By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Lifestyle images of talent interacting around a residential property

Licensing: Unlimited use of all images captured in North America for one year

Photographer: Lifestyle and portraiture specialist

Agency: Healthcare marketing specialists

Client: Pharmaceutical company

Here is the estimate:



Fees: At the onset of the project, the scope was based around 4 talent interacting and participating in lifestyle activities in and around a residential property. We anticipated three unique setups over the course of one day, however, we did not have a specific shot list to work with. While the agency requested unlimited use for one year, we knew the images would primarily be used for very targeted advertising, mostly web-based, and likely used within printed collateral pieces. Given the duration of just one year, I decided to price the three scenarios at $3,500 each, and I added a $2,000 creative fee. Based on previous experience, I knew the agency would be looking for a creative/licensing fee somewhere between 10-15k, and we were told the budget was initially tight, so we ultimately landed on $12,500. We included a tech/scout day at $1,000 for the photographer, and we included $750 for them to attend a wardrobe fitting day as well, which was specifically requested by the agency.

Crew: We knew this would likely require some heavy lifting and a lot of moving parts, so we included a producer along with a PA, as well as two assistants and a digital tech, at rates that were appropriate for the given market.

Styling: We included a hair/makeup stylist along with an assistant, and we combined the roles of the wardrobe and prop styling into one lead stylist with two assistants. At this point in the project, it seemed reasonable to combine these roles not only because the photographer had a stylist in mind that he was confident could handle it, but it was also a strategy to reduce the headcount on set, which is a covid compliance protocol we always try to implement. We made sure to include enough shopping time and extra days for attendance of a wardrobe fitting day prior to the shoot. We anticipate two outfits for each of the four talents and based the wardrobe costs on $300 per outfit. We included $4,000 for props but marked it as TBD since we didn’t have a clear sense as to what the exact needs would be at the onset of the project. Additionally, we included $750 for kit fees, shipping, and miscellaneous styling expenses.

Health and Safety: We included a covid compliance officer for both the shoot, tech/scout day and wardrobe fitting day. Additionally, we included one Covid test per attendee, as well as a few hundred dollars for PPE/supplies.

Locations: We had a general sense of the type of house that was needed, however, we also sensed that the client would be quite picky. We included what we felt was ample scouting days plus a location fee that would more than cover such a location in this market. We also included $500 as a location fee for the wardrobe fitting, as we’d need a location for that to take place.

Casting and Talent: I included $1,500 for casting, which was based on local knowledge of a casting agent who I knew would be able to cover our needs for that amount of money. Considering covid, rather than a live casting, they remotely collect virtual auditions that talent record themselves, with our casting director’s guidance. The agency planned to cover all talent fees, so we made sure to make a note of that.

Equipment: We made sure to include photographic equipment along with a workstation for our digital tech and production supplies. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve increased line items for production supplies considering the additional items needed to have a safe set (more tables/chairs to spread out, fans for airflow, etc.) in addition to normal items like tents and walkies.

Vehicles: While the house could possibly serve as a staging area, we included a production RV to help spread out and provide a dedicated styling area.

Catering: I included $70 per person for a light breakfast and lunch that would also conform to our covid protocols.

Misc.: I included $750 for insurance (however we did not know the policy limits at this point required by the agency), as well as added funds for miscellaneous expenses that might arise throughout the production.

Post Production: The agency planned to handle retouching, so this just included the photographer’s time to transfer the content to a hard drive and hand it over.

Results: The project was awarded to the photographer. During the pre-production process, a new concept came to light that would necessitate an additional day of shooting. We compiled another estimate to serve as an overage request that contained similar line items to the initial estimate but accounted for an additional day. The overage request for this new concept totaled approximately $60k, and that estimate was also approved.

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  1. Simply disgusting.
    The Low Ball rates as displayed above are the reason so many highly skilled and talented people are leaving this industry.
    I did a similar job (based on the above specs) 25 years ago and the creative fee alone was $65,000, and the crew made a little more than double what is listed.
    There is not a single Pharma Co. anywhere in the world that can not afford those same rates or higher today.
    Way to drag down the industry WM.

    • Curious why 25 years ago is comparable. What about this year?

      Also, feel free to send me any current bids that I can post to help people out.

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