Pricing & Negotiating: Architectural Shots For Ad Agency Portfolio

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Architectural shots of a locally-run ad campaign

Licensing: North American Collateral and Publicity use of all images captured in perpetuity

Location: A downtown cityscape and airport

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: A local architectural specialist

Agency: A southern branch of a large NYC-based ad agency

Client: n/a

An art buyer from a large ad agency reached out to one of our photographers, interested in hiring him to shoot two out-of-home (OOH) advertising placements (billboards and transit posters). The ads had just been posted; one was a single three dimensional billboard in a downtown cityscape environment, the other was a series of posters and back-lit displays inside the local airport, both promoting the same client. It’s not unusual for an agency or it’s client to request a shoot to document ads for press releases, awards submissions and/or their portfolios. In this case, the client wasn’t commissioning the shoot, so the licensing would be conveyed directly to the agency.

To take full advantage of the day, the photographer would need to shoot the cityscape billboard in the early morning and late afternoon light, and the interior shots at the airport in the middle of the day while the sun was high. It would definitely be a full day shoot. Other than the long day, the shoot was pretty straight forward. The local film office didn’t require a permit because it was only the photographer, a tripod and one assistant. The agency would be providing the necessary escort and access at the airport, so the prep time would be minimal.

Here’s the estimate:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.55.32 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.55.57 PM

The licensing was fairly minimal, however we needed to grant perpetual use to account for the collateral use of the images in the agency’s portfolio. This is an instance in which the photographer’s time is worth about as much as the fairly limited licensing, and as a result has more weight in the calculation of the overall value. Although the license was perpetual, any use beyond the first year of awards submissions would be minimal and presumably taper off pretty quickly. It seems unlikely that the agency would want to promote work in their portfolio that was more than a few years old, which limits the value a bit. Based on the number of activations, intended use and pricing from previous projects of this nature, I arrived at 4500.00 for the creative/licensing fee. Not surprisingly, this rate was a bit lower than the other pricing resources recommended, which don’t take into account the subtleties of the project, but nevertheless provide a solid point of reference. Blinkbid suggested 900.00/image/year and Corbis priced comparable use at 1300/image for the first year.

Assistant Day: The photographer would have been able to handle the shoot solo from a gear perspective, however he wanted an assistant to drop him off for the cityscape shots, in the event that parking proved to be difficult to find.

Equipment: This covered the one day rental costs for a DSLR, a backup DSLR, tripod and a few specialty lenses, all of which the photographer owned and would be renting to the production.

File Transfer: The agency insisted that raw image be delivered via hard drive. This covered the time and cost necessary to dump the images and ship out a hard drive. It’s pretty unusual for an architectural photographer (or any photographer for that matter) to provide unprocessed files, but due to the nature of the project, the photographer was OK with it.

Insurance: We included the cost of providing a certificate of insurance for the airport portion of the shoot. The property management company required standard business liability insurance to shoot on premises.

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

Housekeeping (see the project description): I noted all of the production elements the client would be providing: processing, necessary location access, escorts and releases to be provided and secured by agency

Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer was awarded the project and shot it a few days later.

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 23 Comments On This Article.

  1. I am curious about sales tax; it seems as if none was charged but if you deliver the file on a tangible good ( HD ) then don’t you need to charge sales tax? I heard that even if the client simply transfers the file from the HD and then reruns the HD to photographer then u need to charge sales tax, am I wrong?

    • The sales tax is the same as whatever your state charges. In Florida is 7%, so if I deliver a DVD, and file 1099 tax forms, I charge 7% sales tax.

    • I think only if the deliverable is a tangible and it is left in the client’s possession – thumb drive, CD, HD… then, yes, I think you’re right Billy. But, if it is solely a means of delivering the files and the HD is returned to you, than you did not transfer ownership of the physical device – so, importantly, I do not believe the IRS would make a case for this, if that’s what you’re worried about. If you want to collect the sales tax anyway, the client may be ok with it – but, often, they know if that is something their supposed to pay or not.

    • Sales tax depends on the state you live in. In some states, license fee’s are taxable. In those states, it’s not uncommon to just cut back the license fee or not charge it all – of course you still do, you just up the creative fee. When it saves the client hundreds – thousands of dollars, they appreciate it.

    • Taxes are complicated and vary from locale to locale and situation to situation, so our standard T&C indicates than any applicable sales tax will be included on the final invoice. Since I’m no tax expert, I leave it to the photographer and his accountant to determine necessary sales tax and apply it to the final invoice.

    • Taxes are handled different in every state. Also it changes if the photographer is in one state, but the client is in another. But then some clients have offices in multiple states. Photography can be vague because in some states only parts of the invoice are taxable – for example, license fees might not be but retouching and mileage is.

      Your best bet is to consult your state’s tax website, or an accountant if wading through that information gives you the willies.

  2. This seems a little high for essentially regional copy work, no? Not a ton of complications or logistics, fairly limited use…what am I missing?

    • Possibly, the rate was high to cover the CODB, plus that photographer’s skill and expertise. Also, the rate included licensing – which he covers in the section about BlinkBid and Corbis and what they charge for similar licensing. The agency may have also hand selected this person because of their talent or “look” – and so, that carries a higher price tag (i.e. added value). Also, the images might be used promotionally – Communication Arts magazine or something similar in the ad industry.

  3. High or not, kudos to the guy for getting that rate. One thing that bugs me is charging rent for equipment that you own. I don’t and never will. I get the whole “digital gear is so expensive, blah, blah, blah. And you have to replace it,….etc.” We had to buy new cameras back in the film era too. It was all part of doing business. You build it into your costs. This is nickle and diming to me,…. As a professional, I’m expected to have at least a minimum of gear. If it’s something I don’t have and need for the job, then I’ll rent it and bill it. This is like hiring a builder and he charges me the rent on his saws, ladders, and hammer. I can’t believe you get away with it,….but if they are willing to pay for it,…. If I was the client I’ll tell him to take a walk. Another thing is file transfer,….that’s a bit high,…and marking up the insurance. But, as I said, if the client swallows it,…then what the heck. Good rate for the shooter.

    • There is nothing wrong with the practice of charing extra for the gear you bring, which you also happen to own. It’s standard issue in the film industry that if you hire a camera operator, they charge extra for equipment they own being used on the shoot. If you were to simply hire out a guy to operate a camera you rented from a local camera rental house, your price is usually the same. The idea behind the approach your talking about is essentially an undercutter tactic. Only charging for labor and FREE gear. Trust me when I say this: fast way to attract CRAP clients. I’ve seen it over and over and over. I only work with people willing to rent gear because they are typically the better clients.

      • Gotta disagree. I’ve been in business for 25+ years and worked for top photographers before that and NO ONE ever charged for their gear that they own already. It’s not an “undercutter” tactic. My gear isn’t free, it’s mine. They are my tools. I think it’s another way to get more money out of clients. I’ve mentioned this “tactic” of charging for basic equipment to a few of my long time clients for their opinion and they looked at me like I was crazy. They wouldn’t go for it. But if you can get away with it, more power to you. And charging it or not has nothing to do with the quality of clients one gets. I don’t have a big neon “FREE GEAR INCLUDED” sign on my web site.

        • It sounds to me like its a matter of invoice sematics. Do I charge $500 for labor and $1000 to rent my $90K Epic camera package, or do I just tell the client I’m $1500 per day with gear. Basic salesmanship says do the later. Maybe people in the film world are just more honest and up front about it…. I’ve worked in both industries. I’ve always seen gear and labor explicitly separated in the film industry.

          • Yes,… the film industry. Not in the still world until digi came about and cameras cost $7000-30,000….. Then photogs began looking for a way to recoup that cost. But now that costs are down, I think it’s different. But, obviously, there are people who will pay that,….Beats me!

            Also, it’s not a shell game. I charge for usage. Not labor. I don’t line item everything to the client. It’s all a part of doing business. Shall I charge car rental to get to the job? Shall I charge electricity costs for the shoot? Or prorated studio rent or insurance, or, or, or,…Where does it end? My experience is that clients don’t like to be nickel and dimed….. As I said before, my survey got the WTF look! But if you can get away with it, more power to you.

            • Actually, it is a much better idea to itemize so that clients don’t get educated that we have no costs at our end. I too itemize and also charge for mileage & accommodations since I don’t shoot portraits in a fixed studio.

              It is not about “nickel & dime-ing”, it is about being a small service business. Have you seen a dental estimate? Have you seen a Tires Plus receipt? Everyone that is a business is itemizing their costs for their own records but also for tax purposes.

              It’s called: “proper business practices”, and ASMP has tons of information on it. Nothing at my end is one flat fee!!!! My food varies, my car maintenance varies, my camera equipment is not a flat fee etc.

          • We vary depending on the client. The accounting departments at Triple-A agencies prefer line items to vague (to them) creative fees. They have strict rules they operate by and I have been snagged by them before on this.

            For smaller clients who are line item phobic, we roll kit fees into the basic fee.

            You should absolutely have a kit fee for capture, workstation, lighting, grip etc, if only for your own accounting purposes. It’s essential to know what things cost over time and re-coup that cost.

            Your kit fee should be much lower than what it costs to rent that piece of equipment from a rental house. But in some cases where the client has a set fee budget “plus expenses” (like editorial), you can make up for a low fee by matching the rental house. Otherwise keep your kit fee reasonable to remain competitive in the bid.

  4. That all seems about right, and I’m glad something like this is circulating. Too often people aren’t charging that they should or protecting themselves with the terms & conditions portion – thinking either, A) They themselves not worth it a high price, yet… B) No one would pay that price… or, C) If they charge less, they’ll get the job. – Work hard for what you do, make it your best, compete at a high level, step up to the plate, and charge accordingly. Use that money to reinvest in your business, save for retirement, pay off your bills, and be proud of where you’re going in life – as a small business owner, not just a “photographer.”

    (The only thing that strikes me as odd – in this scenario specifically – is the rental gear price, for something it is assumed a photographer should own. I can understand renting lights, or a specialty lens, but the whole outfit? Unless, it’s a second camera or something specific to the job that they didn’t own already, then I get it. I should ask a plumber if he “rents” his wrench to jobs that require it.)

    • Plumber’s wrenches don’t cost $8000 and become outdated every 24 months. That comparison always chaps my crackers.
      If you own the gear and don’t charge a rental fee, ALL of the gear has to be worked into your CODB (depreciation, etc.) If you ‘rent’ your gear to the client, they only pay for the gear you used on their project. The client isn’t paying for that 4×5 Linhoff sitting in a case on the floor of your studio, collecting dust. That gear has to be paid for (and depreciation covered) one way or the other, either through creative fee or rental. Business decision, do what you feel works best for your business and clients.

      • Again, not to beat a dead horse… Dan, I get your comment and have worked for photographers who rent their gear on production days (video gear, high priced cameras, five-thousand dollar lenses…). But, specific to this discussion, to stay on topic here – this post was an informative and eye-opening share for those just entering the business (I think, anyway). If you’ve been at this for 15+ years, you don’t read things like this unless you’re worried you’re not billing close to what other are and you feel a little insecure or out of touch.

        Specific to this article, the photographer rented his DSLR AND a back-up DSLR, not his Leaf back or Hasselblad kit… I just think – and correct me if I’m wrong, you should be doing enough business that the ROI on a DSLR should take only a couple of jobs. So, renting that to every client in a year would be enough to buy 15-20 of those DSLR and lens kits… Plus, he rented specialty lenses, which I, in my comment above, agree with. Lenses are an investment, cameras change rapidly.

        But, you’re all right. We are not a commodity market, so just do for you business what makes the most sense for you and your clients.

        Chris’s comment above, about either charging for the rental or including that in your “Creative Fee” makes a lot of sense. Not to diverge into another discussion, but I think this also goes into talking about how some weasels in this business lower their creative fee to win bids, but mark-up the cost of assistants and stylist to put more money in their own pocket, as a quote-unquote finder’s fee…

        Let’s be better about how we conduct business and be good to our clients. Be transparent and competitive, but friendlier.

        • I just do a full kit fee like my makeup artists and stylists have. I don’t usually cherry pick whats in my camera bag before a job. It’s 20k of gear that’s depreciating over a handful of years, so it’s pretty easy to figure out what it’s worth on a job-by-job basis, factoring in insurance and a ‘risk factor’ that varies…

  5. Joe: More about licensing here:
    And here:

    And a lot more On
    All the work you do as a photographer is subject to a license, and that license is based on the circulation of the image. The more newbies get this, the faster we can reclaim our industry back.
    The larger the circulation/audience, the larger the fee. I talk about that here too:
    Read the last line more than once.

    Regarding equipment: if you don’t own certain type of equipment you rent it, and it is part of the budget in order to produce the desired result. Sometimes you rent equipment you don’t have as back up.
    It is part of your job to cover every single aspect or problem that might arise at a shoot, and if that means renting extra equipment so be it.

    Then there’s the wear & tear.

    Sometimes we rent cherry pickers too! & other props.
    This is a business, and those are business costs!

    Most food, architecture & product photos became advertising content for that client, which is why it is so important to learn to license properly and use BlinkBid & FotoQuote. These clients don’t print 4×6’s and store them in albums on some shelf, all your images became content for ads, billboards, flyers, brochures and so forth that are seen by millions of people. Don’t underestimate the value our images bring to clients. Without them, they wouldn’t be able to advertise themselves properly. Photography is NOT a commodity.

  6. Thanks again Wonderful Machine for sharing how to go about a viable business supporting great photography. I much agree with Alexandra about the educational aspect of informative quotes. I also find the strong benefit of itemising every bit, and that’s every tiny cost creator, is that it enables me to make informed and quick decisions should further negotiation be called for. I basically operate with three spreadsheets feeding into each other, the third being a simplied version for client presentation. While you don’t want to overload, nor bring what might seem as irrelevant details to the client, I keep headers which totals the detailed back office calculations. This way, I know for example quite to the dollar what the pure capture cost needs to be because I know all the elements needed to make capture happen. (which will always fluxtuate – hd and software costs drop, others might be added as one reconsider ones work processes). Same with gear where rental rates very much is fluxtuating. Intricate details automised by a few simple spreadsheet formulas, enabling transparent monies talk with client. I find it’s appreciated and best of all a good helper in negotiations.

  7. More power to him if he was able to bill $4500 for architectural photography. I shoot this type of work all the time and get about 1/2 that per day based on 4-5 shots. I think the rental line is way out of the norm, I bill $100 per image for digital capture and post processing per image to cover my medium format digital equipment. I also bill at least $300 per assistant per day plus over time if needed, I am curious what he pays his assistants? I also bill $25.00 per day for insurance, he bills $100. The difference most of my shoots take 3-8 days so i end up billing more over the long run. I also bill $25.00 per day for expendables, (gaffer tape, cards, bulbs ect…)