Category "Pricing & Negotiating"

New Service Aims To Help Photographers Price Their Work

Shakodo is a new website where photographers can share pricing information and from what I can tell it looks like it’s going to be an awesome tool for everyone. The features and design of the site are top notch but the real interesting part is going to be seeing real pricing information and debates over what should be charged.

From the press release:

Photography is one of those professions without any fixed prices; with almost everything being negotiated. Until recently, the photographic market was very isolated and the skill of price negotiation was one of the key success factors for professionals.

With the influx of talented amateurs a market-shift began to take place. With their lack of experience and knowledge about current market rates and not understanding client’s budgets and needs, these talented amateurs have settled for lower price offers. As a result, they have unintentionally undercut professionals while leaving money on the table because they are not aware of the true market value of their photos or services.

Let me know what you think.


Real World Estimates: Product Photography

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

One of our still-life photographers was approached recently by a major brand to quote on a series of product photographs to promote a low-cost line of glassware that they sell through a big-box store. The client needed pictures showing several variations of each of the bowls, plates, and cups so that they’d have different options for use on packaging, point of purchase displays, and on their e-commerce site. They wanted everything shot on white background. Their in-house designers would process the raw files and handle the silhouetting and any retouching. The client would plan to bring a hard drive with them and simply take all the raw files with them at the conclusion of the shoot.

The creative challenge was to make simple bowls and cups look interesting on their own. The technical challenge was to light clear shiny objects and have them show up on a white background. After discussing the project with the photographer, she told me she could comfortably handle 3-4 items/day. So I would need to plan on a four-day shoot.

We’re normally inclined to quote creative fees by the picture rather than by the day. That tends to align the interests of the photographer with those of the client. If a photographer is charging by the day, her incentive is to run long and the client’s incentive is to finish early. If the photographer charges by the picture, everyone is going to be incentivized to work as efficiently as possible. There are exceptions to this rule, however. In cases where the client (or the client’s client) is in control of the shooting schedule (like on a corporate project where the photographer might be at the mercy of the subject’s or facilities’ availability at any given moment).

This project, however, is the type of shoot that a lot of clients have a need for, and that photographers customarily charge by the day for. Rather than upsetting that apple cart, I thought it best to go with the flow and quote the photography by the day. I’ve found that product photographers can command anywhere from 3000.00-5000.00/day for this type of work, with this licensing for a national brand. Whether I quote the high end or the low end is going to depend on how prominent the brand is, the complexity of the pictures, how prominent the photographer is, how busy he is, and the exact licensing. The number of shoot days and the regularity of the work is a factor as well. If a one-day shoot suddenly becomes a five-day shoot, I would probably discount the additional days.

Location of the photographer and the client can also factor in. If the client (even a big one) is in a smaller market and you’re competing with other photographers in that small market, you might not be able to charge as much as for a similar project taking place in a bigger market. In this case, the client and the photographer were in a big market, and I felt that all of the other factors together pointed to about the mid-point of the range, so I quoted 4000.00/day. The client specified the exact usage they needed, which I quoted on the estimate (below).

I chose to include a digital tech as well as a regular photo assistant for this project. For bigger sets, I would want to have at least two assistants, but for table-top, one was enough. I’m also finding that most assistants now have most of the skills of a digital tech, so the personnel (and the fees they charge) are starting to become interchangeable. (Of course, digital techs with extensive software and hardware knowledge, or those who bring their own computers or cameras, will always be able to charge a premium.)

Since there was so little pre-production necessary (just arranging the catering and the assistants), it wasn’t worth breaking that out as a separate line item. And while some shoots might require a pre-light day, this one was simple enough that I couldn’t justify breaking that out either.

Sometimes product photographers bundle the studio and equipment charges into their creative fees. Other times it makes sense to show separate line items. (Either way, it has very little to do with whether the photographer has “his own” space or “his own” gear. Some photographers naively charge clients based on the cost to them rather than the value that they’re bringing to their client. Equipment and studios are expensive whether you rent them by the day, by the month, or own them outright.) There are pluses and minuses to either approach. Bundling the charge might make your creative fee seem fat. Separating those expenses out might make it seem like you’re nickel-and-diming. Generally, I do whatever I think is customary for a given situation. Here, I chose to separate it out.

For catering, we’ll normally do a light breakfast (muffins, bagels, fruit salad, juice, water, coffee) and a casual lunch (sandwiches, salads, chips, cookies, brownies, water, soda, coffee). For productions with more than 10 people, or if you’re shooting more than a few days in a row, it starts to make sense to go a step further. We’ve sometimes gone as far as offering made-to-order omelets, pancakes and oatmeal for breakfast, lasagna and other hot options in addition to sandwiches for lunch, and snacks to keep people going through the afternoon. For people (clients especially) who spend a lot of time on shoots like this, it’s nice not getting stuck with an Italian hoagie every day.

Naturally, the client provided the product. But they also provided the stylist, which we were sure to note in the estimate. The shoot took place in the photographer’s own studio so travel and certificates of insurance were unnecessary.

The client liked the estimate and signed off on it, and the shoot went as expected. (Not all estimates go through as easily as this one did. I promise to get into negotiating next time!) One thing you might ask is, “what does the photographer charge if the shoot takes five days to complete, or if it only takes three?” Good question. Strictly speaking, we’ve quoted this as an estimate rather than a bid. With an estimate, the final cost will vary depending on actual conditions. With a bid, you’re saying that the cost is fixed for the result you’re delivering. However, in this case since everything about the shoot is going to be either predictable or within the photographer’s control, there would have to be very unusual circumstances to justify billing for additional shoot days. But at the same time, most clients would expect you to only charge them for the three days if that’s all it took. This “heads I win, tails you lose” effect is one more reason I prefer to bill by the picture rather than by the day.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, you can reach Jess at

Real World Estimates – Corporate Portraits

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

Corporations tend to use photography in two main ways: to illustrate their internal communications (like company newsletters whose audience is primarily employees) and in external communications (like annual reports, capabilities brochures, sales brochures and press kits whose audience is shareholders, clients, vendors or the general public). Before the advent of digital photography and desktop publishing, most big corporations had a steady need for professional photography and design for their internal communications. But advances in technology have made it easier for ordinary employees to do what they once hired professionals to do. And though the level of quality may not be the same, it is often considered good enough. That’s rarely the case for external communications which can often have a significant impact on the perception of the company, and ultimately their bottom line.

The following is an explanation of a simple portrait assignment for a Fortune 500 company, primarily for annual report use.

Our photographer first met the corporate communications director of the company when he was there on a magazine shoot. When the company replaced a member of their board of directors, they needed a new portrait to match the existing ones of the other board members. Our photographer was asked to bid on the job.

The client needed a waist-up portrait of one person on a white background. The picture had to match the others that they had shot previously using another photographer. They even had the background paper on hand. The client showed us examples of the other portraits they had done, which we were supposed to match. It’s sometimes awkward when a client asks a photographer to replicate another photographer’s work. Certainly, if there’s anything unique about the picture you’re copying, it would be a good idea to consider whether the client is asking you to infringe upon someone else’s copyright. In this case, the situation and the lighting were generic enough that there was no danger of that.

They needed the picture for a year, for a variety of non-advertising uses, including their annual report, related documents like their proxy statement, their website, and for press kits.

This client was sophisticated enough to understand how licensing factors into the estimate. Some smaller clients may not get why a photographer would want to know or care about how their pictures will be used. It’s very important for photographers to comprehend the licensing model of pricing well enough to explain it to clients in a way that makes sense and is not off-putting. When this conversation comes up for me, I explain that we need to grant a license in order for them to use the photographs. Sometimes I’ll explain further that a more narrow license tends to put downward pressure on the price and a broader licensing agreement adds upward pressure on the price. Once a client understands how licensing affects the cost, they tend to be more specific about their intended use. But it’s crucial for photographers to learn how to have these conversations.

Sometimes a client will know exactly how they want to use the photographs, and I can just put that language in the quote verbatim. However, in many cases, the client won’t be able to anticipate all the possible uses of the photographs, and they’ll want to license a range of uses. Though it makes it a little harder to nail down the value in those cases, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for a client to ask.

I like to divide up the usage “universe” using simple terms that help the client get the flexibility they want without paying for usage they don’t need (or without unnecessarily driving up the price). For most commercial photography, usage can fit into the following categories: publicity, collateral and advertising. I define advertising as any time a client pays for placement to display a photograph. I call it collateral when a photograph is used in a publication that the client produces themselves. And publicity is when the client gives the pictures to an editorial publication (and is not paying for that use). Defining these types of usage makes it easy to grant a whole category of use for a specified time period, which provides a useful middle ground between one-time use and unlimited use. (See exact definitions below in the Terms & Conditions page.)


For this quote, the licensing was pretty clear. The client needed collateral and publicity use for one year. I tend to list the specific uses they ask for as well, to assure them that they’re included. By the way, you want to be careful not to think of “web” as a use, but rather a medium. After all, depending on the context of the use (and whose website it’s used on), it could be advertising, collateral or publicity. One way you can clarify this is to indicate the actual website that you’re granting use on.

My usual wording in the first line of an estimate indicates who the photographer is, what the picture entails, where the shoot is going to take place, how many shoot days are included and exactly what the licensing allows. Even in cases where I don’t have all the details, I’ll want to fill in my best guess of what they’re likely to be. When new information comes along, we can always update the estimate. But the estimate has to be as complete as possible. Since this is a simple job, I can describe the whole project within the estimate itself. More complex projects may require the photographer to summarize it in the estimate and then explain in more detail in a cover letter, how he’ll solve the problems presented by the shoot. Remember that the estimating process isn’t simply about presenting an appropriate price. It’s also your opportunity to convince the client that you’re interested in the project, you understand it, and you can handle it.

I’ve found that a typical annual report shoot day goes for between 1500.00 − 3500.00 depending on how sought-after the photographer is, how busy the photographer is, how big the corporation is, how difficult the pictures are, how long the days are. For this one, the photographer was a “medium”. The corporation was large. The degree of difficulty was very low. And the day was short. To me that pointed to the lower end of the scale, but I bumped it up to 2000.00 to factor in the broad usage requirements.

Even though the client was unlikely to license more than one picture, I generally like to specify the cost for additional images in the original quote to minimize awkward negotiations later. Normally my additional image fee is prorated from the shoot fee, but in this case since any additional image would be the same subject against the same white background in the same clothes, I felt a reduced fee of 1000.00/additional image was appropriate. Had the images been environmental portraits, wherein the photographer could have created two very different images, I probably would have prorated the addition images.


The expenses on this shoot were pretty simple.

“One assistant” to help set up and stand in for the subject.

“Digital captures delivered by web gallery for editing.” For editorial and corporate projects, we typically charge for a web gallery, then we charge separately for each file prep and for retouching. That way, we can scale the cost to the needs of the client. It protects the client from paying for processing they don’t need. And it compensates the photographer for time spent processing images. You could lump the web gallery fee into the creative fee, but since it’s actual time spent outside of the actual shoot time, I think it’s important to recognize it in the estimate. With advertising jobs, instead of charging for the web gallery per se, I charge for a digital tech who would be doing that work. And instead of charging for file preps, I simply lump the basic file preparation in with the retouching. (After all, there is no advertising photograph that doesn’t get at least a small amount of retouching.) I didn’t quote retouching because I figured that the basic file clean-up that we include in the file prep charge would suffice. The Terms & Conditions says that if the client requests additional retouching that it’s 150.00/hour.

“Miles, parking, tolls.” I charge $.50/mile for car travel, plus actual parking and tolls. On short days like this, I generally don’t charge for meals (though I do pay for my assistant’s meals regardless.) I usually only put in for meals on corporate or editorial jobs when they’re full days, and usually not when we’re going to the client’s headquarters. I hate to give the impression that I’m nickel-and-diming them.

“Seamless paper and groomer to be provided by client.” Any time the client opts out of any normal item, I like to say that in the estimate. That way there’s no confusion later when the subject’s hair doesn’t look great. In this case, the subject was a woman. But the client assured me that she would arrive camera-ready. So no hair & make-up artist. (It doesn’t hurt to bring a comb, mirror, powder and sponges.) Even though the client said they had seamless paper, I brought an extra roll just in case.

There are times when I’ll add a line item for equipment, and other times when I won’t. I do for just about any advertising shoot, and for medium to large corporate shoots. But for the smaller corporate shoots, I tend to bundle it into the creative fee. I don’t have a rule of thumb for editorial clients. I consider it on a case-by-case basis.

They did not require a certificate of insurance to shoot in their offices, so we didn’t provide one.

Sales tax varies from state to state. In some states, if you’re billing the end user, they have to pay sales tax on photography unless they are exempt for some reason (like if they’re a publication or a non-profit). Also, if your client is going to be passing along your charges (like in the case of an ad agency or graphic design firm), they will also be exempt. Either way, I find it’s best on estimates to say, “plus applicable sales tax.” That way, I’m covered and it doesn’t artificially inflate the bottom line.

These Real World Estimating posts are written by the fine folks at Wonderful Machine. If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, you can reach them at

Real World Estimates – Regional Hospital Ad Campaigns

- - Pricing & Negotiating

by Wonderful Machine producer Jess Dudley

I recently helped two different photographers quote on two very similar projects, so I thought it would be interesting to present them together (see estimates below).

Shoot A was a series of simple, tightly-cropped portraits on a plain background, with no props and minimal wardrobe needs, depicting “everyday” people. Shoot B entailed a series of pictures of people engaged in various athletic activities (like bowling and yoga) to show that the hospital could provide treatments to help people stay active.

The Similarities

  • both projects entailed creating a series of similar (relatively simple) pictures with a number of different people
  • the clients in both cases were regional hospitals
  • the intended use for both was primarily local advertising
  • both required just one shoot day
  • both shoots would happen on a plain background in a studio

The Differences

  • client A wanted to be able to (theoretically, at least) use the pictures anywhere in the world, while client B just needed local use
  • shoot B needed a pre-light day and a digital tech
  • shoot B required a lot of compositing and retouching after the shoot
  • shoot B required a series of test pictures ahead of time to help nail down the concepts
  • shoot B found professional models through traditional casting and model agencies, shoot A hired models from a “real people” casting company
  • shoot A happened on the West Coast, shoot B on the East Coast

The Creative Fees

The overall scope of the two projects was very similar, but the fact that we ended up quoting exactly $18k for both creative fees was just a coincidence. Client A originally asked us to quote six tight portraits for “unlimited use, anywhere, forever.” Client B wanted four action shots (showing bowling, yoga, jogging and swinging a baseball bat) for “unlimited use, locally, forever.”

The “creative fee” covers the work required to make the pictures plus the licensing to use them (I normally bundle them into one number). Licensing is made up of the type of use (advertising, collateral, publicity), geography of use (local, regional, national, international) and the duration of use (one-time, one year, forever). Clients sometimes ask for broader licensing than they actually need, just for the convenience. The trick is to judge what’s reasonable to charge for the unused portion of the licensing. In this case, Client A is essentially asking for international use of the pictures. But since they’re a local hospital chain, they’re simply not going to have an occasion to use the pictures outside of the area they serve. Broader licensing is always worth more than narrower licensing, but it’s not worth nearly as much as if the client could actually take advantage of it. Both clients wanted to use the pictures forever. But as a practical matter, the pictures are going to have a lifespan of a couple of years. Both clients were asking for publicity, collateral and advertising use. The advertising part will have the most impact on the price. So I do my best to get my head around the likely use of the pictures, then assign a reasonable premium to account for the actual licensing.

I figured that in Project A, the first picture was worth $5k and each additional was worth about $2.5. I rounded it off to $18k. The broad use certainly adds upward pressure on that price, but the simplicity of the pictures adds downward pressure (there was very little pre- or post-production required, and the degree of difficulty and specialization of the actual shoot was pretty basic. So on balance, I was comfortable with the $18k.) The client said they would pay $18k, but asked us do eight pictures instead of six. Deciding how much to concede in any negotiation is difficult. A basic rule of negotiating is to never give something up without getting something in return. The weak economy is a factor generally, but a bigger factor is how busy the photographer is. In this case, the photographer wasn’t busy enough to risk losing the job over those extra two pictures. So we agreed.

Project B was only four images, but the pictures were more complex. The ads each needed to show a series of pictures to demonstrate range of joint motion with a recognizable sport or activity (like swinging a baseball bat). Initially, the client asked the photographer to do some test pictures to show what a range of motion would look like for a bunch of different activities. After a day of testing everything we could think of (for which we charged 1800.00), we settled on bowling, batting, yoga and jogging. We decided to depict each action with three pictures to illustrate the range of joint motion. So compared to Project A, the actual work to make the pictures happen was somewhat more involved, but the licensing requirements were a bit more modest. So I figured on 6000.00 for the first and 4000.00 for each of the other three, for a total of $18k.

Another influencing factor for licensing fees is whether the pictures are simply promoting one product among many, or whether they are promoting the entire company’s brand. There are times when promoting a small company’s entire brand is worth more than promoting a small part of a global company.

The Expenses

You’ll see variations between the two quotes for support services. They’re less about the regions where the shoots took place and more about the individual photographer’s idiosyncrasies. Photographer A likes to say, “Digital Capture Day”, the other says “Digital Tech Day”. The costs for the assistants, hair/make-up, wardrobe stylists varied just because of what those individual subcontractors charged. In both cases, the demands of the support staff were pretty modest. But certainly in situations where there’s more of an emphasis on the wardrobe or props or other element of the shoot, the photographer would be foolish to skimp. If you’re shooting a cosmetics ad, you’ll want to get your hands on the best make-up artist you can find, and you’ll have to be prepared to pay for it.

Photographer A worked out of his own small studio space, so quoted a modest 400.00 for it. Photographer B worked out of a more substantial rental studio, plus the client asked us to bundle the catering charge with the studio fee in order to “get it past accounting.”

Client B was comfortable working with the usual modeling and casting agencies to find the talent. Client A suggested we use an agency that offers “real people” at a much cheaper rate. So they were able to get models for about $630.00 each. Project B paid 2000.00 for each model, plus 1000.00 for the casting day. Just like any business decision where you’re trying to get the best value or return on investment (ROI), you have to decide when you can cut corners and when it’s not worth the savings. We often have the models bill the client directly. Some clients want to see those fees in the photography estimate, others are happy to leave it off.

Photographer A likes to quote a line item for a hard drive for archiving. Photographer B doesn’t bother.

In both cases, the equipment demands were pretty basic, so we chose to bundle the equipment charge into creative fee. However, it’s perfectly reasonable to break that out separately.

I normally don’t split hairs by quoting 6.5 hours of retouching. But we were so close to $30k that I decided to dial that number back just enough to keep us under that amount.

Photographer A chose to do his own production. Since there was a bit more to manage, Photographer B had me handling all the pre-production and I was on set the day of the shoot to make sure everything went smoothly.

Quoting wardrobe is always a crap shoot. A wardrobe stylist will generally pull a lot of options and return whatever doesn’t get trashed. But it’s a hard to predict.

In both of these cases, we were charging for production time and we were also getting a 50% advance payment on the entire quote. So we billed the client actual cost on the out-of-pocket expenses. I find that it’s customary to get expense money upfront on projects like this. But in cases where we don’t get an advance, I’ll normally mark up my expenses 15-20% to float that money.

Photographer A didn’t need a separate certificate of insurance because he was using his own space. Photographer B needed to provide one to the rental studio, so we charge 100.00 for that.

Photographer A charged a fairly typical 150.00/hour for his retoucher. Photographer B used his in-house retoucher, for which he charged 100.00/hour. Of course, just because you have someone on staff doesn’t mean you should charge more or less for it. Price is more a function of the value you bring to the client rather than the cost to you. In this case it was just another item that would allow that photographer to be a little more competitive on price.

If you have any questions or if you need help pricing and negotiating, or producing one of your projects, you can reach me at

Real World Estimates – Exclusive Contracts with University Clients

By Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer

Though we now work with nearly 500 photographers around the world, Wonderful Machine started out as a small cooperative of photographers in Philadelphia—sharing equipment, facilities, staff, supplies, insurance and know-how. Sharing those overhead costs is great, but it’s even better when we can develop client relationships that we couldn’t tackle individually. (Here’s another recent post about some other photographer cooperatives.)

One of those clients is a single department of a major university with a regular need for documentary photography. I started working for them nearly ten years ago, when their creative director saw my pictures in a couple of magazines and asked me to meet with her. At that time, their regular photographer charged 1800.00/day plus expenses for unlimited use of his pictures forever. But it was clear they weren’t happy with that photographer. I tactfully explained that I price my work based on usage, not just by time. And if they were willing to structure their licensing agreements that way, they could attract a higher caliber photographer (like me).

We agreed on a rate that covered her basic needs, which were local advertising, collateral (internal and external and including web), and publicity (press kits). To keep the fees within their budget, we limited the duration of use to one year. For anything beyond that (national advertising or subsequent use), we would negotiate an additional fee. We worked up a (non-exclusive) contract, which we tweaked periodically.

Then when I started collaborating with other photographers, I saw an opportunity to introduce them to that client as well. The university’s needs were growing. I was growing out of some of the assignments I was getting from them. So I had to figure out a way to incorporate our other photographers into our agreement.

It occurred to me that at the same time, we were in a position to create an exclusive relationship with the university in a way that could serve both parties better. The client could agree to give us all of their photographic assignment work, and in return we would agree to handle whatever they threw at us. The client would have the benefit of one point of contact (our studio manager) when they needed a photographer or a reproduction file. Our photographers would grow familiar with their people, places, and needs. And our photographers would have the benefit of a steady revenue stream. It’s a classic win-win that we’ve all been enjoying for several years now, and generates close to six figures in annual revenue.

You can see the actual contract and a typical invoice here:

And here’s an explanation of each paragraph:


Memorandum Of Understanding was what my client wanted to call our agreement. Clients will sometimes say “memorandum of understanding” instead of “contract” to avoid dealing with their own legal departments. It’s debatable whether this makes any legal difference. I’m confident that the clarity of the agreement is what protects will govern the relationship, rather than what we call it.

AGREEMENT – This agreement between Wonderful Machine Inc., (hereafter “Photographer” or “WMI”), and (hereafter “Client”) governs photographic assignments (“Photographs”), shot between August 26, 2009 and December 31, 2011, and constitutes the entire agreement between the parties concerning those assignments.

I like to give contracts expiration dates. Otherwise, whenever you make changes, you have to nullify the previous contract. It’s messy when you work with a client over a long period of time and it’s not clear which contract governs which project.

RATES – WMI will offer Photographers at the following rates:

A – 225.00/hour on site, plus 450.00 start-up fee, plus incidental expenses
B – 175.00/hour on site, plus 350.00 start-up fee, plus incidental expenses
C – 125.00/hour on site, plus 250.00 start-up fee, plus incidental expenses

In order to be able to handle all of their photographic requirements, we need to offer photographers at a range of skills and price points. Each of our photographers decides on his hourly rate. Then the client decides when they need their “A” team for a particular project.

In cases when I charge for my time, I’m usually billing by the day, not by the hour. However, the typical assignment for a university client like this is a couple of hours. Rather than agonizing over whether a project was a half-day or a full-day, I chose to structure it on an hourly basis. This is one of the concessions I made in exchange for a high volume of work.

The Start-up fee will cover normal pre-production arrangements, normal photographic equipment, digital files captured and delivered by web gallery for editing, and image archiving. There is no charge for the first two hours of round-trip travel time. After that, travel will be billed at half of the normal hourly rate. Incidental expenses may include mileage (at current IRS rate), parking, meals (on full-day shoots), tolls, assistants (as needed, 30.00/hour including travel and load/unload time), reproduction file preparation ($25.00 each), file upload ($25.00 for any number of files) and retouching (upon request 150.00/hour).

Charging by the hour only works when you have a suitable “start-up” fee to go along with it. That start-up fee covers the time it takes to do all the things that any assignment requires, no matter how short the actual shoot is.

Subject to availability, WMI will arrange for photographers in other parts of the U.S. and around the world, at the same contract rates listed above. In these cases, WMI will charge a 75.00/hour production fee to cover the staff time required to find and book the photographer, handle any post-production, image processing, captioning, archiving, and billing, over and above the actual photographer cost. WMI will provide a cost estimate in each case, and will alert the client if the anticipated production fee will exceed $250.00.

Occasionally, the client will need a photographer outside of our area. In cases where they can’t justify the travel costs, we arrange to have one of our other Wonderful Machine photographers handle it.

USAGE – The Client will have unlimited use of the Photographs in any medium and for any purpose, except for national advertising, (which will be negotiated separately), for a period of one year from shoot date, with an extension for images shot within that year and used in the annual report for that year. After that initial licensing period, the Client will pay one-half of the comparable Getty price for any further use of the Photographs. (The Getty price will be determined at the time of invoicing using the Getty Images price calculator, factoring in the size and prominence of the image, the type of media, duration of use, and quantity of publications produced.) The Client may print additional copies of any publication without any additional fee provided there are no significant changes to that publication. The Client may use any of the Photographs on their web site indefinitely without additional charge. Any publication the Client sends photos to for Publicity Use may use the Photographs without time limit, provided the Photographs had a current license when they were sent out.

The client uses pictures in lots of different ways, but mostly within a year from the original shoot. So we struck a compromise that allowed us to offer a modest rate for one year’s use, then bill additional use separately. We wanted to meet their needs without giving away the farm. Tying that additional charge to a stock industry standard eliminates the time and energy we’d otherwise have to spend negotiating. Half of the stock rate seemed like a fair discount given that they hired us to shoot the pictures in the first place.

EXCLUSIVITY – In exchange for these discounted rates and extended licensing, the Client agrees to assign all of their photographic work to Wonderful Machine Inc. If another department at wishes to use any Photographs created by WMI, that party will obtain permission from WMI and pay an additional fee to be agreed upon, except where that publication is specifically promoting , and the licensing period has not expired. Inter-departmental image usage under these terms must be accompanied by the statement, “Images used by permission of  <department of university>”. WMI will obtain permission from the Client before licensing any Photographs to any third party.

This paragraph says that they’re going to use us for all of their photography assignments and that the pictures we make for them will be for their exclusive use. (They do have the right to purchase stock photos from other vendors, which they frequently do.)

PAYMENT – Client shall make payment within 45 days of receipt of invoice.

30 days is more customary with us, but they asked for 45.

COPYRIGHT – Grant of any reproduction rights to the Client is conditioned upon receipt of payment in full as specified above. All rights not expressly granted shall be reserved by the Photographer.

This is a subtle but important point. Photographers lose a lot of leverage the moment they deliver pictures to a client. Here, it’s clearly stated that if the client uses the pictures and then chooses not to pay, they’re in violation of copyright, which gives the photographer a lot more leverage to collect. As a practical matter, it doesn’t mean that we expect to get paid before the client uses the pictures. It’s really just to protect ourselves from deadbeats.

CANCELLATIONS, POSTPONEMENTS, RESHOOTS – In the event of a cancellation or postponement of a shoot by the Client or subject, Client shall pay for the time and expenses incurred by the Photographer up to the time of the cancellation. If a shoot is canceled within 24 hours of the shoot, Client shall, in addition, also pay 100% of the fees of any subcontractors booked for the job.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, cancellation policies should be exercised with care (think about the last time you canceled your dentist appointment.)

INDEMNIFICATION – Client indemnifies and holds the Photographer harmless against any and all liabilities, claims, and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, arising from Client’s use of the Photographer’s work.

I’ve never had a liability situation come up, but you never know. I think it’s reasonable for photographers ask for this protection in cases where they could be exposed to a law suit as a result of a client’s negligence. In the same way, it’s customary now for clients to ask this of photographers. I checked with our insurance company to make sure we were covered for it.

AUTHORSHIP CREDIT – The Client will provide a credit in the name of the Photographer whenever practical.

Often, it’s not practical for a non-editorial client to credit photographers. But in cases like a brochure where graphic designers and printers are often credited, it would be reasonable to credit a photographer as well.

TURN AROUND TIME – Normal schedule for web photo gallery or final file preparation is 48 hours. There will be a 50% surcharge for 24 hour service, and a 100% surcharge for same day service. Client will place all orders by email and also call to advise of any rush orders.

I charge 25.00 for a reproduction file prep for an editorial or institutional clients, which is relatively nominal. (I typically charge 50.00 to corporate clients and bundle the file prep charge into the retouching fee for advertising clients.) The rush charge keeps me sane and keeps clients from expecting everything immediately.

TEAR SHEETS – Client will provide Photographer with two entire copies of any publication his Photographs appear in.

Tear sheets are often good for my portfolio and they help me track usage.

If you have any questions about this contract or any others, please feel free to contact our lead producer Jess Dudley at or 610.260.0200.

Real World Estimates – Pricing Photography for Image Libraries

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

Lately, I’ve noticed more and more corporations and ad agencies are requesting that photographers quote on producing “image libraries”. An image library is a pool of pictures that a client will commission, where they’ll license rights to use the photographs from a shoot in a variety of different ways, and they’ll often make them available over an intranet to different departments across their organization. The productions tend to be broad in their approach, loosely covering a variety of situations, sometimes in generic ways, rather than having a single specific objective. On rare occasion, library images will be used for ads, but most tend to be used for internal and external communications, and for publicity.

In the past, it was mostly institutional clients like schools, hospitals and other non-profits that liked to work this way. Those types of organizations tend to have a variety of different (often low-budget) publication and advertising needs that require a lot of pictures on a regular basis. But increasingly, where big companies once had photographers on staff to cover these types of projects, corporate downsizing has them now turning to freelancers.

One reason clients are willing to pay for broad (or unrestricted) licensing is because it’s often very difficult to maintain control over the use of the pictures when they’re available for use by so many people within their organization. So rather than risk a licensing infringement, they’ll negotiate unlimited use. Other times, clients expect to use such a high volume of photographs that they feel they can get a better deal by effectively negotiating a “bulk rate”. Still other times, a client will be willing to pay for the additional usage simply for the convenience of never having any limitations on their use of the pictures. In all of these cases, unlimited “library” use is worth significantly more than limited use.

But in a world where photographers traditionally price their product based on usage, what is “unlimited” use worth? There have always been photographers who intentionally or unknowingly ignore the subject of licensing, or otherwise simply give away unlimited use of their pictures without charging a premium for it. Those tend to be young photographers who don’t know any better, or established photographers who have found that it’s the only way they can compete, or they couldn’t be bothered with the extra work involved in understanding how image licensing works and explaining it to their clients.

However, in most of these cases, pricing photography “by the day” is a dysfunctional system, and not in the interests of the photographer or the client. There’s an inherent conflict when a photographer is compensated in inverse proportion to her productivity. The more photographs she produces, the less she is paid for each of them. Any photographer’s natural motivation will be to produce enough work to satisfy the expectations of the client, and no more. That is no way to run a business.

A much better fee structure is one that links the photographer’s compensation with the value to the client. My normal starting point for a medium-sized corporation and a middle-of-the-road photographer would be to quote a modest day rate (usually around 2400.00 plus expenses) which would include unlimited use, excluding advertising, of up to 8 images. Then I’d price additional images at 300.00 each (plus file prep). That way, the photographer is incentivized to be as productive as possible, and the client gets the benefit of committing to a low cost up front and then just paying additionally for any additional images that they pick. (Naturally, this pricing could be higher or lower depending on the nature of the pictures, the caliber of the photographer and the size of the client.)

Generally, I try to steer clients away from “unlimited use of all the pictures forever”, because it unnecessarily drives up the fee. There are many ways to satisfy the client’s need to use the pictures broadly. The photographer can license “unlimited” use in a limited way by restricting the time, geography, and/or realm of use, while leaving other parts unrestricted. Are the pictures really going to be useful after a few years? If not, why pay for forever? Do you really plan to use the pictures in Indonesia? Then why pay for international use? Do you really intend to put the pictures on billboards? If not, why pay for outdoor advertising use? When the photographer and client each understand what the other values most, they can come to an agreement that works best for both of them. (That’s known as a “win-win”.)

In addition to corporations, ad agencies seem to be increasingly interested in creating image libraries. We recently quoted on a project for a west coast ad agency who was working with a theme park client that needed a variety of pictures for use on their web site and in advertising. The agency asked us to quote a four day shoot, where the still photographer would work along-side a video crew, photographing families enjoying the various rides and attractions in the park. (See our related post on working with video crews here.)

In spite of my best efforts to persuade the client to agree to more specific licensing, they decided they really did want “unlimited use of all the images forever”. Determining an appropriate fee depends on a number of factors. Here are the questions I asked the art buyer (and the answers I got):

Who is the end client and how prominent is their advertising presence? (In this case, the theme park was a household name, but aside from the web, their advertising presence was not very prominent outside their region.) The larger and more prominent the company is, the more they stand to gain by using the photos. (In a normal licensing situation, the client has to share how they intend to use the pictures because it becomes part of the actual agreement. With any kind of unlimited use, the client has no obligation to tell you how they plan to use the pictures. And in fact, it’s in their interest to down-play their intended use. In these cases, it’s prudent for the photographer to overestimate, by a decent margin, the probable use by the client.

How many situations do you want to shoot in those four days and what level of production are you looking for? Would you rather cover more pictures with less production value (lighting, hair/make-up, props, wardrobe) or fewer situations with greater production value? (We’d like to cover variations of about a dozen different situations. We’re looking for a “real” look, so the pictures don’t need to be overly produced.)

Will the shoot days be consecutive? (Yes.) Just as you would discount your per image rate for multiple images, it makes sense to offer a lower rate for consecutive shoot days and a higher rate for non-consecutive because you can be more efficient with your own time on consecutive days, and you can typically get better rates from your subs as well.

Do you have a shot/situation list you can send me? (Not yet. We’re still working that out with the video crew. That list will be used as a starting point for the still photographer, and then we’ll work from there. We’d like to do a scouting trip with the photographer to determine which rides/attractions would offer good picture opportunities.)

How many final images do you expect to use? (It’s hard to say how many we’d actually use, but I’d like to see between 30-40 useable images per situation.)

Do you want us to deliver raw or processed files? (We’d like to have raw, color corrected images.) This can be a welcome change from the normal retouching and approval process. But the downside is that you are relinquishing control of the final image quality, and your ability to charge a fee to supervise that process as well. The down-side for the client is that they take on the responsibility of that processing, and they risk not getting the full impact of the photographer’s vision.

Thankfully, the art buyer was sensitive to the demands of working with a video crew and was very communicative regarding any overlapping production expenses. (For more on shooting along side a video crew, check out our previous blog post on the subject).

After considering all of the factors, we came to rest on the following:

(By the way, It’s very important for the photographer to convey the licensing to the end client rather than the ad agency. Otherwise, the agency would potentially be in a position to use the pictures for another client without further compensation to the photographer.)

A few notes about our production expenses:

In this case the “grip” was basically a 3rd assistant whose job was to be primarily rigging lights and managing underwater camera housings for the water attractions.

The groomer/wrangler is responsible for making sure the talent was where they needed to be for our shots and ensuring they were camera ready. You have to be careful when working alongside another production. They can handcuff your shoot should they dominate the talent’s time.

It’s unusual to charge for both digital capture and digital tech but due to the high volume of images generated on a shoot like this, the digital tech can’t keep up with the file management. So their job was to bring their workstation and display, transfer images intermittently when not needed on set and during breaks, and process a handful of images for review. This left a fair amount of basic workflow for the photographer after the shoot.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, you can reach me at

Real World Estimates – Publicity Pricing and the Value of Subject Follow-Up

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

A typical magazine assignment generates a modest fee, a couple of portfolio pictures, a little notoriety – and if you’re lucky, it can also provide an opportunity to make valuable connections with people who can give you work. Follow-up is key to capitalizing on those connections.

Though your subject or the contact person on the shoot might not be the ones who hire photographers for their organization, they probably know who does, and they will often have an influence on that process. When you’ve completed your shoot, find out from them who would be most appropriate for you to reach out to.

After a magazine has published the story, it’s normally okay to let the subject and their handlers see the outtakes from the shoot (certainly not before). Sending a print of your favorite picture from the shoot or a link to a web gallery is a great way build on the rapport that you developed during that assignment.

Explain that if they like them, they can license the images from you when the magazine’s embargo period is up. And that they can hire you for assignments as well. All things being equal, people are inclined to work with photographers they’ve met, like, and even better – ones they’ve seen in action. Don’t assume that a subject will know that you’re interested and available to work for them. Tell them so.

This strategy paid off for one of our photographers recently after he photographed a hotel executive for a business magazine. After the article came out, our photographer sent the subject and their corporate communications director a link to the pictures. They responded that they might want to use some of them in their press kits. We sent them a quote, then heard nothing for months. Eventually, they called to say that they needed pictures at a different location instead. So they asked us to work up a price for a new shoot.

Whenever I quote an assignment, I think (broadly speaking) in terms of time, materials, and licensing. I’ll want to understand what the final picture(s) need to look like, what we have to do to create them (factoring in all the production elements), and how the images will be used.

Here’s how the client described the pictures they needed:

Two different group portraits of eight people from their branding team, shot at one of their hotel properties

Here’s the licensing they needed:

Publicity and Internal Collateral Use forever

Here are the questions I had for them, and their answers:

Q. What are the locations that you’d like to consider using?
A. Both were local to the photographer.
(We’ll need one scouting day, paying attention to the time of day in anticipation of any outdoor pictures we might do.)

Q. Would you like to have professional hair/make-up?
A. Yes. (With eight subjects [more than half of them women], we’ll need two people doing hair and make-up. We’ll stagger the subjects’ arrival times somewhat to minimize the wait time for everyone.)

Q. Would you like to have a wardrobe stylist, and pull wardrobe?
A. No. The subjects would each bring two sets of clothes.
(Our regular hair/make-up stylists also have wardrobe styling experience. I’ll have them bring a steamer and they can tweak the wardrobe in a pinch.)

Q. Would you like us to arrange for catering?
A. No. The hotel will provide food and drinks for the cast and crew.

If this had been an advertising job, I wouldn’t have asked any of these questions. We would naturally plan on all of that stuff. But a publicity project like this is naturally going to be more modest in scale. Getting a sense of proportion from the client ahead of time will put our initial estimate pretty close to the mark. And when the client or subject is providing catering, wardrobe, or other production elements, it’s important to specify that in the estimate to avoid any confusion later.

I didn’t need to ask any more questions to decide on the other expense items. I knew it would be overkill to have a separate digital tech on site (in addition to me producing), so I decided to handle both myself. (Turns out we ended up moving around so much, and so quickly, that a digital tech was impractical anyway (and I’m a pretty good assistant when I need to be!) The client was happy to look at the LCD on the camera, using a loupe.) Photographing eight people in a big space would require a moderate amount of lighting equipment and two assistants. That was the extent of the production elements we needed to include in the quote.

In terms of licensing fees, Publicity Use and Internal Collateral Use have moderate value. Publicity Use is when a company gives away photos to publications to encourage them to produce stories about them. It’s impossible to predict how much mileage a company is going to get from those pictures, but it’s somewhat proportional to the size of the company.

Internal Collateral Use has a relatively small audience, generally limited to publications aimed at the company’s employees (usually in the form of a newsletter or intranet use.) So that value is also somewhat proportional to the size of the company.

Then there’s judging the value of “forever”. With some exceptions, publicity images showing staff people are going lose value at a pretty steady rate over the first few years, and be nearly worthless after five years. Clothes, haircuts and trends go out of style, and the subjects will age and change jobs. So licensing the photos forever in this case isn’t as valuable as when the picture is of something that won’t change as much over time. In this case the photographer was shooting group shots of trendy employees of a trendy hotel. So as a practical matter, the shelf life of the photos is just a few years.

I like to build estimates using a per image licensing model. It’s the best way to create a win-win for the client and the photographer. The client doesn’t have to commit to a ton of money for the pictures upfront, and the photographer is incentivized to be really productive.

I decided to quote the pictures at 1500.00 each plus expenses. Here’s how the estimate and terms & conditions looked:

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The client signed off on the estimate.

After a quick scout of the two locations, the photographer determined that one of them clearly had more and better options to offer than the other. So that choice was easy. To make the shoot day more productive, the photographer went back to the chosen location and shot about a dozen quick test pictures and printed them out. The morning of the shoot, the photographer and client reviewed prints of the different situations and picked five to concentrate on.

The shoot went well. We ended up squeezing in six situations. The client loved having all the choices, along with the option to license more images in the future. And it was all due to some good-old-fashioned publicity of our own.

If you have any questions or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, you can reach me at

Real World Estimates: Day Rate vs. Space Explained

APE: When I worked at Outside Magazine we had a flat day rate for assignments but then had to create all these other rates to accommodate certain photographers or certain situations where the use was more extensive. It turned into a huge mess where we didn’t know what an assignment would cost and we would need to pull old invoices to see what we paid someone last time. When I went to Men’s Journal I redid the system and changed to a day rate against space structure which was much more elegant and logical. A fashion shoot that took one day but had 8 pages of images resulted in $3200 for the creative fees, which was more reflective of the level of talent we were pulling from and the overall amount of work that went into that one day of shooting. It’s good to see Wonderful Machine shedding some light on this concept in our monthly column, because it works well for both the magazine and the photographer. When shoots are “killed” some money can be saved and photographers have a guaranteed minimum but are paid based on the total usage.

By Ben Weldon, Wonderful Machine Producer

Many magazines have contracts with rates and terms that they offer to photographers (which are generally negotiable). Others don’t have their own contracts and instead work on a case-by-case basis with individual photographers. For those situations, it’s good for photographers to have a contract template on hand. We tend to structure our editorial fees based on a day rate against space. It’s an elegant solution to the problem of how to scale editorial fees, and it’s widely used by many national magazines, but some people find it hard to get their head around at first.

Pricing for editorial photography tends to be different from commercial photography for a couple of reasons. When a company decides to produce an ad or brochure, they already know what they need (in terms of photo display and usage) before the photographer is brought in. So it’s mostly a matter of the photographer coming up with a price and terms to fit those unique specifications. Magazines, on the other hand, need to work much more spontaneously. Editorial opportunities often come up on very short notice, and they also tend to morph from the time of the assignment to the time of publication. When an editor and art director send a writer and photographer out on a project, they never know what they’re going to come back with. And the play in the magazine is going to depend largely on how interesting and relevant that result turns out to be, compared to other stories that they’ve got cooking.

So photographers and magazines are best served by a contract that can be put in place for a couple years at a time (which allows for last-minute projects) and is scaleable (to account for variations in the amount of time required, expenses and the number and size of the pictures used). After all, it’s reasonable to charge less for a project that takes a day to complete vs. one that takes a month. It’s reasonable to charge less for a project that you can do alone in your back yard with a fill card than one that you have to take a crew of 7 and a dozen cases of rental equipment to Tunisia for. And it’s reasonable to charge less for a 1/4-page photo inside the magazine than a cover and 10 pages in the well.

The day rate vs. space structure takes all of these variables into account. The day rate is a minimum guarantee that compensates the photographer for his time on the project. It tends to be fairly modest, to accommodate small projects that won’t have a big presence in the magazine. The space rate comes into effect only when the magazine ends up using multiple or large pictures. The expenses are what they are. The structure nicely scales from small assignments that the publication can have done inexpensively, while incentivizing the photographer to produce a lot of great pictures. And it minimizes the need to renegotiate after the fact, when the final piece in the magazine is different than imagined.

Here is our standard day vs. space agreement (in Adobe PDF ):


And here’s an explanation of each paragraph:

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Real World Estimates: A Mash-Up of Product and Architectural Photography

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

I recently helped one of our photographers estimate, negotiate and produce an architectural interior/product shoot. The client was a high-end furniture manufacturer in the northeastern U.S. working with a mid-sized ad agency in the southeastern U.S. And the project was to create a series of ads showing entertainment centers in beautiful residential settings.

Though this project has a lot in common with many routine architectural interior assignments, it ended up being worth much more. Most architectural assignments come from architecture firms, builders, or building owners, not ad agencies. And even though pictures from those assignments sometimes get used for advertising, the primary use is typically for brochures, web sites, publicity, portfolios and contests. It’s fairly customary for architectural photographers to charge a day rate (often around 2000.00 – 3500.00, depending on how much the photographer is in demand) plus expenses (capture fee, file prep, equipment fee, assistants and travel), for up to about 5 pictures. Architectural photographers can also often bump up this fee by licensing the pictures to related clients for the same property (like the architect, builder and owner).

This job was different because it was specifically shot for advertising use, it was a product picture more than an architectural interior, it required a fairly high degree of styling and other production, plus there were models and special retouching to boot.

Our estimating process normally begins with the photographer speaking to the the art director about the creative requirements of the job, and me speaking with the art buyer, art director or account executive to understand the licensing requirements. I then talk with the photographer so I know what production elements we’ll need in order to support his/her creative approach.

The art director will explain the concept to the photographer (sometimes with sketches or swipe art). And it’s up to the photographer (along with some input from me) to figure out the most effective approach. In this case, the job was to show entertainment centers in a beautiful home. The photographer had to decide whether it made more sense to build a set in a studio, or to work on location. Some photographers might opt for one or the other depending on their past experience, comfort level, and of course factoring in time considerations and cost, in addition to how it will affect the look of the picture. In this case, we proposed to shoot the job on location.

Another important creative aspect of this shoot was going to be the room styling. You can be the best photographer in the world, but if you don’t have anything to photograph, you’re sunk. And while there are many photographers who shoot interiors that are already styled in advance, a project like this requires the photographer to help conceive and direct the room styling. And to do that requires having a working relationship with a stylist who is going to understand both the sensibilities of the photographer and know what’s appropriate for the client and their specific project. We were able to show the client pictures that demonstrated that our photographer had a lot of experience collaborating with a very talented stylist, and this gave the client the confidence that we would deliver a high-quality product.

I’ve found that art buyers are often more comfortable talking money with an agent rather than directly with the photographer. That way, nobody’s taking anything personally. It’s just business. If they really want to work with that photographer (rather than just fishing for a price), they will often cut right to the chase and give the agent a good idea of what their price expectations are. That’s not to say that an agent should simply offer up the price the client wants. But it certainly saves a lot of back-and-forth for both parties when the photographer can scale the project appropriately.

There are times when a client either doesn’t have a particular budget, or they don’t want to say. If the client is inexperienced handling that type of project, the photographer/agent may simply have to work harder to understand what’s at stake in order to deliver a proposal that’s in proportion to the overall goals and wherewithal of that client. Sometimes, the client doesn’t want to say what their budget is because they might want to see several completely independent approaches that they can choose from. Again, in those cases, you’ll be forced to make an educated guess at the level of production the client might want. But regardless of the client’s price expectations, the actual picture requirements and the licensing needs will largely determine the value of the job. It’s also important to understand that the low bid does not always get the job. Sophisticated clients will be reluctant to work with photographers whose bids are “too good to be true.” Most good clients are looking for good value, not cheap prices. So pricing a project appropriately, and in proportion to all the specs, will give you the best chance of landing the job.

After getting the photographer’s thoughts on his creative approach to the project, I spoke with the art buyer. And as is often the case with relatively small advertising projects, she was a little vague about the licensing she needed. After I explained that the price was going to be heavily influenced by those variables, she decided that she wanted a quote on Advertising, Publicity and Collateral in the U.S. for 2 years.

Still unknown, though, was the number of images they were going to need. It’s actually not that unusual to not have all the information you want when it comes time to construct an estimate. What’s very important to remember, though, is that even in cases where your client is vague, your quote will have to be specific. If the specs subsequently change, you can revise your quote accordingly. In this case, I chose to work up two versions of the estimate to show the cost for 4 pictures and the cost for 6. I offered a fairly deep discount on the last two pictures to give them an incentive to do more rather than less.

Estimate Version 1
Estimate Version 2

The client opted for the 6 image estimate.

After we received the signed estimate, the first thing we needed to do was find the locations. Prior to estimating, the client expressed an interest in shooting at two of the many beautiful homes in the photographer’s portfolio, one contemporary and one transitional (you have to learn your vocab when working with architectural clients: modern, transitional, traditional, contemporary). This made scouting a snap. The photographer pulled his files of the homes that fit the mold and presented them to the client. They were so enamored with one of the locations that they chose to shoot both days in the same home.

A nice benefit of shooting both days at the same location was that we’d need less setup time/breakdown time, and it gave us more time for pictures. The client decided that they’d like to add a seventh shot and try out a few variations of the others, including adding models. As I was working up the revised estimate, I decided to simply pro-rate the seventh shot, but I felt that the variations with the models were worth more than the others. The models changed the feel of the pictures significantly, and required another skill set from the photographer. Also, a whole different ad concept could be developed around these new model variations. As such, we felt they should be licensed independently of the original shots.

Also, the client inquired about several exterior stock images to retouch into the windows. The photographer had a stock library for just such occasions. For nominal fees he licenses exterior stock images to drop into windows, turning an ordinary residential bedroom with a view of the shed in the backyard into a hi-rise condo with a view of a metropolitan skyline at sunset.

So we worked up our final quote – adding in the models, the additional situation, and the exterior stock images:

Final Estimate

The client accepted that, so I sent over an invoice for a 50% advance:

50% Advance

Now the production went into full swing:

I coordinated the location. The homeowner agreed to our location fee and allowed us to store furniture and equipment overnight.

I collected location and model releases. It’s very important to get signed releases. Otherwise, the client will not be legally entitled to use the location and models’ likenesses to advertise their product. You don’t want to spend all that time and money producing a shoot only to later find out that the homeowner or model wasn’t clear on your intentions.

Coordinating with the stylist was the most time consuming portion of the production. The rental location gave us a great start, but we had to consider whether the existing carpet, paint colors, drapes, and props were appropriate, and what we needed to add or replace. We had many, many conversations between the stylist, photographer, and client to get all the details right.

Hiring, renting and managing the assistants, digital tech, equipment, caterer, and models was pretty straight-forward. Between the photographer and us, we have a long list of regular sub-contractors, and we also keep a thorough vendor database that we can use when we need to.

Though very hectic, the shoot went smoothly. Between all the shuffling furniture from room to lawn to room, moving around lights and digital cameras and workstations, art directing and shooting – there was never a dull moment. We squeezed in all 7 shots, no holes were punched in walls, and the client was very happy with the results.

Once back in the office, I began the tedious (but important) process of copying all of our receipts and organizing the invoice. We keep meticulous records of every expenditure so that everything is accounted for, everyone gets paid properly, and the client gets billed appropriately. Also, I try to present it in a way that makes it easy for the client to understand. I put copies of receipts in the order that the line item shows up on the invoice. And if a receipt isn’t self-explanatory, I indicate exactly what it’s for. After a long day of scanning and collating, I sent over the final invoice:

Final Invoice

For more information on Wonderful Machine’s consulting services, please contact Jess Dudley at or 610.260.0200.