Pricing & Negotiating: Architectural Images For A TV Commercial

by Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Exterior architectural images of 20 restaurants

Licensing: Use of all images captured in multiple broadcast television commercials

Location: 4 cities on the East Coast

Shoot Days: 7

Photographer: Architectural and portraiture specialist

Agency: Medium-sized, based in the Northeast.

Client: Large restaurant chain

Here is the estimate:


Creative/Licensing: The ad agency was in the process of creating a series of TV commercials, and wanted to feature still images of the exteriors of their client’s restaurants within the spots. They anticipated that there would be up to five restaurants in each of the four cities where their client had locations, and with an accelerated timeframe for the media placement, they hoped to shoot all 20 locations in one week.

After a call with the art buyer, I approached the creative/licensing fee with the knowledge that while there were 20 locations, that it was most likely that 5 of them would be featured prominently in the videos, and the rest of the locations were options to choose from when compiling the final commercial. I felt that the size of the client, accelerated pace of the project and likely exposure level of the commercials put strong upward pressure on the fee, but the fact that I knew this was a last minute overage on top of the overall budget for the commercial applied a bit of downward pressure. I decided to price each of the first five shots at $5,000 each, then discount the next five locations to $3,000 each, and then further discount the last 10 locations to $1,000 each, which tallies up to $50,000.

After determining the value of the usage, I checked out Getty to see how they may have priced this since it’s not often that I’m asked to price stills for TV. For TV advertising use for three years (which is the longest duration they offer for this use), they priced one image at $4,870, which was nearly right on the nose of what I priced each of the first 5 images. Corbis similarly priced the same use at $4,160. Based on my research and the fact that this was a big project that needed to be completed blazingly fast, I felt that the $50,000 fee was appropriate.

Pre-Production Day: The photographer would require 1 day to pull together all of his travel arrangements and test out a few pieces of special equipment (mainly lenses) he’d need to buy for the shoot. I would typically include travel/scout days, but the rushed schedule broke down in such a way that there would be days when shooting would happen prior to travel on the same day, and I discussed with the art buyer and photographer that it was better to just figure on a week’s worth of shooting (and charge for it accordingly in the creative/licensing fee) and have the photographer shoot and travel on days that worked best for him, rather than specifying a certain number of shoot and travel days.

Equipment: In addition to the special gear he’d need to purchase (which would cost $1,500), I included a fee for the equipment he owned and would be using on the shoot. For these items I anticipated $800/day (including the camera body, lenses, cards and minor grip equipment), and typically estimate that gear rentals for a full week are often rented for the price of three days at most major rental houses.

Lodging, Airfare and Car Rental: One of the locations was local to the photographer, another was a lengthy car ride away, and the other two were plane rides away. We were able to work out a schedule that required five nights of lodging, for which I estimated a rate of $300/night. That’s typically higher than I’d estimate, but the locations were in major cities and would be booked just a day or two before arriving, which would make for expensive reservations. After shooting the local cities, the photographer would be flying to the third city, shooting and then flying to the fouth city, and then flying home after that. I used to research flights which ranged from $200-$600. Combined with $60 for each flight to account for checked bags, airfare totaled about $1,400. I then rounded up this number to account for a slight increase on costs should fares increase between the time of estimating and booking. The photographer would only need to rent a car in two of the cities, which tallied up to an estimated rate of about $550 including gas.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Misc: I estimated $50/day for parking for 7 days, $75/day for meals for 7 days, and built in an extra $225 for mileage and other miscellaneous charges/fees throughout the trip.

Post Processing and Delivery of All Images by Hard Drive: The agency would be handling all of the post production, and required a hard drive containing all of the RAW images captured. In addition to the cost of the hard drive and shipment (which I anticipated being about $250), I wanted to make sure the photographer would be paid for his time to organize and manage the transfer of the files (which wasn’t a very difficult process, but it would take a long time).

Results: After submitting the estimate, the art buyer told us they had a budget of $60,000. In an effort to move the project along quickly, the agency asked if the photographer would be willing to take on the project for a flat 60k fee. This meant that the photographer wouldn’t have to compile or submit receipts when invoicing after the shoot, which would have taken a decent amount of time given the travel. Additionally, this meant that any cost savings would go into the photographer’s pocket. For these reasons, he felt the $550 discount was worth it and agreed to the flat fee. He was awarded the project and shot it the following week.

Hindsight: While the scope of the shoot was detailed and fast paced, the photographer was confident that he could accomplish it on his own without an assistant since it would be just him, his camera and a tripod. However, he did ultimately decide to allocate some of the cost savings to hire an assistant as he felt that an extra set of hands was well worth the money to help him move quickly around each city.

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.

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

  1. I am very confused on the equipment rental price of $3900.00? I shoot with a med format digital back and tech camera, If I had to rent that for 1 week it would cost way less then that amount. I also have to question a $50,000 fee and no assistant? I have at least 1 assistant on every job. You never know when you need someone to just watch the camera why you move around. Why would you even risk that cost.

    I am not going to even get into the fee structure.

    The other strange line is having millage, parking and meals in the same figure?

    No insurance?

    • Note that it’s a flat fee. Sounds like it was quickly put together, so no need to spend time on line items like that.

      • Line-items are like optional extras that are therefore negotiable.

        So unless I felt I could still produce and then provide the client with the use of my work without them, then I personally wouldn’t present them as such – incase the client felt they didn’t need them.

        Instead, I’d just list the Media use, Period of use and Territory of use – as those are the 3 main things that are negotiable – all of which the client should see value in.

        Because at the end of the day, they are just paying for ‘the use of my work’, rather than for me to do some work for them.

        So in other words, I believe this photographer was very lucky here, that this client did not have the time to negotiate what they would get for their money. Because they could have easily said: “what the heck is this for?” – and then what would he have done, if they didn’t want to pay for those things – which he needed, regardless of what all they wanted to use his images for afterwards.

        Like would he have slept on a park bench, for example, if they didn’t want to pay him $1500 for Lodging !!

  2. Handing over RAW files…. Has this become common place…… Wouldn’t the photographer know best how to interpret his own files?

    • It depends on the agency. I’ve noticed that a lot of regional and local ad agencies have been trying to “in-house” more of their production work. I know of one that actually has it’s own studio, photographer, and production manager. I’ve also noticed that the people working in these positions tend to be jack of all trades types… which is to say, you shouldn’t worry too much about it if you’re a talented photographer.

    • I’ve had this request a couple of times over the past year. In most cases its a client that knows something about photography (lets get the raw files!) but not enough to realize that in many cases, 80% of the work happens in post and a raw file is useless to them. Sometimes they’re just using the wrong terminology – by raw, they really just mean full resolution, uncompressed or even they just want access to outtakes (as in, raw and unpolished)

      In the event they actually want camera raw, I’ve tried to diplomatically handle the issue by discussing their true needs and offering polished 16-bit tiffs that can be ran through ACR and adjusted like a raw file.

  3. You said: “I checked out Getty to see how they may have priced this since it’s not often that I’m asked to price stills for TV. For TV advertising use for three years (which is the longest duration they offer for this use), they priced one image at $4,870…”

    But remember, the price that Getty is quoting here, is an all inclusive price for the use of the photographer’s work – rather than a separate amount for just the use only, on top of which you would then need to pay them more to cover the photographer’s expenses too, to do the work or to have done the work.