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.
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.