Pricing & Negotiating: Environmental Portraits for a Regional Insurer

Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Environmental portraits of two small business owners/customers
Licensing: Regional Advertising (Print and Web) and Collateral use of four images for three years from shoot date
Location: Subjects’ businesses
Shoot Days: Two
Photographer: Established environmental portrait photographer, based in the Mid-West
Agency: Mid-sized, based on the West Coast
Client: Regional healthcare insurer

Here is the estimate:

Creative/Licensing: We’ve noticed the trend toward campaigns that highlight small business owners and entrepreneurs as of late. It’s not a new concept by any means, it’s just that we’ve estimated a flurry of projects leaning in that direction recently. Most of these projects seem to be geared towards highlighting business owners who are reaping the benefit of some valuable service or product that helps them manage the daily challenges of running their own business—products and services like software, banking, staffing, logistics and, as in this case, healthcare insurance.

For this one, the photographer was contacted by a smaller West Coast agency to estimate a more conceptual, stylized version of the typical small business owner/customer testimonial campaign, although we’d still be working with real people in/around their own businesses. The client wanted to walk away with two images of each of the two business owners: one shot would be stylized, and the other would be more authentic. The stylized version would be used for a specific ad campaign, while the authentic version would be used within the client’s various collateral channels. Even so, the agency was unwilling to negotiate different usage parameters for the different versions because of the remote possibility that either version could end up serving needs on both fronts.

When assessing licensing value, we typically start by setting the value of the first image for the first year of licensing, based on our previous experience pricing comparable concepts/clients/usage. In this case, we set the value of the first year of use for the stylized, campaign image at $3000-$4000, and the first year of use for the authentic, collateral version at $1000-$2000, or $4000-$6000 combined. Based on one of our many rules of thumb (that increasing usage duration from one year to three years doubles the licensing value – presuming a slowly diminishing value to the client) the licensing fee for three years of use would fall in the $8,000-$12,000 range for the first subject’s imagery. We also recognize that in some instances the first iteration of a campaign can often stand alone, meaning that the second version/subject/etc. of the campaign will add value, but not as much value as the first. Usually, subject variations will be helpful and can extend the life and reach of the campaign, but is it unlikely to double the life/reach, so we will often assess these secondary versions at a lower value. In this case, because of the nature of the client, relatively low level of production required (on our part) and all of the above mentioned factors, we decided to price this on the lowest end of the value range, $16,000. After pricing out the rest of the production and weighing the overall effective fee (including travel, prep, processing and equipment) we decided to tweak the number down just a bit further to $15,000, which allowed us to bring the bottom line into the $35,000 range.

Client Provisions: We made sure to indicate that the client/agency/subject would provide all necessary locations, casting, subjects, catering, staging areas, wardrobe, props and necessary releases.

Travel Days: The way that the locations and travel itinerary worked out, the photographer would be able to comfortably travel in and tech/scout a given location/subject on the same day. This helped minimize travel fees and expenses for the production.

Digital Tech: $500 covered the tech’s day rate, and she was willing to travel for half-rate. There was a few hundred bucks in the equipment budget to cover a laptop rental as well.

Assistants: Since the photographer would be bringing his trusted digital tech (who also jumps in as a photo assistant when needed) along with him, he was comfortable with hiring local assistants in each of the two cities.

Preproduction Days: Although a producer is usually necessary for a shoot like this, the client and agency would be facilitating/providing the lion’s share of the production elements, so we were able to forgo the on-site producer. We did include two days of preproduction time to cover either a freelance producer or the photographer’s time to hire the local crew and make travel arrangements.

Equipment: The photographer routinely travels to shoot editorial location portraits and has a lean but comprehensive kit of gear he flies with. However, because we could conceivably rent that same gear in each of the locations, we estimated as if we were renting gear locally, which would technically save a day of rental costs. He felt that $2000 for local rentals in each location would cover all necessary camera, grip and lighting gear he would need.

Styling: For the stylized shots, the agency was considering props to help exaggerate the concept. Because the specifics were still being determined, and the incorporation of props was up in the air in general, we didn’t want to unnecessarily inflate the bottom line (particularly after we decided to tweak our fees to keep the bottom line around $35,000). We opted instead to mark the props and styling as TBD. As for HMU and Wardrobe, we would be working with local stylists to ensure a genuine look with the real customers. We usually like to include some shop time and wardrobe budget to cover our bases, but the client was adamant about using the subjects’ own clothes for authenticity and promised to adequately prepare them and communicate our needs and expectations.

Processing: This covered the photographer’s time, equipment and costs for the initial import, edit, batch color correction and upload of the images to an FTP for client review and selection/editing, along with the final processing and delivery for each of four client selects. Retouching would be billed separately as requested.

Travel Expenses: We used kayak.com to determine suitable airfare and itinerary, lodging and car rental costs. We also included $60 per day per traveling crew member to cover meals and miscellaneous costs and added on $400 in buffer to help cover at least some of a big agency/client dinner and any other unforeseen expenses.

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 3 Comments On This Article.

  1. $250 a day for a photo assistant was the editorial day rate back in 1996
    Who in their right mind finds this acceptable 19 years later?

    It is photographers and their reps like this that are single handedly killing the photo industry and the ability for all of us to make a living.

    • Will Iamnot

      Why are you blaming photogs and reps?

      Most editorial jobs are shot without an assistant at all now because there’s no money (well there, is, just not for content creators). In fact, most editorial is a complete waste of time now unless you can cobble together 20 editorial gigs a month (you can’t in most markets because there’s too many photographers to choose from). One car accident or damaged lens and the job ends up costing you money to do. And thats on a job that’s considered decent paying editorial.

      As for this particular job, it sounds great but, the rates for photog etc are also about circa 1995 and back then we only had to spend $2500 on a camera system that would potentially last an entire career. Now a medium format camera costs $35K and lasts three years. As well, instead of 4 jobs a week like this (as it was in 1995) most are now lucky to see 4 jobs like this a year come across their desk thanks to microstock and other price oriented competitors (guy with camera, we’ll use our phone, its only for social media anyway) etc etc

      I’d love to pay assistants $1000 a day if I could but, the truth is that most of us have let go of full time crew in favour of “hire them by the day when you get a gig”, gotten rid of studios etc etc. in an effort to stay afloat and reduce overhead in order to try (not always successfully) to compete with micro stock, image brief etc. etc

    • The assistant rate depends on the market. In Texas $250/day is a pretty normal assistant rate right now.

      Back in 1994 I was making $150/day on commercial assisting gigs in Indiana. Maybe assistants back then were getting $250 in NYC and LA, but not everywhere.

      FWIW – Rates for editorial photographers haven’t changed in 19 years either.

      As the other person said here – why blame the photog or rep for what the assistant charges? Assistants need to demand a fee they feel is commensurate with their experience. Sadly this gets tempered by what the particular market will bear.