By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Beauty shots of professional talent in a studio

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

Location: A studio in New York

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Up-and-coming beauty and fashion specialist

Agency: Mid-sized, based in the Midwest.

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

Here is the initial estimate:



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at (610) 260-0200. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to big ad campaigns.


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  1. Thank you for posting this, I love reading these and hope to be in the shoes of the photog mentioned in this someday.

    I have a question about gear – why are there always camera bodies rented during shoots like this? I’m guessing to get to this point the photog has pro gear of his or her own that they are comfortable with , so why rent camera bodies? Is it to get medium format gear?

    Thanks again for the post!

    • Hey David. This is commonly done among photographers – especially in the NYC area. Many of us rent out all sorts of gear for different shoots instead of carrying the overhead of more than we need. Yes, we’ve all got camera bodies, but this “cost-of-use” has essentially been rolled in over time with other gear rental. It’s an important distinction too in the fees – the creative/licensing fee covers the photographer’s time and experience, the rental fees cover the use of their gear or gear they need to obtain.

    • Even if you own the gear you need to charge a fee for its use. It has a limited lifetime and costs a great deal to upgrade. 2-3 years for most cameras and computers, software etc. And then there is the wear and tear on it. It’s overhead as much as the electric bill.

      • True, heck I upgrade even when I don’t need to, ha. Darn G.A.S. It would be surprising to me to not use my own camera for a shoot, that’s where my questions stems from. I’ve rented lenses before, but only shot with own bodies. Granted I’ve never done a big shoot before, so I haven’t had the need to rent lots of gear. Hopefully someday!

  2. By far the most useful series on this site. Always pertinent, relevant and to-the-point!


  3. Another solid breakdown Craig. Keep em rollin!

  4. One of the best examples yet. A little easier to relate to than some of the others (which are still great to read about though).

  5. Well organized, nice and clean structure with proper fees and expenses. I wish photographers here in Toronto would adhere to the same estimate format with a similar pricing structure.

    It’s really necessary to educate photographers who give unlimited perpetual rights and charge an hourly rate.

    • Just those in Toronto? [Kidding!] I know what you mean. Fortunately, posts like these really help photographers build understanding and gain confidence. I always look forward to these Pricing and Negotiating posts. I usually forward a link to non-photographer colleagues, as well. Great way to educate all freelancers – not just photographers – and clients, too.

  6. Cool Craig. Your thorough approach makes for a valuable learning tool.

  7. I noticed they had $3500/day for casting (I’m assuming with live models at a specified location). Is this a typical rate for casting? I also saw the other version where they cast from comp cards for $1500/day. Can anyone explain the fees that go into the casting process? I didn’t realize the fees would be that high. Thanks!

    • Hi Jessica,

      A casting day at $3,500 would indeed be with live models in a studio. It accounts for the time of a casting agent (or photographer), the studio, equipment, assistant, and other expenses incurred from a full day of shooting and providing web galleries of the models for review.

      The $1,500 rate to cast from cards accounts for the time it takes to reach out to talent agencies, filter and organize results, and book talent. It may sound like an easy process, but negotiations and general correspondence can often be quite time consuming.

      I hope that helps!



      • Thanks Craig, that’s good to know! I didn’t realize that the photographer would have to shoot any of the talent prior to the actual shoot.

        • You don’t have to, you could outsource it to a good assistant like me.

  8. Seriously, the best and most useful column on APE. Thank you!

  9. “While I tried to obtain clarification on this at the beginning of the estimating process, if I knew from the start that their request for “unlimited” use was really about unlimited use within in-store display and web collateral, I may have approached the fees differently.”
    I would be interested in seeing what that (or a) difference might have been, if possible. Regardless, great post, great series of posts. Thanks fellas.

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