This was sent to me as an example of what people are charging now in advertising photography. You can certainly see they’ve trimmed all the fat out, which isn’t a problem if you don’t have a ton of overhead.

National Advertising Shoot

Bid number 2 comes from a Pharmaceutical job where the photographer had the middle bid, was not awarded the job and told the decision was strictly creative.


Here’s a couple editorial invoices for glossy celebrity lovin checkout mags. One is for syndication, next for a weekly and finally a monthly. Numbers look middle of the road to me.

Editorial Invoices

If anyone else wants to send examples I’ll black them out for you.

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  1. Great to see thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for Sharing. Great info for people to have.

  3. Would love to see more. Very interesting.

  4. Yes Rob – they’ve trimmed all the fat out – of the fees. These fees are lowball numbers in relation to the scope of the usage. In fact, they’re downright scary. If this is what people are charging for advertising photography they won’t be able to stay in business. Whoever this photographer or agent is, they have set a precedent for themselves with these numbers and best of luck! And why on earth would a photographer ever include the cost in their estimate the cost of sending along the art buyer? The license information is not particularly well constructed either.

    • @Debra Weiss,
      It baffles me how you can make such an assessment without knowing who the photographer or the company is.
      Times are tough and I don’t think many photographers would think it is beneath them to work 1 week for $50’000. The photographers that stay in business are exactly the ones who do not have the diva attitude to turn down “smaller” jobs.

      • @j., I don’t have to know who the photographer is. Based on the scope of the usage, these numbers are way off.

        “Times are tough and I don’t think many photographers would think it is beneath them to work 1 week for $50′000.”

        This mentality is a surefire way to never be able to stay in business. This is a slippery slope.

        • @Debra Weiss,

          By my numbers, it’s actually $69,000 (including the prep, scout, travel, and shoot days) plus I am assuming the $10K digital charge is “in house” and is profit for the photographer, so it’s more like $79,000 for a 2 weeks of work.

          It’s completely relevant who the photographer is – if we’re talking about an established photographer with a full time staff and a studio in Manhattan, then yes, it’s a lowball quote. However, if this is a young photographer in a regional market who works out of their home and hires only freelancers, then I’d say 2 weeks of work to make a year or two of mortgage payments is pretty decent.

          Sure the usage is high and the quote is very, very lean on the expense side, but I’ve also seen some bloated estimates as well (ie: celebrity shoots with DJs, insane catering demands, 10+ client and agency reps on set, etc.) and I think there’s some room for trimming things down in general in the industry.

          There’s a moment in the “Frames from the Edge” Helmut Newton documentary where he says something to the effect of: “My expenses are very, very low, but my fees are very, very high”. This seems to be an ideal business model – it means his time, expertise, and vision were valued higher than the bells and whistles.

          That said, you are 100% correct that the usage language could be a lot tighter. The word “unlimited” anywhere in a usage agreement is a red flag right off the bat and nowhere does it specify the number of insertions, the start date of the license, etc.

          Also, where’s the sign off? I always make sure it’s explicitly agreed to on the same document.

      • I am starting to become a photographer and would like to do something like this. Can you give me some information that would help me get ready for something like this. Thank you

  5. Meant to say ” Why would they ever include the cost of sending the art director in their estimate.

    • @Debra Weiss, Meant to say ” Why would they ever include the cost of sending the art director in their estimate.

      Sometimes the agency will request that the AD’s travel and accommodations be included in the photographer’s estimate. It’s not too common but it’s not completely uncommon.

      • @Dana Neibert, This should never be the responsibility of the photographer, the same way that model fees should always be paid by the agency.

        • @Debra Weiss,
          Nice for you to say since you are neither.

          • @A Photo Editor,
            Ouch Rob! That kinda shuts down dialogue.

            • @Darrell Eager,
              I want it to be real. If a photographer and I are willing to show reality any counter argument should be based in reality not what you think someone should do. Show me what you did do.

              • @A Photo Editor,
                I agree and what you just wrote is the perfect way to say it.

          • @A Photo Editor,

            It is true that photographers should never pay for pro talent or for agency travel.

            Reason being for talent- It is a legal protection for the ad agency to pay talent directly. Then they know the talent has been paid. I know of situations where the photographer received money for the talent, never paid the talent, and then the client is running ads with usage that is not granted from the talent. This happens when photographers are going out of business, and with the economy the way it is, agencies should not be paying photographers for talent. Most ad agencies have the talent sign their releases, and releases are only truly legally binding if payment is made with the release, from the same source as the release. It is a cleaner way to do business.

            The reason you would not want to have agency travel on your bill is that we all know it takes 60-90 days to get paid the remainder of the balance on an ad job. Why would a photographer want to finance that?

            • @Erica Chadwick, if the client has a good enough relationship with the photographer, (i.e. established a good history of payment) then i don’t see why the photographer wouldn’t be willing to include the cost of client travel in the estimate.

              sometimes the client travel fees need to be “hidden” in the estimate, rather than billed as T&E to their individual corporate cards…it’s kind of a way of getting around the red tape.

              also photographers will usually bill up to 100% of expenses as an advance so it’s not a really a big deal and photographers aren’t really having to finance the client.

              • @an art buyer,
                There is always a time to make exceptions, and times when there is an established relationship that would make for an exception.

                My comment here is more rooted in that this isn’t the way it is typically done, and it would be a bad thing for it to become the norm for photographers to pay for AD’s travel.

                The landscape has also changed quite a bit in the last few months – with certain ad companies refusing to pay advances, the credit crunch has caused home equity loans/business loans to close suddenly for photographers, and credit card finance rates are surging.

                While an agency may pay 100% of the expenses, the photographer has to wait 60-90 days to be paid their fees, even though his bills still have to be paid on a monthly basis. This means the photographer must finance part of the job- whether it is the fees or the expenses.

            • @Erica Chadwick, It is certainly a good idea on the agencies part to pay the talent directly in order to insure that they were paid and that the releases are binding. Quite often though agency policy requires that in order for a check to be issued to a vendor, that person or representative must clear a process with the agencies accounting department. In many cases that department will not even be in your city and sometimes not even in your country. So, it is quite often much more expedient for the talent to be paid through the photographer.

        • @Debra Weiss,

          There are no rules for this sort of thing. In the end, it’s all coming out of the client’s pocket, whether it goes on the agency or the production budget.

      • @Dana Neibert, I get that all time, its just easier for some agencies and AD’s who want us all to travel as a big happy family.

    • @Debra Weiss, The bottom line is to stay flexible and know what the profit margin is for your company.

      Plant your flag on a hill and refuse to compromise you may find yourself sitting there all alone wondering where everyone went.

      Also, this estimate doesn’t tell you anything about the client/agency/vendor relationship either which always plays a big part in estimates whether it’s acknowledged or not. Broad blanket statements about the correctness of this estimate is bad form in my opinion.

      Thanks Rob for posting and PLEASE, thank the photographer for having the guts to share.

      • @Bruce DeBoer,

        “Plant your flag on a hill and refuse to compromise you may find yourself sitting there all alone wondering where everyone went.”

        Please don’t put words in my mouth.

        • @Debra Weiss, Bruce – that was an incomplete post which was sent accidentally.

  6. i agree with debra. I’m not sure where this person is shooting but as far as I know the going rate for photo assistants on an ad job is $350 minimum (up to $500 depending on the job) and wardrobe? $350? no way. here in LA at least they average $1000/day with a budget of at least $600/per talent. and hair make-up will land somewhere between $500 and $1,500.

    • @ithyle,
      out of the country… so there you go

  7. how recent is this quote? can you post more?

    what city is this quote from?

    • @Stephen Gelb,
      couple weeks ago. yeah, if people want to send them I’ll post. Maybe Debra Weiss has one from a recent shoot… ah, nevermind.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        LOL. good info, thanks.

      • @A Photo Editor, BURN . . . .

  8. Wow, thanks for posting. Would love to see more examples !!!

  9. Based on how the language is constructed in this quote, I’m nearly 100% sure who this estimate belongs to. And if indeed it is this person, I can confirm Debra’s fears that this person often gives away images for a song and the fees are certainly not commensurate to the usage.

    The fat is trimmed out of the fees, but many of the charges are still excessive. Ostensibly that’s to make up for the lowball usage, but it still doesn’t compute.

    • @Jean-Marie, What is a commensurate use fee for a landscape image and the lifestyle/still lifes? 15-20,000 for 2 years for each landscape and then 7500-10000 for the other shots (per shot obv)?

  10. 23% of the job is creative fees…

    Where is the digital line item(s)? If this guy (or gal) isn’t charging for that!!!!! That’s money lost right there.

    • @Chris Schultz,

      Page 2, $10K for a 1DS Mark II (!)

      $2500 per day and not even the most up-to-date equipment…

      Still, if you’re picking up the AD’s airfare, then you gotta charge elsewhere.

      • @dude: Yes, I saw it bigger when downloaded into Acrobat. The layout for the PDF on this blog is quite difficult to see well.

        Without knowing all of the details surrounding this thing I’m not willing to pass any judgments.

        At least the guy is working, right?

    • @Chris Schultz, The surest way to piss off an art buyer is to set BS line item fees, like “Processing 200 RAW Images to TIFF @ $50.00 per”. It just sets up an adversarial relationship. Its much better to place those fees in the $10k 1ds2 fees, you know, the camera you paid off in 2006.

      • @Donnar Party: Indeed. I just missed the line for digital earlier; didn’t see it until the file was opened larger in Acrobat. Damn my loose lips.

  11. While the creative fees here are low for the usage being worldwide, I have seen rates lower than these more often than I have seen rates higher than these. With the current economic climate, ad photographers are looking at the lump sum of fees and wanting to secure, in this case, – $69,000 for their billings for the month, and they care less and less about the usage.

    I am very surprised to see the AD’s travel on the estimate. We’ve never been asked to do that.

    It would be a good exercise to have the photographer / agent who submitted the bid comment on this blog about what the feedback was from the agency on the bid. Did they get the job? Did they have to re-bid it? Did someone else come in lower? If they were asked to come down in the bid, where did the art buyer/agency think the fat could be trimmed?

    We bid a job recently for 15-20 conceptual portraits for global usage for a large company. We were told that 2 other photographers bid fees half of what we did – and the rate for the 15-20 ads wound up being less than the $67,000 I see here above.

    • @Erica Chadwick,
      Yes, they got the job. I’ll see if I can get some follow up for people. Good to hear a real example of what’s going on right now.

  12. I’ve read over this thing a couple of times. I find this estimate confusing. He/she appears to mix usage and day fees together. Because of this, I can not comment on whether the amount seems appropriate.

    The usage language is loose. Some images are vastly higher priced than others (I think). There must be some other document that defines logic behind this, it must be usage related.

    The prop/stylist fee is really low. So is make-up. Makes no sense.

    Lots of bad grammar and misspelling in there that contributes to the overall haphazard feel to this. Not to be nitpicky, but if I’m sending someone a $200,000 estimate, I be sure to proofread it.

    I know aphotoeditor is read by a lot of young inexperienced photographers… take this particular example of an estimate with a grain of salt.

    • @craig,
      We always put our creative fees and usage fees as one line item. It took me years to figure this out, but it gives me more negotiating power when the shot list gets reduced, usage gets reduced, or either of those 2 elements increases.

      It works for my agency to lump creative and usage together. Other may prefer to work another way.

      • @Erica Chadwick,

        Can you provide an example of how your negotiating power is increased?

        • @craig,
          Think about it from a different angle than you are used to thinking.

          First – I am referring to the line item amounts being lumped together, not the wording of the usage.

          Simply stated, if a client calls and wants 4 ads shot for 2 usages- say consumer print and website- you give them one line item for that price. If they call back and want to reduce the bid because they only want web use, you are in a good position. This is because you have not given them any idea previously as to what the consumer print usage was worth.

          • @Erica Chadwick,

            But you have given them an idea what it was worth = old bid – new bid. I must admit I still do not see the advantage or how this puts you in a better position.

            I’ve always used my creative fee as a way to cover my overhead and communicate the value of my time, and the usage as the primary negotiating instrument.

            • @craig,
              The value of a photographers time and usage are completely subjective. That’s why buyers get different creative fees and usages back from each bid they send out. You are giving clients an idea of how much value is on your time, and how much value there is to usage on your first proposal. Combining fees on the first proposal gives you more power on the second proposal.

              If you say from the beginning that the consumer print usage is $5,000 per image, when they remove 4 ads consumer print usage for $5,000 each, you are forced to removed $20,000 from the bid.

              Since I have not said on my original bid what the print use is worth, I could deduct more or less than $20,000, and have more freedom.

              • @Erica Chadwick,

                Ah, I see. I typically give a volume discount of sorts when multiple images are involved – encouraging the buyer to purchase more for their value, and discouraging them from dropping too much.

                So in effect, we accomplish almost the same thing.

              • @Erica Chadwick,

                Also, I do actually do what you suggest and combine creative+usage into one simple fee, but mainly for small low-budget clients for whom usage is a confusing concept.

            • @craig, When the transition was made from the day rate model to the usage model, the creative fee plus usage was born and was a hybrid model which quickly showed its flaws. To separate the usage from the creative fee puts the photographer at financial risk should the client change their mind and want to decrease the usage. that Additionally, should the client wish to re-license the image and the fees were broken out, you could only charge them based on what you had initially charged for the usage, not taking into consideration the creative aspects that went into making that a successful image that the client would want to relicense and you would be leaving money on the table. My suggestion is that the fee be referred to as “License Fee” since that is exactly what it is.

              • @Debra Weiss,

                Your creative fee should be enough to cover your overhead. There should not be any financial risk.

                Why could you only charge what you previously charged? I don’t expect to pay the same as before if I go into a restaurant three years down the road. A deal is a deal today..not tomorrow.

              • @Debra Weiss,

                This all gets really academic and “what if” but there’s huge risk in referring to the photographer’s fees only as “license fees” – if the client commissions a shoot and then kills it before any usage, this would appear as if they cancelled the license before it began (ie: so they don’t have to pay the ‘license’ fees).

                The safest way to do it is a lump-sum “creative fee + license fee” model so the client can’t treat it as an a-la-carte menu.

                • @ dude

                  A PO is a legally binding contract. Any licenses listed as purchased on the PO cannot be retracted, even if not used. That is what a lawyer would say.

                  It would be up to you whether to make exceptions on that because of an existing relationship with a client, or any other factors.

              • @Debra Weiss,
                It would seem to make more sense to keep the creative fee and the license fees separate because the license fees are subject to state sales tax (in WA state, photographers are expected to charge sales tax for in-state clients, but there is no service tax- the creative fee is a service and the license/usage fee is a sale), so if you get audited, you might end up having to pay back taxes on the creative/licensing lump sum that you charge, instead of just the licensing fee. Of course, if applicable (that your client is in the same state that you reside), you would charge your client the sales tax for the usage fee, and it would be dishonest to tax them for a creative fee when you don’t pay that tax to the state. It seems to me like lumping the two fees together poses another kind of financial risk if you are audited. Who wants to pay, for example, 10k in uncollected sales taxes when only 5k is actually a valid sale?

          • @Erica Chadwick, I may be missing something here but where is the transparency in this?

            As a client I would like to know exactly how my money is being spent and the value of the person I am hiring. Usage should be separate. Just curious, but what do your photographers value more: Their creative input, hard work and the uniqueness they can bring to an ad or the usage? Personally, I would never allow for a reduction of usage. A media buy is a media.

            • @Myles,

              I feel that one should not reduce their creative fee. It’s a measure of my talent.

              Media buys are very negotiable. These days print publications will take almost any reasonable offer. As a result, for me, usage is too.

  13. Awright, I’ll be the one who asks for the flaming here.
    A lot of us here are used to editorial and smaller design agency pricing. I would jump at the opportunity to shoot landscapes for $12.5 K each. What am I missing that makes this a bad deal?

    • @Tyler, Chicago,
      Two things.
      1. you don’t want to ever leave money on the table in a negotiation. If the last guy did it for $20k you just missed out on some cash.

      2. you have to calculate the cost of doing business and factor in how many ad jobs you will do each year and what kind of marketing/testing it will take to keep you there. Also, a nice house and car, a bike for your kid… nobody wants the top of the profession to be lame. Oh, and don’t forget about retirement.

      • @A Photo Editor, CODB should NEVER be used in calculating fees. Fees in advertising are based on how and where the image is being used. The CODB of an established photographer with a family in a major metropolitan area is going to be radically different than a younger, single photographer living in their parents basement.

        • @Debra Weiss, How is this different? My family does not factor into my day to day business costs. Yes, it does cost more to raise a family in say NYC as opposed to a single gal living out of her parents basement. Those who are young single and rent should be charging less? Being cheeky here of course but I know a lot of shooters without family whose CODB is much larger out of business necessity then a lot of guys shooting with a family of 4. And where is the talent come into play in all of this?

          • @Myles, No – the person who’s single and living at their parent’s house should not be charging less. Advertising fees are based on usage. In determining those fees one has to take into consideration the uniqueness of the shot, the complexity of the shoot, who the client is, who the photographer is. All CODB does is tell you what you must earn to keep your doors open on a daily basis without losing any money.

            • @Debra Weiss, Glad to see we are on the same page. I thought you were advocating that the CODB was somehow higher just because some shooter has a family to support. I would say though one should consider their CODB when calculating fees. If your fee is less then your day to day costs you will have a short life as a photographer. I know you know this is true but maybe not so much for the NKOTB.

            • @Debra Weiss,

              You seem to have a strong idea about how things “should” be done, but no idea of how markets work. There’s such a thing as competition and the words “what the market will bear” come to mind.

              The CODB is a factor in everything and location always matters. Regional agencies are used to getting bids from local photographers which reflect this versus photographers located in larger, more expensive markets like NYC and LA where costs are higher for the same level of establishment in the photographer.

              The photographer may or may not be factoring in their personal expenses (but probably are), but you can bet they’re factoring in the cost of their studio/office rent, assistants, equipment, etc. in how they structure their creative fees.

              A student straight out of college will do the same job as an established photographer for less, regardless of what “should” be done. Why? Because they can afford to.

              • @dude, I just have to ask… is this true? “A student straight out of college will do the same job as an established photographer for less, regardless of what “should” be done.”

    • @Tyler, Chicago, What Rob Said + shooting a job like this is a big responsibility. The media costs and what it means to the client and agency is on the backs of the photographer and crew – something one should never take lightly. Unless you are a big shop this job will dominate your month and if you are a big shop you have responsibilities there too. Hey … it adds up and you’ll find it’s very hard to do it for less.

  14. If you dont think that is enough money come to Phoenix where you’d be lucky to get that. Over the last two years this town has turned into the $500 a shot market.

    Only a handful of photographers in town get the kind of money that is in the above invoice.

    Where is this land of golden opportunity? I’m moving tomorrow.

    • @Giulio Sciorio, Wait up Giulio! I’m comin’ wit’ ya!

  15. I appreciate whomever shared this document with other photographers.

    Most photographers would be too selfish to share time, or document with young budding talent (and yes all pros started as “budding talent” remember finding your way in the dark?).

    Young talent does not frequently have access to how to write a proposal (if they are independent), much less have access to a photo shoot breakdown in the current economy.

    Regardless of differing arguments over the details being correct, etc. It’s a platform from which they can build. The commentary, gives extra food for thought.

    If people want to pick it apart, submit a GREAT example for people to access, to share, to learn from. If you want to reallyyyyy help others…..this is the way to do it. Submit for comparison.

    Great post Rob. Keep the goods coming!

  16. Ok I’ve got a few clarifications for people.

    Retouching was done in-house for $20,000 in addition to this estimate.

    This was a long time client whom the photographer does 4 or 5 jobs a year with and that in part lead to the usage terms some people have an issue with.

    2 other photographers submitted bids in the same ballpark

    AD was included in the estimate because that’s what the client wanted.

    • @A Photo Editor,

      I would also suspect that the lifetime of these images is short. Consumer product companies (just a guess as to the client) revamp their libraries every couple of years as consumer styles and taste change.

      I’ve found many people who get hung up on usage (and for some reason, don’t seem to be busy working much), don’t take that into account.

      • @craig, Exactly. I find that its hard to get hung up on anything in this market.

    • @A Photo Editor, Bingo – I thought so.

    • @A Photo Editor, The clients want a lot of things. They can even want you to write a check to them. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes. What the photographer is doing by going along with that if financing a multi-million or sometimes multi-billion dollar corporation and it is moronic to do so.

      And I don’t believe it’s my tone you have a problem with. It’s me – admit it Rob, you just don’t like me and I can live with that. Easily.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        I admit that your armchair punditry is kinda annoying. It’s easy for you to hold the line since you don’t actually do this for a living isn’t it.

        Expenses are up front so there’s no financing going on.

        • @A Photo Editor, You clearly don’t know what it is I do for a living and my background. Before telling people what they are and are not, you should probably know what it is you’re talking about.

          • @Debra Weiss,
            ditto. you seem to have no problem passing opinion off on a shoot and photographer you know nothing about. I’m merely giving you a dose of your own medicine.

            • @A Photo Editor, Again – I do not have to know anything about the photographer to see that the fees are not commensurate with the scope of the use. The client got some deal here and the photographer has painted himself/herself into a corner with that client with regard to future fees. Expenses are a different story – different photographers have varied approaches although as someone pointed out earlier, the fees listed for stylist and hair and makeup seem very low to me, even if you’re not in a major city.

              • @Debra Weiss,
                You are wrong. I checked with several people who do this for a living.

                • @A Photo Editor, Gee Rob, I’m not even sure how to respond to this except with – Wow, you found even more people who are willing to undervalue their work. You have done a tremendous disservice by stating “This was sent to me as an example of what people are charging now in advertising photography”. Maybe some are but to imply that this is a standard and then to state that it’s okay as long as the photographer’s overhead is low only illustrates your lack of knowledge and experience in advertising.

                  After reading some (most) of the comments in this thread, I find it amazing how many of the people commenting appear to not understand the licensing business model, or for that matter, business. It appears that many do not know the difference between net and gross. What is most appalling though is that they can’t even tell when someone is on their side.

                  With all the challenges facing professional photographers, (and which many will not survive those challenges) it is not in the best interests of individuals, or the industry as a whole to encourage undervaluation of their work. The truth about the first estimate is that it is almost comical. The second estimate you put up appears as if those shot fees came straight out of Getty Images, except Getty figures might actually be higher.

                  The current economic conditions play a very small part in what is happening to the industry. It is a very convenient excuse for clients but this is what will happen when the economy picks up – those photographers with fire sale like fees will be asked to bid for the same clients and they will never be able to lift themselves up out of their poor economy era estimates.

                  • @Debra Weiss,
                    Honestly, I’m getting tired of the “consultant” speak. I’d have more respect for you if you didn’t call the photographers I interview and hit them up for work. I really don’t want half the comments on a thread about advertising photography to be from someone who is not a photographer or agent and doesn’t work in advertising. You seem to be unaware that photographers are baiting you in the comments now because you have no restraint. Time to show some.

                    • @A Photo Editor,
                      ” I’d have more respect for you if you didn’t call the photographers I interview and hit them up for work.”

                      Rob – And who would that be Rob? Since you made that statement, I think you owe it to me and your readers to say who it is. I’d be really curious as it’s never happened.

                    • @Debra Weiss, ‘
                      Too funny. Of course it happened. It’s happened several times Debra.

                    • @A Photo Editor, No Rob, it hasn’t.

                    • @Debra Weiss,
                      Wow Debra, I have read all your comments on here, and must say your apparent disconnect with what is going on in the industry beggars belief! Not only are you WAY behind the times as to what pricing structures and fees are concerned (unless you only work with photographers like Mario Testino?), and what kind of variable elements can influence those fees, but you also appear to be sitting on a very high and arrogant horse with massive blinkers on, and I bet you, you’ve never even costed or produced a production heavy advertising shoot, nor did you ever make it as a halfway descent photographer (because I can’t but help sense a failed and wounded “wannabephotographer” ego here). Which all amounts to why you think you’re doing photographers out there such a favor by “sticking up” for them the way you think you are – in fact, I find you’re more likely to put them out of work with your outdated moral high ground if anything. Sadly too, your attitude just leaves an unpleasant after taste to say the least, creating an US versus THEM rift between photographers and their clients and an unhealthy working atmosphere. No photographer, however talented, will get repeat work with that attitude you are so angrily championing.

                      One quick google tells me what you do for a living, calling yourself an “Independent Creative Consultant and Photographers Advocate” – oh the irony! Let alone the concern I have for all those poor photographers blindly following your every word.

                      And to clarify where I’m coming from, I am an Art Buyer, who has produced large scale advertising and editorial shoots in the US, UK, Europe, Far East, etc. Before that for almost a decade, I was a freelance Photo Editor for numerous national glossies, whilst also working as a photographer myself, and as a photographers agent too. As much as I pride myself in representing the company and clients I work for in their best interest, I am also very protective over the photographers I hire and the fees they deserve for their hard work, having been on that receiving end too. In that sense I understand WHY you are being so protective over creative fees. I too, strongly advise photographers against undervaluing their skills, and sometimes even tell them to up their fees!
                      But going by everything you have been saying, I honestly think you have completely lost touch with it all (the comment of Donnar Party below sums it up very well).

                      True, editorial and advertorial creative fees aren’t as great as they used to be, but neither are the salaries of photo editors or any other staff really. That’s a whole other discussion. In my opinion, in this day and age, $69,000 creative fee + $20,000 in house retouching is pretty good going for 3 landscape and still life shots, 2 years unlimited worldwide usage. And the shoot doesn’t even involve people managing any models etc (except one talent in café).

                      And if you’re so at odds with that, well then you should go and tell your photographers to all go and jump off a cliff like lemmings or consider a change in career all together, including yourself. It might finally put your mind at rest. I hate to say it Debra, but times have changed since you last picked up your 35mm slr. Or was it a Kodak brownie?

                    • @Charlotte, I am sure many in this forum are waiting for Weiss’s response to your intelligent and clearheaded post…

                    • @Charlotte, I think Debra’s head just exploded.

                    • @Charlotte,

                      I second that emotion. what planet does this woman live on?? I remember now why I stopped looking at one of the other photo
                      websites….Debra Weiss….why such arrogance?…are you going thru the change?
                      take some wellbutrin and chill a little.

              • @Debra Weiss, i find it baffling that you do not need to know who the photographer is. fees/usage are determined by many things, some of which are tier of photographer, name recognition, years of experience, difficulty/complexity of shoot, etc.

                would you pay a beginning photographer the same as someone like mario testino??

      • @Debra Weiss,

        Sure, you can say no to the job, but the client can also find another photographer willing to do the job for the rate they want. This is increasingly the case in an economy like the current one.

        If you add the $20K retouching fees to the mix, the photographer is walking away with a nice $99K paycheck for around 2 weeks of work.

        In the end, you have to maintain a level of trust and loyalty to your clients or they will show the same lack of loyalty and trust in you.

        • @dude, I find you have to be a partner with the clients, work with them, be flexible, make the experience rewarding for everyone involved. If you walk off with likely $100k from this job, the line items are meaningless. Low usage makes the client feel better because the media buy is lower because rates are down across the board. The old models are crumbling, and its OK.

          • @Donnar Party,
            Exactly my point.

  17. Oops, there is a digital kit. Retracted.

  18. I don’t always agree with Debra, but do in this case. Agency employees are not the studio’s responsibility – anymore than handling the media space negotiation/billing.

    Aside from *variations* on cost of crew/production, the reason two studios can and do charge very different rates is based on their own unique CDB and perceived value for ROI. A studio in Idaho vs one in midtown Manhattan would probably have a very different consideration for both. Yet they both may be able to run healthy profitable businesses.

    • @Bob,
      Ok, I stand corrected because people have brought up some really good points with regard to this. It’s the tone I have a problem with. There are always exceptions and reasons for doing certain things. Acknowledging that and explaining why it’s a bad idea instead of attacking is what I prefer.

      • @A Photo Editor, I agree. Share, educate, inform. Keep it friendly.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        I don’t fully agree – if the end client is convinced to approve the job because the production can absorb the AD’s travel costs, then it’s better than no approval at all.

        I’ve been in the position where I’ve had to compete with local production companies for jobs outside my home market, which meant absorbing my own travel costs to the client instead of them traveling to my location for the shoot, so this really isn’t any different. It’s just a different line item on the same balance sheet.

        • @dude, Hi! I meant agree to not shut down a conversation in the comments section by being overly aggressive in making a point (not you).

          I agree with Rob about keeping the dialogue friendly, interactive. Have a great night.

    • @Bob,

      I can shine some light on the AD travel expenses, first of all the job was awarded and the Art Director’s travel was removed from the estimate as he never went along on the job. But the reason it was included was that it was complicated travel, 5 countries, 45,000 miles in the air 12 hotels in 4 cities. Hard enough to coordinate by one travel agent let alone a second. And as Rob stated the expenses for the travel were paid up front so the photographer was not “carrying” any expenses for the client.

  19. I agree with @tyler and @giulio the $60+ that this photographer is getting for this 2 week job would pay off all my debt and sustain me for a year, and I would do it in a heartbeat.

    The truth is that none of us know the circumstances surrounding this estimate, and therefore can’t accurately critique it. I don’t care what level you’re at in your photo career, we’ve all made compromises for countless reasons ranging from professional to personal.

    I applaud whoever provided this document to @aphotoeditor, so many of us are far too protective of this aspect of our business. It really helps photographer’s of every level to see something like this, and I’d be interested to see many more.

    I’d send in one myself, but I haven’t turned an estimate into a job in over 4 months. So I can only show you the type of fees that my clients are considering too high, and I can promise they’re not anywhere near the fees this cat’s getting.

  20. I am having a hard time understanding the hostility generated by this estimate and it seems like most of the comments demonstrate a lack of an understanding or experience in how commercial photography works.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • @Thomas Broening,

      My sentiments exactly. For anyone, except the photographer who did the estimate, to come here and say “you never” or “how could he” is unwarranted. There are so many factors that go into a job that you can’t see just by looking at the estimate. It appears some posters merely like to tout how much they know about photo estimating that they fail miserably in just a simple discussion. If every decision in this world had a correct answer by just looking at a set of rules, we would have no problems.

    • @Thomas Broening, Ditto – I have spent years developing a structure for estimating jobs based on industry best practices and my best efforts to be transparent thus arming clients with the ability to fight for the budget I propose. That said, 80% of the time the structure is violated by circumstances and eagerly altered in the name of good relationships.

      In no way will I share my estimates because they could never stand this kind of scrutiny without context.

  21. Thanks Rob (and un-named photog) for doing this. This type of exercise is always difficult but most often the discussion of such topic leads to more knowledge, regardless of experience. But I feel we may miss a real opportunity here if real questions (instead of comments) are not asked. Debra Weiss’ comments alone generate many that I feel need expansion for this topic to be worth while. So here goes:

    @Debra Weiss

    I think you make valid points but what is missing for all of us on using your comments in evaluating this estimate is “context”. Yes, I see areas that I feel are totally off but as a whole there is just no way I can judge this. So please, how are you able to? So my request of you would be to use the data that is here (without questioning it) and tell how you would do it – what would you do better, differently, etc. I am particularly interested in your comment of the licensing language. How would you have written it? What other areas do you feel need “education”? (keeping in mind that the fees being shown here really mean nothing because we don’t know anything about the Who, What, etc. You may disagree but what I don’t want to see is a discussion of the “pin head” when a more generalized discussion could accomplish a great lesson.

    • @Ken Gehle,
      Ken – Very well put! There has been a tendency here to lecture without really saying anything. Telling what can be done differently is how we all can learn and become better at estimating.

    • @Ken Gehle, Exactly. With criticism like this, are there any other volunteers to submit estimates for group approval?

      • @Bruce DeBoer,

        I don’t think we need any additional brought to the slaughter. This estimate has plenty of meat for the discussion of the good, bad & ugly. However, without Debra’s participation I think the exercise will be mostly a loss.

        • @Ken Gehle,

          More, more, more. I’d love to see us spend the next month on this. I’d submit something if I had anything:(

  22. Great discussion.

    I would love to see some similar documentation for Editorial- both national and regional.

    • @ES: I could help if I knew how to block out the information. Maybe I’ll just re-make an invoice with only the data everyone needs to see?

      I’ll see if this weekend lends me time to do so.

      • @Chris Schultz, Maybe just bringing the PDF into PShop and drawing boxes is the easiest way? Any help would be much appreciated by myself, and I assume, the rest of APE’s readers. Thanks-

  23. Great post here and agree with Thomas Broening concerning the strange hostility this has generated. In the end, this is great information and I wish I hadn’t read the comments.

  24. Meow. Lot of jealousy going on here. Most of us would kill for budgets like this and Kudos to the person who sent it in. It would be great to see more “nitty gritty”, real world stuff like this. Good work to the shooter and to you, Rob.

  25. To: Debra Weissgrau

    What do you do? Do you have a web site that people can review and form their own opinion about the validity of your comments or experience? A blog? A history other than being a former APA Director and working for a sourcebook?

    Since you are giving your opinion, I think people are interested in knowing who you are and what you do. I know I am.

    • @A Friend, Unless I married Richard Weisgrau (which I don’t think I did) the name is Weiss. I don’t have a website (something that seemed to upset someone on this blog a few months ago) because my business is referral based. E-mail me at and I’ll send you my bio.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        What not share that information on this site so people can get a sense of who you are and your experience? I think it would ad validity to your comments and perspective.

        • @A Friend, I did not want to do this as there is an aspect of self promotion to this that bothers me. That is not the reason I participate in online forums. To be brief, I was an agent for many years representing some incredible talent prior to working for Black Book and my stint at APA. As a consultant, I will still negotiate for certain photographers. For a more detailed background, if anyone does not know who I am they can e-mail me and I’ll send my bio.

          • @Debra Weiss,

            Thank you. I am sure that will help some posters understand your point of view.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        I don’t get it. You come on here and advise young photographers to “go take a business class”, and yet you somehow maintain that it’s proper for you to not even have a website? Any business could make a claim to being “referral only”, but how can you claim that not maintaining even the most basic of sites helps your business, in the year 2009? To me, that one fact alone dilutes any crediblity that you might (rightly) have. To photographers, you are saying “do as I say but not as i do”?

        • @Reader, Agreed, but at least the email address isn’t ;o)

          The use of a website as a portfolio is not limited to a photographer/agency, but is for any credible business to share with new/potential clients a bit about yourself and your business.
          Not having a website nowadays is as limiting as going to a networking event without taking business cards …
          Even if it brings you 1 client a month then it’s still expanding your client base and conversely, if you do a good job, it’ll also expand your referral market

  26. I don’t get it. Debra comes in and suggests that things should be different and people jump all over her. Granted, it would help if she were able to justify things with real world examples…but, she still seems to be an advocate for the photographer. Why would you alienate your champions? I don’t think Debra is saying someone did anything wrong/insufficient but rather letting us in on the secret that there are people out there getting alot more than we are for the same job. Now, with that information, you can make your choice: you can use it to try and get more, or not. But the dangerous thing to do is use COMPETITION as an excuse to leave money on the table. Whenever you bid something based on what the competition is doing you’re either letting someone else run your business or worse…undercutting.

    • @Shane,

      I suspect you’ll do okay in this business. You seem to understand that it is a business.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        Thanks, Mom.

        Just kidding…I DO NOT actually know Debra and she is NOT my mom.

    • @Shane, Delivery, attitude and personality are all extremely important factors in making your points.

    • @Shane, I think the issues have to do with tact and that the vast majority of photographers are up against what the market delivers and – like it or not – that is changing, and not because we haven’t banded together like some impenetrable union. It has to do with frustration regarding the ability for most being unable to use Debra’s principles and actually make money using a camera.

      Again, for the record I agree, what Debra advocates is ideal and I follow the APA business approach.

    • @Shane, she is not “suggesting” anything, she’s telling people who actually are in the trenches that the way they do business is wrong with all the tact of Bill O’Reilly on a meth bender. In fact, I would say that what she is advocating does not match reality, and to make it in this business you have to be a partner with the agency, not an adversary. A partnership implies mutual respect, and that everyone is comfortable with the money, project, art direction, travel, catering, etc.

      • @Donnar Party, precisely! You took the words right out of my mouth.

      • @Donnar Party,
        I guess I read the tone completely different. Didn’t seem out of line, but that’s just my perspective. I respect yours also. By the way, is she wrong? Are the fees too low or are they about right? I haven’t ran into anyone that say the fees are appropriate or too high. I’m a newbie and haven’t shot any big ad jobs, so I’m really looking for dialogue.

    • @Shane, Here is my take on it. Debra Weiss has been in and around this business for a very long time. She can surely remember when one had to have a very high level of skillsets to make it as Pro. Many photographers these days are nothing more than miners sent out to gather the raw materials to hand over to the photoshop jeweler to be turned into art. Once was a time when photos had to be perfect. Nowadays, the agencies often make more on “fixing” the images in their studios than the photographer was paid to shhoot it in the first place.
      She has seen more than her share of talented artists who dedicated the best years of their lives to a profession only to find themselves in the end unable to send their kids to school or keep a home or ever hope of anything resembling a traditional retirement. She knows what it takes for the long term survival in this industry. Debra Weiss has earned an opinion.
      These days it seems that anyone who has “earned” $1.80 from a dozen sales on istockphoto is suddenly a pro and has deservedly earned an opinion about “our” industry.
      I don’t know how Debra manages to maintain her dedication to championing the highest standards for our profession to a such a bunch of whiny crybabies for all these years but I can tell you this… When we no longer have the voices of Debra and her kind pushing us to work harder and dream higher, most of us will be getting fitted for Fedex uniforms.
      Because photographs will be available out of bubblegum dispensers.

      • @Robert,
        Amen brother. Amen.

  27. Having worked in fashion full time for over 15 years, it is great to get respectable rates, and be paid what you are worth. Salaries in fashion are often over inflated and I have friends making 1M a month without blinking an eye. However, each job brings new contacts, honing of skills and a constant learning of new skills. To be offered to bid on a job should be seen as a really positive thing. They want you, they love your work, you have what they need.

    The goal is to work so to miss out on a job for whatever reason is to be avoided without loosing your dignity on rates. I cannot tell you how many times an advert client has told me “we will raise the rates next job” and it rarely happens.

    “We changed creative direction is the easiest way to get out of a bind.”

    I have had conference calls with major ad clients where they really want my creative input only to find out a day later they are looking at other Stylists and are giving them my input as their own.

    Get out their, work hard and take your job seriously but realize you will never get everything you want and to work is what we all want.

  28. Did the second guy pay the P.A. more than the assistant?

  29. I used to work for a 100k+ employee, highly matrix managed, company. Everything involved a multitude of meetings and many, many individual perspectives. “Take it as input” was always a guiding principle in navigating would could be a very frustrating process. Some input is useful.
    Some isn’t. It depends on the circumstances. Take the useful bits, discard the rest. It’s invariably a mistake to assume only people with certain expertise can make valuable observations. The snarky back and forth in this thread is disappointing.

    Real world data is always valuable. Look at both of these examples for what they are. I found them useful.

  30. I’m a young photographer and have only done one other commercial job, which I bidded really low for. I just moved to a new city so when I was asked by a local agency to bid on a job, I was pretty excited to do it…. and again I bid as low as I could, especially considering the usage demands, without feeling like I wasn’t going to make enough to pay off my credit card, put money in the bank and make some head way on a personal project. Plus, how much is the value of starting a relationship with a company or agency? Right now my concern is getting work. I realize as a young photographer that there are risks in hiring me for the first time and I need to give a potential client some incentive to take that risk. I hope that’s how a low bid is seen, not as an undervaluing of my work or abilities.

    I’m not going to share my bid here because I don’t want to be blamed for the demise of an industry I’m just entering and fumbling my way through. It would be nice if young folk like me could find good information or advice about bidding before doing it… because I’m sure I left money on the table. But what emerging photographer can afford a consultant or has a good agent to do the bidding?

    I checked ASMP at their samples online and talked to a few photographers about the bidding process to come up the figure I did. I really appreciate that people are sharing their bids online… I wish I had seen this before making my last bid. I also asked advice from a photo agency I sometimes deal with and they said they would only help if the client went through them… after I printed and hoofed my books around the city, mailed the promo cards and email promos, and compiled my mailing list and made all the cold calls. If I sent it through that agency, maybe the licensing prices would be closer to market value, but then I lose 25-30%, maybe, and I’m making about the same as I would have, but lose a potential client relationship to the agency.

    But if I win my really low bid, I’ll be popping the Cristal and jumping up and down with joy, because you have to start somewhere… and blowing yourself out of the water is not a good place to be starting.

    • @iwantyourlunch, Do yourself a favor and take a business class. If you are awarded that job with the really low bid, believe me, you won’t be able to afford the Cristal.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        I agree with you, Debra. What most people forget is that a low budget to a seasoned pro is huge bucks for a beginner. Which is why discussions like this are important. We (newbs) see $10K and we’re over the moon. Most times we don’t know is a low ball. So thanks to everyone for the conversation.

      • @Debra Weiss,
        I thought I did myself a favor and went to school for photography, only to find out no photography programs offers nothing that resembles a business class. I got my master’s at what’s one of the more decent programs and I left there thinking a license was something I needed in order to drive.

        Since I know you are concerned, maybe you can offer your consulting services pro bono to help save the industry from hungry beginners wanting to work just a little too much. Or you can offer to go around to all the photo programs around the country and preach the gospel, because we need to it hear before it’s too late.

        • @iwantyourlunch, Most photography schools are incredibly resistant to having any business courses as part of their curriculum and it is a huge problem. I sit on the advisory board for the Art Institute of California/Hollywood and am proud to say that my insistence at making a business class a mandatory part of the program has been instituted. In fact, there will be two.

          I am a frequent speaker to classes at Art Center, Brooks and in fact, am speaking tomorrow at the Art Institute. With regard to pro bono consultation – I actually understand what it takes to be in business. Besides, I believe in leading by example. I can’t insist that photographers uphold their fees and give my services for free now, could I?

          • @Debra Weiss, well it’s a real disservice that more schools don’t get something in their curriculum. i paid a lot for my formal educated and bidding low because of not knowing better just means it takes longer to pay it off.

            maybe it’s a conspiracy? and major companies are paying the schools to teach us not to understand licensing so these hypercorporations can later grab our rights right out from under our noses? And the student loan companies are in on it, too, in order to make more off our student loans because we can’t pay on time because they paid the school off so we wouldn’t know how price a license?

            I don’t know, saving the industry at the expense of at one’s own profit sounds like a very noble sacrifice. You could volunteer your time and unique insight and help save a generation of ill-educated photographers. Think of as philanthropy.

          • @Debra Weiss, which is why we live in the world that we do.

          • @Debra Weiss,
            Agree with the idea of “no free consulting”. I took Sandler sales training specifically to grow our photography business and that is one of the first things they say. What about an APA workshop for commercial photographers to educate them on how to estimate and bid? (We are members and I have seen you speak at their functions as well as MOPLA.) Thinking that may be a great venue to have these discussions about appropriate pricing? I know when we started and made the leap from our client base being mostly mid size agencies to national ones with national clients, we were struggling to make sure we priced appropriately. I realize specific numbers may not be discussed but maybe benchmarks/approximations could be used?

    • @iwantyourlunch,

      I think everyone does the same thing. Your story is not unique. But then everyone also complains when they lose a job to a novice just starting out. I sure one day You and I will too.

      I haven’t seen your work, but if you were selected on price only…then I’m sure the wise old pros wouldn’t have wanted that job anyway. At least that’s what they say.

      • @Shane, yeah, i hope I don’t get picked for being the cheapest. I might not have gone to business school, but going to 1 APA lecture by John Harrington taught me that much. But, I don’t think a decent agency will ask for bids from people they only think are going to be the cheapest, they have reputations to worry about as well.

        it’s not a unique story, but people seem to forget that they were eager one day as well.

          • @A Photo Editor,
            I don’t follow.

    • @iwantyourlunch,

      I’ll go out on a limb here and agree with Ms. Weiss. Undervaluing yourself will usually just hurt you and also the industry as a whole. And, FYI, if you were to turn in an estimate that is grossly lower than the other photographer’s estimates, most likely the AB would either keep you out of the final presentation or ask you to redo your bid. Their suspicion would be you either do not understand the scope of the job, do not have the capabilities to pull off the job and/or are too inexperienced to do a good job. The lowest estimate does not always book a project.

    • @iwantyourlunch,

      A photographer provides a service. No matter what the price paid, if the goods produced are not (at least) adequate, the price is too high and the commissioning party will lose (time & $$$). If your work is good enough to be used for the project, appropriate payment is in order. Bidding too low scares companies as well.

      Regarding art education & business. It’s my current belief that an in depth analysis of an education in ‘the arts’ may show the ROI is not there. Poor choice of education – if that education is to be used for a ‘career’. Providing business classes may help develop the tools for students to understand their chosen field has a very high rate of failure.

      Read this:

      “But the bureau’s examination of Brooks’s records found not one 2003 graduate at any degree level whose reported wages and employment tenure were enough to generate even $50,000 of earning potential.

      Indeed, of the 45 graduates reported by Brooks as employed full time, the average income was about $26,000, the report said. The average indebtedness of this group was around $74,000.”

  31. seriously some great conversation on this topic.

    regardless of where i fall in my opinion on this, i think that it’s great that the photographer(s) sent in their invoices/bids for rob to share for all of us to have one big comment-clusterf*ck.


  32. Damn, $700 a night for a hotel room? $150/day for meals? Must be nice!

    • @Mickey,
      That’s for 2 people, have you traveled outside the country, it’s not cheap.

  33. Thanks to all of those involved in posting the estimates. I agree that this discussion has brought a lot more clarity to the underlying issues at stake [for those of us who are unfamiliar with the business of advertising and commercial photography].

    I run a freelance sports statistics business. And even though my estimates don’t reach the as high as the budgets do in the examples above, I can attest to the fact that it takes a lot of homework, a lot of mistakes, and a contemplating in order to attempt to master the Art of Estimating. Not only that, you find out how important it is to word your documents appropriately and coherently. Estimating on a “high budget” scale must come with an unbelievable amount of pressure.

    As a young, aspiring photographer, I’m glad that this issue being discussed openly.

    Best Wishes to All,

  34. A lot of discussion here.

    However, great insight. Thanks for the effort and for the share.

    One of the posts that values this blog #1 (on photography), at least for me.

    To be serious:
    Although some of my pics are used in full size ads, in worldwide campaigns (via licenses) and I received some acknowledgements in ‘Professional Advertising Photography’ (for snapshots from the hip – funny enough) I never was asked for an estimate by the ‘industry’.
    Therefore I don’t have any valuable input for the theme.

    But should it ever happen I’m prepared now *smile – due to this post.
    I never ever would have been brave enough to ask for the quotes stated above.
    Ok, I’ve to state I’m a one man show, don’t operate a studio and don’t need an assistant to carry my cam along, etc …

    With such budgests any photographer should be able to fly to the moon (and back too) for some ‘lil pictures.

    Funny and weird enough, similar effort done for editorial … and just a fraction of the costs.


  35. It would be nice if clients felt that you get what you pay for, but this business is a dog eat dog, free-for-all. It’s one thing for newbies to underestimate because of inexperience, but seasoned pros deliberatley lowball too. It’s just the way it is, because we all have to put bread on the table and there are many ways of doing that.

    A lot of my income is from Stock which I sell directly and I recently quoted an Agency for a Florida developer $8500 for various uses of a few shots. It was a decent, “middle of the road” price, but the AD went nuts and told me that iStockphoto would charge him less than 5% of that and he wanted the same deal from me. Had I been younger and needed the credit and exposure I might have caved in, but I’m long enough in the tooth that I wished him good luck and hung up.

    While there are a few stars in this business, if you’re in it just for the money, you’re going to be sadly dissapointed. Go to Law School instead. Come to think of it, go to Law School and then become a photographer!

    • @Andrew Ptak, Unfortunately, law school is no sure thing anymore either, I know lawyers who are getting laid off and who are now looking for work, as well as some MBA’s.

    • @Andrew Ptak, how long is a piece of string? I can’t comment on your quote if we don’t know bit more about usage, territory, duration etc. It could be anything from expensive to below average. What I do think though, is that often young inexperienced art buyers have someone breathing down their neck, reminding them to stick to the new, lower budget, or else. In stead of having the guts to say “No” and explain why smth is unreasonable, they just bow their heads and say yes, in fear of loosing their own job – understandably – which is probably a much lower pay than that of their more experienced predecessor who delivered quality. It is as much the responsibility of the photographer not to undersell himself as it is that of the art buyer to protect the integrity of his/her own industry. If clients can’t afford the quote, they can ask for a reduced usage with less exposure. However I do absolutely believe in being as flexible as possible on a case by case basis in order to maintain a good work relationship. It’s a very fine line to balance which requires a great deal of diplomacy to keep everyone involved happy.

      • @PKS, “It could be anything from expensive to below average”
        I think you missed it – he said it was a “middle of the road” price :o)

        You’re right that an open dialogue should be established should negociation be required, but if the client want’s your work for less than 5% of your quote, that kinda kills the negociation dead.

  36. The cost for the digital kit is interesting – a (very well-known) catalog client I work with recently stipulated that you could not bill for your own digital equipment. They would pay for the rental from an authorized equipment house, but you were not able to charge for a ‘digital kit.’ It is a bit extreme, but on the other hand 2 close photographer friends recently paid for new Canons simply because of a ‘digital kit’ line item. Its one area where there is still a little leeway.

    • @Cletus,
      Don’t do it. Bill for your equipment, or you won’t have any money to buy equipment. Perhaps have a discussion with the client as to what the rental cost would be from a rental house, and give them a better deal on your equipment so they can see the benefit.

      You are comparing catalog to advertising, which is different. But- catalog clients should be paying for camera rental, and it shouldn’t matter who they pay for the rental as long as the price is fair.

    • @Cletus,
      The owner of a magazine I worked at pestered me about equipment rental one time because someone told him we were renting the equipment from the photographer. I told him stuff breaks, gets sand, dirt, water in it all the time and they have to buy new gear so it’s justified. That worked.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        This wasn’t negotiable. It turns out that the catalog had worked a deal with the rental house for a long term lease on the camera back and equipment. They shoot so much that it didn’t make sense for them to pay a photographer when they could own the equipment outright.

        I’m not saying I agree with them, but because they shoot so much, they did a review of tons of photographers invoices and discovered a lot of inconsistencies in billing for the digital kit. By requiring the rental, it standardized everything for them.

        Look, its a bad deal if you own your equipment, but the cold hard truth is that some pro photographers don’t have to own their own gear. In fact I kind of recommend it to people, because it helps keep the overhead down.

        This is starting to happen with magazines as well. A major publication (with in-house studio) has all their own gear and (most of the time) requires you to rent from them when shooting in studio.

        • @Cletus, a photographer’s equipment is part of their craft, no!? wonder how most photographers feel about being forced to use equipment that the magazine just happened to buy? i guess if they do it often enough they know what to have on hand…

          • @an art buyer,

            Don’t forget many people got by with a Fuji for 20+ years. These newer cameras just last a few years between improvements and shutter valuations.

          • @an art buyer, A photographers resources and finances are as much a part of their “craft” as the gear.

            Essentially it is about being able to function well.
            There are no free lunches. I don’t believe many photographers wish to nickel n dime clients. But well….

            editorial clients, take a little here, and something there. Pretty soon gravity sets in. A photographer can only float so long :). (copyright grabs, no digital post budget, tight production budgets, fees that haven’t kept up with the cost of living index for 25 years, months to get paid….).

            I recall ten years ago when editorial photographers brought up the rates @ Time and Newsweek were the same as in 1984. How many professionals working in the advertising industry would get excited with the prospect of earning the same salary for 15 years with no raise?

            Of course these are the rags that actually pay for commissioned work. Many leverage the production of their businesses by externalize these costs onto the content creators. The mytholgy of “exposure”. Feelin lucky…? Place your $$$ on ‘Red 7’ : /

    • @Cletus,

      In case your client don’t realize it, we are churning camera’s and equipment at an average rate of 2 years. They demand photo quality you can only get from the latest and greatest, and your equipment becomes largely obsolete after two years. If they will accept a digital image from a Nikon D70, then, I’m only happy to not charge an equipment rental fee. Anybody priced the latest digital backs?

      On another point; I for one, found nothing wrong with the guy (or gal) paying the AD’s travel. I’m here to serve my client. As long as they have a history of paying on time, I’ll pick up anything they want. It is up the THEM to justify the expense to THEIR client.

      Finally, one word of advice for the new photographers reading this. In a prior life I started a couple of businesses using a substantial amount of credit…and failed. Great learing experience. When I started my photo business, I had saved enough to operate on with no income for quite a while. So now, I don’t use credit cards, do not offer my accounts receivables for sale, and self finance every shoot. You are really taking a chance to do it any other way.
      SO; if you still live in your parent’s basement, get a job doing something else, save your money, and when you have enough, start your photography business and DON’T spend that money on an equipment list. Use it to finance your operations. Just my two cents.

      • @T. C. Knight,

        At a certain point digital cameras can’t continue the arms race. Ok, so instead of blowing up the shot to the size of a billboard, we can put it on the side of the moon.

        But that doesn’t really matter because a long term lease means that you have the option to trade it in when the next generation comes around.

        I know photographers who leased equipment and were able to bill clients for more than the lease each month, thereby turning a profit on equipment. This is increasingly not the case for people who shoot for high-volume clients like magazine and catalog. From their perspective, it is a no brainer to have in-house equipment.

        • @Cletus, from an art buyer point of view, you really ought to charge for digital kit / rental. It’s the equivalent to charging for film and processing, where photographers almost always mark up the fees, to make a living from it. The upkeep of digital equipment and time spent on processing images costs time and money, it’s like having a darkroom, just a digital one. The catalogue should go and employ a staff photographer, put him on payroll so he has a secure and regular job and give him all the equipment he wants, plus an all expenses paid for studio. Anything else is a rip off, and young photographers should not follow suit. Even if they do, they won’t be able to keep it up for long. So there won’t be any consistency in quality if the photographers keep changing or getting cheaper, and the catalogue will look like shit. Pardon my French. But it sounds like that’s what they deserve!

          • @PKS,
            For advertising, of course you have to charge for a digital kit, because each ad agency has a whole range of clients and the subject of ads (and thus the shoot requirements) varies wildly. Even then, the amount charged for a digital kit is usually based on the rental house’s invoice.

            But look at what you wrote: “photographers almost always mark up the fees, to make a living from it.” You. Can’t. Do. This. Any. More. Back in the film days we once called our lab to order film and they were out – they said call Adorama. So we called Adorama and they had the film – and it was 50% cheaper because the lab was marking it up!! Photographers are in the business of taking photographs, not making money on equipment rental.

            For the catalog – we rent from the authorized dealer, and those invoices go straight to the client. You may have misunderstood my original comment. There is no way we would pay for that. Just that if you own your own camera, they won’t reimburse you. So you’re forced to use their specs. From the catalog’s point of view it makes perfect sense. They’re still paying for equip, but they’re doing it in a way that benefits them (since they’re going to pay for it either way).

            • @Cletus, I hear ya, and I see where you’re coming from. I know, it’s like being stuck with a catch 22 situation. What I meant was, now that photographers can’t charge the mark up on film as much as they used to – point taken – charging for digital is one way to make up for it, also in editorial. If you know your client rents directly from the rental house, find another place to mark up, without overdoing it. Your particular client is being very mistrusting, and that’s regrettable. What I’m also saying, is that between the lines, there are ways to get round it and there is often an unspoken level of understanding between AB and photographer or agent. Of course I don’t mean the wheeling and dealing sort, I’m talking about there being a general common sense level of fairness and understanding. It’s all about building good relationships with your clients. If you don’t like working for this one, spend some time on looking for new potential clients, perhaps in similar field so you have work to show from previous examples. Do a free test shot for them or so, and you might get regular paid work out of it, and eventually move on from said catalogue. They should go get a staff photographer if they are hiring the equipment. It’s really ridiculous.

    • @Cletus,
      If a client asked you to drive your car in the process of doing the job, they wouldn’t be surprised if you billed for milage, so why not bill for your equipment. It has a finite usable life and there’s no reason you should be expected to finance the client’s business through your equipment purchases.

    • @Cletus,
      Form an LLC and invoice yourself (or bill directly to the client) for the equipment. That way it’s another entity billing you for the use of their equipment, not you billing for the use of your own equipment.

  37. I am kind of late to this thread, and I guess I am just naive, having been shooting mostly for magazines for the last 15 or 20 years, but just how many photographers out there are getting this kind of money for ad jobs? Especially in the last year or two, with the economic climate we are in? I am well aware of the value of media placement and usage, and how it fits into this estimate, but I’m just curious if anybody knows how many projects out there have a budget of over 200 grand for this amount of work, with just under 100 grand in fees, and how many photographers are getting this kind of money? I mean, is this common, everyday compensation for an ad photographer? I’ve done a little bit of ad work, but nothing of this scope, so I am genuinely curious if this is the norm, (the wide ranging usage granted notwithstanding)? I also wonder if any other photographers who are primarily magazine photographers are reading this thread and feeling like maybe they missed the financial boat? I was under the impression that everybody was feeling the pinch…

    • @wb, this past year a majority of my shoots were 35k to 55k. a few were 65k to 75k.

      several times a year we have shoots w/high profile celebs and photogs that were probably about 250k and another almost 2 years ago that was almost half a mill. plus once a year with BIG BIG BIIIIG name people for 3/4 mill.

      in the current economy we have slashed shoot budgets and the creative will suffer as a result but i am being forced to make do with what i can.

      • @an art buyer, this comment summarize the entire discussion – in my opinion – its all about supply and demand – and the best value provider is the one who gets the job. This is a no brainer and it applies to any business and any industry. We must revise or SWOT analysis on quarterly or monthly basis…and no consultant in this industry can help you with that… you do need to have strategic business experience to know how to do to it…

    • @wb: Couple of things come to mind… :)

      For one, I believe good editorial work leads to great advertising work. I wouldn’t say these big budget ad jobs are abundant either, especially considering the size of the photographer pool. It takes many, many years of consistent hard work in all the right places to get to that point. There are a few ways to skip rungs on the ladder, but I won’t get into that. Each path is different.

      Secondly, Editorial photographers shouldn’t feel “like they missed the financial boat.” If you’re getting paid to take pictures you’re on a boat and that’s good enough right there.

      Thirdly, the photographers getting that kind of money are probably only a few hundred worldwide, if that. Spanning the different genre’s and subset industries it might be higher. But for any given facet I would guess the number is surprisingly lower than we dare to imagine.

      • @Chris Schultz,

        Chris, I’m going to counter your opinion.

        “good editorial work leads to great advertising work”.

        This is a photographers myth. A distortion.
        Good editorial work can lead to great advertising work, it has lead to great advertising work on occasion in the past, it may lead to great advertising work occasionally in the future…. The every day reality: more often good editorial photography doesn’t lead to great advertising work!

        It’s really important to get paid well for your work on it’s initial commission. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

        You’ve just suggested only a few hundred photographers on the planet are working these great advertising jobs. How do you arrive at this conclusion? It also seems to contradict your initial statement about “good editorial work leading to great advertising work”. There are probably more than a few hundred photographers in the world creating great editorial work.

        Coming back to editorial rates. There is an invoice above for what appears to be a moderate editorial job. It may be yours. (Thank you to all that provided bids/invoice). Going by this invoice it appears that renting equipment may be more profitable than fees. I’d guess from start to finish, including marketing, planning, production, and post production, this project is good for a week of time. If this is a small studio (which it appears to be), the page rate and photography fee = $1700. Consider a year with 48 working weeks. If booked at this rate the gross is about $81K. (Providing the studio’s calendar is booked every week of the year) Subtract the CDB, and that $81K could easily be cut in half. In any metropolitan area $41K a year isn’t a great amount of earnings. If you are single, young, no family and no retirement savings or healthcare it could work for awhile. However it’s rather sad to see the majority of the income is coming from value added through other services (rental & retouching) provided. Ramp up the level and output of production and these fees will probably be going to rental houses and an outsourced retoucher. Though at that point the studio may have a strong enough identity to charge more ‘creative’ fees.

        Thanks again for the information. This isn’t meant as an attack, more as a reasonable examination. I’m open to other opinions.

        • @Bob, which of the 3 editorial invoices are you referring to? The syndication one is just pure syndication, taking up no studio time. The other two invoices have additional studio fees factored in. And in none of the above does page rate and photography fee come to $1700. I’ve had a good look, but can’t see how you come to that figure. Thanks

          • @PKS,

            opps!!!! :o
            My mistake. Under editorial invoices I thought page one and two were the same job. However (please correct me if I’m wrong) it looks like that rate (income) is even lower than I had considered. The point still being valid.

            Thanks for catching the err, PKS.

        • @Bob: Thanks for the juicy post to write back to. This Friday is sllooowwww.

          Indeed, many shooters create work for editorial content that don’t necessarily convert those efforts into large sum advertising profit windfalls. Perhaps the ratio of advertising jobs to editorial jobs is to blame? Overcrowded talent pool? Who really knows. Pick a source and it probably has a hand in the situation.

          Personally, I’ve yet to factually hear of a photographer who landed a big advertising job ($50,000+ creative fee/$100,000+ budget) before they shot an editorial of some kind. Have you? I’d be delighted to know of the occasion! And if so, I bet it doesn’t happen too often, much less to someone who (a) didn’t go to photo/business school, (b) didn’t come from money or (c) has deep-reaching family ties.

          My real point is that the majority of photographers getting the juicy advertising jobs also do consistent editorial work. It’s almost an unwritten requirement, at least out here in LA. Which brings me to the rest of my reply.

          Living/working in smell-a, and NYC part time, I realize my bubble is a relatively small one. Hollywood is my playground, therefore I am only entitled to talk about what I can see from my viewpoint.

          From here, the top tier ad jobs are all shot by a handful of guys. The same goes for NYC. Reasonably, I assume this is the case around the globe. And from what little I do know about other markets, my assumptions haven’t made a total ass of me yet.

          For example, compile a list by setting a bar for the minimum advertising budget, say at $250,000 US dollars. Then, take qualifying world-wide jobs into account, categorize those by genre (celebrity, fashion, beauty, product/still life, landscapes, corporate, etc). I would think such a list wouldn’t be too long for any given category, yeah? The photography industry consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of micro-markets, each with their dominating super-powers.

          “It’s really important to get paid well for your work on it’s initial commission. I’ll come back to this in a moment.”

          It is important to be compensated for your true worth, but we both know the market doesn’t work like that. Putting your foot down might mean the next guy who gets the call won’t. Dangerous game. Exponentially more daring if you’re young or new to the market, or desperate.

          And finally… In four years of experience, renting equipment and digital kits does make more profit than editorial creative fees. Sad to admit that my digital setup makes more than I do on most jobs (MFDB). All to often retouching does too. That’s why I chose to study all of these “add-ons” to the point of expertise and outsource nothing unless absolutely necessary. ;)

          Obviously, leaving money on the table, whether it’s in negotiation or from post-production, just doesn’t make sense.

          • @Chris Schultz,


            Assumptions and beliefs are not necessarily data.
            It’s apparent you are pretty young and may not have thought through your beliefs.

            It really doesn’t matter what’s to blame. This is the reality.

            Have you ever heard of a guy named Nadav Kander?
            He started doing editorial about 10 years ago, but was already a monster in advertising photography with very little presence in editorial work. There are numerous other photographers in advertising that have developed an identity with little editorial presence as well. But to really temper these beliefs (which has been a commonly held fallacy for many years) you’ll need to include all those great editorial photographers who have tried and NOT had much success in advertising photography.

            It’s a flawed style of reasoning to present those that are successful in advertising, then try to attribute it to editorial assignments done by same. This is an anecdotal perception. The gospel: do lots of editorial, get awards and recognition in CA, AP, D&AD, Archive, Oneshow, PDN, etc. All this recognition certainly CAN help. But there are too many examples of NOT being effective to consider it to be true gospel. As more eyeballs are divided for attention these printed resources will have even less impact. Consider for example the use of crowd sourcing in advertising today.

            Specifically what “juicy advertising jobs” are you referencing here in Los Angeles?

            “Dangerous game”.
            If there is poor ROI why play at all? Being desperate is not a sound business model.
            What “makes sense” is valuing your time well. How many top tier photographers do their own digital retouching on commercial assignments? You are describing entry level business styles for commercial photography. How many years does a photographer/studio work this way before they achieve a consistent healthy ROI – relative to other careers?

            I’d like to ad a personal note.
            FWIW – As someone born, raised, and currently living in Los Angeles I know of no other *locals* that use the term “smell-a”. This is usually something heard from the mouths of noobs that come to SoCal to try to milk what they can out of the area without contributing much to local communities. (Wherever you go – there you are). Los Angeles has not been a big ‘advertising’ city (except automotive). SF & NYC have been stronger advertising arenas. Brea the city listed on your website is not Los Angeles. It is an old city in Orange County.

            • @Bob, I’d like to see your work. Will you please email me (off site if you choose) with your website address? Thanks!

              Indeed, I am considering “young” by the world’s standards. However, intellectual and behavioral maturity is not best judged in years. That attitude is the plague young adults must suffer through.

              • @Chris Schultz,


                Suffer me to become radiant
                — `Abdu’l-Bahá

                Chris, (aside from my personal note), my opinion is not being directed at you personally, but towards the reality of the market(s). The subjective aspects of our images is probably not significant in understanding these business dynamics. (Better to return to the subject of the thread).
                I’ll continue to value my anonymity. Thank you for the interest.

          • @Chris Schultz, My experience has been that editorial and advertising can come simultaneously. One doesn’t necessarily lead to or precede the other – it’s just not that simple.

  38. Everyone. I’m taking a break form Debra Weiss (whether she likes it or not).

    She dropped her email in one of these threads if you want to contact her directly but I see the conversation between myself and her and some of you and her going nowhere.

    I think some people don’t understand the point of a blog is the comments. In a normal written piece you can’t argue a different point of view or present new evidence to the contrary. The only reason I made this post is because someone left a comment in another post that they would like to see an estimate. That’s it. I used my contacts to get someone to send me one. They in turn trust that I will protect their identity and come to their defense. I seriously doubt anyone will grant me an interview or be honest with me if all I did all day was hang people out to dry or put a big fat target on their head. So, smack talking is fine but please back it up with some evidence or at least a real life story or at the very least don’t throw barbs in as you offer an opposing point of view.

    Ok, anybody else got an estimate?

    • @A Photo Editor,

      Rob – I will send you one. Send me an email. Lets talk.

    • @A Photo Editor, Like wb, above, I’ve been a photojournalist and editorial magazine
      photographer for the past 20+ years. I know absolutely nothing about the advertising world, and, quite frankly, I’m blown away by these numbers. I say all that to say I appreciate what you do in communicating what’s happening in the industry. I’m here to learn, so I just chill back and try to do that.

      From my own past run-ins with Ms Weiss, I’ve learned to just let her vent and keep it moving.

    • @A Photo Editor,

    • @A Photo Editor,

      I’ve read every comment up to this point, and found most of them informative. I applaud you for providing the forum, the back and forth, and the info, but am glad you also knew when to step in and say enough is enough.

  39. What I am curious about is what people do when they have submitted a bit which is too high…
    How do you know that? And what do you do about it?
    Seems like bidding is info going into a black hole a lot of the time…

    • @ronno,
      If your agent has a good relationship with the art buyer, then the AB will tell you if the bid is too high. They’ll ask you to bring it down so as not to let financial considerations get in the way.

      If you think its too high, just ask.

      • @Cletus, and if you don’t have an agent and the client contacts you directly?

        • @CallumW,

          Just ask! It never, ever hurts to ask: ‘do you have a ballpark’ or ‘how does my bid compare to the other bids’ or ‘what can I do to make sure my bid comes down to creative considerations.’

          Also ask who you’re up against, who has done the project in the past, etc. These are basic questions. Why wouldn’t you just ask them?

    • @ronno,
      If the client wants you for the job, they will contact you and let you know you are higher. Then you will have an opportunity to lower the bid, or keep it where it is.

      Often there is a conversation that needs to be had on where you are higher – on production? on wardrobe, location fees, your fees?

  40. p.s. I am guessing that it is less than 1/2 of 1% of commercial photographers who are successfully billing close to $200K for a handful of landscapes these days.

  41. The last example is more in line with corporate direct shoots I have done, though I don’t use a line item format like that. While I am not willing to directly share my Proposals and Invoices (client confidentiality), I can state that the first example here is not out of line with what I have seen for shoots for one of the top consumer electronics companies (sorry, cannot be more specific which one).

    Learning how to write invoices and proposals is difficult, and an aspect often missing in higher education for creative professionals. I was lucky after I graduated that a client was nice enough to share a proposal from an established professional. That contact person at a restaurant chain liked my work enough that they guided me on how to write a proper proposal, with fees that would be comparable to proposals from other photographers. After that, I was able to properly and competitively bid other projects for other companies.

    Since that time several years ago, I have tuned my Proposals. I also developed a simpler way to factor usage, that provides an indication of value on the images. All this is about working with people to produce images that will enhance their business. It’s about developing a relationship with your client, and that comes from cooperation.

  42. This thread is popping up all over the internet. Wannabe photographers and amateurs are frothing at the mouth at the prospect of making 200k taking pictures. . . People have no idea. This feels like a race to the bottom.

    • @lacunha, no punk kid on model mayhem, armed witrh a 5D, a bunch of photoshop actions, and hubris is going to get any ad job on the level of INVOICE Nr. 1. No way no how. Even if you are shooting a soda can on gray seamless, you must have some serious credibility with the AB, be it a personal relationship where they trust you to get the shot or you have some Sierra Hotel (Shit Hot) editorial work kicking around. Its about confidence: The AB’s ass is on the line, you feel me?

      As for young shooters getting ad jobs that PAY, only Ryan McGinley comes to mind. He’s not an interweb dweeb learning how to feather a softbox and make some “serious coin, dude” from ad work. He is a soft spoken, smooth and confident guy who has a ton of editorial and fine art work under his belt. He has worked HARD, put in the time. So I’m not worried about the wannabees on the web seeing dollar signs.

    • @Brandon D.,

      The only downside to the PDN reports are the peppering of names like Chase, Vincent and David throughout the text.

  43. I was referred to this thread from a U.K. Forum in a discussion about the following aspects of our business…. (photography).

    The Recession
    Photographers undercutting each other to death.
    People with a £400 Digital Camera and Photoshop setting themselves up as photographers.
    Magazines and Newspapers wanting Copyright of Images
    etc, etc, etc,

    In 27 years in the Industry, this year is the WORSE I have seen for Commercial and Editorial Photography, however I learned years ago with two previous recessions, as a Professional Photographer you have to be flexible and adaptable so I learnt to shoot in areas I had not previously covered so it expanded my earning potential whilst work was slim on the ground – it’s always enabled me to survive whilst others have stuck in the mud and gone under.

    In relation to the quote, my comments are that I would never agree any cost or expense of the shoot that was NOT directly within my remit as a photographer, therefore I would not quote for models, flights, accommodation etc as I would expect the client or agent booking me to make and pay for all those arrangement – unless of course they want to pay me additional booking fees or agency fees for making those arrangements… maybe in the UK things are slightly different from the U.S.

    I would in a recession agree to lower my rates on occaison for REGULAR clients/agents that have always supplied work as it benefits me, the client/agent etc in the longer term as we ride out the recession and then in better times, the prices will rise in direct reflection of the financial stability of the economy and the business’s involved.

    … and if you think you have money issues, look at poor Annie L and her impending Bankruptcy!!!!

    • @Demon Lee, AnnieL got paid a huge amount, but lived beyond her means and made a couple of not-so good property investments.

    • @Fort Lauderdale Photographer, Ever have an assistant do a half day the day after to do a return of gear? That makes sense to me…

    • @Fort Lauderdale Photographer,
      yeah i have a half assistant works full time for me so can sympathise with that .

    • @Fort Lauderdale Photographer,

      Sometimes the half day is the anticipation of overtime for those typical long days.

  44. So maybe we can do an exercise? Rob gives us a job to bid on, we send back some blind estimates, he publishes a few, we tell each other we’re wrong for a few days? Everyone’s happy?

  45. Rob – Shane has an idea here. Might be a very good exercise for us all to bid on the same job and then see a sample of the results published here.

    No name calling though, kids. This could be a very worthwhile and educational exercise – no winners, no losers – just a chance to see how others go about it.

    • @Andrew Ptak, You may find this kind of excercises already available on John Harrington’s blog

      John is Board DIrector to ASMP National and in his blog you may review some aspects of the estimating process.

      Also, I reccommend to take a look at ASMP’s “Strictly Business” blog, solely dedicated to the business aspect of our life


      • @Photoshooter,

        Check out the APANatioanl site also. (

        Plenty of good information there.

  46. @Photoshooter – I’m well aware of both. I see this as very different though.

  47. I think Rob meant to put these examples up just to show some real numbers, not to discuss the moral issues involved, I think we all know clients have cut their budgets and agencies/ magazines are paying lower fees. We just need more actual figures to compare to, so we can find a middle ground. In editorial that’s easier, but advertising fees are based on so many different factors. What is true is that ad fees are not as huge as they used to be, but the ratio of competing photographers to big ad jobs is becoming more and more disproportionate. Rob, I will come back with some concrete numbers for ed and ad rates as soon as I find the time.

  48. I’m reading this a bit late but thought I’d share some thoughts anyway;
    I don’t think us photographers necessarily need a business class. What we need is a greater awareness of what we are providing advertising agencies and companies in their quest to sell more product.
    Some think the 104K is a lot, Debra Weiss made it clear it’s not. By any means this is a lot of money but imagine this for minute: A company is going to market their new product world wide. They look at 2 photographers; 1 charging 100K, the other 10K. If the 100K photographer have a unique vision and his picture will make the magazine readers pause for an extra 5 seconds, what is that worth? What if this picture and those extra seconds means twice, or maybe 10 times as many people, world wide, will buy the product? For a global campaign this could be millions in increased sales. Now the additional 90K for the high end photographer doesn’t seem like a lot does it? It’s actually truly cheap! We all do photography because we love it, but we all have to become more aware of the fact that what we create has a significant value in the market place and should be priced accordingly.
    There’s so many factors that go into pricing our photography and there’s no true formula on how to do it. Just keep in mind that pictures have substantial value when used commercially. Way more than we think and dare to charge….

    My thoughts,


    • @Erik Almas,

      Good points, Erik. And to complicate matters further and illustrate what a crazy business we’re in, let’s not forget a very famous older NYC photographer who used to base his Creative Fee not on the complications of the actual making of the photographs, but of the client’s Media Buy. Supposedly, he and his in-house rep had a formula for computing the actual value of their photographs by finding out the Print Media Buy, and then computing their fee from that.

      That worked for them during another time; not sure how it would work in this economy. But the point is: Yes, we’re creating imagery that can have an impact on a corporation’s bottom line, so to quibble over a few tens of thousands of dollars is really missing the bigger picture.

      But let’s not forget — anyone can estimate high, but how many can actually pull off a giant production flawlessly, handle the pressures and last-minute changes, and also deliver the goods, time after time? That’s what determines a long career in this crazy business.

      • @100 K, Many astute photographers still do look at the media space purchase to form an idea of the usage fee.
        Which (has been noted) makes up the total creative fee.

  49. Well done Rob on publishing these estimates. This is the type of information that normally you can only find if you are already deeply embedded in the industry (perhaps as an assistant) and I’m sure that many colleges cannot or do not give out to aspiring photographers attending their courses.
    To put it into context – then many aspiring photographers will also need to understand the financial commitment and personal commitment that is necessary in order to win the advertising assignments and to be in a position to quote for the work to start with i.e. how much money they spend on personal projects, marketing, portfolios etc.?
    It will certainly give hope to many people who wonder why they work for free or for little money and make such huge sacrifices in order to ‘stay in the game’ such as this guy

  50. I’ve got plenty more coming on this topic. More estimates and a couple interviews.

    • @A Photo Editor, will there also be a feed to the top rope battle royal with DW?

      • @Russell Kaye,

        I’d rather see a steel cage match… :-)

  51. You should try to estimate the same job with mexican producers & photographers, there are some nice good looking styles, great producers & low costs… you can find a lot of mexican photographers in this link:

  52. Hi,

    Thank you for this illuminating post.

    First, i wonder if people contributing here can check their personal egos at the keyboard. Most of us dont have the time to read though inter-personal diatribes, especially those of us who are “inexperience sapplings” coming along, and who can best benefit from intelligent, non-ego, productive conversation. Please, wait a day before sending off angry and/or demeaning postings. sleep on it. it’s counterproductive for this community, and frankly what a waste of time for everyone. Sobriety is the first, constructive step to maturity.

    Now, for those of us who are about to enter the field, or who are just plain inexperienced and giving away our work cause we dont know any better, any chance anyone can post a brief, a summary, a blue-print, or point to a link where we can learn about how to charge, what to charge, and what each item is, what, how, when, where, who? Please. I learnt quite a bit by looking at these bids today. Wow, my eyes were wide open–yes, bambi-style. but what i realized most that i know absolutely nothing about what to charge for my work, who my work will be used, etc. and that on more than one occasion, i have been taken advantage of.


    What i am getting a sense of is that in a down market, a lot of us inexperienced photographers, may be indavertantly contributing to the lowering value of our business, simply because we just dont know what we are doing. we never worked for a big or medium photog.

    And i feel that some buyers may be taking advantage of upcoming talent in order to cut their costs radically in such a lousy market. i.e. After being advised by mentors i reached out to, I recently turned down a job (that i could not afford to turn down) from one of the top-5 stock agencies in the u.s. who wanted to ‘grab’ all rights in perpetuity, including ‘moral rights’ (after being told verbally i would keep those rights) for my pictures. i was even threatened not to go public with the contract offered. Not only was i being asked to sell my soul, i was forced into silence about it.

    And, so, it is in the best interest of those of you who are atop of the game to teach those of us starting out how to bid and bill adequately so the business is not hurt. we will all benefit from a community on the same page.

    For one, i consider that the offering of generous usage rights is contrary to good business practices for our industry. I see more and more buyers pushing for this, and more and more of us desperate-for-a-buck-beginners giving in and setting a dangerous precedent.

    A glossary for bids and invoicing, perhaps?. For terms like usage rights, creative fee (editorial, advertising, journalism), i dunno. Standard day fees, things like that. everything. Maybe something several experts can build over time?


    marco aurelio

    • @marco aurelio,

      Join a professional organization like ASMP. They have all these resources there and more. And discounts on all kinds of useful things from fedex to insurance to b&h. These alone pay the yearly dues.

      • thnkx, craig, was member there a couple of years ago. but have been stationed in south-america last couple of years. heading back to new york (grew up there) in the fall and so starting to get my feet wet by reading up, and feeling intimidated by the learning curve on these issues, and mostly as i will be looking for work with a studio in new york. will rejoin them as soon as i hit the ground.

        BUT… please let me me be a bit of a devil’s advocate: what happens to someone in alabama, montana, wyoming, little-town, u.s.a, who can not join or know how to benefit from ASMP? Where can they read up on it on the web? there’s gotta be a posting somewhere. anyways. i am a lucky, so i’ll get to it soon enough. thanks, again, craig.

  53. I’m looking at these day rates for a photo assistant and digital tech for a national ad campaign and I’m wondering who in there right mind would be willing to work for half of what the going day rates currently are.
    Advertising rates for photo assistants are $500.00 /day , digital techs $600.00-800.00 min.

    $225.00 may be good for a second assistant on editorial but on advertising?
    And what quality digital tech can you get for $300.00 for advertising?

    It seems that people forget that the day rate for a first assistant in 1989 was $175.00, over time after 10 hours, payment end of day.

    The above rates certainly don’t account for any cost of living increase since that time. And with the caliber of new assistants that are now out there I guess you get what you pay for.

    Strange that the above party is willing to pay a stylists asst, and the guy handling the entire days digital files the same $$.

    I wonder if photographers would suddenly find money in the budget if all of the good & great assistants and digital techs just decided to take a month or 2 off during the busy seasons.

    • hey, James, i wonder if there is a glut of people wanting to be assistants, and i wonder how much of that is an effect of the explosion of pro-amateur equipment available to much larger number of individuals who might see themselves as photographers, on a scale much larger than what it was say 15-20 years ago.

      even though i consider myself a rookie at this, and have largely managed to avoid the assistant route (at a heavy price, i suppose), i wish i had a penny for each person that tells me they just bought a super camera and are looking into developing as photographers on a daily basis.

      so, wonder if some of the more experienced among you can tell us if there is a larger number of available assistants (regardless of quality), and if perhaps digital has made it easier for larger numbers to come in as assistants.

      • @marco aurelio,
        I do not believe that there are any more people trying to get into commercial photography by way of assisting then they has been previously.
        Over the years I have seen the same number of assistants stay in the industry for years before being able to make the transition to shooting.
        Although the ability to make that transition is now even harder then say 10 years ago.

        There are still the same number of photo and art school grads coming to NYC at the end of every semester thinking that they will take NYC by storm and be the Next Avedon. Only to find that they are competing with Avedon’s old assistants for the assisting jobs or maybe even shooting jobs.
        Those new assistants after a period of time realize that school did not prepare them for the real world, and they either suck it up and find a way to give 200% everyday or they move back to the farm with a degree in photography that they can use to each other aspiring photo students.

        There are also those assistants that after putting in 6, 10, 20, years in the business and look at the road traveled and while having had great experiences decide that the changes in the industry today are such that the idea of fighting another 10 years to establish themselves as a working photographer in an oversaturated industry that operates like the wild west is more than they are willing to endure.

        Over the last 3-6 years I have seen a degradation in the skills that graduates of photo and art schools are bringing to the table.
        The truth as I have witnessed it, is that these kids are getting screwed. They pay $160,000.00 or more for an education and they get out knowing how to do a little Photoshop and shoot a canon rebel and they think that is what photography is.
        This is the reason I created my Photo assistant boot camp

        When I came up through the assisting ranks (many moons ago) I worked with some of the crankiest photographers in the world.
        They had been abused as assistants and felt it was their sworn duty to treat their assistants the same way.
        These same photographers had attended RIT, RISD, Hall mark, and others whose names I can’t recall.
        They had the technical skill set that while not fully commercial shoot ready was at least of a level that was acceptable to the photographers that they went on to assist for. As photographers they really knew their shit.

        These days many of those same schools are not teaching any of the old school skills and even less of traditional photography.
        Some of the better qualified assistants that I have worked with in the recent past have come from: Hall Mark, and F.I.T.
        The worst I’ve worked with have come from: SVA, Parsons, Brooks, RIT, RISD.
        Lots-O-Attitude and an abundance of “entitlement” and nothing to back it up, and horrible work ethic.
        The problem is that schools are focusing on digital and post production rather than the basics, and I dare say photo history.
        I’m one of those that you can not see where your going until your able to view where you’ve come from.

        Now I was fortunate enough to have worked with a number of amazing photographers, most of whom no one has ever heard of. They showed me everything including their lighting tricks. Unfortunately gone are the days when those photographers would ask you to come in on the weekend and work for pizza and beer while the two of you do lighting experiments and blast through Polaroid trying to create something different than what everyone else is copying.

        In the last 12 years I’ve seen more new photographers that have no photo background and no photo experience, but are decent art directors and have connections. As such they do not have the skill set to pass along to new assistants.
        So they hire the best people they can and hack their way through most jobs, and fix it in post.

        Do you remember the term SCITEX from years long gone?
        Art directors never wanted to hear that an image needed to be “fixed with SCITEX” this meant an added expense to the production costs.
        But now we hear photographers, and god forbid photo assistants saying, “.. oh they can fix it in Photoshop..” rather than taking that whole 15 seconds to actually do a proper meter reading and making that grey background white.

        In an industry were so many people are lazy to begin with (not to mention an inability to follow through), digital has made this industry incredibly lazy.
        Now anyone can pick up a digital camera and take a photo that is in focus, and properly exposed just by turning it on and pushing the button.
        This has led to a level of mediocrity in the images that we see that is just embarrassing.

        But there are photographers that will pull out that 4×5 Speedgraphic or Linhof on set and shoot a few dozen sheets of film and Polaroid and WOW the client.
        “Hey, I really love this. Why can’t we get this kind of look and feel from the digital cameras”
        Says the art director.

        And those are the guys that will always keep working.

        Yes the amateurs are hurting the business of photography right now.
        It has always been this way it’s just worse now.
        In the end it is our responsibility to not only teach the art directors, photo editors what quality work is, but to also turn down those crappy day rates just to pay our bills.
        It doesn’t happen over night, but in the end if your doing great work you will get hired.

        Sorry if I got off topic a little.

    • @James,

      Where are assisting rates $500? I’ve been assisting in Dallas for 3 years and know no one that gets over $250.

      • @Shane,
        When a client or potential client calls you up for a job, do you tell them what your day rate is?
        Or do you ask the day rate they are paying and just accept that wage?

        Yes there are people that get $500.00 and more.
        And that is because they are worth that much.
        Your day rate should be based on the value that you place on your: years of experience, technical skill set, and production skills.
        It is not based on what you would like to earn this week.
        I can tell you that if you ARE at the top of your game in terms of experience and the skills you bring to a shoot then you need to reassess your worth.
        If you consistently take jobs for less than you are worth, that tells the client that this is what you perceive your value to be.
        The quickest way to get a better day rate is to “Just say NO!”
        No to that $175.00 for a 14 hour day with no lunch.

        If your worth $500.00 and you can prove it on set then this is what you need to ask for.
        But understand that if you price yourself above what you are able to deliver technically then you will kill your business and your reputation.
        I don’t know you nor have I ever worked with you, but I will say that I have never met anyone worth $500.00 after only 3 years of assisting.
        I can guarantee that if you start saying “NO” to low paying jobs, the ubiquitous “They” will suddenly find the money in their budgets to hire you if you are really that good.
        And remember that how you value yourself is a reflection on how others will value you and your peers.
        When you hear; “Oh,.. but every other assistant is happy to work for $200.00 a day and wait 180 days to get paid.”
        Recognize that this is really high grade Bull SHit.

      • @Shane, Maybe you should hire DW to be your advocate and start charging $500 a day for assisting

        • @Steven Currie,

      • @Shane, Also consider your market. When I left San Diego a couple of years ago $300/10 was at the top tier. After moving up here, I’ve found 3-350 to be middle of the road. In this economy the $450+ days have been harder to come by, but they are still out there.

  54. Unfortunately fees across the board are at least 1/3 of what they were several years ago. Even in the “healthy” world of Pharma. We can argue all we want on either side. This is a fact deep here in the trenches.

    • Norman, in your opinion, what are the causes for the lowering of fees? glut of photographers? the down market? have you seen similar dips in the past? is this a temporary trend? permanent? is it consolidation by agencies, both ad and stock, wielding more power over individual image-makers? i see photog-groups creating and failing at collective-model businesses. and i watch the big 5 just amass an inordinate amount of power over image-making, i mean ABSOLUTE POWER. how can it be sustainable? what do we need to do in the industry to counteract such ABSOLUTE POWER? have we got some identifiable issues, and a shouldnt the community be tracing or sketching a cohesive plan of attack to re-engineer goals closer to photogs’ needs? where is the think tank for photogs in the industry? if we can get as excited about developing a think-tank event as we do for industry events that sells us equipment, we may take the first step toward counter balancing the forces arrayed against our needs.

      i imagine such rates are not sustainable long-term, the craft is incredibly expensive. Is digital technology feeding this downward trend? is it here to stay? should us newcomers start considering a back up plan to being a photographer?

      any or answers to all is knowledge and consequently, personal power for all of us. thnx.

      • @marco aurelio,

        Let me count the ways (in no particular order)

        1. Budget cuts . Recession. Corporate consolidation
        2. Smaller print placement due to fewer print outlets. Not quite the death of print but we’ve crossed to that other side a bit.
        3. More web usage (in their minds they think this is a reduced usage but in my opinion it’s more direct to them thus should be of more value) and a reduced usage timeline although they still request longer periods.
        4. More photographers: The good and bad sides of digital is that there more photographers. Even art directors with great eyes can shoot themselves and fix or “light” in post. More art and photography schools.
        5. Again back to web. With broadband more clients want and buy movement as in motion? Possibly less still.
        6. Again as I repeat myself, less print and less catalogues. more online so in some cases, resoltuin is not as important to some clients.
        7. The requests for library of images. Better stock availability.
        8. Fragmented media. More targeted direct marketing. Social networking where companies can promote almost for free.

        I realize this is a somewhat disjointed list and probably incomplete but probably a good jumping off point for discussion.

        • @Norman Maslov, All of the above. Stills seem to be worth less than they were before digital. Their value to a client is much less than it used to be. I haven’t wraped my head around it, because it seems counter intuitive that a larger supply of crappy images should result in a devaluation of good images, but the change in the landscape, web usage, motion etc all play their roles as well.

  55. marco aurelio, if you want a very basic primer on pricing. The book “Pricing Photography” is a good place to start for beginners.

    And yes, I whole-heartadly agree that it’s in the best interest of photographers to help those starting out the why’s and how’s of pricing. It helps us all.

    • Thanks David. Just wanted to add that producers are a great resource when it comes to pricing. They have just as much knowledge as reps do when it comes to pricing. If you don’t have a rep and are doing a big job, call a producer before you quote to get a better idea of how to charge and what to charge.

      • thnx, Hasnain, a grandfather used to say there is never a dumb question. kindly please forgive me for asking one, that’s how new i am at this so far. if feasible, Can you define what a producer is, elaborate briefly on what they do, and perhaps throw us neophytes a couple of websites of well-known producers we can sink our teeth into a bit. big thanks again.

        • Hey Marco. Absolutely right, There are no dumb questions.

          A producer by defacto of the name produces the job for you. He or she will figure out how to get the job done for you, allowing you to deal with the creative side.

          A good producer will take the nitty gritty out of the shoot, buffering you from the things you do not need to be involved with like travel plans. They are your partners in getting the job done.

          There are also many good producers who have a great knowledge of pricing for fees and usage. You just have to find someone you can work with.

          To find producers, just look at the various resource books out there. Maybe Rob has a good resource of producers he could share with us.

    • thanks, David, will get my hands on a copy as soon as back in the states in the fall. though i saw the last edition for this title is 2002. wonder if there is anything else more current. thanks, again.

      • @marco aurelio, even if that’s the last edition the reason to get it is not for the actual pricing numbers, but for the concepts of pricing, usage, etc.

        I recommend it as a starting place to everyone at my workshops when I talk about how to price jobs.

        • Roger that, David, will get my hands on it as soon as i can. thanks, again.

  56. All juvenile comment fighting aside, this is a great post and truly an eye opener. As an assistant, I’ve worked with some photographers who complain that their rates have shrunk in the current economic climate, and that clients are refusing to foot the bill for equipment, props, etc (and this is even after those photographers gave them a lower “discounted rate”).

    After seeing that advertising bid, I can say I definitely no longer feel sorry for the guys in the above paragraph. What they were doing was seriously undercutting the competition by offering their services at such ridiculous rates. And then they had the gaul to complain to me about it.

    There needs to be more education of up-and-comers about what realistic rates should be. $10k might be a lot for a kid just starting out, but he’ll be kicking himself if he finds out he could have bid five times that and still won the job.

    And as for the established guys deliberately undercutting the competition because they have a giant overhead and can’t afford to pass on any jobs, I can only hope karma will get them in the end.

  57. After thinking about it for a few hours I’ve come to an opinion that may or may not be popular but I stand by it.

    I’ve been on enough record label and ad shoots to be completely blown away by the utter waste of money they spend to produce shoots.

    5 star hotels for the photographer, crew, models and agency/label, eating out at restaurants you can’t pronounce, enough bottled Pelagrino to solve Africa’s water problem, Craft Services cooking steak and eggs for breakfast etc. etc.

    People flown in from all over to do noting but stand around and text message on their iPhones.

    If I ran an agency/label I would do the following: Put us all in 3 star hotels, modest restaurants, affordable rental cars. Only fly in needed personnel. Publix bottled water rather than $3 bottles of Italian crap.

    As a photographer, I would LOVE to work like this knowing that the agency or record label will still be healthy in the years to come. I don’t needed to be treated like the Sultan of Brunei.

    I know cutting back on frivolous items on a photo shoot won’t save the bank, but it’s merely a pattern these companies indulge in. The money they waste everytime they take a meeting or go to the coffee shop is obscene.

    If I owned an agency/label I would put everyone on profit sharing and say “the more we make as a company, the more you make. Now do you still want me to order 15 Starbucks Grande Latte’s? I didn’t think so.”

    I am NOT saying photographers/hair/MU/styling fees should be cut. Everyones wages are off limits, just some common sense on making a photo or video shoot more cost effective in the interest of turning a profit.

    My 2 cents,

  58. One thing that hasn’t been addressed here, but is very much a reality, even in this economic climate:

    It’s not always the lowest bid that gets the job.

    Remember: a bid communicates to a client how you plan to execute a job.

    Are you working with top notch talent? That’ll cost you. Or are you going bargain basement with the crew rates? You won’t get the best in the industry with low rates.

    And the $700 per night hotel budget mentioned above may not be that excessive, depending on where this is shooting, especially for an international production. For all we know, the shoot’s in Dubai. The last thing a producer wants is to have to go back to the client to ask for more money because they underbudgeted certain line items.

    Also, the photo production is sometimes a minor portion of the overall campaign spend, compared to the media buy, ad agency’s creative fees, and other costs. If a client is spending a ridiculous amount of money on a large media buy, or as in the first estimate, on artwork they apparently plan to use for at least 2 years, they probably don’t want to skimp on the artwork.

    In my experience, even in a bad economy, a client wants to see a SOLID estimate, not just a low one.

    • @dude,

      Lowest bid usually doesn’t get the job, unless its a low budget nightmare to begin with.

      I would suggest not aiming to be the low bidder. You don’t want to get pegged as “the cheap guy” they go to only when they have no money, but all of the hassles and expectations of a higher budget shoot.

      • @craig & dude, agree, it’s not about outbidding or undercutting others, it’s about being realistic and thorough in your bid without going over board. Us AB’s have seen many bids, and know when you are blatantly overpricing something and taking the mickey. On the other hand, we are also happy to pay for quality, whilst aiming to stay within our clients budget.

    • @dude, precisely.

  59. True about production costs being only part of the equation. But on a record label shoot, just like in advertising, the prod costs are almost always higher than the photographers fees.

    So it kills me to lose a job to a less experienced shooter over a tight budget and then hear that they set-up a small gourmet organic food court to feed people and spent money on things that were totally not needed, rather than investing in the actual creative.

    • @David Bean, If that’s the kind of stuff that “kills” you, you are in the wrong business.

  60. One last thing then I’ll go. I love working for smaller labels because when I handle the production myself I save the client lots of money and even make more for me.

    Craft services? Nope, I’ll go to Wal Mart and for $150 can do craft for a small set of crew & client.

    Caterer? No thanks, it’s a footlong Jersey Mikes sub, chips, a cookie and drink for everyone.

    In the end I save the client a decet chunk of change and I charge for the production services.

    The total invoice is lower but fees are higher.

    My apologies to the craft and caterers out there but on smal label shoots & even on some smallerr local ad shoots, the Quaker granola bars I buy at Walmart are the same as the ones you buy there.

    • @David Bean,

      David, did you just say you would involve walmart in your business operation? And footlong subs for people you want to pay you thousands of dollars? Good luck with that business model… people might say they like the idea, but bottom line – you will not get hired again, and you will eventually find yourself working at walmart……

      this business is about the client experience as much as it is about images…. asking them to choke down a couple of corn dogs, and a bag of cheetos is not what they want or expect.

      This all goes to perceived value of you and your work.

      • @John Sibilski, Where do you think the craft lady buys her candy, fruit, breakfast sausage, etc? Walmart. You can’t distinguish what i can deliver food-wise from what I’ve seen on many smaller shoots. Many times what I provide is way better.

        I’m not saying for larger shoots, I said small record label and small local ad shoots.

        You must not have ever been on an indie/imprint record label shoot. You’re lucky if they have a budget for food at all. I always make the experience way better than it would have been otherwise.

        II shot lifestyle images for a luxury condos here and they were super stoked at the spread I laid out for them.

    • @David Bean,

      by the way David, I just took a look at your site, and your work kicks ass..

      • @John Sibilski, I second that.

      • @John Sibilski,
        and i was going to comment that MAAAAYBE david has a little bit weight with his words, judging by his clientele and caliber of work.

        @David Bean,
        your work is solid, been a fan of it for some time now.


  61. Rob,

    This is a great post and should continue as a spot featuring what bids are going for. From an editorial side, it is not often we get to see what the advertising side offers.

    It would be interesting to what the winning bid is as well and why it won.
    PS..I don’t believe int the CODB as a guide in either field. I don’t pay less for a taxi in NYC because it is an older car with a retired person driving it for a few extra bucks.

    • @matthew pace, True, but you may tip better if that taxi stops to pick you up even though you’ve got a pile of equipment staked up by the curb.
      And if that driver gets out and helps you load the equipment without telling you not to scratch his car.
      And if that driver had a clean cab, wore deoderant, and didn’t talk on his cell phone for the whole trip.

      • @James, Just don’t let him know you are going to Brooklyn until you and your gear are all packed in.

        • @Donnar Party,
          Right, or the airport!

      • @James,
        Yes but that doesn’t change the cab fee..just my repeat business.

    • @matthew pace,

      The first estimate you were looking at WAS the winning estimate and the Art Director wanted to shoot with the photographer that’s why it was the “winning” bid. The Art Buyer made sure the numbers were in line to fulfill the art directors wishes, that’s what a good agency/photographer relationship is about. It was the middle estimate of the 3 photographers bidding the job and the other 2 were very experienced photographers represented by “large” houses. We are dealing with A list photographers with this example, photographers who have the established work and a history of “hitting it out of the park” so to speak.

      I worked on the project and maybe I can answer some of the questions regrading the production expenses. The job was shot in 3 cities, Prague, Singapore and Rio De Janeiro. The minimal talent was a set of hands holding a book in a cafe, unrecognizable and the reason the agency doesn’t handle talent costs in these situations is you are dealing with foreign production companies and your “tab” must be paid before you leave the country. You don’t have time to get the paperwork through the agency. I explained the agency travel expenses in an earlier post, again the expenses were paid up front so no one was financing travel for the agency and since it was a complicated itinerary it was best we handled the booking of travel.

      As far as crew fees go, they are neither high or low for this estimate, they are right on the going rate in each country.

      The Cameras for this job were the latest Canon 1Ds Mark III’s (even though the estimate says different) and the Hasselblad H2 with a phaseone P45 back, the files for some of the landscapes are being used 6′ X 75′ in airport “billboards” The digital fees for this job are not out of line for the amount of equipment on the job.

      As a producer I stay out of the conversation when it comes to fees, that’s something the agent and photographer decide on. In this case we needed to meet a number and you either meet the number or pass on the project and the photographer decided he wanted to work on the project.

      • @Steven Currie, BTW that estimate is revision 1, there were 4 more after that.

      • @Steven Currie,

        Steven, when was the job completed?
        Is the agency happy with the work?
        Is the client happy?
        Have they asked this image maker to bid on other projects?

        • @Bob,
          We returned to the US August 1st, with the technology today we had 1/2 of the images selected by the art director and 2 finished retouching.

          The agency and client were very happy with the work and we were bidding another job for the agency while we were still on the road.

          • @Steven Currie,

            Wonderful! It sounds like there were already relationships developed between the image maker and agency/client/ or AD.

            Steven, thank you much for providing important details.
            This thread has been of value. Thanks to you Rob as well.

      • Interesting to get some inside perspective!

      • @Steven Currie,
        thanks for sharing..there is education in your reply, I appreciate it.

      • @Steven Currie:

        Could you explain the section that discusses 4×5 equipment? What is the “4” in reference to? Why then no charge for film and processing. What’s the point of this section if no 4×5 gear were used?

        If 4×5 gear was taken along then the Excess Baggage fees seem low. (I still shoot 4×5 for some clients.)


        Terry Thomas
        Atlanta, Georgia USA

  62. This is an email I received from Debra Weiss yesterday. It seems she cannot post her at the moment.

    @Sasha0724,Rob has blocked my access to his site (although it hasn’t been all that effective since I’m writing this in the “reply box”) and to make sure this makes its way to you I’ve asked Norman to send it in. In the future, I will be responding on my blog at

    The best thing you can do for yourself is get to Photoexpo in NYC in October and sign up for Jeff Sedlik’s estimating seminar. It is a great program. I just got off the phone with the LA APA chair and briefly discussed maybe doing something on estimating/licensing  in December.

    From Maslov. Debra and I habe know each other for many years and we had a conversation about this topic yesterday and though we both are strong supporters of the rights, business practices and financial issues of and for photographers, we have somewhat of a disagreement about todays business climate and realty in terms of fees and budgets.

    I’ll leav it at that.


    • @Norman Maslov,
      Perfect, she should have her own blog. I really don’t need 50 comments from the same person on a post. She made it very clear to me that she thinks I’m doing damage to the industry with my blog. I’d rather not sit around all day and sling mud so I showed her the door.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        I was just passing along a one time message. I represent photographers and not other agents, consultants or anyone else.

        Your blog is always one of the first places I go in the morning. It terms of the sample estimate, I’ve seen so many ranges over the years so nothing surprises me either way…

      • @A Photo Editor,
        i think you showed her the door because she doesnt agree with you.i hope im not banned for this comment. i dont think the comments section would be as interesting if everyone just said great job rob love the love to hear more from reps,art buyers and photo also like to see more interviews with photo editors and art buyers rather than photographers.but i do have to say i love the site and thank you for doing all that you do. i just wouldnt be so quick to ban people for sharing their opinion.
        thank you and thank you to the people sharing estimates

        • @jonathan beller,
          No, that’s not it but whatever, I just wanted a break from her.

          • @A Photo Editor,
            I have talked with Debra many times both from our group ASMP and personally. I believe that in her heart she is very much for the photographer and a crusader for his worth. I also believe she tries to hold the standard of her approach based on the very top 5%, in hopes that the the rest will do as they do. Unfortunately as many of us know, not all jobs,situations,nor photographers warrant the same approach.

            The question of fees,costs and quote structure varies with many factors not to mention the current climate..what is important and is agreed on is the copyrights issues and their value.

        • @jonathan beller, and even if she were the resurrection of Florence Nightingale, her tone of voice and attitude is what’s out of place here plus she was barking up the wrong tree.

  63. I don’t know what world the people who wrote this estimate live in but it isn’t the same one I live in. I’ve been a commercial photographer for 40+ years and I have never seen a budget that could pays these amounts. My clients have included some pretty heavy corporate hitters and they would laugh at these rates (for the most part). They are way more than I’ve EVER received.

    • @Larry Fields, I agree with you, and I have shoot for heavy hitters as well,

  64. […] Take a look at the estimate and the heated discussion that followed! This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 at 11:24 pmand is filed under Feature Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. […]

  65. […] Director Rob Haggart, over at his industry must-read blog “A Photo Editor,” posted two actual estimates for recent advertising shoots (click on the Full Screen button to view). To me, they appeared fair and right in the sweet spot […]

  66. From Debra Weiss Blog. (UPDATED for the first time since March 09)

    This is the temporary home of my blog.

    Over the next few days I will be responding to comments that have been directed towards me as a result of a recent discussion of advertising photography fees on A Photo Editor.

    For openers, and with his permission, I am posting an e-mail I received yesterday from a 20+ year veteran award winning Advertising Agency Art Director. He is also an award winning fine art photographer.


    Just read all the shenanigans over on A Photo Editor.

    What a bunch of babies.

    Obviously very few of the commenters are serious photographers.

    And the rest should know better.

    And Rob isn’t exactly helping.

    Hope all is well.


    More to come.

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    • @Frickin Idiot she is,
      Idiot? How so?
      (Rob, is that you?)

      • @Peter,

        No that was me, the commentator. thinking that I am an idiot for commenting

    • @whoever If he is an “award winning Advertising Agency Art Director” why isn’t he an “award winning Fine Art Photographer”?

      • @Robert, Ok. I was wondering why “Advertising Agency Art Director” was capitalized and “award winning fine art photographer” wasn’t. I could quote Erykah Badu and tell you, “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.” but the truth is I am just a sh*t disturber. I’ll pick on anybody. I’ll even pick on Debra.
        Debra has catered to my shallow sensitivities and capitalized Fine Art Photographer on her blog. I would have liked for her to de-capitalize Art Director as well but that is just because I tend to wallow in my shallow victories.

  67. […] primarily of professional photographers and photo buyers. Read the full story here. And know that the discussion that followed this revelation was not how expensive these $12,500 […]

  68. Regarding the estimate:
    There is a huge disconnect here that reminds me of email.
    The face to face emotion and nuance is lost.

    Unless I missed it in the above posts this discussion seems out of context.
    The missing link is the human connection,that of trust, and face to face understanding.

    It certainly is a LOW FEE
    Looking at this invoice at face value you might assume correctly, that the images produced will be appearing in many major magazines for 24 consecutive months at an estimated media buy of say 20 million.
    100,000 dollars is not alot of money for that many reprints of your image.
    (less than .5 of 1 percent of the buy)

    It is a very HIGH FEE
    But in a face to face meeting with a midsize brand marketing rep. the photographer/Agent knows that they have a budget of under 1 million allocated for the media buy. AND
    The Clients Marketing Department wants the flexibility to change direction and place ads on a whim in an emerging market. Do you face them down knowing full well the chances of them growing exponentially and using the image to the above extent is very unlikely.
    (In this case your fee is over 10 percent of the buy)

  69. I’m lucky if I make $500 per week. Hmmmm

  70. Very interesting… thank you, for this blog post !

  71. […] look into advertising and charging – Today, 03:38 PM A Photo Editor – What To Charge – Advertising Photography Registered members do not see these ads. REGISTER today for your free membership and […]

  72. Hi there me and my partner are in the process of setting up our own photography bussiness in the field of advertiseing in the uk as we are uk sitizens, we have both read this forum and i must admit I am still finding it difficult to get a staight answer or response to how to actually price a job without : One : underpriceing the job and TWO : not overpriceing the job, so far I have managed to asatain that there are many expenses to which we can charge for also that there are creative fee’s and usage fee’s and such like however here in the uk all I have come across is either hourly rates or daily rates, but still no one has said how to calculate what the usage fee or creative fee should be can anybody help us by explaing in simple terms as to how we calculate thease fee’s and what to base them on thanks.

  73. Hey,

    I’m glad these were posted! The people gotta know what’s going on to keep the hustle alive! I know it’s superdupa late with this comment but thx for posting it!

    DT. Tha Hustla
    Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida

  74. Hi, I life in cologne. It’s my current belief that an in depth analysis of an education in the arts may show the ROI is not there. Based on how the language is constructed in this quote, I’m nearly 100% sure who this estimate belongs to. And if indeed it is this person, I can confirm Debra’s fears that this person often gives away images for a song and the fees are certainly not commensurate to the usage. The fat is trimmed out of the fees, but many of the charges are still excessive. Ostensibly that’s to make up for the lowball usage, but it still doesn’t compute. Thanks, dirk

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