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[by Jenna Close]
Paperwork shares are a great resource, but sometimes I wish I could see real-world examples of how and why photographers made mistakes. So, below you will find an actual job from early in my career illustrating some of the ways I screwed up my estimate.
Creative action & lifestyle images of subjects interacting with portable storage units. 5-7 final images, from a selection of around 30 variations (per location). Client will be responsible for shoot locations, Photographer will assist in finding talent.
Locations: 5 separate locations depicting target demographics: military housing, suburban house, city apartment, city house, college apartment
Talent per location:
Military: male and female couple, male in fatigues
Suburban: mother and children
City apartment: single male of race other than Caucasian
City house: young couple, male and female
College apartment: single female, college age or a little older, ethnic look preferred
photographer + assistant
client website for final image selection
retouch and post-production on all final selections (up to 35 images)
FTP delivery of high res final selects
unlimited lifetime usage for Client & all Client franchises
Unlimited lifetime usage for Client & all Client franchises. Photographer may use images for promotion (print and web) without prior consent from client.
Total estimated costs: $6800
Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes I made here:
First, the Fee is too low for the overall scope of the job. One of the main things I didn’t account for was TIME. Time finding models, time driving to and from 5 different locations, time scouting, time involved in file handling, web gallery uploading and post production of around 35 images.
The estimate wasn’t detailed enough to protect me from differences in expectations of what I was to do. Scouting the locations prior to shooting was vital, and I set it up here so that I had to eat the cost of time and mileage. Next, I simply listed post-production without setting parameters for what that meant. I was thinking basic color correction, cleaning up a few things here or there. The client had something else in mind and so I spent several days in photoshop patching dried grass, removing wrinkles from the covers they put over the boxes and seriously cleaning up the locations (cars, fire hydrants, gum on the sidewalks, etc). If I had communicated clearly what my post-production expectations were ahead of time we could have had that conversation and come to a better arrangement before it was too late.
We had agreed that the models would be found through friends, not modeling agencies. However, I didn’t account for the fact that I felt my friends should be paid for their time. And I did pay them, but it came out of my pocket, not the Client’s. I also didn’t account for any specialized clothing, such as the fatigues, which I ended up purchasing myself.
I didn’t limit the usage, even a little bit. About a month after this job was wrapped I was driving down the highway and saw one of the photos on a billboard. It made me think about the value I had brought to the Client vs what I had charged for usage. The Client had every right to use that image on the billboard because I had failed to protect myself in the contract.
I think it’s also useful to examine why this happened:
I was a fairly inexperienced photographer at the time and $6800 was a lot of money to me. But even so, I had made better choices on other estimates during that same period. The real issue was that this was the first national, recognizable brand I had engaged with. I wanted the job for a lot of different reasons, income included, but more so because I believed it would elevate my status as a marketable photographer. I felt it would take my client list to a new level. I became afraid that putting my foot down would immediately scare them off, and I didn’t separate the emotions I was having from the hard facts of engaging in sustainable business practices.
Did I get the job? Yes. And I will never forget it as a prime example of lessons learned the hard way.
Jenna Close has made mistakes before and will make them again. The important part is to learn, teach others and move forward. She can be found at p2photography.net.
[by Jenna Close]
The single largest conflict with my client-direct jobs is limited licensing. Prior to the internet, promotional materials required a lengthy process of design and printing. Changes to existing materials happened neither quickly nor often, thus it was easy for clients and photographers both to keep track of image usage. These days change happens in seconds and the distribution options have increased dramatically. Many clients are daunted by the prospect of keeping track of image usage once it’s on the web. They have legitimate concerns about signing on for a very specified and limited licensing structure which they cannot completely control. It isn’t simply a matter of billboard vs magazine vs brochure vs annual report. Now it’s Facebook, and the company LinkedIn profile and employee LinkedIn profiles and websites, and Instagram, and all these shareable, wildly uncontrollable platforms.
I should note that the majority of my clients are hiring me to shoot a product or activity which is specific to them. In fact if I resold those images without their permission it would end our relationship. While shoots for magazines or cover news stories can generate images that have a resale value, my shoots typically do not. And in my world the following licensing options are becoming the final barrier to landing the job:
1) Limiting usage by time: You know the saying, “Once you put it on the internet, it’s there forever.” Just because the license isn’t renewed after a certain time period does not mean that the image can realistically be pulled from everywhere on the web.
2) Limiting usage by area of publication: especially online, images get shared, stolen, repurposed and posted without the original licensee being able to control the reach. Outside of the web, the license needs to be broad enough to cover all the variety of publications, ads, etc in use today, in addition to their web versions, which almost always accompany the print version, which leads me back to “once you put it on the internet…”.
I find that my clients are willing to pay a usage fee and typically understand why that equates to a significant increase in cost, but they want it to be mostly unlimited. Where I repeatedly succeed in placing limits on usage is with special items such as billboards, bus wraps and trade show displays. Trade show displays are the most common areas where clients will return at a later date to negotiate for that particular use. I also restrict third party rights. In many cases, other companies who participated in the project will ask to use the images. When I hold onto third party rights I can make additional income from that license as long as my original client is OK with it, which has never been a problem so far.
I bring this up as a point of conversation. Our client’s needs have shifted, but have we evolved to provide solutions to meet those needs? And how do we do that while still accounting for the value of our work? Right now, this is one of the biggest struggles of my business.
Jenna Close is a San Diego commercial photographer working primarily in the industrial, aerial and corporate markets.
Success Story Series – Part 3
[by Todd Joyce]
I’ve done several personal projects and I have to say that the work that I received as a result, and what I’ve learned from them have been worth every minute/hour/day/week and month spent. One of the most rewarding projects was my 30 day portrait project. http://joycephotography.com/flipbook/. However, the fastest benefit from a personal project came last Fall, when I received a call that led to a big job within one day of posting a series from a personal project of farmer portraits.
Once the series was edited, retouched, and my top choices were made, I formatted the images for my website and posted them a little after noon. The next morning, I got a call from one of the biggest agricultural companies in the world to photograph in the style I had just posted. They were searching for a photographer at just the right moment and had seen the images late the day before, just after I had posted them. The timing was purely luck, but if I hadn’t done the series, the work may never have come.
Todd is currently working on a personal project on bigotry/racism. http://joycephotography.com
Success Story Series – Part 2
[by Todd Joyce]
A year ago, I had a two month recovery after a major surgery. Coming back to work was a slow and draining process. Too big of a job could set back my recovery, so I had to choose what I did wisely. The first job I took was an environmental portrait of Billy Hatcher for a story in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game program. Billy is a past Reds great and current base coach for the Cincinnati Reds. I almost turned the job down, because it was so early in my recovery. However, I loved watching Billy Hatcher play baseball, and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to meet and photograph him – even if it meant a setback. Note that my angle is from the ground. I actually think I was laying down (from exhaustion) when I shot this.
MLB loved the images I created of Billy, and a few weeks later they asked me to photograph Tom Browning, another past all star, for another feature in the All-Star Game program. And, it too went well.
As the All-Star Game approached, MLB liked what I had done so well with Hatcher and Browning that they asked me to be in the American League locker room on the day of the Home Run Derby, to photograph portraits of the players, as a gift to them to commemorate their honors.
I took a risk coming back to work when I did, but it really paid off.
Todd has healed well and is back to working on motion and stills. See some here – http://joycephotography.com