Pricing and Negotiating: Advertising and Collateral for a Prepared Foods Manufacturer

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Images of plated food (soups, entrees and sauces)

Licensing: Advertising and Collateral use of 42 images in perpetuity

Location: In a studio local to the photographer

Shoot Days: 5

Photographer: Midwestern Food and Portraiture Specialist

Agency: Small Ad Agency in the Northwest

Client: Prepared Foods Manufacturer in the Northwest

Here’s the estimate:


Creative/Licensing: The agency approached the photographer with a request to photograph 42 items for their client who primarily makes prepared soups. The client was branching out into manufacturing other items besides soup, and they needed images to showcase 8 sauces, 8 entrees, 10 soups and 16 holiday food items. We received one comp of a close up of a bowl of soup, and we were told that they didn’t have any other specific information on the complexity of the dishes that needed to be captured. The agency mentioned that they were anticipating 5 days of shooting, and this meant that the photographer would need to shoot at least 8 dishes a day, plus one day where he would photograph 10 dishes…no small task.

When I spoke with the account director at the agency, she told me that they were planning to use the images in web ads, on product packaging, on their website and potentially in other printed collateral pieces (although she couldn’t think of any likely examples), and they intended on using these images for 5-10 years. I learned that not only is it rare for this client to manufacture new items, but also that the client has never done a shoot of this scale before and didn’t set a specific budget. This told me that while the shelf life was lengthy for these photos, the client might be easily scared away by an exorbitant bottom line.

Based on their licensing needs, and due to the inexperienced client and the small size of the agency, I chose to price the first four images in the main categories (sauces, soups, entrées and holiday items) at $3,000 each. I figured that the images of their best selling items in each category would be the ones featured in advertisements, and that all of the other images were worth a bit less due to a decreased level of exposure. So, for the second and third image in each category, I dropped the fee for each one to a quarter of the full price (8 images at $750 each totaling $6,000), and then lowered it to a sixth of the full price for the fourth and fifth items in each category (8 images at $500 each totaling $4,000) and then priced the remaining 22 images at one-tenth the full price ($300 each totaling $6,600). This all tallied up to $28,600. This felt a bit high based on other projects I’ve estimated for food clients, so I ultimately decided to drop it down a bit to $25,000 which also helped to keep the bottom line under $70,000.

After coming up with my own fee, I checked it against other resources. Getty would price that first image in each group at $2,530 ($735 for the web ads, $1,225 for the packaging, and $570 for the website use) for 3 years. This was in line with the $3,000/image I originally came up with. Blinkbid priced 1 image at $4,500 for “website” and “collateral” use for 1 year, and FotoQuote also priced 1 image at $4,500 for their “web pack” which includes web advertising and use on a client’s website, however this didn’t include packaging use.

Assistants: In order to stay on pace with the schedule each day, we’d need the first assistant available for a prep day before the shoot to set up everything, and then both assistants would be there for all of the shoot days

Digital Tech: We’d also need the tech for the prep day and each shoot day, and we included his workstation equipment in the equipment line.

Producer: The photographer had a producer he worked with at $600/day (a bit lower than I might include typically) and he’d be a crucial part of the shoot to make sure each day stayed on schedule.

Photographer Prep Day: This was for his time to set up in the studio the day before the shoot

Prop Stylist and Props: We didn’t actually need a prop stylist on set, but we did need someone to gather all of the necessary items and drop them off at the studio. The food stylists would be able to collaborate with the photographer for prop placement in each shot. While a handful of the items would be reused, the prop budget included items such as bowls, plates, cutlery, and tabletops. After speaking with a prop stylist, we decided it could take between $50-$100 per shot in props, which would be between $2,100-$4,200. Also, since we didn’t know how many items could be reused, the prop stylist needed ample time to source unique items, come to the prep day to drop them off and sort them, and then return any unused items after the shoot. The veteran stylist I spoke to recommended that I include 6-7 days for her, but I felt that this was too high, so I included 5 days…which I still felt was on the high side.

Food Stylists and Assistants: I included 5 shoot days for two teams of stylists with their assistants, and also included an extra day for the primary food stylist to shop for supplemental food before the shoot. In order to shoot 42 dishes in 5 days, there would need to be 2 teams of food stylists with their assistants, and they would also need to follow a very strict schedule to complete the project on time. To help us think through how this would work, we created the following chart:


The chart details the schedule for each team over a 10-hour day. The numbers and letters in each slot correspond to the dish number and team. For example, 1a means the first dish for team A, and 3b means the third dish for team B. This schedule would allow the food stylist’s assistant to prepare a dish for 2 straight hours, one hour of which the food stylist would be lending a hand. After the hour when the stylist and their assistant prep the dish together, the food stylist will then spend one hour with the photographer shooting that dish while the food stylist’s assistant begins to prep the next dish. The photographer would switch back and forth between the two different teams with their own sets.

Supplemental Food: The client would be providing the majority of food, but the stylists would need supplemental items (like garnishes) to make the prepared foods look their best.

Studio Rental: The studio we had in mind had a weekly rate of $2,500. I included an additional $300 that the studio would charge for the few hours of prep time before the shoot days.

Equipment Rental: We always recommend that photographers charge for their own equipment. However, this photographer decided that he didn’t want to. The fee here represents $500 per shoot day for the tech’s workstation rental. The tech would be using a laptop on the prep day.

Image Processing for Editing: This covers the time, equipment and costs to handle the initial import, edit and upload of images for client review.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: 42 final images would be further processed and delivered.

Catering: I included catering for 12 people at $35 each for the 5 shoot days, plus and additional $600 for dinner on the day that there would be overtime.

OT Hours: On one of the shoot days the crew would need to stay an extra 4 hours in order obtain images of 2 additional shots needed in order to capture 42 dishes. I arrived at this number by calculating each crew member’s hourly rate (based on an 8 hour day) and multiplying by 4.

Miles, Parking, FTP, Insurance, Misc: I included an additional $100 per shoot day to cover these miscellaneous expenses.

Housekeeping: I made sure to note that the all of the manufacturer’s food products would be provided to the photographer, and noted the advance requirements.

Results: The account director told us that this estimate was competitive and definitely in line with the other bids they received, but they ultimately decided to hire a photographer located in the same city as the agency and client. The decision was also a creative one, as the client preferred the style of the other photographer.

Hindsight: If I had known that we were bidding against photographers local to the client and agency, and I was also told beforehand that our bottom line was comparable, I would have tried to adjust our estimate appropriately to offset any travel costs potentially incurred by agency/client representatives to fly out to our photographer’s city.


There Are 9 Comments On This Article.

  1. One should never, ever use the word “collateral” as a form for, description of or definition for licensing. The term is “disfavored” by the Plus Licensing Glossary and should never, be used – ever. Simple reason – the definition of the word “collateral” in any English Dictionary permits a legitimate claim to be made that ANY use beyond that which is specifically proscribed in permitted.

    Our clients’ forms whether they be photographers, reps, GCI, models or model agencies do not contain the word – ever. Here is a sample Webster definition:
    a : accompanying as secondary or subordinate : concomitant
    b : indirect
    c : serving to support or reinforce : ancillary
    2 parallel, coordinate, or corresponding in position, order, time, or significance

    Those common meaning definitions permit virtually unlimited use of imagery so long as there is otherwise properly licensed imagery being used at the same time. Never use the word – ever.

      • You are correct. Anything that is “vague” is what we lawyers call a “profit center”. It opens the door to who said what to whom, who meant what when they used a term that has no specific meaning and so on. This enables lawyers to fight, use up hours and send their respective clients big legal bills. All of the forgoing can be easily avoided by simply dropping the word from your professional vocabulary.

        Final note – we we represent clients and want to get more use out of the photo than the photographer wants to license, we throw in the word “collateral” and have never failed to get more usage than the photographer believes was licensed. Its a trick used by your clients because it works. Used it myself many, many times.

    • Bill Cramer

      The definitions provided on the Terms & Conditions page trump any dictionary definition.

      • I assume that you are not a litigator. The results of trials, depositions don’t always support your position. Juries and judges do not necessarily agree with you. The interpretations of terms and conditions on contracts are disputed and litigated every single day in thousands of court rooms in very state and county in America.

        Sorry to advise you that dispute resolution is not so simple. I have litigated this issue dozens of times and have been called in as an expert witness on the matter by other lawyers. Don’t use the term is my best advice. You are free to disagree and do whatever strikes your fancy. Some people have no fear betting 50k on the turn of a single card others have no desire to ever enter a casino even to pay the penny slots. Your decision.

  2. Hi there!
    Thanks for this – some great insight! But let me tell you – that food stylist line item is too low. I don’t know any good, talented food stylist that has a rate below $900 per day for advertising. Keep stylists rates competitive please!

    • Hi Sara,

      Rates for stylists of course vary by location, and if this shoot were to have taken place in a major market like New York City, I would have included at least $1,200/day for them. This project was in a much smaller market, and the photographer had a relationship with a stylist who offered their services at $700/day.


  3. Also strikes me as odd that the 1st and 2nd assistants are paid the same. Don’t know any first assistants that would knowingly work for the same rate as the 2nd, especially for advertising.