Pricing & Negotiating: Industrial Lifestyle Shoot

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Industrial lifestyle shoot

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

Location: Manufacturing facility

Shoot Days: Up to 20

Photographer: Lifestyle and portrait specialist

Agency: Client direct

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at (610) 260-0200. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to big ad campaigns.

Wonderful Machine

There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. ted batten

    In my opinion you took them for all they were worth on the digital fees — $1000 to provide preview jpegs? And 15 finals at $100 each. I’d like to get me sommadat.

    • No doubt! $2500 for processing fees for what was described as 5 or so set ups? Is this normal? It sure isn’t in my world.

  2. This was fantastic and have great insight. Thank you for this series of Pricing and negotiating. Please please keep them coming.

  3. Charles Billings

    Nice to have these estimates, although they are usually so far from my universe I can’t really imagine them.
    Renting them your cameras, then being totally out of line on the initial previews, not to mention the final files which I’d imagine won’t be that difficult to output.

    How about doing a real world estimate for the average working photographer, who is happy to make $1500 day?

    • Preparing images for review takes several hours. You don’t just output a gallery without making adjustments and doing an edit, do you? Further fine tuning on selects takes several hours.

      Why are you happy making $1500 a day? How long do you expect to be in business making so little money? Don’t be another dope photographer who doesn’t know how to do the math.

  4. Well first we told then $20,000 per shot and got some pushback, so we resubmitted it at $19,500.

    We knew the photographer was going to have to wake up extra early — he told us he normally insisted on 9 hours per night — so we decided at that point to insist on an on-set barrista who had prior experience with Annie Liebovitz. They OK’d that, as long as we agreed to provide Crumpets for the client.

    Once that was settled, we discussed the lunch platters, then moved on to more substantial items, the first of which was the Bespoke Cocktails which our contract stipulated not include any off-brand spirits. The Client wasn’t happy about that — at all – although luckily for us the VP of Marketing, who had apparently lost his prior job due to overindulging on EggNog at his old company’s holiday party, backed us, and even — to our delight — approved the serving of Jello Shots during our mid-afternoon break.

    Once the deposit was wired to our offshore account in the Cayman’s, we had an agreement.

    The work was executed, using lots of Profoto lights, a Hasselblad system and plenty of the photoshop Lens Flare filter, and we’re in fact negotiating another job with them.

    They don’t call us Wonderful Machine for nothing!

  5. I did a job like this for a much smaller client over 3 days. A technical school with 5 locations across 2 states. They wanted to do 4-5 set ups a day and get 4-5 images per set up. For use mostly in brochures and web but of course they want to be able to use however. I priced it $2500/day + $400/day processing+ $400 rental + $25/image output and light retouch + $200 final delivery. There are ways to look at the fees in WM’s higher estimate and adapt it to a client with a smaller footprint and budget. I know that I beat out a lower bid that had only a day rate and none of the post fees because I was able to show client I was providing a better product. I was probably $3000-$4000 more expensive and still got the job. Most they ever spent on photography. Client is already talking about doing another shoot later this year. Don’t just give away your labor! Work in post production and per image fees even if they are low.

    • The good thing about per-image fees are that you profit from creeping shot list. With flat day rates clients all too often think “7 shots today…sure, we can do 10!”

      I’m more than happy to stay late and work on that, knowing that such extra work is covered with no ambiguity in the contract.

      • Scope creep is the best with per image!

        Deliver more exceptional work and keep the craving for more imagery!

        I’m curious if you’ve seen a shift towards billing per image and if this may become a more common request.

        • Except for experienced clients with large budgets, I’ve never been asked up front in the bidding process for per image fees. I think its up to us as Photographers to structure our estimates that way and be able to explain the fees.

        • I’ve been doing it that way for several years. I believe clients appreciate the clarity, and it makes sense from a licensing and post-production point of view.

          Obviously it won’t work for open-ended assignment-style work like events, but it’s been a long time since I’ve sent someone a “day rate”, although I get asked for that a few times a year.

  6. wow I am surprised by the reaction in the comments to the estimate pricing- if you can’t even ask for decent money for work done how do you expect to get it?

    There is no digital tech on this job folks. So who is processing the files at the end of the shoot day? and creating a matched set of balanced exposures, wb, etc not to mention any final toning? This takes a ton of time- if you had a digital tech and were shooting tethered the tech is 500/day minimum. If you had a capture station there is another 1000/day.

    And 100/image final is very appropriate- I think people forget what we paid in the film days to get this work out- the cost of a skilled printer is what this reflects, just because we have no “materials” any more like film and paper and polaroid does not mean there is no cost to delivering the final product.

    If people want to just throw all that in, the cost of capture, their computers, their backups, their archiving, their skill at processing files, retouching, etc, and on what is now expected as twice as fast turnaround on files as in the film days, go ahead, give away the farm.

    Digital does not make this easier, it makes it harder because the standard is higher, the control is higher and the final product can be better. Not to mention that the gear goes out of date twice as fast as in the film days.

    again, if you can’t at least ask, and know why you are asking, then its never going to happen.

    • ^ Absolutely right. If you’re “happy” with $1500 per day you’re leaving a lot on the table. Clients generally know better (particularly agencies). But, they’ll take it right out of your pocket given the opportunity.

    • Robert… I certainly don’t think those of us working smaller markets are giving away the farm. It’s the simple fact that many clients aren’t interested in paying for the whole farm, just the part that smells good and looks pretty. They’re not interested in funding the blood, sweat and pig shit that makes the whole thing run smoothly. I think, and hope, the reaction is more about wondering how they can better educate their clients so when they do ask for, or include these charges (at whatever magnitude), they aren’t laughed out of town.

      Personally, I was recently asked to give a luncheon presentation to my local AdFed group. We talked about the business of photography and changes in the market. At one point, I referred to some the estimates presented on this forum as examples of what is happening on a national level and on regional levels in the major markets. The budgets and many of the line item charges put them in a state of shock and awe. Believe me, there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s an uphill battle. One hopefully being made a little easier by this sharing of information.

      • I agree which is why I like what WM is doing here with Rob. I also agree there are tiers, this estimate was for a large industrial manufacturer like Caterpillar or similar is what I’m guessing- all of N. America, plus the logistics of doing similar shoots around the country. Its almost oldskule annual report. Smaller regional firms would need different massaging- i.e.; put some of this into the creative fee in your own mind- and certainly the scale is different.
        What we don’t often talk about is the diff between 35mm digi and mf digi. I think this is a question in the estimation process that need to be addressed- just what are clients needs and no way do they get mf digital for 35mm digital prices. But I have a sad feeling that a lot of photographers use mf as a differentiation point but don’t bill it as such. Which hurts everyone.

        • I somehow doubt that people who have MF digital systems are billing as if they were shooting with a Canon 7D. I don’t see how someone could buy or lease one of those systems and not charge for it. They’d be out of business in a nanosecond.

          @Neal, above, I think some people are indeed “happy” to bill $1500 a day if that is what their market is paying. Not every client is a multinational corporation with gargantuan budgets / media buys / etc.

          And as for the sarcastic comment above about the “bespoke cocktails,” you oughta write a humor column for APE.

  7. Phrase for the day: “scope creep”

    I like!

    Quote jobs on an hourly fee and you might get worked to death without increasing the bill. Not good.