Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
I’ve been following your blog closely for some time now, and I’ve found it very helpful in seeing what others charge for advertising shoots, but I have had virtually no luck in applying the same sort of rates (scaled down) to my business. One of the requests I get most often from business owners and lawyers is for headshots, full-length portraits, environmental portraits, retouching either on-location or in-studio.
I’m finding that almost everyone who contacts me is confused by the idea that they must pay to actually use the images and that they don’t own them, so it’s this constant uphill battle to educate potential clients. I’d love to get a sense from you whether I’m going about this the right way, if I’m charging too much or too little, if I should be rolling the usage fees for specific number of images into the Photographer’s Fee instead of giving Usage it its own line-item… I need help here.
I’m in [redacted], TX and my work tends to be directly for the clients and not for ad agencies who understand how things work. For your reference, I’ve attached an estimate I sent out just today. When I was talking on the phone with the client, as soon as I mentioned that a ‘full buyout’ of the selected images would be more expensive than specific usage, I was told ‘Oh, well we may not be able to use you then’ – I sent the estimate and the response was simply ‘No thanks.’
Fee for [redacted] to produce portraits of two lawyers on-location at a law ﬁrm in [redacted] in one half-day shoot and for the
following licensing to be conveyed to Clients: Unlimited Time Usage, Unlimited use of up to 2 photos, across all communication
1 Photographers Fee @ 750.00 ea. (Half-Day): 750.00
2 Usage Fees @ 900.00 ea. (Unlimited Usage – Full Buyout): 1,800.00
2 Retouching Hours @ 125.00 ea. (Editing and Clipping Mask for Final Image): 250.00
Fees total: 2,800.00
1 First Assistant @ 100.00 ea. (Half-Day): 100.00
Crew total: 100.00
Sub Total: 2,900.00
TX TAX (8.125%) 8.125%: 235.63
Total (USD): 3,135.63
Amanda and Suzanne:
Advertising and Local Consumer (even professional type imagery) speak 2 different languages. It’s not that they do not understand the terms, but the different client types need usage terms to be addressed differently (less of a blow to put it mildly).
MARKETING DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL LAW FIRM:
The price really varies depending on the market, but an average would be about $125 – $150 per headshot. The rights that we negotiate are: unlimited rights for electronic use, but prints and reprints must be ordered from photographer.
ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 1:
You are certainly not alone. I know of many photographers who have gone through this same “song and dance” with clients (me included). Recently I have found that many non-advertising/editorial clients (lawyers, business owners, etc…) are beginning to understand, or accept, the way photographers price their work. This might be due to the way we are organizing our estimates or explaining our pricing structure during the initial conversation.
The numbers in your estimate are certainly within the norm, but as you stated the client balked at the usage fees. As you probably know, photographers are now combining the usage and creative fee into one line item – which I think is a good idea. This doesn’t always alleviate the problem, but it’s a start. In the initial phone conversation I ask many questions – what type of portraits, studio or on location, etc… I also bring up the subject of usage by asking how long they would like to use the images and for what purpose. Their response usually is “forever and don’t I own them?.” Here is where I educate them on how photographers price their work. I explain that “my pricing for portraits is structured by how many people need to be photographed, how the images will be used and not based on how long it takes (1/2 day or full day). If they continue to be confused, I calmly explain to them that photographers price their work very similarly to how cell phone companies structure their phone usage – you can own the phone, but you have to pay to use it. You are charged based on how many minutes per month you want and how many texts you send, and even more if you want to use it internationally. Since most have cell phone, I always hear “oh, okay I get it.” If they then say it is too expensive, then I ask what their budget is and try to work within that. It’s all about creating a win-win situation. I will usually send two or three estimate with different usage rights and pricing – one year usage, three year usage and unlimited, with the option to re-license the images. This way they can see the breakdown. Most go with the three year estimate.
ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 2:
In my experience, when you are dealing with a small client like this one, it is best to combine the usage fee and the photographer’s fee into one, especially when dealing with a “buyout” situation. Most clients like this (and it is sad to say) do not want to understand or learn about usage. They just want to know if you can get in, do the job, deliver the images quickly and on time and on budget. Why complicate it by adding an additional usage fee? They are not an agency, they don’t pretend to be an agency, it’s not like there’s going to be a relicensing fee here ,because of the full buyout and to be perfectly honest, why should there be? What is the resale value on these images? They are not going to be put into stock, correct? Most likely they will be out of date in 2-3 years and the law firm will call again when they hire more lawyers or when the shots need to be updated. So, why risk alienating them by making your estimates more complicated than they need to be?
Secondly, why did the photographer not handle these questions and explain the fee structure before the estimate was sent and address the client’s concerns? As part of the sales process (and let’s face it, unless you have an agent, photographers are sales people) all of this should have been covered in the initial conversation and follow up conversations. An estimate should be a confirmation of the what was discussed and verbally agreed upon as to prevent a situation like the one that happened. Collaboration and mutual respect.
ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER 3:
Unless a client has commissioned media on a regular basis, it doesn’t make sense to do an itemized bid like this. A high powered law office is still on the consumer side of things, and they won’t be used to terminology or typical photo bidding practices. This isn’t good sales practice to itemize like this, because it draws undue attention to usage, mysterious line items such as assistants etc. Treat this sort of client like a wedding/portrait client: give one fee for the job. Explain separately what the usage rights are, but don’t break them out as line items. A headshot client is going to assume, much like any other consumer-level client, that they own the images (makes sense to them, they paid for them!). Better to state the usage without hitting them over the head with it, so the client doesn’t freak out.
And that’s a lot for a couple of headshots!
Often it’s all in the wording, but it’s also what a specific market is used to paying. Often quantity can make a small fee multiply quickly. Ask the right questions and decide how to best approach this type of client. An estimate is a visual/verbal communication – make it as simple and clean to read as possible. Some need it very simple – while other’s need every detail spelled out – but it should all be kept to the point and clean.
Call To Action:
Use this scenario and create a plan for future estimates. Have your estimate template together/ready, along with your questions, so when that that job comes in you are prepared.