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Expert Advice: Identity Design

by Amanda Friend, Wonderful Machine

There’s an ongoing battle at my parent’s house. The culprit: pasta sauce. Here’s the scoop. My father is a thrifty shopper. He isn’t swayed by packaging or marketing when it comes to groceries. The generic sauce’s quality doesn’t concern him. According to Dad, the store brand tastes just as good as the kind advertized on TV.

Not so, says my mother. Mom prefers the name brand pasta sauce. Nothing too fancy, but she’ll shell out a dollar or two more at the register. She enjoys their taste, and the fancier label doesn’t hurt either. Simply put, my mother likes quality goods, and is willing to pay more for them.

So, what’s really going on here, and how does it relate to photography? I won’t weigh in on the pasta sauce debate—I’m sure you have your own opinion. The big take away for me is that your brand determines what types of clients you’ll attract. Reread those first two paragraphs, and replace the words “pasta sauce” with “photography.” Who would you rather be hired by?

If you want an edge attracting quality clients, you need a solid graphic identity. As a photographer, your brand is made up of your photographic and graphic identities. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume your portfolio (photographic identity) is in good shape, and will focus on improving your graphic identity.

What is a graphic identity?

The term graphic identity describes all the visual elements that help communicate to the world who you are and what you do. They’re the typefaces, colors, illustrations and design that support your photographs, and give structure and personality to your marketing materials. It starts with a logo and branches out into your stationery, website, print portfolio, promotional mailers and more. A great graphic identity stands the test of time and is flexible enough that you can use it over the years with only minor updates.

Here are a couple examples of successful identities used across a variety of materials/platforms:

Mike Tittel’s business cards, leave behinds and print mailers.

Peter Baker’s website, portfolio, business cards, blog and more.

How do I know if I need a new graphic identity?

Does your logo consist of your name spelled out in Helvetica? Then you might be ready for a make-over. Beyond that, there isn’t one right answer to this question. Some photographers start focusing on different specialties and realize their old identity won’t fit with their new work. Others target new clients, and want their brand to attract them. Some haven’t updated their brand in years, and want a fresh look.

If you’re considering updating an existing identity, don’t be afraid to ask for an outside opinion. When you’re close to your work, it makes it hard to be objective. Ask someone in the field, as opposed to a family member. You want to work with someone who deals with this stuff for a living and will give you a real, objective opinion.

Where do I start?

I’d recommend hiring a professional designer to tackle your new visual identity. A designer’s experience is an invaluable asset. They not only will have more resources available (like a larger typeface library for example), but will probably consider design options/ideas you wouldn’t think of on your own. If you have an existing brand, they can think of inventive ways to update it, should you want to keep some elements the same.

That being said, if you’re going to tackle this yourself, start with some good ol’ fashioned research. The subject? You. Yes, you should research yourself. It might sound silly, but it pays off. Lots of factors can influence your brand, so write them down before you open up Illustrator (or more likely Photoshop in this case). If you change you mind later on and still need an identity, you can pass along your research to your designer.

Here are some questions I’ll ask photographers when creating new identities:

Who are your current clients? What new clients are you trying to appeal to?

Important questions. Your visual identity isn’t just a form of personal expression—it’s a tool to help you get hired. It should appeal to your clients. Now, by this, I don’t mean that you should pander. Nor do I mean that your identity can’t have any personal flourishes. But there is a difference between what appeals to you personally and how you present yourself professionally. You might like an industrial look, but if you want to shoot lifestyle, your logo shouldn’t include steel bolts and gritty textures. There would be a disconnect.

One example of good connection with clients/style: Matt Dutile’s business cards. Matt is predominantly a travel photographer, and his luggage tag business cards express this nicely.

Matt Dutile’s business cards.

What type of photography makes up the core of your work? Is there a type of photography you’d like to shoot more of?
Use your work as a compass to guide you. I wouldn’t create a delicate, ornate brand for an action adventure photographer. When designing, I often keep sample photos on hand so I can compare how a logo or colors work with the photographer’s images.

Some photographers shoot a few different specialties that would benefit from being shown on separate websites or in separate portfolios. In cases like this, consider creating a new brand for each portfolio. Some elements can carry over to each to establish a connection between the two.

Pretend you currently had no brand at all. What important aspects would you want your brand to convey clients?
Keep you list pertinent, but concise. A simple message will translate better than a complicated one. Some things, like a level of professionalism, are given. Beyond that, what else do you want clients to know about you?

Are their any brands, whether they be a another photographers or a company’s, that you particularly like?  Think less about the visual design and more about the message behind each brand.
Branding is a visual language, and one person’s “sophisticated” could be another person “simple”.  Here’s a reference board I sometimes send to photographers:


These photographer logos provide a range of styles, and I would consider them all well executed.  I’ll ask clients to let me know how they feel about each of these. I find out what they like and dislike, but I also find out what each of these logos express to them.

Complete this exercise so you can help define the look you’re searching for. Don’t be afraid to check out companies unrelated to photography for this either—inspiration can be found in strange places. Maybe enlist the help of a friend to gather example logos. They might find something you wouldn’t have considered on your own.

Who is your competition?
Alright, I confess: I don’t usually ask photographers this, but I do handle this research on my own. It’s a good thing to review before you get to work. It helps me see what others are doing, which forces me to be more innovative. Also, there’s less risk of accidentally copying someone. I wouldn’t define a brand solely one what your competition is doing, but I definitely recommend seeing what’s out there.

Design Tips

You’ve done your research, and you’re ready to execute. Grab a cup of coffee or two, and heed this advice:

  • Sketch. You’ll find better ideas faster by sketching with a pencil and paper, or by playing around with lots of rough drafts on the computer.
  • Location, location, location. Where will you use your logo? There’s your portfolio,  your print promotions and your email campaigns. But where else? Are you an avid tweeter, and need a killer avatar? Make sure you know everywhere your brand/logo will appear before getting started, so all of your needs are covered.
  • Start in black and white. When you’re ready to mock-up your logo ideas, hold off on color until you finalize the logo form. Your logo should look well executed without the assistance of color (though color can enhance its appearance).
  • Use appropriate typefaces. This relates to knowing your work and your audience well. You might need to purchase new font licenses to find the perfect match. Try FontFontH&FJ, or House Industries for typefaces with flair.
  • … and don’t stretch them, ever! You wouldn’t stretch the proportions of your photos, so don’t stretch the letters of another artist.
  • Pick colors that complement your work. Your color choices should enhance your brand and help you stand out. Again, think about all the places where you’ll be using your identity.
  • Execution above all. Spend extra time refining your work to make it top quality. Pay attention to small details like proportion, kerning (adjusting the space between letters), and scalability. Better to put time in now rather than after you’ve spend $1,000 on printing.

Additional Takeaways

Rules are made to broken. Yes, I am willing to put this in the section after dos and don’ts. The truth is that brands are complex. Sometimes, something that wouldn’t work for 99% of other photographers will work for you, or vice versa. The key is to know when a concept clicks, or if it’s too forced.

Branch out. A little variety within your collateral will go a long way. You can use the same layout for your emailer and postcard, but you’ll keep client interest longer with subtle variations throughout your brand. Ideally, your collateral will look like it belongs together without being exactly the same.

Oooh, shiny! If you have it in your budget, consider using different print techniques to distinguish your collateral. There’s foil stamping, die cutting, spot varnishes, and letter press to name a few (and for the look no one has, try printing your business cards with thermo-sensitive ink). Even selecting a heavier paper stock for your business cards can change the tone of your identity.

Don’t design in a vacuum. Take breaks. Look at your work with fresh eyes. Ask someone for feedback. Think about it, and then go watch a movie and come back later. Your work benefits when you’re in a good state of mind.

You can read about Wonderful Machine’s design services on our consulting page.

 

Pricing and Negotiating: In-Store Display for National Retailer

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Beauty shots of professional talent in a studio

Licensing:  Use of three images in any media (excluding Outdoor and Broadcast) in North America for 2 years. Although we avoid vague language whenever possible, the client insisted on using this language, effectively conveying Advertising, Collateral and Publicity use of the images as defined in our T&C.

Location: A studio in New York

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Up-and-coming beauty and fashion specialist

Agency: Mid-sized, based in the Midwest.

Client: Prominent retailer with approximately 2,000 stores in North America.

Here is the initial estimate:

estimate_1_terms

Concept/Licensing:

When the project was first presented to us, the scope was to capture individual close-up portraits of three female talent. We were presented with a creative deck that included these three shots along with details for additional projects featuring product and lifestyle images, which told us that our shoot would just be one part of a larger overall project. The creative deck also made it clear that the primary use of the images was for in-store displays, but this didn’t quite match up to the broader use that the client requested.

Upon speaking with the art buyer I learned that their intended use was limited to in-store display and use on their website (no additional advertising or printed collateral) and would likely be up in the stores for less than a year (rather than 2 years which they’d requested). It’s often the case that a client’s requested use doesn’t correspond with their intended use. In cases like this, we do our best to structure the licensing language to be more in line with the intended use. In this instance, however, I was told that limiting the licensing would not be an option.

The fact that this shoot was part of a larger project and that the photographer was eager to land his first assignment of this scale put downward pressure on how I approached his creative/licensing fee. However, the size and prominence of the client as well as the exposure level of the images put upward pressure on the fee. Another factor to consider was the value of each image in proportion to one another. Typically a shot list can inform you as to which shot might end up being the “hero” image and likely used in a much broader way than the others. Many times I will price the “hero” image (or scenario) at full price, and then discount additional images of the same nature. However, in this case, each of the three images were unique and would be promoting a different line of products for the retailer, and therefore I thought they should all be priced at their full value, which after weighing all of the factors, I determined was $5,000 each.

I checked my fee for the intended use against a few other pricing resources to see how they compared. Getty suggested $3,200 for in-store display use with a circulation of up to 5,000 for 2 years, and Corbis recommended $2,350 for this same use. FotoQuote suggested $2,700 for this use (although they didn’t offer an option to limit the timeframe) and BlinkBid didn’t have a breakdown for this specific use.  While I took these rates into account, they however did not include all of the additional licensing the client would actually be obtaining (even though they were unlikely to take advantage of it) above and beyond their intended use.

Assistants: I included two assistants to lend a hand with the lighting, grip and equipment.

Digital Tech: I included $500 for the digital tech, and then added on $750 for the workstation. The digital tech would help to manage the flow of file intake and display for client approval on set.

Stylists: For a beauty shoot, the hair and make-up styling is much more important than it would be on most other types of campaigns, so the client is typically involved in the stylist selection process. I secured quotes from experienced and represented hair stylists and makeup stylists. These rates include a typical 20% that a talent agency will add on to the stylist’s day rate. For many shoots I’d hire someone to handle both hair and makeup, but for a beauty shoot, it’s more appropriate to hire stylists with specific skills.  Sometimes stylists will bring their own assistants if many people need to be styled, but since we were only planning to shoot three talent, they did not need any extra support.

Producer: I included three days for a producer to handle the pre/post production (hiring the crew, booking the studio, arranging catering, facilitating the invoicing) as well as to be on set to make sure the day went according to plan.

Studio Rental: There are a ton of options for studios in NY ranging from small loft style shooting spaces to large soundstages. We didn’t need a giant space, so I aimed for a medium size studio at a convenient mid-town location.

Casting Days: When I started to speak with casting agents, I learned that many of them had previous experience working on shoots for this client, and they recommended that we account for 2 days of casting since the client may be quite picky. This fee covered the casting agent’s time, shooting space and booking of the talent.

Adult Talent: I settled on this rate after speaking with a few casting agents and obtaining their opinions on the fee for a shoot/usage of this nature. This was tricky since the requested usage was quite broad, but the intended use of the talent’s likeness was rather restricted (hmmm…this sounds familiar). We determined that a rate of $6,000.00/talent would bring in a decent pool to choose from.

Equipment: This would cover 2 camera bodies (~$400) a few lenses (~$100), a couple power packs and heads (~$350) as well as additional modifiers, reflectors and grip equipment (~$150)

Image Processing for Editing: This covered the time, equipment and costs to handle the basic color correction, edit and upload of all of the images to an FTP for client review.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: I worked with the photographer to determine an average of three hours to retouch each photo. Though the photographer would be handling the retouching in house, we priced it at $150/hr to ensure all costs would be covered should we have to farm it out unexpectedly.

Catering: I’ll often include $35/person for light breakfast and lunch catering, but things tend to get pricey in NYC, so I bumped it up to $50/person.

Miles, Parking, FTP, Misc: This was to cover any additional minor miscellaneous expenses during the shoot day.

Feedback: After reviewing our initial estimate, the client decided to trim the concept down from three images to two. They also told us that they weren’t interested in a live casting, and preferred to hire talent based on images in their online portfolios. This was surprising to hear because casting from cards/portfolio is a somewhat risky maneuver since there’s no way of knowing whether or not the images are current. With the caliber of agency we were working with, it wasn’t a serious concern, but it was definitely worth reiterating to the client. They also capped their talent budget at $5,000 per talent for five hours of their time on set and the usage. Their last piece of feedback was that the client rarely spends more than $8000-9000 on “beauty shoots”, however, they couldn’t tell me how the requested licensing for this project compared to that of their previous similar shoots.

On top of those changes, they were willing to limit the licensing duration (although they initially said this wasn’t an option) to six months. It still included broader usage than they needed, but the reduced duration and number of images was a justification for dropping the fee to work with their budget. Here is the final estimate:

estimate_2_terms

Results: The photographer was awarded the project, and I produced the shoot. The images will be in stores later this year.

Hindsight: While we were able to stay within the overall budget for the shoot, equipment costs ended up being higher than anticipated. The photographer required more equipment than initially discussed and the studio we booked insisted that they provide any rented equipment, and their equipment rented at a premium. If I had to estimate a project like this again, I’d probably include close to $1,000 for the digital tech’s gear and $1,300 for the photographer’s equipment.

After the estimate was approved and pre-production was progressing, I was discussing usage terminology listed on a talent contract provided by the client with the art buyer. The contract listed “unlimited” usage in addition to “in-store marketing” and “digital”. I try to refrain from using the word “unlimited” (and even “digital”) in general, and from my point of view it seemed redundant to list “unlimited” use and then specify a specific media. However, upon clarification, the agency/client understood “unlimited” to essentially mean “unlimited insertions” rather than “unlimited media”. For instance, they did not want to put a limitation on the number of printed posters they could hang in the store. While I tried to obtain clarification on this at the beginning of the estimating process, if I knew from the start that their request for “unlimited” use was really about unlimited use within in-store display and web collateral, I may have approached the fees differently.

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.

 

Expert Advice: Blogging for Photographers

By Maria Luci, Wonderful Machine

The blog… While some have embraced it as an easy and fun way to keep others up to date on their latest projects and daily activities, to others, the mere mention of the word makes them cringe. Keeping a blog up to date, knowing what to write, or even how to begin, has become the bane of many photographers’ existences.

But whatever your feelings towards blogs, I do believe they are an important part of every commercial photographer’s business. As Wonderful Machine’s publicist, I have been writing daily blog articles on photography for several years now—and I’ve picked up a trick or two along the way.  So, for all your blog-aphobics, or even for the blog-aholics looking for tips, here are a few things I’ve learned…

Why Blogs Matter

Why have a blog anyway? I’m sure a lot of photographers ask themselves this question—and then many come and ask me. There’s no one answer, but the reply I give most often is that a blog is the perfect way to keep creatives updated. While your website should only contain the best of the best, and most appropriate work for each portfolio, a blog allows you to expand on this. You can show your latest work, interesting personal projects, maybe some photos that aren’t exactly in line with the rest of your portfolio. It’s also a great way to connect and show some personality—and the chance, if you’d like, to show a different side of yourself. Sharing behind the scenes info and fun stories helps creatives get a better sense of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Another great thing about blogs? They’re free! While promos, emailers and just about everything else related to sharing your work costs money, a blog is a free way to share your work with the world.

A few more reasons to have a blog:

  • Creatives love them! I’ve heard from a lot of art buyers and photo editors that they like looking at photographers’ blogs.
  • Search engines love them! While your website may have little to no copy on it, blogs can be filled with keyword heavy copy and tags, making it easier for search engines and creatives to find you online (increasing your SEO).  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words is worth more to Google (not that you have to write a thousand words in every post…)
  • Blogs offer RSS feeds, which automatically allows for syndication of your entries to a wide audience. It’s a simple and free way for creatives to follow you.
  • It can help further your brand. Have a fun, quirky logo and photo style? Fun, quirky commentary on a blog (with matching branding, of course) will enhance your brand. Structured architecture photographer? A blog discussing the structures you shoot can help cement your style, and help you be known as the photographer as opposed to a photographer.

Types of Blogs

There are a number of great blog platforms out there. At Wonderful Machine, we use WordPress, which is easily updateable and good for those who like to write. One factor I really like about WordPress is how easily I can schedule posts in advance. Going on vacation for a week? I can write articles ahead of time and set them to post each day, at whatever time I desire. Also, WordPress is chock full of plug-ins to help design, share, promote and otherwise make your blog simple to use and snazzy to look at. I’d recommend this platform to anyone who enjoys both customization and writing.

For those who find posting a gaggle of photos preferable to writing prose, I’d highly recommend Tumblr. It’s a snap to post photo upon photo—and then have those pictures shared across the web. Effortless is a word Tumblr uses to describe itself, and I certainly agree.

As a side note, Tumblr is also customizable, but you may not find the same ease, or at least support, as you would with WordPress. I’d also like to add that Tumblr can be a great way to share a personal project—like with Julian Love’s Clara Hayward project. Tumblrs are a cinch to set up, making it an ideal way to highlight a special series or to separate your corporate from lifestyle work.

For inspiration, here are a few of my personal favorite photography Tumblrs:

Other blog platforms to consider:

What to Blog About

Your blog can take a number of directions, but I’d recommend deciding which works best for you before you get too involved. Plan, plan, plan! For many photographers, posting daily pictures, Instagrams and behind the scenes photos works just fine. They’re not big writers, but they want to keep clients and fans informed on what they’re up to. Then there are the Chase Javrises and Zack Araises of the world, who enjoy sharing knowledge and opinions. Their blogs are populated with photo industry news, tips and insights. Their astute posts have earned them huge followings and have helped propel their brands and careers to the next level (but as I bring up in the next paragraph, this type of blogging isn’t for everyone). Then there are the photographers who simply post tear sheets from their latest assignments. All of these can be viable options, but before you jump into one particular style, make sure you can keep up with it and that it fits your brand and personality, as well as your time constraints.

When you’re planning out your direction, make sure you also consider your audience. I frequently find photographer blogs that are targeted toward other photographers, rather than the creatives who can hire them. And yes, Zack’s blogs are aimed at photographers, but he can get away with this because he often hosts workshops and speaks at events. This means he earns revenue off of his audience. He also seems to really enjoy being a spokesperson for the photography community and dedicates a lot of time and energy into it. But, if your primary goal is reaching art buyers and photo editors, make sure you shape your blog accordingly. Ways to do this can include writing posts that highlight your technical skills or sharing BTS shots that demonstrate how fun/easy you can be to work with.

Once you’ve chosen a direction, and acknowledged your target audience, the next step is more planning (sorry, but only fools jump in!). Before you start posting away, I recommend putting together an editorial calendar. Do you have interesting assignments coming up? Make sure you plan on taking behind the scenes images and set a date to sit and write about the job. If you’re more of a knowledge sharer, keep up with trends and current photography news. Also, plan out topics you can write about in advance—and schedule dates to write and post these articles. And stick to it! Here at Wonderful Machine, I post seven or more articles a week—which believe me, is pretty much a full time job, and I don’t expect this from you—but, the way I accomplish this is by having a printed calendar on my desk at all times. I pencil in article ideas and check them off (by filling in a little black circle) once they’re scheduled. Then I know I can move on to the next post. This way, I never miss a day and I know what types of articles I’ve been writing about and what’s missing. I also keep a running list of all Expert Advice articles written by the WM staff, along with ideas for future articles. Again, this lets me see what we’ve covered and what needs to be covered in the future.

My calendar for the WM blog.My WM blog calendar. 

Sample of our Expert Advice calendarExcerpt from our Expert Advice calendar. Initials indicate who I’ve assignment to write the article. 

Categories are also a good way to keep yourself on track. Come up with a few before you get started. Here, we haveWeekend Links every Friday and SaTEARday posts on Saturdays. Ideas for individual photographers could include designated behind the scenes days, weekly advice posts, monthly video shares or an interview column with fellow photographers or favorite clients. Creating categories and setting schedules makes blogging easier and helps keep you going when you’re feeling stuck.

Mostly though, I’d say stick to what you know. If you’re the person everyone comes to for advice, share that advice on your blog. If you’ve got ton of Instagram followers or great personal pics that just don’t work in your portfolio, post those on your blog. If you have interesting behind the scenes photos, share those. If you’re a writer, write! If you’re funny, be funny! If you’re lazy, well, maybe don’t start a blog…

Sharing and Tracking

Just as it’s important to track your website’s analytics, it’s also important to track your blog. Through analytics, you can see what posts generate the most buzz and which may be falling flat. This is valuable information, you don’t want to be wasting your time on posts no one reads. There are a number of ways to track how well your blog posts are doing. Number one being Google Analytics. It’s easy to set up and will give you a great deal of useful information. A few things you can track through Google Analytic’s include:

  • Number of visitors to your blog
  • How long each visitor stayed, what pages/posts they viewed
  • Where those visitors live, what language they speak
  • What pages they entered on, what pages they exited from (which can help you see which posts continue to be popular over time. For example, our Writing a Photographer Bio post continues to bring in thousands of visitors a month, even though it’s over a year old)
  • Traffic sources to your blog

In tandem with Google Analytics, I would also recommend using some sort of RSS feed with your blog. Google Feedburner (which unfortunately looks like it may be going the way of doomed Google Reader) allows you to see how many people are subscribed to your blog through RSS, how many people view each post through RSS daily, and which posts are the most popular via RSS each month. This is important to add to your Google Analytics results since many people never actually click through to a site when viewing through readers and/or email feeds.

I’d also advise posting links to your blog posts on your other social media pages, like Twitter and Facebook. To do this, I  use a link tracking service called bitly. Bitly creates trackable links for you, so you can see how many people click each one.

BitlyBitly example 

If you’re using a Facebook page, you can also see how many people view each post, even if they’re not clicking—this is called the “total reach.”

Photographers Doing It Right

There are plenty of photographers out there already doing everything right, blog-wise. Reviewing and keeping up with their blogs can help inspire you to write your own follow-worthy blog. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Zack Arias’s Ask Me Anything blog. Recently back from hiatus, Zack’s “Ask” blog brings in thousands of viewers and helps brand him as the go-to man for any and all photography related questions.
  • Chase Jarvis‘s blog. Chase’s blog has helped make him a “household” name in the photography world. Everyone knows about it and a heck of a lot of people read it.
  • Dana Neibert’s photo journal. Dana’s blog lets his images do that talking. It’s all photos. Let me rephrase that, it’s all beautiful photos (and a few videos). It gives the viewer a glimpse into Dana’s assignments while also solidifying his elegant photo style and brand. And, unlike his well curated website, his blog allows Dana to share all of his best photographs, whether they work in his portfolio’s edit or not.
  • Joe McNally’s blog. Joe’s blog takes you behind the scenes, and gives insights into his recent and past projects. His thirty plus years of experience shines through and makes for an interesting feed to follow.
  • Matt and Agnes Hage’s blog. The Hages are adventure/outdoor sports photographers, and their blog sure lets you know it. They’re constantly updating about their wild adventures from across the globe. If you’re into skiing, climbing or hiking, their site is interesting, whether you’re interested in photography or not.

Well, that’s about all I can cram into one blog post. If you’re looking for more individualized attention, or have questions about blogging I haven’t addressed here, shoot me an email at maria@wonderfulmachine.com.

Expert Advice: Marketing to Fine Art Galleries

- - Expert Advice

by Sean Stone, Wonderful Machine

Fine art photography is something that very few photographers can support themselves on. But what photographer hasn’t dreamed of trading assignment work for the life of an artist? Most commercial photographers continue to produce personal photographs of some kind or another throughout their career, and while a blog is all well and good, there’s nothing like the thrill of seeing your photos on the pristine white walls of a gallery. So how do you get there from here? Is promoting to galleries different than to commercial clients? I came to Wonderful Machine with a background in art gallery management, where I handled just about every medium; oil painting, sculptures made of teeth, bronze, and yes – photography. Gallery owners Brian Clamp and Jennifer Schwartz were good enough to answer a few of my questions about how commercial photographers can show their fine art work. And in addition to their insights, I’ll offer some advice of my own on how to get your foot in the door of an art gallery.

Commercial art buyers are accustomed to seeing “personal” or “fine art” categories on photographers’ websites, and in my experience they are generally positive on that. But how does the gallery world view commercial shooters? I spoke to Brian Clamp, owner and director of ClampArt, about how photographers can effectively move between the worlds of commercial and fine art. Many of the artists that Brian carries, including Jill Greenberg, Stephen Wilkes, and Manjari Sharma, are sought-after assignment photographers who also exhibit widely. Brian told me that while there was a time when commercial photographers weren’t taken seriously by curators, this is no longer the case. “I like to know that my photographers work commercially. Successful commercial photographers have artistic ideas that they can better realize with the resources they gain from assignment work. They also tend to have more business savvy than some photographers who shoot exclusively fine art. Experienced photographers understand that they are partners with my gallery; they have their own work to do to get pieces sold, and it doesn’t end when they drop off the work.” Collectors, too, like to know that photographers have created an ad or editorial piece that made a strong impression, which Brian says makes their work easier to sell.

So what are the actual steps you have to take to see your work on a wall outside of your own home?

1) Evaluate. Take a good look at your photographs. Do you have something to say? Do you have a unique, compelling, and cohesive body of work or just a mish-mash of “personal” photos without any unifying theme? Though it’s rare for collectors to purchase an entire series of photographs, a group of photographs that somehow relate to one another are much more interesting to galleries and collectors than one-off pieces. After all, it’s hard to make a profound artistic statement with one photograph. Successful fine art photographers tend to dig deep into a particular subject or style not only to make great art, but to build a brand. Cindy Sherman does self-portraits. Andreas Gursky shoots architecture and landscapes. Gregory Crewdson shoots elaborately staged scenes. What do you do? If you don’t see a cohesive body of work when you look at your photographs, keep shooting until you do.

2) Edit. Once you’ve decided that you do have something worth showing the world, you’ll need to select a finite set of pictures. I find it helpful to edit using tiny prints (the size of a playing cards). (My colleague Paul Stanek prefers editing on a screen using MoodShare.) You might start with a couple of hundred of them spread out on a big table or on the floor. Be open-minded about the editing process. Rather than thinking about how, when and where the photographs were made, let the photos guide you. Look for photographs that naturally go together and that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Edit down to a manageable number (30-40 images), eliminating the weakest photos, redundant photos and photos that don’t support the group. Next, work on your sequencing. People look at photos one at a time, but the order in which you look at them can affect the overall impact of the group even if there’s not a literal narrative. Start with one of your strongest images and one that exemplifies your theme well. Then see how the others fall into place. You might have a slightly different sequence for your website where you will typically display horizontals individually and verticals in pairs. Make sure that those pairs match up well.

3) Marketing materials. You’ll need some basic marketing materials to support your pictures, to make it easy to communicate with people, and to demonstrate your professionalism.

Most important is your portfolio. Commercial clients like to see photographs in book form because it makes it quick and easy to look at and it’s not so different from how they use photos themselves. Galleries will tend to want to see your photographs loose in a clamshell box. It helps them to see your individual photos as objects of art that they can hang on a wall and sell. Each photograph in that particular collection should be printed on the same type of paper. All of the prints should be the same size, which should match the size of the box. The images should have 1-2″ of white space around them. They should be unsigned on the front. The back of each print should be neatly labeled with your name and the title of the work (that way if you’re discussing the photos over the phone, they know what to call each print).

You’ll need simple stationery including letterhead, #10 envelope, crack-n-peel label, note card, and business card. If you don’t have a graphic identity already, working with a professional designer is well worth the investment.

You’ll need an artist statement. It should be just a few paragraphs describing your artistic journey in general and providing context for those photographs in particular.

You’ll need a website. There are so many excellent, inexpensive website templates out there now that there’s no excuse not to have one. (You can find a list on our Resources page.) It’s a great way for anyone anywhere to see your photos instantly. I recommend keeping it simple and elegant, with big pictures and intuitive navigation. The menu should include 1-5 sections of images, an artist statement page, a CV page, and a contact page with your name, email address and phone number (once you have gallery representation, you can substitute in that information).

4) Research. Get the lay of the land. There are many galleries, group shows and competitions out there, but they’re not all going to be right for you and your photographs. Some galleries don’t show photography at all. Some will be too competitive for you. Others will be not competitive enough. Before you contact anyone in the business, you should educate yourself about the industry and start to get a sense of how you might fit into it. See what’s going on in your local area and also nationally and internationally. There are lots of sources for this type of information. Every year, Art in America magazine publishes an extensive list of galleries, museums, and artists in North America. In September, they plan to launch an online versionArt-collecting.com has a great list of retail galleries by city and state. Wonderful Machine also has a list of galleries that show photography on our Resources page. Check with local arts organizations for exhibitions taking place in your area. And you can find opportunities to participate in group shows around the country through the Society for Photographic Education.

Younger galleries tend to be less concerned with exhibition history, and more willing to take a chance on a new photographer whose work they think is interesting and salable. Before you approach a more established gallery about carrying your work, it can be good to gain a bit of experience and exposure from group shows and contests. Jennifer Schwartz, owner of the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta, recommends that photographers consider entering even smalls shows at first. “But be selective about which open calls for group shows you submit to. Enter your work only to shows by jurors with a good reputation, and exhibitions that you are excited about.” She points out that nearly all of these require a submission fee, but not all are equally valuable. Consider the background of the organization putting on the show, and be aware that some are more about making money from those fees than curating top-notch work. As you participate in group shows, make sure you set your sites higher and higher. Galleries want to look at your CV and see that you’ve progressed to bigger and better shows over time. One group show tip from my own gallery experience: when participating in larger shows, sometimes you’ll be told to deliver work ready for hanging between “day x and day y.” This gives them time to deal with new inventory, but it can also mean that they plan to start hanging before the final deadline. Better to get your work in early and increase your chances of a prime spot!

Every time you discover a relevant gallery or industry contact, you’ll want to add them to your contact database so that you can refer to that information in the future. You might not be right for a particular gallery today, but at some point down the line you might be.

5) Submissions. Mass marketing can be an effective tool for commercial photographers. But you’ll need to take a more personalized approach in order to appeal to a gallery. Unless you’ve got a serious reputation already, I’d recommend starting locally. Compile a list of a handful of galleries that might be a good match for you. Then pick one and begin. Read their submission requirements carefully and follow them precisely. If they want to see your photographs on a CD, organize the photos in a way that makes them easy to view. Have the file name match the name of the image. Save them in a universally readable format like JPG or PDF. The files should be large enough to see clearly, but not so large as to take a long time to load or move around. Include in your package a hard copy of your cover letter, CV and artist statement and include digital versions on the CD as well. If they want to see prints, make sure you package them in a way that they won’t get damaged in transit and if you’re not going to pick them up yourself, make it easy for them to ship them back to you. At the submission stage, you don’t necessarily have to have prints framed and ready for hanging. There’s normally plenty of lead time for gallery shows, so you’ll have time for that. And the gallery may want to have a say in how big the prints should be and how they should be framed.

6) Feedback. If you’re doing your art strictly for your own pleasure or artistic expression, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks. But if you want other people to show it and buy it, you’re going to need to pay attention to how they respond to you and your photographs – and perhaps make adjustments along the way. Of course, you’ll have to take what any one person says with a grain of salt. Even the most experienced people will misjudge you from time to time. But the sum total of the feedback over the long term will tend to be pretty accurate. Keep in mind that your personality will play a big part in your success or failure. The way you interact with gallery owners and collectors will color the way they perceive your photographs. Everyone who buys your art is also buying a piece of you.

7) Pricing and editioning. At some point, you will have to start thinking about pricing and (gasp) editioning. As with advertising photography, pricing fine art is not a simple equation. Jennifer suggests that new photographers be prepared to price their work lower than they might like, in order to start building a base of collectors. She recommends that you consider your production costs and compare the price to similar artists’ work. When I asked Brian and Jennifer for some pointers on editions, the response I got from both was a cautious, “…it’s complicated.” Since (most) photographs are not unique objects, editioning is key to creating the perception of scarcity and value. But don’t feel like you have to rush into a finite number of prints before your market requires it! Brian recommends that photographers avoid printing in editions until they have a relationship with a gallery to help guide them through that process. Editions can feel artificial and limiting, but Jennifer points out that it does work in your favor; beyond rarefying your work and commanding higher value, prices tend to climb as an edition is sold off, giving buyers incentive to move quickly on a purchase. Keep in mind that editions are also made by size. The framed 18″x24″ print that looks great on the wall might not sell right away, but the less expensive, unframed 6″x8″, printed in a larger volume, might be easier to move.

8) What not to do. Jennifer Schwartz has written some helpful articles about how not to submit to a gallery that took me back in time to my days at the gallery. I received submissions just about every day, and they looked virtually identical: plain cardboard envelope containing a business card and a sharpied CD. The disc typically contained only images, no resume, no artist’s statement. Often the artist did not have website. Take the same care in branding your fine art materials as you would for your commercial work, and you’re already ahead of the competition. Time and space are precious things for gallery owners, so don’t think that you’re doing yourself any favors by going above and beyond the submission guidelines. Don’t send sample prints or finished pieces unless they’re requested. Most importantly, don’t drop by without an appointment and expect them to talk to you! Artists used to do this to me and it drove me crazy. Stick to their guidelines and work within them to create the most distinctive, eye-catching presentation you can.

For more assistance, contact me by email at sean@wonderfulmachine.com or by phone (610) 260-0200.

Expert Advice: Wealth Management For Photographers

- - Expert Advice

by Bill Cramer, Wonderful Machine

We’ve talked a lot about how to make money with photography, but saving it is a different matter altogether. It’s something that presents a special challenge for many photographers who don’t collect a regular paycheck or have employer sponsored retirement plans. And it’s made even tougher when there’s always some new piece of equipment, software or marketing directory demanding your hard-earned cash. But saving is essential for anyone interested in owning a home, sending their kids to college or retiring some day.

Saving is something that I’ve been conscious of since I was a little kid watching Wall Street Week with my dad on Friday nights. I can remember learning that there were some people in the world who had saved enough money that they didn’t need to work anymore. They had so much money that they could live off of just the interest and dividends from their investments. I remember thinking that that was a great idea and I was going to try to do that. Though I’ve never made a ton of money as a photographer, I’ve always been able to save; even when I was shooting fifty dollar assignments for the AP. Here are some basic tips that can help you get started:

1) Live within your means. Regardless of how much money you earn, you have to spend less than you make. For some people, that might mean living with their parents or buying a coffee maker instead of going to Starbucks. Being frugal is different from being cheap. Cheap is stiffing the waitress. Frugal is skipping dessert so you can tip the waitress. (Actually frugal is staying at home and cooking for yourself!)

2) Only borrow money to buy things that appreciate in value or generate revenue (like school loans, photographic equipment and home mortgages). Borrowing money to go on vacation is foolish because you’ll be paying for it long after your tan has faded. Borrowing money to buy a car is questionable. It’s a depreciating asset, but if you need it to get to your job, it may be worth it. Just don’t let the “free money” seduce you into buying a more extravagant ride than you can afford.

3) Pay off your credit card bills in full. The easy money of a credit card can be seductive, but it’s a Faustian bargain. It’s like buying all your groceries at 7-eleven. You’ll pay a steep premium for that convenience. Better to borrow a lump sum at a reasonable interest rate that you pay off each month. Even if you borrow money from a relative, write up an agreement with a payback plan and stick to it.

4) Reconcile your credit card and checkbook every month. (See how at the bottom of the page.) The process will not only keep you from overdrawing your accounts, but minding every penny you earn and spend is the first step towards saving. Keep your ATM and credit card receipts and make sure they match up with your statements. Those slips of paper will serve as a reminder to make smart choices all month long. Don’t pay ATM fees. Open an account at a local bank and use their free ATM when you need cash.

5) Be satisfied saving small amounts of money at first. Every journey begins with a single step. Develop a habit of saving each month and then gradually increase it as your income grows. Once you get into the habit, you’ll get as much of a thrill from saving as you do from spending.

6) Learn how compound interest works. Some claim that Albert Einstein said that “compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” In the short-term, interest may seem like a very small reward for your efforts. But over decades, it’s the interest on the interest that allows your money to grow exponentially. That’s why they say, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Over an lifetime of saving, the interest that builds up can be double or triple the principle you’ve saved.

7) Charge as much as possible for your photography. There will certainly be times when you’ll do favors for friends and relatives or for a charitable cause. But everyone else should pay top dollar. Your pricing should be dynamic. Evaluate each assignment and stock sale individually and price it to maximize your income. Learn how licensing works, how to write a licensing agreement and how to charge for it. Share pricing information with other photographers. Ignorance drives prices down, knowledge drives them up.

8) Pay as only much as necessary for all of your business expenses. It’s true that you have to spend money to make money, but you have to do it wisely. Be realistic about what kind of return on investment you’re going to get with every person you hire and each purchase you make.

9) Understand the difference between your business and personal money. For a sole proprietor, it may be overkill to have separate credit cards and bank accounts for your personal and business transactions. The important thing is to keep good records of which is which for tax purposes. Don’t mentally spend money as you make it. A 1000.00 assignment fee shrinks dramatically once you pay for your overhead and taxes.

10) Even the 99% must embrace capitalism. The alternative is even worse.

11) Saving isn’t just green in dollars, it’s green in terms of sustainability too. It’s true that spending helps the economy in the short term. But spending is an economic dead end (both individually and collectively) without a proportional amount of savings to go along with it. (Savings provides capital for individuals to buy homes and companies to grow.)

Enough platitudes. Here’s what you actually have to do. Start by finding a no-fee (or very low fee) checking account at a bank near you. (Don’t expect that account to pay any interest.) Once you build up enough of a cushion where you can comfortably pay your bills each month, open an interest-bearing money market account (Vanguard is a good place to do that). Let’s say you decide to keep $5000 in your checking account. Each month, when you balance your checkbook, transfer any excess money to your money market account. Maybe you decide to keep $20,000 in your money market account as a reserve. Every quarter, as that money builds up, transfer it to a long-term (more than 5 years), low-cost index fund that invests in shares of lots of big companies (I recommend the Vanguard 500 Index Fund or Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund). That’s where you’ll get (on average) good appreciation in exchange for moderate risk. When you get close to a big purchase that you’re saving for, stop moving money into your long-term account and let it build up in your money market account.

You will want to set up two long-term accounts – one for retirement and one for other long-term goals like buying a home or college for your kids. The advantage of a retirement account like a Simple IRA or SEP IRA is that you don’t have to pay income tax on the money that you put in or on the resulting dividends or capital gains until you start withdrawing that money many years down the line. Consequently, it will grow much faster.

You might wonder how much money you need in order to retire comfortably. Certainly, it depends on the kind of lifestyle you’d like to grow accustomed to. On one hand, the cost of living in retirement can be less because you’ll probably have fewer mouths to feed (with any luck, your kids will be self-sufficient by then) and your house will be paid off and you won’t have to save for retirement anymore because you’re retired. But some things will cost more. Chances are your health will only get worse, which will be expensive. And if you’re lucky enough to stay healthy, you might want to travel and enjoy yourself a little after all of those years of hard work – and that ain’t cheap. So I say it’s a wash. Plan on giving yourself the income that you have towards the end of your career.

At the moment, a modestly middle-class life in America for a family of four will run you about $100k/year before taxes. In order to make that off of interest and dividends, you’ll need 17 times that or $1.7 million. Over the past 100 years, the stock market has provided the best return on investment compared to alternatives like bonds, commodities (like gold, silver, pork bellies) or real estate. Of course unlike putting your money in the bank (or in your mattress), any investment can lose money. But the longer your horizon time, the safer the bet is that you’ll be ahead of the game when it’s time to collect. The U.S. stock market has returned an average of 9% over the past 100 years. Inflation has been on average 3% over that period. So adjusting for inflation, you might reasonably expect to get a 6% appreciation on your money in the long run. (The numbers below allow you to see the appreciation in “today’s dollars,” as though there was no inflation to consider.)

So here’s one way you could map out your route to getting that $1.7 mil:

Of course, you’ll see that even after saving for more than 40 years, you could still come up a little short. I’m assuming that since you’re a sensible person and you’ve saved all along, your parents were probably sensible people too and that they left you a little something in their will (in this case, we’re hoping for $325k). And if not, maybe Social Security will not yet be bankrupt and help out a little. Saving for retirement isn’t easy. But with a little planning and discipline, it’s an attainable goal for most photographers.

How to reconcile your checkbook:

As you make each deposit and write each check, you’ll want to write an entry in your ledger to keep track. At the end of each month, your bank will send you a statement detailing all of the transactions that they’ve recorded. But since the checks you write aren’t necessarily cashed in the order that you write them and since many of them won’t show up on your new statement, you need to reconcile the bank’s records with yours to make sure every transaction eventually turns out the way it should.

If you use Quicken or some other personal bookkeeping application, it will prompt you to balance your account and guide you through the process. If you keep track on paper, you’ll have to reconcile your account manually, but it’s really easy. All you have to do is check off each transaction as it appears on your statement, then check off the corresponding transaction on your ledger. When you get through the whole bank statement, write out this equation, filling in the numbers for the following items:

ending statement balance
+ outstanding deposits
– outstanding withdrawals
– outstanding checks
= ending checkbook balance

If those items add up correctly, you’ve successfully reconciled (some call it “balanced”) your checkbook. If it doesn’t add up, you’ve either made an arithmetic error or you’ve omitted or incorrectly recorded a transaction. On rare occasion I’ve even found errors in my bank’s records. Go through your entries and rework the math until it comes out right. (One common mistake I used to make is putting a deposit in the withdrawal column.) Reconciling your bank account is worth the time and effort because it allows you to know exactly where your money is and it allows you to be decisive about moving your money around to where it needs to go.

How to reconcile your credit card statement:

The credit card statement is a little easier to reconcile. You don’t need to keep your own ledger the way you do with your checking account. You just need to keep all of your credit card slips and then match them up with the list of charges when you get your statement.

This post was created by the fine folks at Wonderful Machine.

Pricing & Negotiating: TV Network Work Made For Hire

By Craig Oppenheimer of Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Environmental portraits of cast members from a television show, including landscape images of the town featured in the show

Licensing: Work Made for Hire

Location: A small city in the Southwest

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Up-and-coming conceptual portrait specialist

Agency: None (in-house creative team for TV channel)

Client: Specialty Television channel

Here’s the estimate:

estimate_terms_redacted_v2Click to enlarge.

Concept, Licensing:

The client was in the process of filming the first season of a new reality show, and they wanted to capture individual portraits and a group shot of the 5 main cast members, as well as landscape images of the town in which the show is filmed. The shoot would take place on a single day during the actual filming, so many of the production elements (like hair/makeup styling, props and wardrobe) would be provided by the film production crew.

After discussing the project with the production manager, I learned that the images would mainly be used to promote the show on the channel’s website and possibly in on-air advertisements for the station. However, we were told that the channel has a non-negotiable work-made-for-hire contract that they require all photographers to sign. In fact, we were made aware of this about a month earlier when the same channel asked this photographer to bid on a separate local studio portraiture shoot for a different show. That project didn’t move forward, but through a series of conversations we found that their bottom line budget for similar projects is in the ballpark of $10,000.

The vast majority of the projects we estimate allow us the ability to limit licensing in some way. Sometimes we’re able to have a tight hold on the licensing (for example, Collateral use for 3 months), and other times we need to include a much broader licensing (for example, Advertising, Collateral and Publicity use for 5 years). While these both include a range of usage, the copyright is retained by the photographer. The main difference between “exclusive use in all media forever” and a “transfer of copyright” is 3rd party use. By agreeing to a work-made-for-hire contract, the photographer would concede copyright ownership and the ability for the client to authorize 3rd party use. These contracts are common when working with clients in the television/film industry, and it stems from agreements between these clients and video production teams where transfer of copyright for video footage is standard.

We’ve worked on a handful of projects for photographers and TV channels and have been presented with similar contracts. In fact, we recently worked with the photographer featured in this project to obtain a portfolio meeting at another TV channel in NY, and before confirming a meeting, their photo editor sent over their contract in an effort to be as up front as possible in regards to their copyright requirements. Here is what that contract looked like:

Click to enlarge.

Now, typically I’d be inclined to integrate a hefty fee for a work-made-for-hire project since there is tremendous value for the client to own the copyright of the photos. However, since I knew their budget from that previous local studio shoot, I was able to extrapolate what their budget might be for a shoot with a bit more production and travel involved. Also, I knew their likely usage limitations from my discussion with the client, and I also took into consideration that the shelf life of the images would likely only be a year or two. Cast members could change, the show could be cancelled, and the promotions done by the channel could potentially change over the course of the following seasons. By integrating pricing more in line with their intended use (rather than requested use) and taking into account the likely budget, straightforwardness of the project and the eagerness of the photographer to get in the door with this client, I settled on a fee of $8,000.

After determining a fee, I like to also refer to pricing resources like BlinkBid and FotoQuote to see what they might recommend. In many instances the licensing options from these pricing resources don’t match up to the exact usage requested from the client, and they especially didn’t correlate in this case. For example, BlinkBid outputs a fee between $20,000 and $30,000 for international use of 1 image in all the categories listed for 1 year. FotoQuote also averages $20,000 for their most extensive “all advertising and marketing” pack for 1 image for 1 year. While it would have been great to charge 30k+ (and even appropriate in rare cases), I knew that in this instance, rates that high would blow the client’s budget and didn’t match up to the value of the client’s intended use.

Assistant: The photographer would be flying in with his assistant, and this accounted for the shoot day and travel days there and back.

Local Digital Tech: In order to save on travel, we planned on hiring a local tech. I’d typically include additional fees for a workstation (around $750 for a monitor, computer and cart) but the tech would be using a laptop and simply be dumping cards while reorganizing files.

Equipment Rental: The photographer would be bringing his own gear, so we included rental fees for 2 camera bodies (~$200.00 per camera per day), a few lenses (~50.00 per lens per day) as well as strobes, power packs and stands (~$250.00 per day). We feel that it’s important to charge for this because it’s not expected that he would own this gear, and it covers the cost to maintain and update his equipment.

Photographer Travel Days: This covered his travel time for one day there and one day back.

Airfare, Lodging, Car Rental: I used kayak.com to research and determine travel costs for the photographer and his assistant.

Meals, Misc: The film production team would provide catering, but I included $100 per day for the 3 days (travel, shoot, travel) for snacks and miscellaneous expenses.

Housekeeping: I made sure to note the items that the client would be providing along with the advance requirements. While the client would handle all retouching internally, they asked that we provide the photographer’s rate in case they needed to farm out the work to him.

Results: The estimate was approved and the first season of the show is now being aired. The images landed in print ads as well as on the client’s website.

Hindsight: This project was particularly interesting due to the work-made-for-hire agreement. This estimate isn’t a representation of rates for all instances of copyright transfer, but it’s an example of what we’ve seen from a few other clients in the television industry. Another photo editor for a separate TV client/project informed us that they also require a work-made-for-hire agreement, and in order to stay competitive she suggested a pretty healthy work-for-hire rate of $10K-$20K per day.

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.

 

Pricing & Negotiating: Hotel Lifestyle & Advertising Shoot

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine

Concept: Lifestyle images of guests enjoying a new hotel concept and Architectural images 0f the property itself

Licensing: Advertising, Collateral and Publicity Use of 17 images, US Only

Location: Hotel property in Northern California

Shoot Days: Two

Photographer: Up-and-coming architectural, hospitality and lifestyle specialist

Agency: Mid-Size Chicago-Based Agency

Client: International Hotel chain

Here’s the estimate:

Click to enlarge

Concept, Licensing: The goal of the project was to promote the new hotel chain in a series of three web and print ads featured in a variety of  business and travel publications. The client also wanted to capture additional shots to populate the hotel’s website. The shoot would take place over two shoot days at a newly renovated hotel property in Northern California. The photographer would need to create lifestyle images of professional talent enjoying the various amenities (spa, business center, restaurant, gym, etc.) and architectural images of the property (with and without talent). The “hero” shots for the ad campaign would consist of two lifestyle images and one architectural image highlighting the new hotel vibe. The 14 other images would consist of  a mix of lifestyle and architectural images and be used only on the web, although the client requested the same licensing to be granted across the board.

Based on the number of hero shots, the number of secondary images, the photographer’s experience, the straight forward concept and the licensing restrictions (1 year, US only), along with my experience with similar projects, I set the pricing for the hero shots at $10k for the first and $5k each for the second and third for a total of 20,000. Since the usage was primarily in those first three images, I set the 4th and 5th at 2000.00 each, and 6-13 at 1000.00 each and 14-17 at 500.00 each. This brought the total licensing fee for all 17 images to 34,000 (which only coincidentally pro-rates out to 2000.00/image). I then checked my rates against a handful of previous estimates and outside pricing resources. For an “up-and-comer” Blinkbid suggests 6900.00-12,075.00/image/year. Corbis prices the “All Marketing Pack” at 17,500.00 for one year (or 14,356.00 for 1 month). Photoshelter‘s stock pricing calculator prices the “All Advertising and Marketing Pack” at 9,654.00/image for 1 year or 15,761.00/image for five years. Though the time ranges are different, you can see that the stock pricing calculators heavily front load the value of licensing, just as we do.

Photographer Travel/Tech Scout Days:  I estimated two days for the photographer to travel to and from the location and to scout. Since the Photographer would be flying west, it was possible to travel in and do the tech scout on the same day.

Equipment Rental: We priced out the cost to rent two camera bodies (600.00/day), two power packs (150.00/day), and lenses (150.00/day). The photographer would be bringing her own grip and decided not to charge for it to keep the budget down a bit.

Basic File Prep, including upload: This covered the cost to handle basic color correction and blemish removal and the upload of the images to the agency’s FTP. Anything over and above the basic processing would be considered retouching and billed at 150.00/hr.

Retouching Hours: The agency requested we include retouching for the three hero images. We estimated 2 hours per image at a standard retouching rate (not only to compensate her for that time and expertise, but to cover her if she got busy and had to farm it out to a freelance retoucher).

Producer Days: I included 6 producer days. 2 prep, 1 travel/scout, 2 shoot and 1 travel home. Since the photographer would be flying in for the shoot, it would be OK to fly her usual producer in for the project.

Production Books: We budgeted for the time and cost to produce a printed production book. Since we would be shooting a fairly extensive shot list in a sprawling location with a sizable cast and crew, it was important to create a comprehensive production book to keep everything on track. A production book typically consists of 5-10 pages of pertinent contact info, location info, directions, calendars, schedules and concepts, basically a summary of the production for quick reference throughout the shoot.

First Assistant, Digital Tech, Production Assistant: The photographer typically travels for most of her shoots and doesn’t have a regular 1st assistant, so we budgeted for a local first assistant. We included a digital tech and a production assistant (PA) to use as a runner and extra set of hands.

Casting & Talent: We estimated for a local casting agent to hold a live casting to source the 6 talent we needed (3/shoot day). The model rates were dictated by the agency. I would have preferred to push the rates higher to ensure we drew the best talent.

Stylists & Wardrobe/Props: We budgeted for a four person styling crew to handle hair/make-up, wardrobe and minor props like suitcases, briefcases and electronics. Had the prop requests been more substantial, we would have brought in a dedicated prop stylist. Our wardrobe stylist estimated and average of 400.00/talent for non-returnable purchases and rentals.

Catering: I budgeted 40.00 per person for up to 20 people on set each day. The cast, crew, agency, client and location contact list added up to 18. As is the case on most shoots, the client or agency will inevitably bring more bodies to set, so I accounted for 20 per day.

Travel Expenses: Using Kayak.com, I estimated the cost for airfare (including baggage fees), car rentals (including insurance and gas) and lodging (the hotel we were shooting at was fully booked) for the photographer and producer.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Tolls, Shipping, Certificate of Insurance, Misc.: I estimated 150.00/day on site to cover non-catered meals and expendables, 100.00 to secure a certificate of insurance (COI), and 250.00 in meals, mileage and parking for the return travel day.

Housekeeping: Some of the shots would feature hotel staff and/or food prepared by the hotel so I made sure to indicate those would be provided by the hotel. And of course, the location would be provided as well. I also noted advance requirements and that the client/agency would be responsible for any applicable sales tax.

Results: The photographer was awarded the job.

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

Pricing & Negotiating: Sports Apparel Advertising Shoot

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Individual environmental portraits/lifestyle images of two sponsored athletes

Licensing: 3 images for North American Point of Purchase, Online, Out of Home, Print Advertising and Print Collateral

Location: One residential location and a practice facility (both provided by the client)

Shoot Days: 2

Photographer: Established portrait and lifestyle specialist

Agency: None. Client direct through a freelance art buyer

Client: National niche sports apparel brand

Here’s the estimate:

Licensing: There were a number of factors influencing the fee. Though the usage was pretty extensive, it was limited to three images. The client’s apparel is widely available, but it’s not a prominent brand outside of its very specific customer base. The client needed three years of use, but since their product line changes every year, the value of the pictures will likely drop significantly after that first year. The fact that the shoot would feature somewhat well-known athletes made the shoot more valuable than it might otherwise be, but if the client decides not to renew the sponsorship agreement because the athlete gets injured, falls from grace, retires, etc. the images would lose value fast. Lastly, the first two images were unique, but the third image was just a variation of the second – making it worth somewhat less in my mind.

All that considered, I initially figured on 10,000 for the first image, 10,000 for the second and 2500 for the third, for a total fee of 22,500 (and about 27,200 in production expenses). Getty suggested 12,000/image/year for their Print, Web and OOH pack. Blinkbid quoted 11,550-16,500/image/year. After some back and forth, the client decided they wanted the project to come in under 40k, so we had to figure out what to cut if our photographer wanted the job. When it became clear that they were unwilling to make do with less usage, I looked at which production expenses I could trim. But even after eliminating 5000 for the on-site producer, I still couldn’t get down to 40k. At that point, the photographer and I discussed trimming the photography fee. She was willing to be flexible because the photography fee was reasonable to begin with, and the additional production fees (travel days, post-processing and editing) were healthy. So I dropped the fee down to 19,250.

Photographer Travel/Tech Scout Days: I estimated two days for the photographer travel to and from the location and to scout.

Production Days: Initially, I budgeted for an on-site producer (me). But when the client came back asking us to hit 40k, that was the first thing to go. Since the schedule was somewhat relaxed, and talent, catering, wardrobe and locations would be provided by the client, it made it possible (though not ideal) to ax that from the budget. Together with airfare and expenses, removing my on-site production time would account for a 5000.00 swing. I did still handle all of the pre-producton (sourcing, booking and coordinating crew, making travel arrangements, scheduling, production books etc.).

First Assistant Days: The photographer would be flying her first assistant in, so I included two travel days and two shoot days. The days would be short, so I wouldn’t need to factor in overtime.

Local Assistant and Digital tech: We initially estimated for a full workstation and digital tech, but when we were forced to trim the budget, we pulled out the workstation rental, saving 1500.00 (750.00/shoot day), the trade-off being that the client would have to review images on the photographer’s laptop. We also included a local assistant to help with gear and run last minute errands if necessary.

Wardrobe Stylist/Groomer Days and Supplemental Wardrobe/Props: We would only be shooting one subject per day and wardrobe and hair & make-up would be pretty low-impact. Accordingly, we felt it would be sufficient to use a single stylist capable of doing both. Also, that stylist would only need to be on-set for one of the two shoot days. One of the athletes would be providing all of her own stylists and supplemental wardrobe. The client would be providing primary wardrobe for the other athlete but still wanted a stylist to purchase a few supplemental items to round out their branded wardrobe. We normally account for a day of prop/wardrobe returns, but since I expected it to be pretty minimal, I decided it would be cheaper to just keep the stuff than pay someone to return it.

Images Processed for Editing: Lately instead of “digital capture fee,” I’ve been saying “Images processed for editing” which is a little more clear. It covers the time and equipment necessary to organize, edit and rename the files and to create and deliver a web gallery for the client to edit from.

Retouching Hours and delivery of reproduction files by FTP: The client requested fairly extensive retouching and post-processing treatment of all three images. The photographer was skilled enough to handle that on her own and estimated 3 hours per image at a standard retouching rate (not only to compensate her for that time and expertise, but to cover her if she got busy and had to farm it out to a freelance retoucher).

Equipment Rental: We priced out the cost to rent two camera bodies (600.00/day), three lenses (150.00/day), two power packs (140.00/day), four heads, stands, soft-boxes (120.00/day), misc. grip and expendables (240.00/day) at a rental house local to the shoot.

Lodging, Airfare, Baggage, Car Rentals: Using Kayak.com, I priced out the costs for all travel expenses. I usually round up to the nearest $100.00 to give myself a little cushion and always included the costs for checked bags and gas/insurance for the rental car.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Misc: For this one, I figured on 150.00/day for miles, parking, and miscellaneous expenses and 50.00/person/day for meals for the photographer and first assistant (the client was providing the catering).

Housekeeping: Finally, I noted the items the client would provide, the possible travel cost variance, the advance requirements and that they would pay any applicable sales tax.

Results: The photographer was awarded the job and the clients were very happy with the pictures.

Hindsight: Although the photographer delivered great value for that budget, we both ended up feeling that an on-site producer would have allowed things to run more smoothly. Even though the client promised to handle the catering, the photographer still ended up managing that on the shoot day. And there were plenty of little questions and interruptions that could have been avoided if an experienced producer had been there to handle them, freeing the photographer up to concentrate more fully on creating great images.

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.