Pricing & Negotiating: Motion For Small Business Service Company

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Testimonials, man-on-the-street interviews and b-roll video of an annual corporate conference

Licensing: Web Collateral use of one 2:00 minute edited video

Location: Hotel conference center

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Portrait, Lifestyle and Motion Specialist

Agency: N/A – Client Direct

Client: A Small Business Services Company

A few months ago, one of our California-based photographers asked me to help her pull together an estimate for a motion shoot. Although the photographer had a long-standing relationship with this particular client, they’d never asked her to provide motion coverage. The client asked her to shoot four testimonial interviews of the executive team, man-on-the-street interviews of the other attendees and b-roll footage of the event in general. Ultimately, the client wanted to put together a 2:00 introduction/about video for their corporate website to loop on a flat screen at trade shows (within the context of the website). The client would be providing the shooting space, interviewers and scheduling the executives. The client also reserved a room for the testimonials so that the photographer could work in a mostly controlled environment with plenty of available light.

Since we were working directly with the client and providing the editing services, this presented a great opportunity to limit the licensing to their very specific needs (it is not uncommon in the motion world to work under a work for hire agreement or grant unrestricted usage). We seized the opportunity and put together an estimate including limited usage of the final piece.

Based on the needs of the client, we decided to price this out as a two-camera shoot including the photographer/director who would run camera 1, and a DP to manage the minimal lighting and run camera 2. In this case, the DP would be working under the instruction of the photographer/director and sign a work for hire agreement (much like a second photographer on a still shoot), to streamline the licensing process for the client (and photographer).

To arrive at the licensing fee, I took into account the intended audience (trade), limited use (collateral only), shelf-life (this event takes place every year, and the finished piece would likely include footage of current clients, who may not be clients next year) and level production (the team really only needed to show up and shoot). I also considered how much a comparable day of still shooting would yield and what a comparable licensing fee would be for those stills. After weighing all of the factors, we landed at $5,500 for the photographer/director’s creative and licensing fee. Since the client understood relative licensing values on the still side, they were comfortable negotiating limited licensing terms on the motion side as well. Not all clients are as flexible with regard to motion, but it’s always worth the attempt.

Here’s the approved estimate:

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 2.50.28 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 2.50.59 PM

Grip: A grip is the motion world equivalent of a first assistant, though they are typically more specialized. They set up all the grip equipment and manage basic lighting under the direction of the director or the DP. Complex lighting or electrical work may require a gaffer. In this case, the photographer planned to shoot mostly available light and would only need a couple of florescent light banks for the testimonials, so a single grip would suffice.

Director of Photography: As I mentioned above, the DP would be running camera 2 and helping to manage the lighting. A DP is generally more experienced and has the expertise and wherewithal to operate independently of the director. Their rates vary based on the nature of the project and level of involvement required. In this case, we got a quote from a colleague experienced in corporate motion work.

Audio Engineer: Like location scouts, audio engineers have pretty standard rates, regardless of where they’re based or the details of the shoot. $800 covers their day rate and basic recording equipment.

Equipment: $2200 covered costs for two DSLR camera systems, lenses, mounting and grip equipment and two florescent light banks. The photographer and DP owned all of the equipment and would be renting to the production at the market rate.

Editing and Color Grading: We got an editing quote from an editor who the photographer had worked with in the past. $1000/minute is a good rule of thumb for editing costs, but that can fluctuate with the content available, number of revisions, quality of footage and graphic elements required.

File Transfer: This covered the FTP and hard drive costs to share the content with the client for review throughout editing and delivery.

Groomer: We included a groomer to make sure the testimonial subjects (executives), who were supposed to arrive camera ready, looked their best. The groomer would handle basic hair and make up styling and wardrobe finessing.

Miles, Parking, Shipping, etc: This covered out of pocket expenses the photographer and crew would accrue between mileage, parking, crew meals, shipping costs and any other miscellaneous expenses that may be incurred.

Housekeeping (see the project description): I noted all of the production elements the client would be providing. In this case, we were relying on the client to provide the locations, subject scheduling and necessary releases. The client also planned to guide the subjects through their interviews, which under normal circumstances could fall under the responsibility of the director.

The client reviewed our first estimate and asked for a revision excluding the man-on-the street component. Although the team would be generating less content overall, the time on site wouldn’t change significantly (it would still be about a full day) and the deliverable, a 2:00 finished piece, wouldn’t be impacted, which meant the value of the licensing wouldn’t really be impacted either. If it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t have adjusted the fees at all, however the photographer felt a small decrease was reasonable. We presented an option with a $1000 lower bottom line, all of which came out of the creative/licensing fee. Seeing that the decrease was marginal, the client opted for the original approach.

Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer/director shot the project and the client has since come back asking to set up another shoot to capture similar content at their corporate headquarters.

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 12 Comments On This Article.

  1. This job is seriously under bid for all elements and just another example of how photographers and their reps are killing the industry.
    Just because someone else will do the job for less does not mean that you should.

    • I work as a DP, I started my career as one before moving into stills. I can tell you that $5.5K for one day of work on a corporate video that might have a 1 year shelf life…. is amazingly good pay. Go to any forum for professional DP’s and ask what kind of gig pays $5K+ a day and the answer you’ll hear: major national TV spots. Think super bowl ads. A typical studio motion picture DP makes about $4K per WEEK – and a week in the film industry is usually five or even days at 12-14 hours per day. I doubt they even worked 10 hours for this – and keeping the rights? Unheard of in the film / video world. Photographers have done very well for themselves compared to their film counterparts.

      • I will have to agree with Chris here. Not sure which city or region this is, but that’s mighty good for corporate DP anywhere.

        Video rights are an interesting experiment, but there are many many operators out there that will never bother and wouldn’t have a clue how to start. Ultimately, specific corporate footage of people and events tends to have almost no stock value outside of the project. Often you’d be paying to license something nobody else would want. Motion clients will stay wary on this unless producers all lie in concert.

        Would love to see the finished product from $14K bid.

  2. Jess, you said that this photographer had not work on a motion project with this client previous to this job. Does this photographer regularly handle other motion projects?

  3. Hi,
    I find these posts fascinating. I’ve seen it debated before on this site but can someone explain how you get away with renting your own equipment to yourself?
    I can understand renting specialist gear, or renting gear completely but if you’ve bought don’t you just roll that into your fees?

    Jon

    • In the film / video industry, it’s standard to charge rentals for gear you own. Photographers don’t do that traditionally, I suspect because historically, their equipment just cost less and probably the license fees alone were lucrative enough to not bother.

    • There’s nothing to “get away” with. Equipment has a limited useful lifespan, either due to wear and tear or obsolescence, and costs a lot to replace. Figuring out this cost over time is part of one’s financial duties and you need to have it paid for by your clients.

      You certainly can roll the cost into fees, however AAA-level clients prefer line items to catch-alls. The accounts payable at large agencies with US government prime contractor status, for example, tend to be more picky about that as they are following stricter rules. I’ve ran into it before when working with the big ones and had payments delayed because they felt some things were too vague.

  4. Wow. It’s incredible what’s going on in this industry. I’ve worked for more than 20 years as a commercial photographer. Before that I worked as a camera assistant in the film industry for 4 years. I’ve seen both ends of these price ranges in both fields. There used to be some standards for production scale, value and cost. It is a free for all now. For various reasons, ie. advances in technology, internet access, economic downturns, the perceived value of what we do has been decimated. If we don’t get our stuff together and get on the same page with these things it’s going to be a disaster. If we can’t agree on the value of our services how the heck are we going to convince our clients of it? Most of them are already asking themselves why they don’t just shoot stuff themselves with their stinkin’ iPhones.

    Back in the day when better motion projects were shot on film you needed several hundred k of film camera gear to shoot motion and get a half descent image. Few people could afford their own camera packages. Everything would be rented from Panavision etc. That was all part of a production budget. (And in my limited experience with working in NY it was not at all unusual for stills productions to be handled the same way. Everything is rented and billed for.) Now you can get better quality motion imagery with a $4000 worth of DSLR gear. And any small business with a website expects to have a cinema quality corporate videos if they like. The range of expectation from clients is growing inversely to the money they think they should pay. The question is how do we manage the expectation and be able to bill accordingly.

    From the description of the project above (I haven’t looked at the actual quote yet) I can tell you I’ve shot jobs like that by myself, no sound man, no grip, 2 cameras, on my own. and cut it myself. I’m only saying this to illustrate the range of scale of production to get to a similar end product these days.

    It’s all over the map and the wildly varying mind sets on how to bill is only furthering the deterioration of the perceived value of what we produce.

  5. Bob’s accusation that “this job is seriously underbid” is inflammatory and unhelpful to any of us in this changing industry. He really should back up that statement with something more specific if he’s interested in preventing the erosion of our fees.

    As a photographer who has shot corporate still photography for countless Fortune 500 companies very successfully for almost 30 years I can tell you that this video estimate seems totally in line with the skills, equipment, time and potential liability involved. I WISH it represented a serious underbidding but its actually generous in the face of current client expectations.

    Many videographers who were trained in “run and gun” news gathering methods may not necessarily be at the same technical and aesthetic level as an accomplished still photographer who has gone into motion. Corporations are sometimes used to paying those run and gun video crews a lower rate than what might be justifiable with a more sophisticated director and crew. I’m not trying to be judgmental, but I can tell you the video crews I’ve worked alongside are often none too impressive. There is a wide range though and I’m not sure how that’s so different from the world of still photography. One definitely needs to avoid the temptation to underbid out of desperation. That’s what a strong union is supposed to prevent but we will never have that. It’s up to each of us to stay strong, be good business people, and not give our work away for anything less than its worth. Just consider how much it takes to live in this very expensive world.