By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine Producer
I was contacted recently by an East Coast photographer to help quote on a project for a well-known clothing retailer. The retailer’s mid-sized ad agency had approached the photographer and shared layouts for a catalog promoting the following season’s clothing line. The catalog would feature a combination of fashion portraits and still life pictures on seamless backgrounds. Our photographer, a still life specialist, was asked to just quote on the still life portion of the project which consisted of 23 pictures. The comps showed shirts, pants, shoes and accessories shot from above, on a flat surface, arranged as an outfit. Along with the layouts, the agency provided a detailed shot list specifying 3 days of shooting at a local studio.
A few days later, the photographer and I dialed into a creative call with the agency to learn more about the project. As with all creative calls, this was a great opportunity for the photographer to show his enthusiasm for the assignment, share creative ideas and convey confidence to the agency. During the conversation, we learned that the catalog was part of a much larger rebranding effort for their client that would help the brand reach a younger demographic. This was our first hint that the project may be a larger production than your typical studio catalog shoot.
Here’s what we discussed on the creative call:
- We talked about the possibility of shooting variations where the clothes were stacked or organized more abstractly rather than the paper-doll way shown in the comp. We spent a lot of time talking about the look of the pictures. Clearly the styling was very important to the client.
- The licensing needed to include use of 23 images in the fall catalog and on the company’s website for a period of 3 months.
- The agency wanted us to deliver the raw files from the shoot – organized, renamed and tweaked. Their in-house retoucher would finish them off.
- We would plan on a pre-light day so that we could hit the ground running on the first shoot day.
- Our wardrobe stylist would need to attend a “fit-day” to review the clothing with the client and agency. The stylist would also need a prep day to make any necessary alterations prior to the shoot.
- The client would provide all of the clothing and accessories but we might need to provide some minor props.
- They couldn’t tell us how big the press run would be but given the client, we knew it would be huge (>1m)
With this information, I could start to put together some numbers. For a typical national catalog shoot, we normally quote $4,000-$6,000 a day for the creative fee including licensing. Catalog use is certainly advertising use (which might otherwise command a higher fee), but unlike other advertising that might show up in magazines or on billboards, catalog use is normally limited to the actual printed piece. And because of the nature of fashion, the images tend to have very short life spans and tend to require a lot of shoot days (both factors providing some downward pressure on the day rate). Some catalog work is so much about volume and so little about skill that rates can be as low as 1000.00 per day. In those cases, the work is usually done directly for the client (rather than through an ad agency)—and often using the client’s studio and equipment.
In the mean time, we got another call from the agency explaining that they would like us to quote on broader licensing. In addition to the catalog use, they needed 3 months of paid advertising use and print collateral use. A few hours after that, I received another email saying that they now were planning on a 2-day shoot with licensing for just 12 images and they’d like to make it happen for under $100k.
I checked to see what our pricing guides suggested:
Blinkbid: For catalog, web use and print advertising Blinkbid quoted $11,550-$16,500 per image per year or (arguably) $2,887-$4,125 for 3 months. So in the neighborhood $30k for 12 images (factoring in a bit of a quantity discount).
FotoQuote: Their advertising and marketing pack for 3 months suggested a range of 13,728 and 27,456 for one image.
Getty Images: Using their Flexible Licensing, an Advertising Pack of print, outdoor and web for three months in the U.S. would be $12k per image.
Given such a short licensing duration (3 months), I think it’s unlikely that the agency is going to make ads out of all 12 of those photos. So considering all that (not to mention the budget suggested by the client), I decided to price the first two images at 5,500 each and the remaining 10 at 2,000 each, which brought us to a total photography fee of $31,000.
We included the rates for an assistant and a digital tech for both shoot days as well as the pre-light day, and included a second assistant for just the shoot days. The photographer had a producer that he worked with regularly, and at his suggestion, we budgeted 7 days to account for his time to hire the crew, attend the shoot and manage all the post-shoot paperwork. (This seemed a little fat to me given the project.) I also included (at the request of the producer) a production assistant (also a little excessive). I budgeted 1200.00 for the photographer for the pre-light day (which in retrospect, might be a little thin.)
The stylist was just as important to the agency as the photographer, so we included rates for a seasoned soft goods stylist who would also be shopping for the supplemental props. The quote we received from the stylist broke out separate fees for their shoot days and prep days, and we included them as separate lines in the estimate. The stylist would be bringing their assistant and a tailor/seamstress to alter the clothing. We budgeted 4 prep days for the stylist – 2 to get props and 2 in the studio to prepare the clothes, make any necessary alterations, and set up at least the first couple of shots. The stylist assistant would handle the returns.
While the props were originally supposed to be minimal, the agency ended up sending over a few sample images of nice travel accessories and other items that they wanted to have on hand. For those props, we budgeted 2000.00. We included costs for seamless paper and foam core for the stylists to lay out the clothing on and pin it to if needed.
We would need the studio for the two shoot days, a pre-light day, and the additional wardrobe stylist prep day. The photographer also specified 5000.00/day for equipment rental. That might sound like a lot at first glance, but it would allow us to run 2 sets at a time so the stylists could be setting up one shot while we were shooting another.
I tend to include a nominal amount of crew overtime charges as a matter of course to avoid any surprises later. It also gives us some wiggle room in the budget in case other unexpected costs arise.
We also included a post-production day for the photographer to organize and do final tweaks, then deliver the raw files on a hard drive. (The ad agency would be handling the retouching themselves.)
I chose to add a line-item for insurance. It’s customary on motion picture projects and increasingly on bigger still projects to add 1-2% to cover the cost of equipment insurance, liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.
I budgeted 1250.00 for mileage, parking, messengers, etc. for all the little things that add up when running around town looking for props, picking up equipment, etc.
I always put “plus applicable sales tax.” That covers me in all cases and it doesn’t unnecessarily inflate my bottom line when we do have to charge it. I always spell out items that the client is going to provide (I forgot to mention that the client was going to do the retouching). And we normally expect to get at least half of the production expenses up front.
The whole project came in at $92k.
You can view the estimate here:
I heard a few days later that the client chose another photographer. But I wasn’t able to get any more information than that.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.