By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Each month, we pick one of our recent estimates to write about in a Pricing & Negotiating article. Helping photographers build estimates is one of the primary functions of our producers. Redacting the names of the photographer and client allows us to share valuable and educational information that would otherwise be confidential.

Concept: Images of athletes wearing branded apparel playing a sport
Licensing: Unlimited use of up to 16 images in perpetuity
Photographer: Portraiture specialist
Client: Athletic brand


I recently helped a photographer build an estimate for an athletic brand. From the start, we knew there was a discrepancy between the client’s requested use and their intended use. They asked for unlimited use of 16 images in perpetuity. However, based on the concept and creative brief, it was very clear that the campaign had a shelf life of one year.


The photographer had an excellent working relationship with this client. We took this into consideration and decided to price their fee more in line with the value of their intended usage duration despite granting them their requested perpetual duration. I initially based the fee on $750/image for 16 images and added $3,000 as a creative fee for the photographer which totaled $15,000. We knew, based on our previous experiences with the client, that this number would be generally palatable.


We included an appropriate number of helping hands for the photographer in the budget. We would need a producer, who would travel in for the production, two production assistants, a digital tech, and two assistants, who were all hired at rates appropriate for this market. The multiple days for the first assistant and production assistants would cover their pre-production time leading up to the shoot day.


For this production, we’d be creating an athletic scenario with professional talent. In order to pull this off, we’d need a dream team of stylists to make everyone and everything look awesome. We included a hair/makeup stylist with their assistant for the shoot day to cover five talent. We also budgeted for appropriate shopping, shooting and wrap time for a wardrobe stylist along with their assistant. In total, we anticipated $2,500 in wardrobe to outfit all five subjects. Although we’d primarily be working with the materials at the location, we included a prop stylist to source supplemental items to enhance what we would find on site. We included a $1,500 budget for those items. We also included miscellaneous expenses to cover kit fees, mileage, and extra items related to sourcing the wardrobe and props.

Casting and Talent

In order to find the appropriate talent for the production we knew we would work with a local casting agent. We included their anticipated fee to coordinate both video and still submissions of professional talent, based on specific demographics provided by the client, who also happened to be athletes. The talent session fees were separated from their usage fees, and included appropriate rates for the market as discussed with our casting director.

We capped the usage for the talent at 3 years for two reasons. First, it was necessary to keep the budget in check. Second, many talent agents won’t accept perpetual usage terms. It’s not uncommon for there to be a difference between the usage granted by the photographer, and the more limited usage being granted for the talent in an effort to keep the bottom line reasonable. Oftentimes, however, this detail requires some explanation to clients who don’t understand the nuances of the photography industry.


We included five days for our location scout to help find the perfect spot. Our location scout would join us on both the tech/scout day and shoot day, where they would manage the relationship between our production and the property owners. This fee was initially appropriate to find an athletic facility that supported the creative brief.


We included expenses for cameras, grip, and lighting, as well as a digital tech workstation and production supplies, such as coolers, tents, tables, walkies, etc., based on the going rates from a local equipment company.


While it was possible that the location might have a staging area, we didn’t want to risk it, so we included an RV to ensure we had air conditioning and a private styling area. We also included a van rental to help with picking up and returning equipment and/or personnel.


I based this on $75 per person.


We included a few thousand dollars to cover any unforeseen expenses that might arise, and to account for the insurance coverage the photographer would be providing.

Post Production

We included $500 for the photographer to do an initial rough edit for the client to review and then included $450/image for 16 images for the retouching.


After reviewing our estimate, the client told us that they needed to get the bottom line closer to $100k, and we jumped on a call to discuss concessions they’d be willing to make in order to lower the bottom line. I learned they could lower the talent count from five to four, they’d be willing to provide just about all of the wardrobe, they could reduce the image count from 16 to 14, and they’d be willing to limit the usage duration (for both the images and talent) to one year instead of perpetual use.

However, we also found out that the client had one particular location in mind, which happened to come with a significant fee and would require some overtime for the crew to drive there and back in a single day. We made the appropriate revisions based on those notes, while tightening the screws on other items as well to get as close to $100k as we could, and submitted this estimate:


The photographer was awarded the project.

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