What Do You Charge For… Part Four

canyons-trip

wall

What is the value of a photograph?

(What Do You Charge For...   Part 1Part 2 Part 3 /)

Seriously… what IS the value of a photograph?

If you need a calculator, go ahead and get it… I’ll wait.

What’s that… you need more information to make that calculation?

OK, sure… well, let’s see… it was taken on an old Nikon, with a manual focus lens on black and white film. I am not sure of the shutterspeed, but the aperture looks somewhere between f-5.6 and f-8, and the image is a bit blurry in some parts. Oh, and it was taken in a little village somewhere.

How’s that?

How about this one then… a color photograph of a martini glass in the sand with a pyramid upside down in the reflection of the liquid. Shot on location with a MF camera on a tripod at a bit of a wide aperture, normal lens, natural light. Shutterspeed unkown.

What… you cannot tell the value of the photograph from all that information? And you think it was a trick question too?

Oh come now, gentle reader… would I trick you?

One more… color shot of a baby laying on a maroon towel in window light taken on a P&S camera from above. Not sharp, not remarkable. (BTW, the value of that one is priceless. It simply is.)

There is value to a photograph. And finding that value means we have to take important considerations in mind when making that call.

A photograph generally carries two values. One is given to it by its creator – you, the other by its value to others. A photograph can be priceless to you, but of little value to others. The baby shot I described is the first photograph I made of my first born on her first day at home. Priceless to me – meh snapshot to you.

Eddie Adams

A grainy black and white shot taken in little village may mean little, unless it is THE grainy black and white shot taken of a South Vietnamese Policeman executing a captive with such a seeming cold bloodedness that it could be considered one of the seminal moments that turned a nation away from war.

One single frame on a roll of Tri-X. And a nation was sent reeling.

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Bert Stern:

An up and coming photographer was hired to do some creative work for a small, very new company wanting to introduce a Russian drink made from potatoes to America during the height of the cold war.

Stern wanted the image to be iconic of the “Driest of the Dry” indicating the very dry Vodka Martini. He also insisted on shooting it on location, in Egypt. And he held his ground.

The ad is considered to have opened the doors to the little Vodka company, Smirnoff, a $5.5 Billion dollar company today.

xxpyramidpureblue_photobybertstern_1_1

So let’s see… at the time it was taken it was a single image on a piece of Ektachrome, value $.40, then it became an ad shot which launched a new product worth billions. It is now an image that stands alone and is for sale at Christies for $4000.

Pyramid shot at Christies

Valuable photograph? Or still a frame from a roll of film.

The value our work has is many times dependant on the value it represents for someone else. Can you imagine Stern considering his shot worth $4? That is serious markup for a 40 cent image (materials). Let’s say he throws in travel and such… and it comes to $1500.40. Tacking on a comfortable margin of 50% he adds another $750.20 to the image.

Silly?

For a shot that helped a company increase profits by millions?

Silly for sure.

The value of our work is tied to the values we place on it and the values our customers place on it – combined.

Take one of your favorite shots and find an out-take from that shoot. Is it of much value to you? Perhaps you don’t like the expression of the subject, or the background is a bit out of focus… whatever, you did not choose it.

Cool… now let’s say I see it and ask if I can use it.

You ask me what I am going to use it for and I answer I want to blur it and use it for the background of a banner for my new personal website.

What is the value of that image now?

Well, it’s a personal website, and we are friends (we are friends, right?) and I let you know that I am happy to pay you $50 for it. Do we have a deal?

Probably. From a value of 0 to $50 – not bad.

How about if I exclaim that I am knocked out by that image… that it is the most perfect image I could have ever thought of for launching a new line of Jimmy Choo shoes. In fact, I want to build an entire campaign around that image, and our ad budget is $17,000,000 for North America alone.

Still worth $50 to you? We are still friends… so why would it be worth more than what you quoted me for my personal use banner?

BECAUSE IT IS!

It will be representing a 17milliondamndollar ad campaign. If they are thinking about spending $17M on ads, they are planning to make a BILLION.

And that image is key for that to happen. It has value. A lot of value.

A hell of a lot of value.

Now how do we understand that value as we begin working with people who want to give us their hard earned money for our hard earned photographs… and create a win-win situation?

(HINT: Win-Win situations make happy photographers and happy clients that like to work together.)

We research and learn. What is the image being used for? How will this benefit the client? How much is the client worth? How much will this image mean to them at the bottom line?

Hard questions… made harder by a lot of people in business who don’t have any idea how important good photography is, and how it can help their bottom line. We can try to educate them, and we can look for clients that do indeed know the value that great work carries.

Educating the client to great work, and why it matters could be done in person, or in the proposal you make… showing the value you think great work provides by demonstrating it.

Clean, neat and professionally presented proposal.
Clean, professional logo.
A professional website.
A professional portfolio.
A professional set of working documents (Rights/Releases/Business Forms)
A professional demeanor and being professional in your presentation.

I have seen proposals on dull, uninteresting emails. I have seen websites that are subdomains of the same website my 10 year old daughter used for her “My Little Pony” website. I have seen slovenly produced books and business forms that were right out of Microsoft Word.

And they want to tell me that the visuals matter? Apparently they have not understood their own message. Walk the talk, folks. Visuals matter… to us as well as them.

I think that mood boards are also an important tool when working with clients who may not understand the value of the work and how it relates to the bottom line effectiveness of the communications you are working on.

(What about the people who don’t want to meet with us, or only want an answer via email? Well – then send them a well designed email with some links to previous work, a set of links you have for similar work (high end) and a justification for them to use you OVER and above the dollar sign attached. You know, most others will never do that… help the client understand the value and you stand out. Even if you are too expensive for them now, they remember the value you added, and the fact that you are a premium brand.)

A mom and pop simply may not have the big bucks to spend that an ad agency would spend for a franchise. They will also see much smaller gains in real dollars, although the percentage of increased value may be the same. You must price accordingly.

Scenarios:

Author calls you for a headshot for his new book. The book, an E-Book is his first, and he is putting it on Kindle at a price point of $2.99. A schoolteacher by day, he is a hopeful Science Fiction author with a new blog and big dreams. He lives in your area and would come to your studio for the shot.

Author’s Public Relations firm calls for an author headshot. They need it for the back cover of his 10th novel, and want North American and European rights for a usage period of two years. Paperback rights will be negotiated when the time comes. He lives in your area and will come to your studio for the shot.

Same bid? Not hardly… one could be a $150 – $200 shoot and the other a $10,000 shoot. You will have to figure out which is which.

A local pet groomer (two stores) wants some photographs of happy owners and their pets for her website, and possible use on some ads in the local / regional magazine. You would be able to be totally creative with the images, as long as they would fit her vertical format. Estimate 4 hours for four portraits. You are on your own for the shoot.

A national pet store wants some shots of happy people with their pets. You can be totally creative with the people you shoot, but must stay within their vertical layout. You will be joined by the Creative Director, Art Director, copywriter, and Client Rel from the agency as well as a VP of marketing and his assistant from the client side. You will need a stylist, a MUA and a digital tech. Oh, and each of the talent is coming with their ‘handler’ as they animals are well trained. Estimate 4 hours for the shoot.

Will these shoots be priced the same?

Of course not. But where they fall will be as much research and ‘gut’ feelings as you can muster for the first one, and a bid program like BlinkBid or assistance from someone like Agency Access for the latter.

Welcome to the wonderfully nebulous world of foggy inaccuracy, gut decisions and seemingly pure guesswork – pulled from thin air – that is bidding commercial photography. I have seen bids vary by tens of thousands of dollars… and one time the bids ranged over a hundred thousand dollars difference.

So we are back to that question?

What is a photograph worth?

Depends a lot on you and your client reaching a mutual understanding based on the knowledge that the image will help do what they want to do.

Sell more stuff.
Get more clients.
Increase awareness.
Recruit better employees.

It is up to you to make a photograph that does what it needs to do, striving to make it the best it can be and comfortable that you are doing the best job you can for your client. And the true value is derived from doing just that.

I hope you have enjoyed this set of posts on bidding and charging for your work.

ALL FOUR INSTALLMENTS IN ONE DOCUMENT:
If you would like a PDF copy of this entire series, you can download it here: What do you charge for… a PDF Ebook. Please do not copy the information in any way, but be free to share the document without changes or modifications.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Does the Best Photographer Make the Most Money?

humboldt

rocks

Have you ever thought to yourself that as soon as you get to be the best photographer in your area, town, city, state, region, country, universe or whatever, you will be the highest paid?

You may be in for a shock – but that ain’t how the game is played, my friend.

The “Best” photographers are not necessarily the highest paid. And for now, we will not approach the obvious question of who defines “best”.

Here’s our thought process:

  1. We get some awesome gear.
  2. We learn to light very well.
  3. We take pictures that are pretty good.
  4. We start out business.
  5. Our photographs become instantly “professional”.
  6. We get more money because our work is better.
  7. We get huge accounts because of our outstanding portfolio
  8. We have to hire people to take care of all our cash.
  9. Choosing the right Grecian tile for our mansion foyers is time consuming.
  10. Celebrity friends invite you to lavish parties.

Yep. That’s it right there.

Except its not.

In a perfect world, we would be hired on our work alone. If we show what the client likes, we get the gig.

The plain truth is that while the work indeed matters, other considerations may actually take the lead and determine your ability to get higher paying gigs.

Considerations like;

  1. Can you deliver the job correctly?
  2. Can you solve the problems the job presents?
  3. Will you be needing more handholding than the other photographers?
  4. Do you understand the concepts?
  5. Can you communicate your vision and link it with the clients?
  6. Do you focus on the job at hand?
  7. Can you make it happen – no matter what challenges come your way on the gig?
  8. Are you personable and helpful?
  9. Will your work, attitude, personality, ethics and reputation be something the client will like?
  10. Will you make the art director / creative director look good because they chose you?

There are more, of course. And for individuals, some of these considerations matter more than others.

If we can focus the client on the work that must be done, how we do it and how well it will benefit their project, we can possibly win the job and get paid more money. Because we are not putting ourselves into the mix – we are putting the job first. The client first. We are there FOR THEM.

Other photographers can bid and send in lovely drafts and colorful PDF’s (as we can as well) but we add that extra/different approach of personalizing the response to focus on the job, project, assignment. We move the needle from being one of a group of people bidding, to THE person who is on board to help them sell their vision.

Yeah. It’s subtle, and it is not a guarantee – but it is something that will differentiate you from the pack when asked for a bid.

Some bids go out and they are looking for the cheapest ‘vendor’ to make the photographs.

We want to change their intension from going cheap to getting the best visual solution they can, and that means US. And US costs a bit more than the average ‘vendor’.

Being the “best” photographer is no guarantee of success. Best is an illusion, or a whimsical attachment at most. Being RIGHT for the job – in the clients mind – is far more of an important goal. One we should focus on at every opportunity.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



“This Boring Old Photo…”

“In total, it took roughly two hours to get a single correct frame. I made every mistake you could make. I forgot to pull the dark slide out so I had at least one totally blank sheet of film. I forgot to dial the aperture back down after focusing so I significantly overexposed at least one shot. I would get the lines right and then get the focus wrong during the adjustments. I got more frustrated and more determined with every wasted sheet of (even then, really expensive) instant film.

I was on the second to last sheet in my box of film when I got the result you see above. It’s still not perfect, but, at the time, I was thrilled with what I got when I pulled the sheets apart. Not only did I see the (mostly) straight buildings, but I saw all the work I had just put into it. I saw a process that made me slow down and think about what I was doing. I saw all the things I still had to learn about photography and all the things I already knew.”

– STAN HORACZEK

Steve Pamp: Tintypes of Gravestones: Colorado Front Range

canyons-trip
pamp-1

Steve is a photographer in Colorado, and a Project 52 Alum. These photographs were taken during a summer project covering the Front Range of Colorado and the grave markers in the old cemeteries there. Steve chose to do these photographs on dry tin type, a very old process,

pamp-2

See Steve’s full story, “Marble in Tin”. and a lot more photographs at Exposure.

Steve’s website.

More on the tin type process here.

 


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



What Do You Charge For… (Part Three)

humboldt

pole

Working and bidding for small businesses and entrepreneurial startups.

(What Do You Charge For… Part One / Part Two)

Mom and Pop businesses, self-employed artisans, service providers, entrepreneurs and all of the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the economy are a major source of revenue for commercial photographers.

There are simply far more of them than ad agencies or large corporate entities. And they all need photographs, brochures, menus, portraits, catalogs, web banners and editorial for content on their sites.

Pictures… they need a lot of pictures.

However, unlike Ad agencies and corporations, small businesses may have a far tighter grip on finances and budgets and that will always affect how we handle and work with them.

Expecting the same kind of budget you would get from an agency to shoot for Audi, for a car detailing franchise in Kentucky is not only not realistic, it makes no sense to the customer as well.

We take those things in mind when we are bidding for small business, and I am going to share MY views on this process. They may diverge a bit from conventional wisdom, but I diverge from conventional wisdom many times. Conventional wisdom said we couldn’t run a 6 minute mile. Conventional wisdom was we would never get to the moon.

My take:

Here are __ things I take into consideration when bidding and working with small businesses.

1. They are generally frugal, and want the maximum bang for the bucks they spend. I want to accommodate that within the constraints of understanding that I TOO am a small business and must make revenue and profit to stay in business. (In fact, I have used that simple factoid on occasion and been met with signs that they didn’t even think of that… yeah, we just have fun with cameras and stuff… heh.)

2. I know that some of the ways I work with media companies, ad agencies, PR firms and corporate communications may seem foreign to them. I do not think it is my job to try to educate every person on the planet about copyright… hell, we cannot even teach JUDGES about copyright, so I rarely try. I do however hold to some basic – and non-negotiable – tenants for dealing with usage.

3. In many cases they are looking to the photographer to provide much of the creative thought that a designer or art director would have brought to the shoot. This can be fun and it can be excruciatingly difficult… sometimes at the same time. (Project 52 photographers are getting a heavy dose of that situation, as it is so vitally important to master.)

4. Keeping it as simple as possible is a good thing, as is not bringing in negative influences that can worry them, or take them from a buyer to someone who finds working with you too difficult. When they go buy a refrigerator, they own it. That stack of brochures they had printed are theirs, and they like to know exactly what they are getting when they buy something.

So let’s address these from MY perspective.

The first thing I do when approached by a small business is to do a little research on them. I use a new-fangled thing called the internet. And it can be a lifesaver when dealing with small businesses.

I look for their website to determine what they have already. Are these professional photographs taken locally or were they hired out of the area? Are they stock images? Are they stolen from the internet? Google image Search makes this task a lot easier, AND they are perfecting it every day.

If they are stolen off the web, or stock I have two ways to go. I can bring this up to them during the pre-bid process to find out if they are even aware of it, and I can deduce that they have in the past not had a nickel for photography. (I could jump to the conclusion that they do not respect photography, but then they did ask ME for a quote… so I hold off on that judgement for now.)

If they are images from photographers that they have hired regionally or locally, I check out that photographers site to get a feel for the quality and professionalism of the work, and to get an idea of what the charges would be. A high end photographer generally has a high end looking website. (What does your website say about you? Wait, different article. Sorry.) This can also open you to make the inquiry, “I see you have used Aper Ture’ as your last photographer, what can I do to make sure you want to continue to use me after this engagement?”

Yes. Ask them how you can not screw up like ol’ Aper did, as they are NOT using him this time. This is a valid and often used question in sales, so do not ignore it.

You now have a pretty good idea of what they have spent in the past, and what they did or did not like about their previous shooter.

You can use this information to help you form your bid.

Before I get into a “Usage Rights” discussion with them, I look very carefully and closely to what possibilities there are for usage. I do not want to open up discussions of something potentially confusing if there is no need.

Let’s take a mom and pop restaurant that is having some new menus made, and they want to use the images on their website. I know they are not currently nor are they planning on any TV commercials (cause I asked them when I was preparing the bid… “what do you want them for, and will you be using them on TV?” to which they responded with a laugh that they didn’t have that kind of ad budget.)

Ask. Answers are cool and useful.

I know they are going to use them on their menus, and when asked they said they like to change the images on the website every 6-8 months.

So I am not going to add a bigass “rights” clause that discusses usage for a year, and extending it for two years, and how many hits the site gets and if they are going to use them for their inhouse newsletter (10 copies) or any other crap. And remember that they said they want to reshoot every 6-8 months – and I want those gigs too.

I know, pretty much KNOW, that they are going to be using them for menus and website for a year. I simply state in the contract what they are getting the images for, and let it go at that.

Bringing up the issue of copyright is always a good idea, and the way I do it is to INFORM them that as a service and a protection to them I copyright all the images, and give them the sole license to use them… and I guard their unauthorized use by anyone else so they don’t have to worry about it.

See what I did there…

I then ask to see what they are looking to create or re-create. I know they may not have an Art Director, but they do indeed have an idea in their minds on what the images should look like, and I need to know what that is. We MUST come to an agreement on the creative direction BEFORE we commence shooting.

You wanna have a disappointing experience… right here is where you can make that happen by NOT nailing down what, where, and how you are going to produce the images. And be understanding and patient as you go through the process. They know how to run a restaurant, but they are not marketing gurus, creative directors, art buyers or award winning graphic designers. They need some photographs that look sorta like those they saw on…

Yeah. Cool… let’s look at those for a moment.

If they are expecting styled images in a lovely natural light courtyard, they better have that courtyard. And if they don’t you must be ready to offer alternative places and be ready to explain why there has to be a change. If they are not going to have a stylist and they do not have a courtyard, they must understand what would be better… and that is YOUR job on this gig.

Explain it to them with patience and grace. Show them alternatives, tell them why that will save them money or time and will look better. Most people are not stupid. Trust me.

Offer solutions, not roadblocks. A photographer standing there going “We can’t do that, and we can’t do this, and I don’t see how that can happen” is not very exciting or engaging.

“Hey, let’s look at this area… I think if we bring in some…” is far more engaging. And it positions you as the creative on this project. You are the expert, and the solution maker.

If it happens that during this part of the process, the client becomes self absorbed and disparaging of your every attempt to work within what they have, graciously bow out.

If it is a bad mix at the beginning, it will never get better. In fact it will be fuel for more infuriating situations down the road.

Been there. Done that. Sucks.

Preparing the estimate/bid should be as simple to understand as possible. I have seen some contracts put out by organizations that are full of “party of the first part and party of the second part will seek arbitration to include but not necessarily exclude the third parties interest in and monetaty investment the first party…”

Bullshit. I wouldn’t sign it, and it would raise red flags all around me if I was that restaurant owner. I want some photographs of my “Signature Salad” and I get a contract that looks like I am purchasing land in Bolivia.

KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid… Yes.

However, not so simple that they do not understand what is going into the gig, who is responsible for what, and how payment is expected to be provided.

I line item everything I can – even if there is N/C… it is important that they take those things into consideration when bidding the next gig, and it is my subtle way of educating them as to what it costs to do this work.

I insist on a deposit. Non-negotiable (except for rush gigs from long-time clients). Trust them? Sure… but trust is a two way street, right?

In fact, I expect a member of their business to be present at the shoot. That person is contractually responsible for approving what is being done. That person has to be one with the power to approve the work, and not a go-between. And if they are not going to provide that person, then they AGREE to have me be the final arbiter of all imagery. Done.

In fact here is my short list of non-negotiable practices.

  • I will always get a deposit.
  • I will always work with the responsible party (or a contractually designated responsible party). That means that someone will be there to sign off on the images, and if that doesn’t happen, they OWN what I shot and will pay for it. Period. (I get sign off while working on each and every shot if there is a client representative there, and that representative has to have the power to sign off.) Ignore this rule at your peril.
  • I expect to be paid in 30 days or less. It is in my contract. I demand it. Sure, there are exceptions, and they are in writing.
  • I own the copyright for the image, but will license up to unlimited and exclusive usage. If they want the copyright, then they will pay dearly for it. A LOT of money. (Yes, I can be bought. Not proud, just honest.)
  • I have the right to show the work in any and all of my promotional materials and for any educational / editorial work that features me. (Barring embargoed dates and contractually agreed on third party usage.)
  • If the owners/stakeholder is ‘too busy’ to devote any time to my questions, I walk.
  • If I don’t feel good about the gig, for whatever reason, I walk.

I also deliver what was expected and a little more, on time and on budget. I hope you do as well.

Putting together a bid for any kind of photography gig can be fraught with challenges and what if’s… and that will probably never change. Knowledge is power. Going through all the different things one must do in order to present a consistent and winning strategy for a bid is a lot of work.

It is. So?

BTW, it also helps to have a full understanding of what things cost, and an idea of what you should charge before charging in to the bidding process.

How’s about we talk about that next time? Cool.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Are You a Commodity or a Brand?

humboldt

brookeBrooke from way back in the day… can you spot the ‘brand’ we were inspired by?

Why Thinking of Yourself as a Brand is More Important Than You Know

There are brands and there are commodities.

A brand is something or someone that people choose because of what they associate with the item – what intangibles that choice brings.

A commodity is something or someone that people choose because of price point or availability. Cheapest or easiest to get is what they go for.

A brand is not interchangeable, but a commodity is.

Cans of peas are commodities, Green Giant Peas are a brand. Some people will pay more for Green Giant Peas than any of the other brands. And if the store is out of Green Giant, they will happily take ANY of the others on the shelf – they are commodities.

Leica is a premium brand. Mention the name Leica and photographers instantly focus on excellence, vision, longevity and high value. Even people who are not photographers will perk up when they hear the word Leica.

There are dozens of other manufacturers of cameras – and each have their aficionados, but Leica can command high respect EVEN from the Canon, Nikon, Fuji, and Sony shooters who are also aficionados and fans of their own brands.

Looking for a premium bag, we may think Prada. There are other brands that we may think of, but Prada is Prada… and there is no substitute for that brand.

If we think about the bag as a commodity – not a premium, then almost any bag from any department store will do the job.
The Prada bag was not chosen ONLY because of its ability to hold things without them falling out. It was chosen because of what is associated to it, what makes it unique IS its brand uniqueness. It is better made, classier in style, more innovative or classic or whatever. It is a Brand that people associate with the bag.

The bag from the department store is utilitarian. It holds things without them falling out just fine. It comes with no other associations. One bag is totally interchangeable with another.

As a photographer, one of our most important part is our ‘brand’. If what we do is totally interchangeable with another photographer, or even a group of photographers, then the value becomes less, and the loyalty is simply not there.

Start to think of yourself as a total brand.

  • What you do.
  • How you do it… differently.
  • What values you bring.
  • What you value your own work to be.
  • How you deal with prospective clients.
  • What your visual strategy looks like (identity/graphics/website)
  • Does the visual strategy enhance your brand?
  • Will your clients be able to discern your value?
  • How do you deal with clients to introduce and enhance your brand?
  • How do your customers see your work – as a brand or a commodity? Don’t know? Ask.
  • If they see you as a commodity, how do you change that view?
  • If they see you as a brand, how do you enhance and engage that view?
  • Brand can include your images of course… that is a given
  • But also how you show the images: your portfolio, leave behinds, identity pieces
  • What your website looks like – Is it modern and cool, or a free crappola site
  • What your logo looks like. Is it professional? Does it speak to your brand?
  • Where you show your work. Do you have an office? Do you have a co-work space? Is it a local Starbucks?
  • What you wear when showing your work. Do you dress casually, formally, hip, classic, contemporary, eclectic?
  • What you wear when you are shooting. Does it match your work, how you showed your work, and what you think of the work?
  • What you wear… period. All three should match… and that gives you memorability.

Style, personal style, can go a long way toward building a brand.

It is why rockstars all look ridiculous… they do it to be remembered. It is why actors and actresses do outrageous things in public… to be remembered.

Do you have to do ridiculous and outrageous things while looking like a throwback to the Village People? OF COURSE NOT.

But you do have to maintain a style, a look, a personal brand that elevates your work from commodity status.

Here is the scary thing… if you are a commodity – an easily replaceable, easily interchangeable photographer – you will have a very tough time in a crowded market. It will come down to a buck cheaper or being the only one available that day. And that does not make for a career that builds.

A Brand photographer – YOU – is someone they want to work with because they want to work with you. Budgets are not a big deal (within reason) and the focus is on getting the best person (you) for their ad shoot, or brochure assignment. They WANT to work with YOU. You bring more to the experience than just great images. You bring integrity, values, wacky playfulness, serious classic styling, a relaxed working atmosphere, an intense working atmosphere… whatever it is that makes you – YOU.

Time for a personal assessment… look above at the list of statement / questions and answer them for yourself. Write them down. Answer them honestly and with no censorship – only you are going to see them.

Are you a brand or a commodity?

Knowing this will really help as you make decisions regarding your work, your fees and who you plan to work with as you begin to build your business.

Ideas on how to go from a commodity to a brand are plentiful, and I will offer some suggestions in the upcoming weeks.


 

ANNOUNCEMENT

I am very happy to announce that I will be working very closely with Robin Bramman on business branding and personal branding. We are planning on doing a workshop online for branding your photography business as well as yourself. It will be a free workshop for all of you LE folks, so watch for the announcement. Coming up soon. Visit Robin’s site for more on what she does for large corporations and entrepreneurs alike.

I will let Robin introduce herself here.

MEET-ROBIN-copy

“Hello, I am Robin, Lead Curator + Strategic Brand Partner at RobinBramman.com.

 

Think of me as your Brand Partner for your digital presence – with personal and business branding expertise, strategic planning skills, social media savvy, project management and group branding implementation insights, and straight-from-the-trenches entrepreneurial wisdom.

 

I’ve logged over 20+ years as a visionary strategist + interactive services project champion (translation: fine-tooth comb detail-wrangling for smooth-as-silk fully branded website launches). I am super collaborative and have a host of partners I call upon to take your brand from ZERO to launched.

 

Throughout my career, I’ve worn high-powered hats in corporate America in both healthcare and financial industries, owned + operated my own brick ‘n mortar clothing boutique, successfully flipped + sold real estate properties, and dropped it all to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m a big fan of personal evolution, breaking as many rules as possible, and building a POWER team to support your branding initiatives.

 

I hold advanced master branding certifications through Reach Communications Consulting, Inc. and am a part of an exclusive enterprise team that allows me to deliver comprehensive learning programs for individuals, group branding sessions and deliver personal branding keynote and corporate workshops in support of brand building for the organization.”


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Old Mama Dog – New Tricks…


“I am changing the direction of my photography as I shoot more film. Overall I hate my own results but I love the work itself. I’ve been all over the place trying to figure out what type of photographer I want to be when I grow up. As I get older I realize the small moments are just as powerful as the big ones. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a kid and yet I’ve never been more of a kid than right now.

So I’ll keep taking every kind of photograph like a kid in a candy store til the sugar high wears off, throw up or learn what kind is my favorite. Pretty sure it’s all about being human whether it’s in New York or my own little corner of the world.”
Virginia Smith


One Red Balloon… a Challenge

A recent assignment in my 2014 Project 52 group was to shoot one red balloon… but to stay away from cliche’s as much as possible, while definitely creating an interesting photograph in which one red balloon features prominently.

The students wee wonderful. Here are their photographs.

Assign_13_Michael_Mitchell-1 Assign_13_Michael_Mitchell-2 assign#13-Mark-Maynard Assign13-Gonzalo-GarciaGranero-A_smoking-is-sexy Assign13-Gonzalo-GarciaGranero-B1_Be-different_Be-nice assign13-sergio-fialho-1 assign13-sergio-fialho-2 Assignment_13-Barbara_Brady-Smith assignment-13-steve-gray-A assignment-13-steve-gray-B mon-assign12-susan-page sandra-red-balloon

John Sharpe, Photographer: Calgary, Alberta

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Meet John Sharpe, a commercial photographer in Calgary, Alberta.

The great frozen north (at least in winter) has many roads to artistic and business success. John has been a photographer for 25 years and has shot for local, regional and national clients.

I thought John’s experience and knowledge about this business would be a great share for those thinking about starting out professionally so we got together one day last week and had a chat about photography.

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You can find John at his website, and on social media.

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(NOTE: PAGE EDITED TO MAKE IT GEOGRAPHICALLY IN SINK WITH REALITY.)

“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



What Do You Charge For… (Part Two)

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Part Two of our Thinking about our rates post.

(Part One)

Understanding what we are worth, and how to construct a pricing structure that we feel good about is quite challenging for many of us. But it is a necessary challenge for us to overcome – see previous newsletter. This week we will look at bidding a job for a larger entity – a corporation or ad agency.

Usual corporate assignment work will come from the Marketing / Communications department. Referred to as MarCom, these departments can be as small as one person or as large as an entire floor. Or two.

MarCom’s are like agencies that are in-house. In larger corporations, you may find C-level managers working with creative staffs that can dwarf many ad agencies.

Occasionally these MarCom’s will work with outside agencies on special assignments, or if a specialty is called for that they cannot handle… like TV or Radio.

The basic structure is the same as an ad agency. Creative leads work with art directors and designers on everything from cafeteria menus to annual report documents.

And they hire photographers when they need them.

Ad agencies can run from one-person shops to entire buildings devoted to making and creating advertising for consumer and B2B businesses.

The lead of the creative teams are usually called Creative Directors, and then you have Art Directors, Designers and Junior Designers. The largest will also have a position titled “Art Buyer”.

Creative Directors are the final approval point for most hired freelancers. Art buyers can be the most important influence on who gets hired when working with an agency that uses an art buyer.

Art buyers look at work. Think of them as casting agents. They steep themselves in the creative work that the agency is doing and then look at the photographers that come in as a sort of match maker. The Art Buyer will assemble a selection of photographers and the final decision will then be made by the Creative Director or the Lead Art Director for final hire.

In agencies without an art buyer, the senior art directors and Creative Directors will make that call.

Your job is to stay top of mind with art buyers, creative directors and art directors. And I personally think that special efforts should be cultivated toward the junior art directors as well… they don’t stay junior art directors for ever, you know.

Bidding a job for an ad agency differs from mom and pops because ad agencies and MarComs KNOW the way the business works, and are familiar with rates and rights and copyright.

That does not prevent them from asking for a buyout with no extra compensation and oh, by the way can you do the job gratis cause the last guy screwed it up and used up all their budget, but no problem they will make it up to you next gig…

Always remember you do not have to agree to anything, but they may ask.

When working with an agency or MarCom, I find the most efficient way to get to a price is ask questions. Lots of questions. The answers can make the bidding process go so much smoother. If you know this information, and you articulate the bid, they will understand that you know what you are doing.

Simply blurting out a price without asking a lot of questions will reinforce in their minds that you do NOT know what you are doing. Never a good position to be in.

Getting the answers to these questions can make the gig go so much smoother.

1. When is the shoot scheduled and when are the final files due? If you are already booked, it may not make sense to pursue this bid. Finding out what they have in mind can also help you look at your schedule with different priorities. If it is 30 below for the next month and the shoot is in the Bahamas for a week, it can make a difference… heh.

2. How did you find me? This can establish a lot of information. If they found you off the web, they may have been looking for someone in your area, or with your expertise or vision. The fact that they were looking for talent instead of working with someone they know is good information to have. If you were referred, then you are ‘endorsed’ and that carries third party weight that may give you an edge. (It also means a thank you note to the referrer.)

3. Are there layouts and are they flexible? As a former agency Creative Director, I can not stress enough how important it is to understand the process of working with clients to get approvals. The CD and AD and their teams may have gone round and round with the client for approval of the layout they have. It is the fruits of late night negotiations and lots of bitter coffee. Don’t take for granted that it is a guideline and you can do what you want.

Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. Find out before you bid so you can make the necessary plans to work within the approved layouts. Do the job for the client and if you can, give them an alternate or two. But again, ONLY after making sure you have their shot in the can.

4. Usage: What are the plans for this shoot? Is it for TV, print, web… all of it? Knowing what the final use is can help you bid the job. Not only from a price point, but from a gear and team point as well. Knowing what you are shooting for is important for creativity as well.

5. Who will be doing the legwork and pre-production? Will your studio be in charge of props, models, stylists, location scouting, craft services and transportation? Or are they contracting those out to their own vendors? Why bother bidding that stuff if they are going to provide it, and knowing how they work with the outside vendors in these situations is also good knowledge for future bidding. (Note: some of these may of course be broken out… the agency has a location scout, but looks to you for hair and makeup. Good to know so you can bid accordingly.)

6. Will there be a need for extra insurance? Jewelry, pre-release electronics, possibly dangerous locations may require additional insurance… who is purchasing that? If it is you, then you know that it must be searched for and purchased. This may require quite a bit of additional resources, and the agency/MarCom needs to be aware of those costs.

7. How will location costs be handled? Are they up to you to be on the final bill or will the agency be handling that through their own people. (NOTE: I am a photographer, not a friggin’ bank. The more of these upfront charges I must bear, the less capital I have to work with. And if the agency is going to take 60 – 90 days, my capital is tied up in a job I already completed… I personally do not front gigs, but there are some photographers that do. You will have to choose which way you go with the knowledge of how much capital you can work with.)

8. Who will be on set or location to approve the work? Will it be a senior AD, someone from the client side, both or will the work be done by the photographer without approval and supervision of the shoot. (Note: that rarely happens in big ad / MarCom shoots, but it can be found in some genres – adventure photography for one.) It is very important to discuss this – especially if you have not worked for them before. Approvals during the shoot are imperative on ad shoots – and you must be able to trust that the one doing the approving actually has the authority to approve.

9. Who will be handling post production? Will the studio be doing all of that post work, or will images be delivered for the agency to work with? On hard drives or FTP? Formatted or RAW? What level of post production is required? Some of this is based on your style. If you are a very manipulative photographer creating photo illustrations, it may naturally fall to your studio to do the post. If you are more of a ‘straight’ photographer, they may want to handle the post production themselves for consistency across their presentation.

However, if you feel that post processing is something that is indeed a part of your work style, then let them know that you prefer to do the post, and include it in your bid.

10. Options? There are always options. What kind of licensing do they want? What kind of licensing do they need? Sometimes the two are not the same, and it behooves you to help your client understand the best way for them to go to get what they need.

And not only in the licensing area, but in the entire shoot. Become an ally, a partner in the work. Help them see how something can be done better, or with more efficiency, or with a different spin. Showing genuine enthusiasm is quite important and can help tilt the scales in your favor.

When you know the answers to these questions, you will be able to look at that blank piece of paper and start to fill in the line items with much more ease and accuracy than if you had no clue. Eliminating the frustrating parts of not knowing, makes the tally simpler and more in tune to what they are asking for.

I am a big believer in lots of line-items for not only clarity, but for negotiations as well.

More on the bid process coming soon.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Michael Clark’s 2014 Summer Magazine

I love these photographers magazines.

summer_2014_smFrom Michael:

This issue includes an editorial about why there was no Spring 2014 Newsletter, a review of the SmallHD DP4-EVF external video monitor, an article my recent expedition in the Amazon with the CauseCentric Production crew for the documentary film Tribes on the Edge, an interview with Peter Dennen of Pedro + Jackie photo consultants, a book review of “The Rise of Superman,” an editorial entitled “Great Advice and Hard Truths,” and much more.”

Get your copy here and check out his great portfolio

“What do you charge for…”

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Five scary words to a lot of photographers. There is so much of US wrapped into those five words. I think they may be the scariest words we self employed folks ever hear.

Although it is exactly what we want to hear… someone wants to hire us. All that marketing paid off. The emails, promos, tweets, status updates, pins, instagrams, and tumblr posts worked!!!

We have someone who actually wants to hire us… or do they? Maybe they are from our competition trying to weasel out our price points? Perhaps they are looking for someone to bid higher than their buddy so they can use our higher rate as a justification to hire their buddy? Maybe they are really some sort of corporate spy bent on destroying my business because of something I have no idea I ever did?

Actually no… they just want to know what it costs.

What if I am too high? What if I am too low? What if I don’t really know how to do what they want? What if they want something I cannot do? What if I fail to deliver? Do they have an army of attorneys waiting in the wings to sue me into oblivion at the slightest amount of sensor dust?

Do they have a goon squad?

“Go away or I’ll call the goon squad.”
“I’m on the goon squad.”
“You are the goon squad!”

As I like to point out… “It costs what it costs”. Now we have to discuss what it costs with someone who may or may not want to pay what it costs, and we have to be clear to ourselves and them on why it costs what it costs.

Relax… take a breath. Think about what you say next.

Because it can be very, very important… as it can become the ‘base’ of all that comes afterwards. It can become a touchpoint, and as such can hinder all attempts at negotiations.

Perhaps someone says “How much do you charge to do headshots?” You quickly respond with, “well, headshots are usually $200.”

You have just created your top rate. All negotiations will be focused on lowering that rate, and you simply tossed it out as a reference.

Now the client smiles… “That’s great”, he says, “I need a headshot of me in my office in Denver. When can you come up and do it?”

Remember that $200 you tossed out there… now it has to be changed. And the client is going to resist that change, as they have already gotten the touchpoint figure of $200 in their head.

Yes, of course it is a stretch story… all examples are stretch stories in order to make a point clearly. Most of the time the differences are more subtle, and the client expectations more nuanced.

Or not.

What if the guy was asking you how much for a headshot, and you blurt out $200 and he does a quick calculation that to do the entire office staff of 30 people it would be $6000 and that is a grand over budget. So he thanks you and hangs up.

You had no idea he was talking about 30 people. Surely that would have been a better ‘per shot’ price for most of us.

When we give a price, we usually base that price as our highest point in the mind of the client. What we want to do is ‘base’ that price as the lowest point. This gives us more room to negotiate as needed.

NOTE:

“My rates for heashots are $200.” Bad… it creates a base high point.
“My rates for headshots start at $200.” Better… it creates a base low point.
“My rates for headshots can vary according to the job, but they start at around $200. What are the specifics of your job?” Best… this one creates a base rate that then requires more feedback from the client. We call that dialog and it is very good for establishing relationships.

Number three takes care of establishing a price point by noting that they START at $200, and we indicate that there is room for negotiation based on the facts of the job.

Beware of being vague.

“How much do you charge for a headshot?”

“How much you wanna spend?”
“What is your budget?”
“I dunno, what do you have in mind?”

Vague means you don’t know, and are making it up as you go along.
(HINT… yeah, many of us do just that on occasion… shhhh…).

That neither instills confidence or trust, and we get down to negotiation stance before we even know what we are negotiating for.

I suggest for single off jobs you have an established “starting at” rate, and go from there to the inquiry of the specifics. If you have let them know that you are open to making considerations for possible special circumstances, and that you are also able to charge more for the work, you have a bit more of a platform to stand on when discussing the rates.

For larger jobs with lots of moving parts, it is ALWAYS better to get the specs for the job before even mentioning an number which could become a touchpoint for the client. They asked off the top of their head and you gave them a specific number… done. No… don’t do that.

Is there a time when it is OK to ask what their budget is?

Yes… once the negotiation has begun. Once the figures have been established as real, and fluid if necessary, you can then ask if there is some way to work within their budget.

But be careful not to give the farm away. That will not help you establish yourself as anyone of consequence in this or any business.

Bid:
Headshots for 20 people.
Shoot fee: $170 per person.
MUA/: $75 per person
Stylist: $50 per person
Digital Tech: $550 for the day
Assistant: $500 for the day
Travel to location: $200 for the day
Gear Rental: $200 for the day

Client comes back and says you are a bit over their budget. That is a tip that they want to work with you but of course want the best price they can get. If you are way over their budget, you will probably not hear back from them. That should not be a problem if you are indeed confident in your value.

I would then ask… what is the budget. “If we can get within your budget, I will be glad to work it out.”

By line-iteming each of the cost figures laid in the bid perhaps you can trim a bit. The client feels better about sharing the budget with you because you have just laid your prices out for him.

If you must trim a grand off… there are ways of doing that.

If you must trim five grand off, walk.

To trim off five thousand dollars makes a mockery of your bid. And if you do it, never expect to do anything of value for that client again, as they know that your bids are paper tigers, easily shredded by desperation.

And desperation fueled by fear is most definitely NOT a good place to be for negotiations.

Part Two of this will be posted next Wednesday, August 13. See you then.

Meet Josh Ross: Product Photographer, Portland, OR

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I met Josh several years ago on the stobist forum. We have stayed in touch and I am knocked out by his wonderful still life and product work.

I asked Josh to speak about his photography, and we chatted for an hour. Josh walks us through his transition from LA to Portland and from Portrait to Still Life work.

Enjoy this interview and make sure to visit Josh’s website: www.joshrosscreative.com

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Josh Ross on Twitter
Josh Ross on Facebook
Josh Ross on Linkedin
Josh Ross on Google +
Josh Ross on Flickr

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Thanks so much for spending some time with us Josh. I look forward to having you back in September to chat with the Project 52 students. See you then.

For some more insight on how Josh does retouching, see this page.

Knowing Your Subjects Well

bri-running-2-smallOne of the most important considerations of a photographers work is the subject matter they choose to make photographs. Sounds almost simplistic, doesn’t it?

But there is a great deal of thought that goes into this part of what we do. If we have chosen subject matter for any reason at all, it should resonate and help us be more authentic in the work we choose to do.

For instance; if you are a mountaineering photographer, would you not be interested in mountains, hiking or climbing? If you shoot cars, are you not interested in them at all… just metal and wheels?

Car shooters LOVE cars. They LIVE cars. They can tell you about the fins of the 80’s and how big the cylinders the Cobra’s engine had in those classic muscle cars. A fashion photographer can instantly spot the trends, know the designers who are creating them and speak the language of fashion.

And that mountaineering photographer… she knows how to climb and hike and where all the cool places to shoot climbers are.

It is how the most authentic of us begin to work within our tribe. And it shows in the images.

One of the photographers I am working with loves motorcycles, in specific the older, retro designed bikes like Triumphs and BSA’s. He is not a kid though, and his friends reflect that as well. It is his tribe, and bikes are mixed with kids and the suburbs, day jobs and long weekends.

A niche he plans on using in order to build a stronger lifestyle book, along with the rugged outdoors folks who hike the Appalachian Trail in winter, the ridges of the Canadian Rockies in the summer.

It is the same people he spends time with when not shooting or working.

His tribe. His subjects. His authenticity.

A few examples of authentic photographers working in their own tribes.

Matt and Agnes Hage: Adventure Photographers.

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The Hages live in Alaska because the love the mountains and hiking where the wild things are. They have turned that love affair with the rugged outdoors into their subject matter and are shooting for editorial and advertising clients all over the world.

When they are not climbing and shooting for clients, they are climbing and shooting for themselves. Their lifestyle IS the one they photograph for, and with the people who are part of that lifestyle.

Scott Toepfer photographs his friends, their interests and what they love. The west coast surfing, motorcycle, freedom loving youth are where he turns his lens. His tribe, his life, his subjects.

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Scott has captured that culture, his culture, very well. And advertisers are wanting that authenticity brought to their products and services BECAUSE it is real and authentic

If Scott is not shooting motorcycles, he is probably out with the tribe riding them, hanging out with the buds and living the lifestyle he portrays in the work he produces.

Scott and I chatted about photography and it is here on Lighting Essentials.

Tara Donne loves design and food and travel. No small wonder it is what she makes photographs of as well as living that life. She loves to cook, and she loves to shoot food. Her travel bug is ignited by and paid for by her photography. Exotic locations are where she loves to go, and the images show us the excitement of visiting far away places. The food, people and quirky little vignettes are what she would shoot if she were on vacation.

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Her tribe, her images, her way.

Can you work with subjects that you do not have a personal affiliation with? Sure… because you live that lifestyle through the camera, the work, and the professional friends you make while working. And you KNOW it, and how to portray it with real insight.

You may be an older guy who loves to shoot fashion. And that work becomes your passion and your subject. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out in clubs and do shooters with 21 year olds, it means that you have to understand that lifestyle and bring that authenticity to the work.

You find yourself knowing more about designers, makeup, hair trends and style than you may have ever expected to, but it is an interest that brings authenticity to the work.

In short, your tribe, your interests, your passions… they make the best subjects. And if you come to the subject from a different passion, let them engage your imagination and spark an interest that goes beyond the surface, and into the heart of the matter. Making YOUR photograph is the most important thing, and being involved helps you stay focused.

As we look at new and exciting new opportunities for photographers, it can also be wise to consider who we are, what we do, and who our own tribes are. Finding authenticity in our own lives and watching that interest become a part of our subject matter can be quite exhilarating. And fun too!

ReBranding With Photography

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This was an interesting week.

An old friend and colleague reached out to renew a friendship and to discuss some epiphanies she had recently experienced.

Lunch was near my studio and it was with a bit of trepidation that I had agreed. While I think the world of this person, I also know that our working together can be fraught with frustration and no small measure of much needed patience.

I suck at patience, and life is too short to continually haggle with people. It simply is. We can be like water and oil at times… she with a close eye for microscopic detail, and with a heavy background in corporate people management, me with a ‘big picture’ approach, and eschewing nearly every corporate culture meme there is.

Lunch was always fun with her though… terrifically smart, very focused and with a zest for finding out everything about everything, she can match wits with most.

I was not expecting her exuberance to have faded in the last two years, and I was correct. But now there was something a bit different going on. She had found her voice, her ‘thing’ so to speak. That part of her that had made her so frustrating before was now morphed into a sureness and solidly focused professional.

“You were right,” she said almost at the beginning. “All the things you said I needed to do, were what exactly what I needed to do. I just wasn’t ready to commit to myself. I must have driven you crazy, huh?”

I smiled and brushed off the driving me crazy, although that nail was punched right on.

I had encouraged her to find her voice, find the thing that would make her, and her fledgling business, more unique and reflect more of her authentic person. Write like she speaks, be as personable on the page as she was in person. In short, be herself and stop trying to be what others thought she should be.

I am so proud of her now, that all of those frustrations are simply no worth thinking about. She has gone from a corporate ‘manager’ to someone who is confidently managing herself… and a whole slew of private clients that have been attracted to her systematic, well thought, and successful approach to her business.

We have set up a few projects together, and one of them involves an idea to share with you all.

One of the things we must remember is that what we package is sometimes not as interesting as HOW we package it.

Some of us older guys will remember the ads in magazines for the ability to “see through walls”… yes, this device would allow you to actually see through walls and doors. Like magic.

It was the little thing we put on our doors to see who is on the other side. He had purchased a warehouse full of them, and selling ‘door peepers’ just didn’t have the punch that “See Through Walls” did. He became a multi-millionaire.

Social Media, Personal Branding Photography is our package. And as of today, we have at least 5 shoots on the books for February. At a very decent rate for sure. (For sure I have mentioned it before… we have now been able to put a tighter ‘brand’ on it.)

What is included:
2 headshots: one ‘natural’ and one ‘professional’.
A full length shot to be used for purposes where that would make sense.
Two half length shots, and something with a strong environmental feel.

Uses:
Facebook header – need interesting wide shot.
A Twitter background – tall shot for left hand side of twitter page.
An About.me page.
A YouTube header.
A shot for their “About Me” web page.
Web Header images for their site.

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We are taking a full day for the photography, providing styling and hair/mu where appropriate. Most images to be shot on location, with only two images in the studio.

Well researched up front, I will know what dimensions their social media images must be, so I can shoot to “layout” so to speak.

All of the scheduled clients are entrepreneurs and business people who are discovering their social media impact and want their brand to be consistent across platforms.

And while shooting photographs of someone is not new, knowing exactly how they will be used and shooting for the disparate formats that they need them for is somewhat refreshing. No more cropping out or filling in areas on haphazard iPhone shots… we shoot FOR their social media and website presentation.

A professional and creatively presented, cohesive set of images.

A win for our customers and a win for us.

Just thought you would be interested… take it and run with it in your town if you are so inclined.