Shoot Concept: Lifestyle images of professional talent and still life shots of plated food.

Licensing: North American Advertising (excluding Out of Home) and Collateral use of 5 images for 1 year.

Location:  A residential property

Shoot Days: 2

Photographer: Portrait and lifestyle specialist

Agency: Mid-sized, based in the Southwest

Client: A well-known food company

Here is the estimate (click to enlarge):




The agency provided a detailed spec sheet featuring two images of adults and children interacting and three images of plated food. Based on the layouts and my discussion with the production manager, it was apparent that the two lifestyle shots would be used in magazine ads and in-store marketing materials, while the three still life images would be used only for the website and in-store marketing materials. I also learned that, while they were requesting a licensing duration of one year, the images would likely be promoting seasonal products, and would therefore have a lifespan of just a few months.

I decided to price both lifestyle images at their full value (rather than discounting the second image) because they would be promoting two different types of products, and after weighing the factors, their full value was $7,500 each. The three supplemental still life images were much different than the lifestyle shots, but were quite similar when compared to each other. For this reason, I decided to price the first still life image at $5,000 (2/3 the price of a lifestyle image) and the other two at $3,750 each (1/2 the price of a lifestyle image).

After coming up with these fees, I checked a few other pricing resources to see what they recommended. Blinkbid priced one image between $7,000-$10,000 for one year use in print publications and collateral. Getty priced one image around $6,000 for North American advertising use in magazines and about $4,000 for point of sale use for one year. Combined, $10,000 would have been an appropriate starting point for the full value of a single image for a prominent client like this, but this didn’t take into account the short lifespan of the images. Corbis suggested $12,500 for one image for one year within their “Print Ad, Web, and Indoor Display” flexible use pack, while FotoQuote priced similar usage at $14,000. However, these fees included a bit more than the intended use I discussed with the agency.

Assistants: The photographer would be traveling for this shoot, and I anticipated that the he would bring his first assistant while hiring a local second assistant for the two shoot days. I included five days for the first assistant to account for two travel days, two shoot days and one prep day on location.

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

Producer: A project like this required a producer to help wrangle and hire the crew, coordinate casting and location scouting, make travel and catering arrangements and work closely with the photographer and agency to compile a detailed schedule and production book. The producer would also travel to the shoot and be on set to manage the crew, schedule, and handle the invoicing process after the shoot.

Photographer Travel/Scout/Fitting Days: This took into account two days for the photographer to travel there and back, and a third day to scout the location and participate in a fitting day where the models would try on the clothing and the agency/client would make wardrobe decisions prior to the shoot.

Hair/Makeup Stylist: We’d be photographing four talent and capturing one lifestyle scenario per day. I anticipated that we’d have plenty of prep time for these shots each day, which would only require one hair/makeup stylist (as opposed to an additional hair/makeup stylist assistant) on each day.

Wardrobe Stylist and Wardrobe: I grouped the stylist and the assistant into a single line, and anticipated paying the stylist $800/day and their assistant $300/day. The four days accounted for the time it would take them to shop, attend the fitting day, be present at the shoot and return the clothing. The wardrobe costs were based on the need to have two final outfit choices for each of the four talent, and I estimated $200 per outfit. The wardrobe stylist would of course purchase many different options, but this budget accounted for the wardrobe that would be non-returnable.

Prop Stylist: During a call with the agency, they made it clear that the mix of still life and lifestyle images would call for a wide range of very specific seasonal props…and we’d need to find these items off-season. At $700/day for the stylist and $300/day for their assistant, I anticipated that they would need two days to shop/prep and a day to return props on top of the shoot days.

Props: In addition to the specific prop list that we were provided, we’d be shooting at a residential property, so I accounted for a few additional home/garden props to spruce up the interior and exterior. Also, the still life images would need a wide range of tabletop props such as plates, bowls and napkins, and $1,500/day would be appropriate after discussing our needs with a few prop stylists.

Food Stylist and Food/Supplies: We’d only be photographing food on one of the shoot days. I included a half-day for the stylist to shop for ingredients and a full day for them to cook and prepare for the shoot day. I typically don’t estimate half-days for crew members, but the ingredients needed were quite simple and I couldn’t justify the need for a stylist to spend an entire day shopping. However, the food that the stylist would need to bring to the shoot would in fact require a full day to prepare. In addition, many of the ingredients would be shipped to the food stylist from the client, and our food/supplies budget would therefore be minimal.

Location Scout and Location Fee: Based on the comps, layouts and discussions with the agency, I knew they would be very picky when choosing a location. Sometimes a location scout will charge a fee to “pull” from their files and deliver a gallery of locations they’ve already photographed. If needed, many scouts charge a fee of about $650 plus expenses to go out and scout new locations. Since I didn’t know which scout I was going to use yet, I included three days for a scout to find us the perfect residential property, and figured that one of those “days” might be dedicated to pay for their “file pull”.  Based on estimates from previous projects, I felt confident that $2,000/day would be appropriate for they kind of property we were looking for.

Casting Day: I planned on hiring a casting agent to help us find talent, and this covered their time, shooting space and booking of the talent.

Adult and Child Talent: We’d need two adults and two children on both shoot days. Typically I’d include backup children if they are young enough to potentially have a meltdown on set, but I didn’t’ feel that we’d have this issue with kids in the 8-10 age range. After speaking with a few casting and talent agencies in the city we’d be shooting in, I determined $2,000 per talent per day plus a 20% agency fee would be appropriate for the adults. For the children, I felt that $1,000 per talent per day plus 20% would attract a decent pool of options. In addition to the shoot days, we’d also need each talent to come to a fitting day before the shoot, and I felt that $1,000 would be an appropriate compensation for this.

Fit Day Location Fee: We would need a location for our fit day, and we could have approached this a few different ways. A photo studio would have worked, but it might have offered more than what we needed. Another idea was to pay for a conference room in a nearby hotel, or even rent a large room in a hotel at a convenient location. After making a few calls, I determined $800 would be more than enough to cover either a high-end spacious suite or a conference room.

Airfare, Lodging, Car Rental: I used to determine that it would be about $400 per person (including baggage fees) for the photographer, first assistant and producer to fly to/from the location, and that $200/night for 4 nights would afford decent hotel rooms for each person. I also used to find pricing for a minivan rental for the duration of the trip.

Production RV:  With a crew this large on location, an RV would allow the producer to keep as many “cooks out of the kitchen” as possible, while also providing a staging area, bathrooms, WIFI and an area for catering outside of the residential property. I confirmed with a local RV company that $1,500/day would afford us a nice vehicle including a driver, fuel, cleaning/dumping fees and mileage.

Catering: I anticipated $40 per person per day for light breakfast and lunch.

Equipment: After speaking with the photographer about his equipment needs, we determined that $900/day would be appropriate for the gear he was bringing and renting. This included a camera body and a few lenses (~$400), power packs and heads (~$300) plus miscellaneous modifiers, reflectors and grip equipment (~$200).

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.

Retouching: The photographer and I determined that each of the 5 images could take up to 4 hours to retouch, and $150/hr would allow us to farm out the work to a retoucher if the photographer became unavailable.

Miles, Parking, FTP, Misc: This was to cover any additional minor miscellaneous expenses during the shoot days and while traveling.

Feedback: The agency told us that our numbers were in line, but that they’d be unable to issue the photographer an advance prior to the shoot, and they also wanted the talent to bill the photographer (rather than billing the agency directly). In addition, after reviewing our terms/conditions, they asked us to remove the clause detailing that if they don’t pay the photographer within 30 days of the final invoice, that they will be billed a $20.00/month handling fee and 1.5%/month interest.

This feedback raised some pretty serious red flags. This basically meant that the photographer would have to front approximately $38,000 out of pocket to cover the production expenses without a contractual guarantee for reimbursement or payment of the final balance.

Results: The photographer was awarded the project (and he accepted it despite the financial risk), and I produced the shoot.  The client did pay within 30 days.

In addition, the client decided to add on two product still life shots and one additional food shot to the project. While we were able to accommodate their requests within the estimated shooting time, we charged them an additional $5,000 for the first unique still life image, $2,500 for the second similar still life image, and $2,000 for the additional food image plus expenses for the stylists and retouching time. We originally quoted $2,500 for the fourth food image, but they asked if we could work with them and come down to $2,000, which we did. A few months after the shoot, we were already in discussions about extending the licensing duration.


Our terms and conditions document states that “the expenses are estimated in good faith” and “actual expenses, which may be greater or less, will be invoiced”. We didn’t have any issues with overages (in fact, I was able to produce the shoot and come in about $11,000 under budget), but I did find out that our proposal was treated as a bid, rather than an estimate.

In a bid scenario, a photographer provides an invoice for the bottom line of their estimate, rather than providing receipts and billing for fees and actual expenses. If they come in under budget, the balance goes into their pocket. However, in many cases, if the expenses go over the estimated costs, the photographer is not granted an overage and they have to absorb the additional costs. This brings up the issue of including markups in estimates. We feel that billing for actual time and expenses is the most honest way of doing business (and most of the purchase orders we receive require that copies of receipts be provided with an invoice), but there are times when a client specifically asks for a bid, and in those cases we may estimate on the higher end just to cover potential overages.

You can find all of our Pricing & Negotiating articles here. If you’d like to hear more about our Pricing and Negotiating or other consulting services, please send us an email or give us a call at 1 610 260 0200!

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