Creating an Estimate for a Photo Shoot
One big challenge for any freelance photographer is creating estimates at the initial stages of a potential assignment.
Photo agent Stephanie Menuez of Menuez Creative Consulting shares some of her 20+ year experience on how to go about this process making sure you cover all your bases to produce an accurate estimate.
Before submitting your estimate, it’s imperative to gather as much information pertaining to the photo assignment as you can. These are crucial details about your informed and realistic approach to the production numbers, as well as your creative fee. This guideline below is a summarized checklist to get you started.
Review this list to make sure you are doing the proper research before your call, asking the right questions to give your estimate approach the best shot! l
Basic points to consider for initial contact with the Art Producer:
• Who is the client and why did they reach out to you?
• What is their clients message, product, target audience?
• What is the ad agency's history with this client?
• Who are the art directors on this project?
• How did they find you?
• Creatively; what are we shooting?
• What are the approved concepts?
• What is their budget?
• If they have a budget to share find out where you need to come in with your total estimate including any retouching.
• If they cannot share the budget, do your best based on all the knowledge you have gathered about the client, ad agency and usage. Go with your gut.
• If you can it’s good to know who are the other photographers you are in company with for the bidding process.
• What if anything is the client providing for the shoot? (actual employees and locations for example)
• What are their needs with exact usage wording; duration of time, territory and breakdown of actual usage for images (i.e. Collateral, Trade and Consumer Print, Out of Home, Point of Sale, Website, Internet Advertising, Social Media, if there is motion/video involved etc.)
Points to consider when putting together your estimate.
• Where and when are we shooting? How many shots per day, per location?
• Studio vs location?
• How many locations?
• How many days of shooting?
• How many final selects/shots are needed? Is it a library of shots?
• Product/still life vs. Talent on location?
• How much talent? Real people talent vs professional models and actors?
• What is the breakdown of ethnicities and age, wardrobe and props?
• What will be your retouching approach or do they require raw files? How many final deliverables? Is it retouching minimal or more involved, speak to this creatively based on what you prefer for your style while considering what their needs are.
• Producer? Line up a great producer to work with if needed, make sure you have all your production line items for the best shoot possible, get advice and clarity on going rates for all line items.
Research you'll want to consider doing:
• Who are the agencies clients? What is their body of print, branding, broadcast and online work? Research their history and current creative team.
• Creative Fees: Get educated about current industry standard rates, give it your best shot to have a respectable creative fee, be flexible and yet know what your bottom line is where you can walk away. There are various ways to break down the creative fee but generally if appropriate you can build the usage into the creative day rate as well as charge additionally for travel and tech/scout/prep days based on the project. At other times and lately on estimates I find it is best to break out usage fees from the creative fee.
• Make sure you are covered properly for a solid production as a starting point but see where you can also tighten things up so as not to scare them away, let them know you are collaborative and ready to make it happen, keep the door open so they come back and work on the numbers with you. If they want you for the project, they will.
• Often times it is our estimates that help them understand the real cost implications!
• Follow up and be ready to revise quickly, always be reachable and accommodating the best you can within reason!
Guidance for your first creative call with the ad agency and or client.
• Whenever possible speak with the art producer about setting up a creative call with the art director and team prior to submitting your estimate, this is very important for making the connection personally and professionally. They need to know what you would be like to work with and what you will bring to the table as an artist that will make you stand out in their minds to help them launch the vision for their campaign or project.
• Show enthusiasm for the project on your first call with the art producer and especially on the creative call with the creative team; share your ideas and do research before the call about the project parameters. Ask yourself: What can you offer that might be creatively unique and thoughtful, perhaps something they did not think of?
• As I mentioned make sure you do research before the call by going to the client and ad agencies websites so you are educated about who they are.
• Keep to having a creative conversation about the images and how best to achieve them, leave budget conversations to you or your agent’s conversations with the art producer or initial contact person.
• Offer creative and technical solutions to any challenges with achieving the shots and the budget parameters. Be open to sharing your ideas.
Once you have all this preliminary information, you should have enough data ‘specs’ to start putting together an estimate and treatment if appropriate. Create a great looking estimate template -I highly recommend Blinkbid! Keep things simple and straightforward.
Creating Your Estimate
• Enter the date along with your info/your clients/agency contact info at the top of the page
• Write a brief description of the shoot with exact details, call out important caveats like ‘client to provide all talent’ or ‘estimate based on a 10 hour day, or no OT is included.
• Describe in detail the licensing/usage the client will be receiving
• List your creative fees (get professional advice on breakdown of your fees)
• List your proposed production expenses and line items, totals and grand totals. Your producer and or research will provide or outline standard areas. Blinkbid is a great online photo estimating service.
• Know the rules regionally and nationally on tax law
• List/attach your estimate/invoice terms + conditions
• Mention in your email and have a signature of approval line: “please let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise if you would like to move forward with the shoot, kindly sign here and date both pages and return to me….” Keep it friendly, short and clear.
If you have any additional questions about the project and need clarification, reach out to your contact at the agency or company direct and get the info especially if it will make a significant difference in the final numbers you produce for the production!