A Client's Guide For Working
Tight budgets - impossible deadlines - complicated
logistics - reluctant subjects - and now you have to hire a photographer.
Sound familiar? Buying photography need not be complicated. By developing
an ongoing business relationship with the right photographer, you
can negotiate in an informed and cooperative environment that benefits
both of you. Before you look for a photographer - define your needs.
By identifying your communications goals, you'll be better equipped
to find the right photographer for your job.
Looking for a photographer
Portfolio reviews and interviews with photographers can be conducted
on an ongoing basis. This keeps you aware of the available talent
and avoids stressful, last minute hiring decisions. Take the time
to discuss your needs with the photographer when you meet to review
his/her portfolio. A good photographer should be a good communicator,
offering suggestions and responding to your concerns. In addition
to an outstanding portfolio, important qualities to consider are
experience, compatibility,dependability and professionalism.
The photographer will become an integral part
of your creative team. Hire one whose skills fit the requirements
of your assignment. Most photographers have areas of specialization.
A studio still-lifeshooter may not be the best choice for a job
involving extensive location work with people. Applying yourneeds
to the photographer's strength will assure the greatest degree of
Some photographers have representatives (reps)
who are responsible for marketing and portfoliopresentations. Although
paid by the photographer, they provide a valuable service to the
client. By takingresponsibility for negotiating fees and usages,
the rep allows the photographer to concentrate solely on thecreative
aspects of your project.
Whether dealing with the photographer or a rep,
ask questions such as the following as they apply to your assignment:
- How long have you been in business?
- Who are some of your clients?
- What studio facilities do you have?
- Are you equipped for a location shoot?
- What travel experience do you have?
Pricing the Assignment
Once you've selected the photographer with whom
you feel comfortable, you canbegin to evaluate the costs. It is
not inappropriate to discuss fees during the initial review but
asking for a"day rate" is often misleading. While it may
help you to compare one day rate to another, it won't tell youwhat
your job will cost. Day rates don't include expenses nor do they
reflect the rights being licensed.
As in any free market, creative fees will vary
greatly among photographers. It's easy to get caught in the trap
of shopping price instead of looking for value. The experience that
a photographer brings to your job, or the equipment and capabilities
that he/she has available to properly execute your assignment, represent
value which may more than compensate for the differences in price.
In addition, photographers have business overhead and operational
expenses to factor into their fees. Costs for rent, utilities, marketing,salaries,
insurance and equipment are incurred every day, not just on shooting
For a photographer or rep to fairly estimate a
job, he/she needs to know as much about it as possible. Crucial
information includes a detailed job description (including what
the photographs should communicate and a layout if it exists), deadline,
usage, and materials requirements ( i.e. transparencies or prints,
color or b&w, etc.). You could get widely varying estimates
based upon how the assignment is to be executed.
Estimate or Bid
When seeking an estimate or a bid make it clear
to the photographer which one you areasking for. An estimate is
just that, an honest appraisal of what the job should cost based
upon the information provided. Usually, it is given in a non-competitive
situation and may be flexible depending upon the nature of the job.
Bids usually fall into two categories: competitive and comparative.
A competitive bid involves two or more bids that are being considered
only on price. A comparative bid may encompass additional factors
such as creative approach, existing working relationship, availability,
style, etc. In either situation, all parties should have the same
information and assignment criteria. Unlike an estimate, once a
bid is accepted, the price is fixed, but so are the job parameters.
Even small changes may incur additional charges. In these situations
many photographers require changes to be approved in writing during
An essential component of the photographer's fee
is compensation for the rights being licensed. Under federal copyright
law, the photographer is the owner of the photograph unless there
is a written transfer of copyright ownership. Accordingly, it is
important that the photographer and client agree on usages in advance.
Generally, the more extensive media exposure a photograph receives,
the higher the fee will be for producing it. This principle applies
to both assignment and stock photography.
The questions to answer with specific licensing
- Where can the photography be used?
- Will the photography be used in advertising,
editorial or collateral media?
- Will it appear locally, regionally or nationally?
- Who can use the photography?
- Is the photography exclusive to the client
for a period of time?
- Can the photographer re-license the images
(or out-takes) to others?
- Is a non-compete clause necessary to protect
the proprietary nature of the photography?
- How long can the photography be used?
- Are the needs for the licensing unlimited or
limited to a length of time or press run?
A sample license might read, "For unlimited,
non-exclusive collateral use by XYZ Corp. for one year. ABC Co.
exclusive use in local trade advertising for six months." Avoid
using the term "buyout"; it has no legal meaning and is
subject to different interpretations. Buying the copyright could
greatly increase your costs without changing the value that the
image has to you. Realistic usage needs should be weighed against
budget considerations. Why pay more for something you might not
need? Future licensing can be purchased as needed.
When discussing usage, remember 1. Rights not
specifically granted are reserved to the photographer. 2. Licensing
agreements are specific with regard to the end user. Design firms
and advertising agencies license images as agents for their clients,
but these rights are unassignable to other parties.3. Precise usage
language should appear on the estimate, purchase order, delivery
memo and invoice.4. Possession of transparencies, photographs or
negatives does not give one the right to reproduce or copy them.
When your needs outweigh your budget distinguish
between your wants and your needs. Instead of cutting corners on
quality, look for getting greater value from your photography dollar.
There are always ways to pay less for photography...but bargains
can be expensive. Know when the expertise of the photographer will
save money in the long run. Find out what services the photographer
can offer to make your job easier, quicker, smoother. In all cases,
be open and honest with the photographer when negotiating your assignment.
Good communications can help you solve your problems and achieve
- Define your needs.
- Hire the photographer who fits the assignment.
- Look for value instead of shopping for
price. Discuss rights issues up front when negotiating a fee.
- Licensing agreements should answer the
basic questions of who will use the photograph, for what purpose,
- where will it appear and for how long
will it be used.
- Always get it in writing.
By Terry Pagos and Robert Rathe.
©1992 ASMP. All rights reserved.