times a year and the magazine 6 times a year.

How do you describe the Bulletin in terms of the format/paper, compared to the magazine (tabloid, newsletter?)

The Bulletin is AARP’s nimblest print vehicle and is intended to be newsy.  It is printed on a high grade newsprint and can very much be seen as a newsletter.  The magazine is bi-monthly and is printed on high quality stock and is a glossier lifestyle publication.

How much does the Day Rate vary from photographer to photographer or from project to project?

There is little variation of the day rate unless rights beyond editorial are negotiated up front.  The magazine day rate is $800 per day and the Bulletin and website pay $600 per day.

Space has never come up for The Bulletin because it tends to use photographs fairly small. Does the magazine pay space over the day rate when they use a lot of pictures from an assignment or large pictures?

There is no space over day rate at AARP. The rates are comparable or above industry standards and include non-exclusive online and one-time print rights for the publications.

Do you have any thoughts about how editorial photographers are going to have to adapt generally, to the changing marketplace?

Freelance editorial photographers will need to develop multiple client bases if they have not already done so. The editorial market is shrinking in the journalism realm, but growing in other areas including lifestyle, fashion, and portraiture. I think social media is a great tool for freelance editorial photographers to link out to their websites and highlight their recent work. Twitter and Facebook are the giants of the social platforms.  LinkedIn is a more serious business-oriented site for posting. There are available platforms, such as Tweetdeck, that freelancers can use to post simultaneously to several sites at once to market their work.

 

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.

Real World Estimates – Reportage For Advertising Use

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

Recently, an ad agency contacted one of our photographers about an estimate to shoot a series of still photographs for a campaign for a popular sporting goods manufacturer. A year earlier, the photographer had quoted on a similar project for the same agency, but the two of them couldn’t come to terms on it (the photographer wasn’t comfortable delivering extensive licensing on so many pictures for what he thought was a low fee). But his diplomacy, patience and professionalism were rewarded when the agency came back to him with another project. Knowing that the client was cost-sensitive he wanted to make every effort to deliver a reasonable proposal. But just as he knew the client’s sensitivity to price, the client knew his and came back to him anyway. They were interested in the photographer not just because of his style of shooting, but also because of his post-processing technique.

The shoot was to take place on one day at a factory half-way across the country. The project required making portraits and candid photos of employees at work, as well still life pictures of the final product. The shoot would require only minimal pre-production. All of the elements in the pictures (the people, the location, the props) were already in place, and the photographer’s (mostly) ambient light style of shooting would allow him to get his pictures with minimal equipment or disruption to the operation.

The photographer had gotten the initial details from the agency (including a shot list) and then asked me to talk to them. After reviewing the concept and approach with the photographer, I prepared a list of questions for the art buyer:

  1. Do you want the photographer to use his signature available light shooting and post-processing style? Yes.
  2. Do you want the photographer to work with the people and process as it is, or dress it up in any way? As is, but of course filtered through the photographer’s unique style.
  3. Would all of the elements of the manufacturing process be available to shoot at any time of day, or would we have to work on a certain schedule? Each step of the production process was going on all the time. The shot list broke the shoot up into four situations within the facility, with loose guidelines for each.
  4. Does the whole manufacturing process take place in one facility or will we have to move from one location to another during the day? Everything was contained in one big facility.
  5. Do you want all of the pictures (including the still life pictures) to maintain the same ambient light look (even though the photographer may add light here and there)? Yes.
  6. How many final images do need? 18
  7. What licensing do you need for those pictures? Worldwide print advertising use (in sport publications only), web advertising use, point of purchase, collateral (print and web) for 2 years.
  8. Are there other photographers bidding on the job? None (at this point). I also found that the agency was pushing hard to use this photographer because his past work and unique style was the actual inspiration for the concept.
  9. Do you have a set budget? No.
  10. Are you going to want to approve the pictures as they’re being made? No. (Normally, on an ad shoot, a photographer is going to want the client to sign off on each picture before moving on to the next one. The photographer and I decided that his project required a more fluid approach. If he was going to get 18 final images in one shoot day, there would be no time to stop and get approval every 20 minutes. And since the approach was more one of discovery rather than replicating a comp, he didn’t want to lose momentum by stopping frequently.)

With all that in mind, I got to work on the first version of the estimate.

Fee. While the licensing was pretty extensive, there were limitations to consider. The print ad use was limited to sport publications and it was unlikely the agency would be using all 18 images in ads simultaneously. To determine the fee, we looked at the number of situations outlined in the shot list, rather than the actual number of shots. The images within a situation amounted to a hero shot and variety of detail shots.  Based on the number of situations (4), licensing, style and sophistication of the production, we decided to set the fee for the first situation at 9000.00 and each additional situation at 3000.00. We checked our pricing against a few other sources. BlinkBid’s bid consultant suggested a range of 5950.00-8500.00 per image per year, which is a great starting point. Corbis was in the same ballpark, 8500.00 per image per year and FotoQuote was slightly lower at about 5000.00-6500.00. What these pricing calculators can’t take into account are the sophistication of the production, similarities between the images or caliber of the client/product/agency.

Assistant. Since the shoot was going to be pretty low-tech, the photographer decided to just have one assistant and to have him look after the photo equipment as well as manage the digital files. The photographer and the client were comfortable reviewing images on the fly in order to keep moving quickly (mostly seeing them on the back of the camera with a few breaks during the day to see them on a laptop). Against my better judgement, I went along with the idea of one assistant. For the small additional cost, I think it’s worth having a second assistant on just about any shoot. And when working out of town, I’ll normally book a local second assistant who will know where to go when the photographer needs something in a pinch.

Equipment Rental. The photographer didn’t need to rent that much gear  for this low production, available light project. We budgeted for 3 rental days of a 5d mk II @ 200/day, a 24-70 @ 35.00/day, a 50 1.2 @ 35/day and a 7d body for backup.

Digital Capture Fee. For most editorial and corporate shoots, I charge a capture fee for each shoot day (which pays for the time to create and post a web gallery) plus either a file prep fee (when the processing is straight-forward) or a retouching fee (when it’s more elaborate). For most advertising projects, it makes sense to have a digital tech on hand to help the client view the pictures as they’re being made as well as organize, rename and run any galleries necessary. But we chose the run-and-gun approach for this shoot

Retouching hours. The treatment the photographer gives to his final images is somewhat unique and time consuming, so we billed accordingly.

Scouting and Travel Days. Since the locations (and the action at each location) were fixed, the scouting would be relatively brief. We decided it could be combined with the travel day. The photographer would need to figure out where he was going to stage his equipment and review all the areas on the shot list. This allowed me to bundle the scouting with the travel day. The photographer planned to fly in the day before the shoot, scout that afternoon, shoot the next day, and return home the following morning.

Airfare & Baggage. I estimated for airfare for the photographer and his assistant. Since they wouldn’t have to bring a lot of gear, we only had to account for 2 checked bags each way per person @ 25.00 each. The tickets were 337.00 per person and baggage fees would total 100.00. I rounded up a dollar and made it a point to remind the art buyer that this fee would increase the closer we got to the shoot, so making a decision sooner rather than later was most cost-effective.

Car Rental. We looked up rates for a two-day SUV rental. Enterprise had cars available for about 100.00/day. I also included the full insurance coverage at 20.00/day and 40.00 in gas to refill the tank.

Lodging. The photographer and assistant would each have their own room for two nights. I found rooms at a Residence Inn for 120.00 per room per night, including taxes.

Catering. We estimated catering for 8, including the photographer, his assistant and 6 others from the agency and  client. We typically estimate 35.00 per person for a light breakfast, normal lunch and snacks throughout the day.

Miles, Parking, Tolls, Meals, Misc. This item covers miles the photographer has to drive to the airport from his home/studio, any parking, tolls, meals that he pays for on the travel or shoot days (excluding catering), and any miscellaneous expenses that may pop up at the last minute.

Location, talent. We wanted to make sure that we clearly stated what the agency and client will be providing if the photographer wasn’t providing it. Every necessary component of a shoot should be addressed in the estimate.

Advance. We normally ask for 50% of the estimated costs so that the photographer can pay their vendors in a timely fashion and buy/rent what they need for the shoot. Some agencies have rules about paying out a certain percentage of the expenses and a certain percentage of the fee, which we are usually fine with as long as the photographer has enough to cover out-of-pocket expenses.

Here is the first estimate:

The art buyer ran it by her colleagues as well as the client and got back to me the next day. Not surprisingly, a budget had materialized. She told me that they would like to keep the estimate below 25k because it’s their policy that if an estimate exceeds that amount, they’re obligated to consider three vendors and run the estimate through a cost consultant. This is not the first time I’d heard about the “keep it under 25k rule.” So the give and take began.

The fastest way to cut costs is to reduce the licensing terms or number of images licensed. The client was very specific about the licensing they needed, so it seemed our only option was to limit the number of images. Even though we priced this based on the number of scenarios, we decided to trim the amount of shots down to 15 and prorate the fee on a per-image basis. Had we needed to reduce the number of images by more than three, we would have reevaluated the cost per image. This adjustment also reduced cost of the file preps and brought the bottom line down to 24,225.00.

Here is the second estimate:

The art buyer ran the second estimate by her colleagues and the client. Now they decided that they wanted 20 images from the shoot (two more than initially requested). So we bumped the fee up accordingly and resubmitted the estimate.

Here is the third and final estimate we sent to the agency, which the client approved. Apparently, the AB can skirt the cost consultants by issuing 2 POs if the estimate comes in just over 25k:

About a month after the shoot, the agency contacted the photographer and asked to license an additional image from the shoot to be used in a single spot on television as well as online for up to one year. We gave them a price of 3000.00 and they agreed.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, you can reach Jess at jess@wonderfulmachine.com

Real World Estimates – Flat Rate Magazine Contracts

by Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

As we’ve discussed in a previous post, structuring photographic fees on the basis of a day rate vs, space is customary for many national magazines and is generally the most equitable for both the photographer and the client. But we’re increasingly seeing publications prefer to pay flat fees for photo shoots. While working this way can keep the costs predictable for the client, it puts all the financial risk on the photographer. Any unforeseen expenses can eat into your creative fee quickly if you’re not careful. Here are a few things to consider as you negotiate your next magazine job.

For starters, it’s important that you don’t immediately jump into a budget discussion when a client first contacts you. It can be disconcerting to a client, editorial or otherwise, if you show more interest in the money than the project. Yes, it’s important to understand their budget, but save that conversation until after you’ve expressed an interest in the assignment and an understanding of the concept.

Once you’ve heard the details of the shoot, ask the client if they have a contract or if they’d like to work with yours. Then, ask if they have a budget set for the shoot or would they would like to see an estimate. Unlike a lot of commercial projects, most magazines have a pretty clear idea of what they expect to pay for a given assignment. If the client is offering a flat rate, that can mean one of three things. Either it’s a flat creative fee plus photographic and travel expenses, or it’s a flat fee including photographic expenses plus travel expenses (like this assignment for Fast Company). Or, it’s a flat fee including all expenses.

When presented with a flat budget, it can be tempting to decide on the spot whether the rate is satisfactory for the time, skill, licensing and expenses involved. But in most cases, it’s prudent to call the client back after you’ve had a chance to run the numbers and review their contract. What seems like a lot of money at first may be less impressive once you subtract off all your costs and account for the licensing. And of course, be clear before you hang up the phone about what the “flat” rate covers and what it doesn’t.

Figure out how you’re going to execute the job and then list all of the expenses you’ll incur—subtracting them from the total budget. Compare what’s left to the amount of work involved and the licensing required. Is it reasonable? If it isn’t, don’t assume that it’s a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Most clients are willing to negotiate if you handle it in a thoughtful way. Determine what would make it work for you. Then try to understand which items are important to your client and which aren’t, so that you can make an offer that satisfies their needs without giving away the farm. For some clients, the rights are most important and they’ll be willing to bend on price. Other clients will have a strict limit on what they can spend and they will be more willing to negotiate the licensing. We were recently negotiating a contract with a casino whose legal department completely rewrote our contract. It didn’t take a genius to see what their priorities were. So rather than giving them limited licensing for a moderate fee, we gave them all the terms they wanted and simply raised the rate commensurately.

In another recent situation, we were presented with a contract from a custom publisher that specified that they could use all “works” created on the assignment for editorial use forever. We felt that the fee they were offering would be reasonable for their initial needs (which was four images), but that to have use of any or all of the images from the shoot was excessive. The photo editor was sympathetic to our concerns, but her legal department wasn’t willing to modify their contract. Then we saw that it was actually the assignment brief that defined what constituted the “works.” So the photo editor just rewrote the brief to define the “works” as just four images and specify that use of additional images would be negotiated separately (which they later were). This simple change was enough to satisfy the photographer, the photo editor and her legal folks too. A win-win-win.

Here’s an example of one magazine’s flat rate contract:

And here’s a flat rate contract template we use when the client doesn’t have their own contract (click here to download a Word version):

Most of the terms are similar to our day rate against space contract, except for paragraph 2:

COMPENSATION – The Client will pay the Photographer a flat fee, inclusive of all normal expenses, to be agreed upon per assignment, for a specified usage.

Once the contract is in place, all you have to settle on for each assignment is the fee and the usage. We’re normally comfortable with a simple email from the client saying, for example, that for xxxx.xx including expenses they would use a full-page opener plus an additional half-page picture.

There are a lot of limitations in the rest of the contract that you can negotiate to keep in or take out. But as with any contract, the main thing is to be clear about what you’re going to get and what they’re going to get.

For more information on Wonderful Machine’s consulting services, please contact Craig Oppenheimer at craig@wonderfulmachine.com or 610.260.0200.

Real World Estimates – Magazine Article Reprints

- - Pricing & Negotiating

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine Producer

Most magazine assignments don’t have big budgets on the front end, but if you play your cards right, you can help make up for it on the back end. One way to do that is to be savvy about article reprint licensing.

After a CEO or hedge fund manager lands on the cover of a publication or in a feature spread, they will usually hear from the reprint department of the magazine offering to license them reprints of the article. Reprints are a repackaged version of an article without the heft or distraction of the rest of the magazine, and they’re typically used by the subject of an article to promote their company. Eprints are like reprints, but rather than being printed, they’re packaged as a PDF that can be sent out by email (to a specified number of recipients) or posted online (for a specified period). Reprints and eprints can be valuable promotional tools because they carry what amounts to an endorsement from a trusted publication or news source.

When a photograph is used in the original publication, it’s considered editorial use. But repackaging and distribution by a third party constitutes advertising use which is often worth a lot more than the original job. The first thing photographers have to do to insure that they get their fare share of this value is make sure they reserve those rights. When a client sends you a contract, look at the fee and look at the rights you’re conveying in exchange for that fee. Do they match up? Decide what’s a fair price for one-time editorial use (per day and per page). Then add on additional fees for each additional use.

Some publishing companies are big enough to have their own in-house reprint departments. But most magazines will farm that work out to reprint companies like FosterParsReprint OutsourceScoopWright’s or YGS. The sheer size and number of these companies should give you an indication of the value of reprints.

Some clients will want to secure reprint rights upfront, bundling it with the shoot fee. Others will want an option to purchase reprint rights (at predetermined prices) as the need arises. Still others prefer to negotiate reprint rights on a case-by-case basis. All of those are reasonable positions to take provided the compensation is fair. Here’s one magazine’s reprint terms:

For a period commencing on the first date you shoot or create the Photographs (or any of them) and ending three (3) months after Publisher’s first publication of any one or more of the Photographs in the Magazine (the “Exclusivity Period”), the exclusive right and license, throughout the universe, to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, display, prepare derivative works based on, and exercise any and all other rights of copyright in and to, any one or more of the Photographs, in any and all media and methods of transmission now known or hereafter developed:

(ii) in a stand-alone reprint format, for the benefit of or on behalf of a third party, whereby any one or more of the Photographs is reproduced along with other material from the applicable issue of the Magazine, with or without additional material supplied by the applicable third party (each a “Reprint” and the rights referred to in this sub-paragraph 3(b)(ii) shall be referred to herein as the “Reprint Rights”).

(c) Commencing upon expiration of the Exclusivity Period, the perpetual, nonexclusive right and license, throughout the universe, in all media and methods of transmission now known or hereafter developed, to exercise, promote, and market, any Reprint Rights.

Cutting through the legal jargon, it basically says that the publication has the right to license the photographer’s image(s) to any third party for reprint use, in perpetuity, without any additional compensation the photographer. If you spot similar language in a contract without sufficient compensation for that additional use, you might consider crossing it out.

And of course, if a magazine doesn’t have their own contract, you’ll want to have them sign yours. Here’s a template you can use, as well as an explanation of it.

Once you’ve come to terms with your client, you can wait for the magazine or a reprint management service to drum up reprint interest with the subject/organization. Or even better, you can follow up with the subject yourself. Here’s a template we use:

Jane,

Thanks again for being such a good subject on the XYZ Magazine photo shoot. You can view a web gallery of all the pictures at the following link:

http://www.joephotographer.com/jp2011075_gallery_091311/

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to get article reprints, have prints made, license any of the pictures, or if there’s any photography I can help you with in the future.

All the best,

Joe

When formulating a price quote, consider the following:

  • Get a PDF of the original article. Often a reprint quote will be requested before you’ve seen the magazine yourself.
  • Determine the size and number of images and their significance to the overall package. The greater the number and size of the image(s), the more valuable they are. Multiple images of the same subject (that they could easily cut) might not be worth as much as multiple images of different subjects.
  • Who is the end user? It may be that multiple subjects from different companies were photographed for one article. If the main subject is ordering the reprints and your shot features some distant business associate twice removed, the photo is not going to be worth very much to the main subject. That will create downward pressure on the value because the client could easily eliminate your image from the reprint all together.
  • How important is your subject? Is it the CEO (which would have a higher value) or a middle-manager (which could have lower value.)
  • How big is the company? A bigger company may stand more to gain by using your pictures than a smaller company.
  • How many reprints do they want to send out? The greater the number of reprints, the greater the value.
  • Do they want eprints too? If so, how many (if they’re emailing them out) or for what duration (if they’re posting it on their website)?
  • As size, quantity and duration increases, the value increases, but not in direct proportion. (For example, we figure that doubling the number of reprints increases the value about 25%.)

Armed with that information, you can calculate the value. While it can certainly vary, we’ve found that reprint pricing is relatively consistent from client to client. After some years of experience pricing reprints, we’ve created a pricing matrixthat we use to put us in the right ballpark.

Here are a few recent successful reprint quotes:

You can find additional reprint pricing guidance on fotoQuote. And photographer Jason Grow also has a pricing guide as well:

How Much Should I Charge?

- - Pricing & Negotiating

Good advice for people making the jump to pro and trying to figure out what to charge for photography.

My best advice for finding a licensing fee is to use photoquote and then price out a similar license on Corbis or Getty. There’s also blink bid which I hear works really well when you get into a bidding situation.

Also, many of the photography consultants will help you price out jobs (list of consultants here), some even specialize in this. Finally, there’s Wonderful Machine, our Real World Estimates columnist who has an estimating service.

Leave any other tips you have in the comments.

Real World Estimates – Bribes And Kickbacks

by Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer

It seems like everywhere I turn lately I’m finding people giving “incentives” for others to do business with them. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen stock agencies offering iPods to art buyers who spend a certain amount of money with them. And recently, I’ve even run across an individual photographer offering an iPad to anyone who hires him for a shoot. One says,

“I am giving away brand new iPad 2’s (WiFi 32Gb your choice white or black) all year to any Creative Director, Art Director, or Art Buyer who hires me to shoot a campaign*. What’s the catch you say??None just my way of saying thanks.”

Sometimes this works in reverse. When I first got out of college, I worked for a photographer who had a client who asked him for a “commission” on the projects he hired him for. The client was an art director for a local television station, and the photographer was shooting publicity photos of the on-air personalities. Another photographer I know used to work for a national tabloid newspaper, and the photo editor there had a high volume of assignments to give out. He decided to create a photo agency as a side business, he hired the photographers through that agency and then took an agent’s commission for getting them the job. Those payments, called kickbacks, are like a bribe in reverse. The practice may or may not be legal, but those folks would certainly be fired on the spot if their employers found out they were taking that money. After all, the employee was obligated to serve the interests of the employer, but instead they were selling those interests to someone else and keeping the money for themselves. Some companies have explicit policies that prohibit their employees from taking even the smallest gift. Bloomberg L.P. for example, sends out a letter every November reminding their vendors not to send any Bloomberg employees any holiday presents because they want to avoid even the perception of conflict of interest.

But what if the person asking for a commission isn’t an employee bound by those restrictions? What if they have their own independent company? Recently, I had a situation involving a small ad agency and a campaign for a local brand. The project was a one-day studio shoot where we’d photograph several models, individually, on a white background, in a variety poses.

In the course of the usual exchange of emails during the estimating process, I received the following information from the account executive:

Good speaking with you today. For estimating purposes, it looks like, in rough terms, we will have:

8 billboards
3 newspaper Ads
1 transit shelter
8 posters

That is subject to change once the final deliverables have been set. But I won’t know that for a while.

As to billing, the client wants to have you invoice them directly because they have tax exempt status. Because we typically mark-up all 3rd party costs such as photography, can you bill the client your fee plus our mark up and then remit the commission to us when you get paid. For example, let’s say your cost is $10K and we add our $1.5K commission on top of that. You bill the client $11.5K and then we invoice you for the $1.5K that you pay us when you get paid. I hope this works for you Bill.

Please get back to me with your input and/or comments. I look forward to working with you!

I had to think about how to reply. I did want the job but I didn’t want to pay them a commission. So I called the account executive and told him that I was uncomfortable with that arrangement. After all, he wasn’t my agent. He wasn’t working for me, I was working for him. If he wanted to mark up my services, that was fine with me, but that was between him and his client. He told me that they always work this way and that all of their other clients and photographers are comfortable with it. I told him I had been working in the same city as him for 20 years and I never had a client ask me for a commission. I asked if his client knew about the commission, and he said, “not exactly.” So we left it at that and he never brought it up again. I’m not saying that there’s anything illegal or unethical or immoral (necessarily) about what he was asking for. It wasn’t exactly a kickback in the traditional sense. But I didn’t like that he wanted to misrepresent the cost of the photography to the client (which is different than a regular mark-up where everyone understands the situation if not the actual costs) and I didn’t want to set a precedent for future projects. Are these situations somehow different from an ordinary bribe or kickback? Am I naive to think there’s something wrong with them?

Back to the estimate. The plan was to photograph three people, resulting in one ad each. The client was a local company that did business mainly in just one section of the city (albeit with a lot of exposure, given the media buy). I first checked Blinkbid and fotoQuote. Blinkbid suggested a fee of 3000.00 – 6750.00 for three images for billboards, newspaper ads and transit poster for a year. fotoQuote came back with 5410.00. They both seemed low to me. If the client was going to lease 8 billboards for a year each, that could be $200k in media right there (small billboards lease for about 1000.00/month and large highway billboards are about 4000.00/month). So I decided on 7500.00. I planned on a day to test the pictures so we could figure out which poses would work best for the concept and layouts. The rest of the production expenses were pretty routine. Here’s the first estimate:

Maybe I came in too cheap, but the client who was previously very budget conscious, decided that they wanted one more ad and they wanted more extensive licensing. Email from account exec:

1) XXXXX would like to have a full buy-out on the rights to use the images for longer than a year and with the possibility of using them on other deliverables such as the website. Can we work this into this agreement upfront?

2) XXXXX would like to know what the certificate of insurance covers?

3) XXXXX would like you to “bury” the cost for catering/craft services somewhere else (e.g., add it into another line item) because she can’t justify this cost to her boss. Long story.

4) XXXXX does not understand the $150 for mileage. Can you please explain that?

5) Last, they are tax exempt. I will fax you their certificate.

That’s all for now. Please get back to me with questions/comments/answers.

1) To me, this meant simply removing the restrictions about where they could use the pictures and for how long.

2) Most locations and rental studios require a certificate of (liability) insurance. They want to know that a photographer is properly covered in the event of property damage or injury during the shoot. Some insurance companies charge for this, some don’t. We routinely charge 100.00 for it because whether we have to pay for it or not, it’s one more task that we have to handle, and to a lesser extent it helps pay for the actual insurance. Like a lot of expenses, there are times when it makes sense to itemize it and other times it makes more sense to bundle it into the fee. Mostly it’s a matter of doing what’s customary.

3) The client’s client’s boss didn’t want to pay for lunch for the cast and crew. Who knows where that came from, but it’s very unusual. If I’m doing a half-day magazine portrait, I won’t charge the client for any meals (though I will buy my assistant lunch regardless). But on most full-day shoots, it’s customary to bill for meals (or for catering on larger productions).

4) This line item was actually for Mileage, parking, tolls, shipping, misc. They may not have realized that we were renting a studio and that we would have to make several trips back and forth.

5) There are two parts to the “tax exempt” question. The rules vary from state to state, but in Pennsylvania, we’re obligated to charge sales tax to any in-state client (that’s not a publication) unless they send us a certificate exempting them from that sales tax. Lots of times when I’m doing an estimate, I’m not sure who’s going to pay the bill and whether they’re going to have to pay sales tax or not. If you add in the tax, it makes your price look bigger than it really is. If you leave it out, you risk getting stuck paying it yourself. So we simply say, “plus applicable sales tax.” That way, we’re covered both ways. Looking back to my client’s email, saying that his client wanted me to bill them directly because of their tax exempt status was a bit of a red herring. In all likelihood, the end client wanted to be billed directly for the photography because they wanted to know what they were paying for and they wanted to keep a lid on the “mark-ups.”

Now to revise the the estimate. Adding one more situation and expanding the time and breadth of the licensing would certainly increase the price, but by how much? Checking back with my pricing programs, Blinkbid offered up a range of 33k – 90k and fotoQuote said 7350.00. I knew that the if the client was concerned about buying lunch, they were not going to pay the photographer $90k. But 7350.00 seemed way too low. A lot of photographers say that their rule of thumb is that a “buyout” is worth triple the price of limited use. (First of all, I don’t use the term “buyout” in any of my contracts because it means something different to everyone.) I don’t think it’s a simple multiple. You have to evaluate each situation individually. There are some pictures that are going to hold up better over than others over time, or be more useful in more ways than others. In this case, the first quote was for a year, with the bulk of the value (and the most likely use – based on the long narrow format of the photos) was in the billboards. They were already planning on 8 billboards, which is a lot for a local company to rent in a relatively small geographic region. Any campaign is going to wear out after a while. I decided that without restrictions, they might reasonably use the pictures two to three times as much or as long as the original plan. That doesn’t mean that the licensing is necessarily worth double or triple though, since a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. All things considered, I decided on $18k for the fee. We “buried” the catering fee into some additional “retouching.” (I guess I’m corruptible after all.)

They signed the quote. We shot the job. They paid the bill (less the commission).

Real World Estimates – Print Collateral and Video

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

I recently worked with one of our photographers to produce a quote for an mid-sized ad agency for a series of brochure portraits plus video of some of the same subjects for use on a website. The client was a foundation that was raising money to build a community park. Though construction was already about half finished, the foundation was short about 10 million dollars to complete the project, which is why they needed the marketing materials.

The brochure, which would be sent out to a relatively small mailing list, and the companion micro website would rely heavily on photography and feature big donors explaining what the foundation meant to them and why people should donate to this project. 17 donors had provided testimonials, and each would sit for an environmental portrait that would run full-page in the brochure. The donors, who are well-known in the community, would be photographed in places associated with their previous philanthropic and/or professional work. Additionally, the photographer would need to shoot video testimonials for 3 of the 17 donors, which after editing, would end up being about 20-seconds each.

After getting the basic project description from the photographer, I called the art buyer to get a little more detail. I wanted to find out who else was bidding on the job, exactly what licensing they needed (publicity use, one-time brochure use and web use of the still photos and web use of the videos), including the dimensions (8.5 x 11″) and number of pages in the brochure (40), the number of photographs they expected to use and their sizes (17 – all full-page), the number of copies they were printing (1500), the distribution area (local – within 50 miles) and the lifespan of the piece (about 2 years). And I wanted to better understand the production values they were looking for. For example, would they be willing to pay for professional hair & make-up (yes)?  (In short, I try to visualize the end result and then work backwards, thinking about how the photographer will reach that result. I ask as many questions as necessary in order to transform my initial vague idea into something very specific.) The art buyer told me the names of the other photographers they were looking at (all solid photographers), but didn’t offer a specific budget. There are times when a client knows how much they want to spend on photography, which is a big help. Then I can go straight to figuring out what to put towards the fee and how much money to devote to the production rather than trying to decipher how important the project is to them. Knowing who the other photographers are helps too. The list of names will be a good indication of the client’s level of sophistication and expectation (and their willingness to pay for good photography). A smart client is going to be happy to provide as much information to the photographer as possible. A smart photographer will use that information to put together a proposal that addresses the very specific needs of that project.

The client asked us to quote the video separately because they weren’t sure it was going to happen. Rather than piggy-backing the video shoots on to the still shoots, we planned on it being a separate day altogether, and in one location that the client would arrange.

With my head firmly around the client’s expectations, the photographer and I talked about how he would approach the still shoot in terms of shoot days, support and equipment. He said he could shoot 3 environmental portraits per day if necessary, as long as he was able to scout each location in advance. He would just need basic lighting and camera gear. He just needed one assistant and a groomer to do light hair and make-up and to fuss with the clothes.

With that, I had everything I needed to formulate the still part of the quote. I began by looking at a few similar jobs that I had recently worked on to remind myself of what fee would be appropriate for 2-year local print collateral use. (I keep a binder of every quote we send out.) I couldn’t find any local collateral, but I had a few that quoted national print collateral at about 1000.00 or so per picture plus expenses, with some coming in a little lower. I then looked at some of my pricing guides. Blink Bid quoted 250.00 – 375.00 per picture (plus expenses) for local collateral and Fotoquote 250.00 –  500.00 per picture (plus expenses) for print runs up to 1000 (they don’t specify geography). Of course, you have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. They’re not suggesting that you do a one-picture shoot for 250.00 plus expenses. Every photographer is going to have their own minimum “day-rate” that they’re not going to go below no matter how small the usage is. In this case, the photographer’s time was a much bigger consideration than the usage.

-The biggest logistical challenge of this shoot (and a big driver of the cost) was scheduling portraits of 17 individuals in 17 different places. So we needed to build some flexibility into the pricing structure. I worked up a quote for a “half-day” (1 person) shoot and a “full-day” (up to 3 people) shoot and let the client decide how efficient they needed to be. I settled on 3750.00 plus expenses for the (fairly long) days where we’d shoot three portraits and 2000.00 for the (relatively short) days that we could only schedule one. This is certainly on the high end of the pricing spectrum for a project like this, but this photographer was particularly well-suited for the project and he was busy enough that he didn’t need to hedge.

-Although I encouraged the photographer to include 2 assistants per shoot day, he assured me that he was comfortable just using his 1st assistant.

-I set the capture fee at 450.00. (I normally put it at 500.00/day but shaved off 50.00 when I saw the total exceeding $40k). The capture fee covers the post-production time required to organize and edit the pictures, and create and deliver a web gallery to the client (for each day’s shoot).

-The equipment rental covered a lens, body and light kit from a local rental house. In this case, the photographer owned his own gear and the fee was fat enough that I only put in for minimal equipment. It would also not be unusual to bundle the equipment charge into the fee on this type of shoot.

-I prorated the scouting costs into “scouting fees” based on the fact that the photographer would scout the 17 locations in one fell swoop, but we needed to break them out for the purposes of the estimate. (1275.00/day for photographer and assistant x 3 days / 17 locations = 225.00 per location.)

The file prep is a bit higher than our usual 50.00 because in my experience with shoots like this, the subjects often have involvement in the selection process which tends to complicate the process.

The agency asked about providing the donors with prints after the shoot as a thank-you for participating in the campaign. The photographer decided to make the prints his donation to the cause.

Since the shoot was local, there wouldn’t be much in the way of mileage and tolls, but parking could add up quickly. Also, the shoot was going to be a small crew on the move with only one AD from the agency, so the charge for meals was pretty basic.

Given that the scheduling was going to be fairly complex and especially since it factored into the ultimate cost of the project, I wanted to be clear that the client was going to handle that. I also specified that the locations and any releases would be provided by the agency.

Click here to see the full day and half day estimates.

Next, we started working on the quote for the videos. The agency wanted to create individual 20-second testimonial videos of three of donors in a studio setting (essentially a talking head with a simple cutaway). The photographer was confident he could shoot all three in one day including set-up and break-down. The agency intended to use the videos on microsite that they were going to build onto the foundation’s existing site. However, the expectation for usage on motion work tends to be different than for stills. It seems to be customary for the creative fee to be work-for-hire (in other words, transfer of copyright). There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but that’s a blog post unto itself. Though, there’s no legal reason why a photographer couldn’t limit the licensing to moving images just as they do for stills, especially for small projects like this.

-For the motion part of the project, the photographer would be serving as the director of photography (managing the camera and lights), but the actual interview and partially the direction would come from someone from the foundation. We have found that DOP day rates range from around 2000.00 to about 3500.00. Based on the photographer’s experience, I leaned toward the high end of the range.

-I included a grip to handle the lighting, and a camera assistant to help with setup, lenses, focus, downloads, etc.

-An audio engineer is crucial for a project like this. These guys can hear a lawn mower at 1000 yards. They’ll make sure you don’t get stuck with audio you can’t use.

-The capture fee accounted for the post-processing time and equipment.

-The equipment rental is a bit higher for the video shoot day because it’s a little more exotic than what’s needed for the stills, and the photographer doesn’t own it.

- We included a groomer for hair, makeup and light wardrobe adjustments.

-I was sure to price out sound stage rental, rather than photo studios, to ensure the space was appropriate for audio recording.

- The file transfer fee covered the cost of delivering the large amount of information generated on a video shoot.

- I decided to include catering this time because the crew was bigger and the shoot would be static. I usually figure on roughly 35.00 per person for breakfast, lunch and snacks. For this portion of the project, miles, parking, and tolls would be minimal.

- Lastly, I made sure to note that the agency would schedule the donors, direct and interview them, obtain releases and edit the footage.

You can see the video estimate here.

After reviewing our estimates with the client, not surprisingly they wanted to trim the budget. They asked us to find a way to get the price down to $30,000.00 (1/3 less than the total first round estimate). Unlike a lot of the clients I’ve worked with lately, this agency was willing to sacrifice aspects of the production to reduce those costs.

First, the client proposed shooting all of the portraits at one of their donor’s homes. This would shave off two scouting days and eliminate the studio rental.

Next was scheduling. Even if they stayed at the same location, the photographer wasn’t comfortable shooting more than 4 unique situations in one day. So we discussed repurposing one situation per shoot day to squeeze in a 5th donor on the still shoot days. The video day would actually be both stills and video of 3 donors. Each donor’s still shot would be captured in the same situation as their testimonial video. This allowed us to shave off almost 3 entire shoot days.

Since the licensing accounted for a relatively small portion of the creative fee, the additional licensing fees still fell mostly inside the day rate. I also bumped the video rate to match the stills rate to account for the image licensing that would need to be included now. It also simplified the estimate.

With the more ambitious schedule, it would be helpful to have additional lighting and another set of hands so we bumped the gear rental up and added a second assistant for the still days. We added catering and reduced the miles, parking, meals and tolls.

You can see the final estimate and terms and conditions here.

The client signed off on the revised estimate. But as of this writing, the scheduling has proven to be a challenge and although the project has been approved, the first shot has yet to be captured.

Real World Estimates – Magazine Contract

by Bill Cramer, Wonderful Machine CEO

A few months ago, I got my first assignment from Fast Company. I was happy to hear from Assistant Photo Editor Lisa Parisi, who asked me to photograph a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a story they were doing on robots. Fast Company tends to use great photography, so I was glad to have the opportunity to try to impress them.

Lisa was very organized about the assignment, which was really helpful. She sent me a Call Sheet with all of the details of the shoot – including contact info for the subject and a list of situations they wanted to cover. She also sent a Photo Directive that provided general guidance about what kind of pictures Fast Company likes to use, as well as nuts-and-bolts reminders about shooting with and without eye contact, horizontals and verticals, posed and off-moment pictures, a variety of angles, expressions and scale. Lisa also sent about 30 photographs to show examples of their idea of a successful environmental portrait. Having said all that, she was also quick to point out that if her expectations didn’t match up with the reality of the situation, I was free to take the pictures in whatever direction I thought was appropriate.

In her first email to me, Lisa said, “Our budget for the Fast Talks are typically flat fees of 1500. But I realize the travel might make it higher in this case.” She elaborated on the phone, saying that she could cover hotel, mileage, parking, tolls, meals. I took that to mean that she didn’t want to pay for a travel day for me or my assistant. It would be a five-hour drive to Pittsburgh, which we would do the night before. I would shoot in the morning and then drive back to Philly. In retrospect, I probably should have pressed at least for the additional assistant time, but I didn’t (of course, I paid my assistant for that time anyway).

Whenever I work for a flat fee, I back out the expenses that I would otherwise charge, to see what the creative fee really is. For a shoot like this, I normally charge 250.00 for an assistant (in this case, it would be more like 400.00 or so with the travel). I normally charge 300.00 for a digital fee, which includes cameras and the initial processing and posting a web gallery. If the creative fee is generous, I typically don’t charge separately for strobes or file prep. Otherwise, I’ll charge 150.00 − 300.00 for the strobes on a basic editorial portrait shoot, and 25.00 for each file prep. 1500 − 400 − 300 − 200 = 600. A modest fee, factoring in the travel. I asked Lisa if they pay space when they use more or bigger pictures and she said they didn’t. She said for this section, they usually use one or two medium to smallish pictures, and that they pay more for features and covers.

At this point, I usually ask the client if they have a contract they’d like me to look at. After all, the fee for the job doesn’t mean much without knowing how the client intends to use the pictures. But with the shoot coming up on such short notice, Call Sheets and Photo Directives to absorb, and some reading to do on my subject, I chose to concentrate on the creative rather than spend what little time I had reviewing and negotiating a contract. That’s not my normal operating procedure, of course. Negotiating terms after the fact can be awkward to say the least. But I had met Lisa before and I had worked with her Director of Photography Leslie Dela Vega when she was at Time, so I was confident that we would be able to come to terms amicably afterwards. If Lisa had sent me the contract before the shoot, I would have been obliged to read it carefully before accepting the job. If I had the contract in hand but let the negotiations go until after the shoot, it would be harder for me to press for changes at that point because it would be reasonable for her to say that I knew the terms in advance.

Photographers should be aware that there are some unscrupulous clients out there who will intentionally withhold sending a contract until after a shoot, thinking that the photographer will have diminished leverage to negotiate at that point. The fact is that both parties are equally disadvantaged in those cases. After all, the client can’t publish the pictures without the photographer’s permission and the photographer won’t get paid until they have reached an agreement with the client. That was not the case here.

I enjoyed the shoot. Here are a few of my favorite pictures along with a tear sheet:

Bill Cramer Photographer / Fast Company Shoot

Fast Company Bill Cramer Shoot

Bill Cramer Photographer Philadelphia, PA Fast Company Shoot

Bill Cramer Fast Company

A few days after I delivered the job, Lisa did send over their Photography Commissioning Agreement (modified, signed version). As far as magazine contracts go, it was more photographer-friendly than some and less than others.

Here’s a breakdown of the terms:

1. Fees. This says that we’ll negotiate the rate separately for each assignment. That’s fine. Though my preference has always been to structure editorial fees on the basis of a day rate vs. space. That way, the compensation is proportionate to the use and you only have to negotiate the expenses on a case-by-case basis.

2. Grant of Rights. Exclusive first worldwide rights. Fine. Archiving rights. Fine. Web use. Fine. Use in the publisher’s other magazines at their normal space rates. Fine. Anthology use is starting to push it a little. If they’re going to create a new product that generates new revenue, I think that deserves additional compensation for the photographer. I didn’t think the point was significant enough to object to, so I let it be. Reprint rights. Not fine. When a third party licenses editorial photos as part of an article, they’re typically used for promotion, which is essentially advertising. That has real value and should be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. I struck that line. Foreign language editions. Okay, but also pushing it. Again, if the publisher is making significant new revenue, I think the photographer should too. In this case, I don’t think they have foreign editions. So I chose not to fight that battle. Advertising use. In retrospect, I should have clarified that they could use the pictures for advertising provided they were used in the context of the magazine. As a practical matter, I think this is what they would do anyway. Syndication and other third party use. No. Again, if my photograph is generating new revenue, I think I’m reasonably entitled to some of it.

3. Services. The photographer will follow instructions and adhere to professional standards. Of course.

4. Expenses. Publisher will pay for travel expenses. Fine.

5. Publisher’s Expenses. Publisher will arrange and pay for studio and location fees. Fine.

6. Submission and Acceptance. Photographer will turn in the photos as soon as possible and the magazine has no obligation to run them. Fine. What it doesn’t specifically say is whether they’ll pay the photographer if they reject the photos. I take that to mean that they will. I’ve seen contracts where the client wants to pay a kill fee if they choose not to use the photographs for any reason. I think it’s reasonable for the photographer to reshoot the job at his own expense if the pictures were unusable because of his negligence. But I also think it’s reasonable for the client to pay the photographer in full if they choose not to use the pictures for any other reason.

7. Payment. Publisher will pay photographer in the ordinary course of business. Okay. But specifying 30 or 60 days would be better. Photographer will provide copies of receipts and will be issued an IRS 1099 form on the total invoice (which the photographer will have to claim as income). Good. Some magazines want original receipts, which is not reasonable. (The photographer needs the originals in case of an audit.) If the client does insist on originals, they should 1099 you for just the fees rather than the fees plus expenses.

8. Exclusivity. 90 days from on-sale date. A little on the long side, but fine.

9. Models, Etc. Photographer will get releases signed when asked by the photo editor. Fine.

10. Retention of Photographs. Publisher may hold on to original photographs until publication and duplicates thereafter. Okay, but not ideal. I’m shooting digital, so it’s a moot point. But photographers delivering original transparencies should put a limit on how long a magazine can hold the pictures without publishing them (this goes for exclusivity too).

11. Credit. You will get a credit, but we’ll decide what it looks like. Okay.

12. Representations and Warranties. You shot the pictures, they’re yours to license, and their publication won’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, and the photographer will cooperate in defending any third party claims. Fine.

13. Term. The agreement will be effective until terminated by either party. Okay, but not ideal. I think it’s better to have an actual termination date. The contract is going to evolve one way or another. Having multiple contracts can make it unclear which contract affects which assignment.

14. Independent Contractor. The photographer is independent for tax, unemployment, insurance and liability purposes. Fine.

15. Miscellaneous. The contract is governed by the laws of the State of New York. Fine.

I then sent my invoice with the appropriate back-up. (You’ll notice that I only had one hotel room. I actually didn’t share a room with my assistant. Our shoot happened to be close to her parent’s house, so she stayed there.)

Last week, Leslie Dela Vega was kind enough to field a few questions from me. Leslie has been the Photo Director at Fast Company since last November. After receiving a photography degree at San Francisco State University in 1998, Leslie landed an internship at Vibe Magazine. In between, she has also worked in the photo departments of Self, Premiere, Teen People, then back at Vibe as DP, Fortune, Time and Essence. Leslie is a frequent speaker and panelist and she has helped judge competitions for SPD Awards, American Photo Awards and Communication Arts Photography Annual. If that’s not enough, she has also continued to pursue her own photography when time allows.

The robot shoot I did for Lisa was for your Fast Talks section. The rate was 1500.00 plus travel expenses. Do you have standard rates for other sections of the magazine and for the cover? And if so, what are they?

We have just the front of the book, then features. For the front of the book our budget is usually 1500.00 which includes all expenses. Unless of course, there is travel involved. For the feature well, it usually depends on what is being photographed, how it is photographed, is there a concept, additional props, studio, etc. It’s a little more production heavy so the budget varies. But they usually start at 1500.00 and go upward.

How much/how often do you stick to those rates and how much do you negotiate depending on the photographer?

We stick to those rates all the time, unless of course, there is a special circumstance, like more equipment is needed for a particular shoot. At times, some negotiating is required if there is a photographer we really want to work with and travel is needed, etc.

Of the photographers you work with, what proportion of them sign your contract as-is and what proportion successfully negotiate revisions?

Most of them sign the contract as is. If there are any revisions, it’s usually the 3rd party clause, which is understandable. But [even when] that clause … is not revised, I will ALWAYS reach out to the photographer and discuss the situation (if it arises) with them so they are fully aware and will work with them.

Do you have any experiences you can relate or advice you can give photographers about how to best approach the negotiating process with magazine photo editors?

Please remember that most photo editors, if not all, are on the side of the photographer. We know how hard you work, and if we have a relationship with you, there is a trust involved. So you should be able to feel comfortable in negotiating any assignment and we will try as much as possible to accommodate you, if not more. Our goal is to bring incredible imagery to our magazines and we can only do that with you. It’s a 2 way street. We need each other.

Real World Estimates: Automotive Advertising Campaign

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

One of the biggest projects I’ve worked on, both in terms of production expenses and licensing fees, was a shoot that I estimated and produced recently for one of our Midwest photographers. Though he’s mostly known for his phenomenal portrait photography, he was asked by a major ad agency to submit a quote to shoot the print campaign for a newly rejuvenated sports car brand. The agency’s art director called the photographer after she saw an editorial project he had shot. (I love when that happens!) We later found out that not only did the photographer’s style catch their eye, but his magazine shoot actually provided a lot of the inspiration for the campaign’s concept. It goes to show that even with big agencies, there are times when the creatives are open to collaborating with photographers on concept development as well as execution.

Shoot & Licensing Needs

The process started with the photographer brainstorming with the AD to develop a clear concept, and me discussing the licensing needs with the art buyer. Then the photographer and I agreed on the production elements we’d need to bring together in order to support that concept and the way the photographer wanted to shoot it. Unlike the typical hero shots in the desert, this project was based on gritty, urban images executed in a more documentary style, with real people found on location. The cars would need to look pristine, but the personality of the campaign needed to be “fast and rough around the edges.” Given this approach, we weren’t going to have a standard shot list with comps to work from. Instead, the photographer and I planned to create (along with a location scout) a guide full of hip, young, bustling locations. That, along with a client-provided list of angles to shoot the cars from, became our literal and figurative roadmap for the shoot. The photographer and art director agreed on shooting for three days each in two different cities. The photographer planned to work with minimal lighting equipment for maximum mobility.

The client had an immediate need for 20 images, but expected to use additional images in the future. They planned on using them in a variety of ways, primarily web/social media, but also in collateral material and print ads. They asked us to quote on exclusive, worldwide use of any kind, forever. With my head firmly around what we had to do to create the pictures and how they were going to be used, I got to work on the estimate.

Fee

When the logistics of a shoot and the licensing of the images are more cut and dried, I tend to lump the creative and licensing fees together. But the more spontaneous approach to this production and the open-ended licensing needs of the client warranted a different approach. It made sense to quote the shoot days and the licensing independent of one another so we could add time or images without renegotiating the contract. So I created one estimate page detailing the creative fees and production expenses, and a separate page detailing the fees for usage.

The photographer and I settled on $2,500.00/shoot day for his basic creative fee. But what about the licensing fee? There were some factors to consider. The agency and the client were both pretty big players. The client was going to get a lot of use out of the pictures, and they stood to gain a lot from them, all which suggested a solid fee. Applying slight downward pressure on the value was the fact that the photographer didn’t have a long track record with automotive advertising, the spontaneous nature of the shoot made the campaign a little risky for the client, and this campaign was only one of several that they were producing for that brand. After consulting my usual pricing guides and agency contacts, I chose to price the first 20 images at $80,000 (effectively $4,000 each), with the option of the next 10 at $3,000 each and the 10 after that at $2,000 each.

This is actually a departure from my usual strategy. I normally value additional pictures at somewhere between the prorated fee and the prorated fee plus expenses. In other words, if you were to shoot five pictures for a $5,000 fee and $2,500 in expenses, prorating the fee for additional pictures would be $1,000 each ($5,000/5). Prorating the fee plus expenses would be $1,500 ($7,500/5). I figure that if the photographer is productive enough to generate additional ads from the same shoot, he should get some consideration from the fact that he’s saving the client money they’d otherwise have to spend on expenses for a future shoot. So I might normally value the additional pictures at $1,250.00 each. However, in this situation, the initial selections were most likely to be the ones used in ads, and if they ended up using 20-30 pictures beyond that, those later pictures were going to more likely be used for the web and social media. So in order to encourage as much of that as possible, I chose to discount those additional pictures.

Assistants

The first assistant would be traveling with the photographer and would be responsible for organizing the gear in advance of the shoot and upon return, which amounted to 13 days:

  • 1 day before the shoot to prep, rent and pack the gear
  • 2 tech/scout days (1 day prior to each shoot city)
  • 6 shoot days (3 in each city)
  • 1 travel day to the first location
  • 1 travel day between the two locations
  • 1 travel day home
  • 1 day back at home to clean/organize/return gear
  • The second assistant would be local to each of the locations and just show up on shoot days (though in retrospect, it would have been nice to have them for the tech/scout days as well). Not knowing how long the shoot days were going to go, I chose to add a line item for assistant overtime to cover myself in that event.

Producer

As the producer, I would be attending the shoot. I would be responsible for managing the locations, location scouts, vehicles, talent, lodging, travel arrangements, and of course putting together a production book with all of the maps, routes, locations, travel, comp and contact info. I figured my time on the project, from start to finish, would take 15 days:

  • 3 days to prep and coordinate all of the details
  • 2 tech/scout days (1 day prior to each shoot city)
  • 6 shoot days (3 in each city)
  • 1 travel day to the first location
  • 1 travel day between the two locations
  • 1 travel day home
  • 1 day to organize the receipts and create the invoice
  • Location Scouts

Finding good locations was going to be crucial to the success of this shoot. Our plan was to initially have a scout in each city spend two days taking snapshots at as many locations as possible that might be appropriate. The photographer would review the scouting report with the agency to narrow down a list of locations the photographer would then scout in person the day or two before the shoot. (Not surprisingly, it wasn’t too long into the first day of shooting that we spotted a cool location that wasn’t on our list and deviated from the plan.) Two location scouts (one in each city), two days scouting on their own, one day with the photographer.

Precision Drivers

We budgeted for three days of precision drivers, which included one day at the track, and one day in each of the two cities. These drivers were necessary to do anything that either pushed the limits of the car or safe operating conditions. If you ask me, I could drive as well as they could, but I didn’t have the same credentials or insurance. After a few recommendations from our local resources and a cursory search on the local film office database to make sure the recos (agency speak for recommendations) were experienced, we booked our two drivers.

Security, Locations & Permits

Our location scouts both had experience with permits, location fees, and police/security in their area and helped me with those numbers. We ended up blowing most of this budget on one day when we decided to shoot at a racetrack (they are not cheap, nor easy to rent). Luckily, we didn’t need to spend much for our other locations. The rest of the budget paid for an off-duty cop to close down a roadway when we decided to shoot a little boy peering into one of the cars from the street. Safety first. Our scout had worked with him and was able to line him up the night before.

Talent & Wardrobe

In keeping with the fast and loose approach of the shoot, and since we were only going to use people as space filling elements, we decided to use found talent and outfit them with their own clothes. We relied our local resources to call in friends, family and colleagues, and we street-cast a handful of others. During the scout day we’d decide whether or not we wanted people to populate a particular shot and set our local resources loose to call in a crowd. On the shoot day, if we saw a group of kids or good looking couple walking down the street and felt like we could fit them in, we’d ask for 30 minutes of their time. We wanted to keep it real, fun and casual to help the pictures come off as authentic as possible. We paid most of the models $100.00 each (which we recorded on the model release).

Post-Processing Days

When you shoot this many images, you have to account for a significant amount of time to process the raw images after the shoot (usually between 1/2 and 2 post-processing days per shoot day depending on the complexity of the processing and expectations of the client). I usually quote $1000.00/day for post-processing. In this case the photographer was doing the processing himself and wanted to charge a higher rate.

“Reasonable” is what I aim for when I’m putting together any estimate. I don’t want to ever give the impression that we’re wasting the client’s money on anything unnecessary. But I also don’t want to risk looking like I haven’t thought of everything. Even though I want the estimated expenses to be lean, I want to include enough fat in them to account for the unexpected, hence the roundness of the numbers. After a few tweaks here and there, the client approved everything—though the photographer ended up signing the agency’s purchase order instead of them signing our quote, which is not unusual. We did the shoot, and the client ultimately licensed 40 images.

Licensing Images For Facebook

A reader sent me the following question:

Do you know of a discussion on your blog or anywhere else discussing pricing for clients who want to license images to put on their Facebook wall?

My specific situation is a major [redacted] company wanting to use a series of editorial images that I originally shot for their brand magazine. They don’t have usage rights outside of the magazine, and want to post 10-15 images on their main facebook wall.

Would love to know how other photographers are working with their clients on this, or if there is some sort of standard developing for pricing Facebook wall photos for major clients.

I contacted a couple top-shelf agents to see if I could find some pricing information:

To us that is considered online use. So if the photographer sold “one time editorial and online use,” then that covers it. If they sold “one time editorial use” and “magazine website use only,” then I think they should pay something for Facebook. Even if it is a nominal fee. They could sell them a 1 year online use, no advertising for $500-$1000 depending on the amount of images.

and

I actually think social media/online usage is separate from general website/online use. We have not been asked for this usage yet but would expect to charge a fee for the use. Perhaps $350-$750 each depending on how many are purchased. This is new territory.

It looks like we’re ahead of the curve on this. Chime in on the comments if you can add any information.

Real World Estimates – Available Light Annual Report Portrait

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

The creative director of a small West Coast graphic design firm recently contacted one of our photographers asking for a quote on a portrait for use in an annual report. The client was a large insurance company and they needed a picture of a financial planner who refers a lot of work their way.

The designer said the picture needed to be a tightly-cropped, environmental portrait at the subject’s office (about a 20 minute drive from the photographer’s studio). They wanted to see a variety of situations: “…the guy at his desk, at the computer, on the phone, looking at the camera, not looking, maybe outside.” The CD told me that the image would be used as a “supporting image within a sidebar in an annual report.” “Supporting image” was a little vague for me, so I asked to see a layout of the page to get a better idea of the size, placement and context of the picture. Looking at that, I saw that the picture would be relatively small, among other larger pictures, and that it was going to be used inside the brochure (rather than on the front or back cover). I also saw that it was a nicely designed brochure with other good photography comped in.

Looking back at a similar estimate I had worked on recently, I first set out to establish the fee. In this other project, the actual shoot was comparable, but the licensing was more extensive. It included Publicity Use and Collateral Use for a year. The subject in that case was also much more prominent within the company. In this case, they just needed one-time annual report use and the subject didn’t even work for the company that was producing the report. Also, looking back, the previous fee was probably a little fatter than I’d expect to get in the current economic climate. So I placed the fee for this one at 1000.00. The expenses are fairly straightforward. We wouldn’t need hair or makeup, props, wardrobe or backgrounds. That left us with the basic expense items: assistant, digital capture, strobe rental, file prep, miles and parking (since it was going to be less than 1/2-day, there wouldn’t be any meals to bill for).

Here’s the first estimate I sent over.

ape_feb_org

After confirming that they had received the estimate, there was no word from them for about a week. When the CD finally got back to me, he wanted us to shave 695.00 off the quote. “The client feels it’s a bit high for a simple head shot (half-day shoot). Would you be ok with $1200? Take a look at the comp again. I’m sure the photographer can do this without an assistant and rental equipment.” I took another look at the layout. The picture they showed in the comp was clearly strobe lit. I confirmed with the CD that he’d be happy with available light only. He said yes; so I called the photographer to discuss whether he’d be comfortable working without strobes or an assistant. It was a little awkward for the photographer because he only shows lit photos in his portfolio. So even though he was confident that he could do a good job without strobes or an assistant, the job was becoming less interesting to him. The photographer decided that he was comfortable working without an assistant and strobes as long as the client understood that the picture was going to have a different look from the comp.

With that resolved, we were still 180.00 over what the client wanted to spend. There really weren’t any other expenses we could do without, so the rest was going to have to come out of the fee. I couldn’t just arbitrarily reduce the fee just to meet the “budget.” (Probably the single most important rule of negotiating is that you can’t reduce what you’re getting without reducing what you’re giving. If you do, you’re just demonstrating to your client that you were trying to gouge them from the start.) But again, it raises the question for the photographer whether the job was worth doing. In my role as producer/estimator, I’m working for the photographer. So while it’s my job to lay out all the information and help him weigh his options, it’s ultimately his decision whether there’s enough money in a project to make it worth doing.

There are certainly a lot of reasons not to work too cheaply. The first is opportunity cost. If you commit to a low-budget project (that doesn’t have some other benefit), and another more interesting or lucrative assignment comes up, you’re going to miss out on it. Another is that clients tend to view your value partially based on what you charge. If you work cheap this time, they might not think to use you when they have a more lucrative job. A third reason is that a photographer only has so much time and energy. It can sometimes be better in the long run to rest or get caught up on your paperwork or marketing or working on your portfolio, rather than get bogged down in projects that you aren’t enthusiastic about or don’t pay enough.

It seemed clear that the client was not going to pay 1895.00 for the job, but I thought there was a good chance that they would be satisfied with the concession of taking out the assistant and strobes and agree to 1380.00. An alternative would be to pull out the web use, which was about proportional to the 180.00 we would need to get down to the 1200.00 the client was looking for. The photographer chose that option. The subject’s availability and the deadline gave the photographer the flexibility to move it around if something else came up. And it was about as simple as an assignment can get. So he decided to meet the client’s price rather than risking not getting the job over the remaining 180.00.

I sent off this revision along with my standard terms & conditions, which the agency approved.

ape_feb_rev

Real World Estimates – Nature Preserve Guidebook

by  Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer

Here’s a project that began seven years ago and just wrapped up last month. Back in 2004, I got a call from an art director at a landscape architecture firm that was completing a $7 million renovation of a 70 acre piece of land, transforming it into a nature preserve for a non-profit. They had replaced alien plants with species indigenous to the area and they created beautiful bridges, paths and sculpture gardens. They needed photographs depicting plant specimens and landscapes for a guidebook. Oddly, they came to me. I say oddly because I shoot almost exclusively portraiture. I don’t even show still life pictures in my portfolio, let alone plants. But there was something about the personality of my photographs that the client thought would work well for the book. I liked her and the project. And in spite of, or maybe because of how different this project was, I decided that I wanted to do it.

When I met with the AD, she showed me several examples of plant and landscape photographs so I could see what she liked and didn’t like, which was very helpful. She explained that the project would need to take place over a period of a year or more, so we could illustrate what the plants and landscapes looked like in the spring, summer, fall and winter (including snow). The AD was initially a little vague about the actual shot list, but I knew I would need some specifics in order to do the quote. So together we figured out that the final book would need 8 landscape photos and 32 plant specimen photos. We agreed to show the plants close-up, on white background. (I found out that here was a house on the property that we could use as a studio.)

I went home and thought about how I would execute the project, and how I should structure the proposal based on that. I did some test pictures to get a sense of what kind of set-up I would need and how much time it would take to photograph each plant. I had shot lots of people on white background before, but never still life. I wanted the plants to be floating rather than lying on a white surface. So after some awkward and dangerous attempts on a ladder, I bought a bakers scaffold, some ¼” glass, and some plywood so I could build a window with a frame that I could stand on and easily shoot down on the plants – with white paper lit up on the floor below. (I’m sure the real still-life photographers out there will tell me there’s an easier way to do this.)

Even though they were only planning on using an average of 10 pictures from each of the 4 seasons, I figured we would probably want to shoot twice that number to cover ourselves. Then we’d have the luxury of choosing which plants and landscapes looked most interesting for each part of the year. I would plan to shoot landscapes early and late in the day, and the plant specimens in between.

Any time I put together a quote, I try to balance my need to control my costs with the client’s need to understand what they’re getting charged for and to control their costs. For this project, since I wasn’t completely sure about how long it was going to take me to get pictures that I was going to be happy with, and since I wanted to be able to experiment a bit, and since I knew that the project was likely to evolve over the course of a year, I wanted to build some flexibility into the schedule. Figuring that I could comfortably make 10 pictures/day, I budgeted about 2 shoot days for each season. That in mind, here’s the estimate I put together (PDF).

I decided that in addition to the four seasonal shoots, I wanted to build in an initial test phase so that we could be really clear about what the specimen pictures were going to look like (exactly what the white background would look like, what the light on the plant would look like and what the post-processing would look like – and get approval before we were shooting for real).

Even though I was planning on shooting as many pictures as I could, the fee I quoted entitled them to use 40 images in the guidebook. I viewed the actual licensing as somewhere between commercial and editorial. They just needed the pictures for the book itself. They didn’t have other plans beyond that. Even though the nature preserve was a non-profit, they had substantial financial backing. They weren’t hiring me because I was cheap. They were hiring me because they liked my pictures. Since the photographic expenses were all within my control, I decided to bundle them with my creative fee for each segment of the job, and then bill my actual cost for the hotel, travel and meals. I figured on 2 shoot days and a travel day for each of the four seasons (it was a four-hour drive each way), along with a license for 10 images, which I decided was worth 4000.00. Plus I’d need to cover photographic expenses of an assistant (750.00), equipment (500.00) web gallery (350.00) and file preps (10 @ 40.00 = 400.00). 4 shoots plus 1 test phase made 5 segments x 6000.00/segment = $30,000.00.

The client was comfortable with my price and only made a few small revisions to my terms (PDF), they wanted me to have any order changes made in writing, which was fine with me.

The project went remarkably smoothly that first year. I made my quota of pictures, and I only almost crashed through my makeshift window once. But then we hit some snags. We didn’t have any snow that first winter. So we had to wait a year for the next decent dusting. Then the AD fired the designer. Then the AD left the landscape architecture firm, and the client took over managing the project. Then the whole thing was on hold for a couple of years. When the project was revived in 2009, they needed a few more pictures to round things out after deciding to double the size of the book. After we went through a round of file processing and retouching it looked like it would finally be published. Then more radio silence. I would check their website every few months, then forgot about it myself for a while. Then finally, at the end of 2010, I checked their site and there was an announcement for the guidebook, so I bought a copy.

I had known for a while that they were planning to expand the book (and consequently, the licensing). But until it was actually published, there wasn’t anything concrete to bill for. When I got my copy, I had to reconcile the use of the additional pictures. Looking back on my 2004 estimate, I could have been more clear. There is an implicit license for 40 images, “This is a price quote for Bill Cramer to produce a series of 40 photographs…” But it really should have said, “This is a price quote for use of up to 40 images…” Also, I should have specified the cost for additional images.

This lack of clarity put me in the awkward position of justifying to my client’s client (now my direct client) the additional charges for use of the additional pictures. First, I had to make sense of it myself, so created a spreadsheet (PDF) detailing all the invoices I sent and what they covered. Then I composed an email (PDF) spelling out the charges for the additional usage. In an attempt to make up for my sloppy initial estimate, and to account for the fact that I had grouped the fee with photographic expenses in that estimate (leaving the actual licensing fee a little murky), I factored in a charitable discount to send the message that I wasn’t trying to rake them over the coals, but simply get fair compensation for the additional usage.

This task was made a bit easier due to the fact that the folks at the nature preserve went ahead and put several of my pictures on their website without my permission. If they would have otherwise put up a fuss, they were less likely to do so now. Anyway, they paid the invoice (PDF) and sent me a bunch more copies of the guidebook. And it actually looks pretty good, so I’m left wondering if I should start promoting myself as a nature photographer.