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Negotiating with Clients: 10 Questions you Need to Ask–Part 2

Lesson 15 from: Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani

Negotiating with Clients: 10 Questions you Need to Ask–Part 2

Lesson 15 from: Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani

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Lesson Info

15. Negotiating with Clients: 10 Questions you Need to Ask–Part 2


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How To Get Work As A Food Photographer


Understanding Your Skill Level and Your Market


How To Grow Your Business


Opportunities In Commercial Food Photography


How Do You Market Yourself


The Importance of Attitude and Communication


Understanding Insurance Responsibilities and Liability


Lesson Info

Negotiating with Clients: 10 Questions you Need to Ask–Part 2

This is a really essential aspect of that negotiation is how many shots do you want. Because it influences everything as far as how many days you're going to be on set, how many days you gotta pay staff, how many days you gotta rent things, how many days you gotta rent the studio, then the amount of usage on the imagery. This is one of the more influential questions you'll need answered when you're negotiating with a client because I know what you all experience. Thank you. I know what you all experience in that they ask you to come in for the day. Come in for the day, and you end up shooting dishes in a day, or something crazy like that. And that is not the way you wanna work for a number of reasons. Number one, when we're talking about those, oh, give me a day rate, come in and shoot for me. You're usually talking about work for hire and we've all ready been down that road. And the second thing is when you are asked to come in without a specific shot list and stuff is getting thrown...

at you left and right, you're not gonna make your best pictures. You're not gonna make things that you're really proud of and you're gonna end up in a situation where you're being represented in a way that you're not happy with. And that's not a good situation because you put all this time and energy into the craft, and then you're asked to do it in ways that you're not used to working. So, what I would suggest to you is this negotiation needs to be about your workflow, what it takes for you to get the shot. If you budget an hour per dish, if you budget 15 minutes per dish, I don't care, as long as you're comfortable with that flow. But if you feel that you're being asked to do too much on a set, forget about the pricing, forget about the idea that usage, and all these other things, and how many days it's gonna take, but that is that key factor, the days. Because if you're asked to be working on a day rate, they're gonna try to squash in as much as humanly possible into your day. And if you don't understand that forget the day rate, yeah, the day rate's for me to show up, what about the usage. Okay, we're making this many pictures, well you're gonna pay for how many pictures we're gonna make. That's what we're doing here. And you will influence how much work there is to be done by doing it regularly. Saying I'm used to shooting about seven dishes in a day, and that's for a 10 hour day, and any hours over that is overtime and I bill at this rate. When you come at people like that, they know they're dealing with a professional. Because you are not gonna get sucked into shooting 20 dishes in a day because no one's gonna be happy with that, especially you because you're gonna get paid less and you're gonna do more work. So, you have to come up with a structure that you're really comfortable with. I'm doing X amount of dishes and if you wanna vary from that, we need to discuss what those dishes are. You are not going to do eight pot roasts today. Because those are gonna take an ordinate amount of time. But if you have three quick and easy ones, two drinks, one longterm one, and one medium one, maybe I'll squeeze one in at the end and we'll get seven or eight today. And that's where we're at. And if those are long, arduous recipes for my style, and that's the other thing, your stylist is gonna wanna kill you if you put them in that situation where they are just running ragged. So, you need to be influenced by this, how many do you need and then you start to say, that's going to take two days, that's going to take three days, that's going to take five days. And then when you get the cookbook with 100 pictures in it, you say then I retire. (audience laughing) After you pay me for that one. So, this is important and you have to ask that question and know that there are all these subsequent questions that go along with that is once you get those answers, you have to be prepared to say, okay, well, we gotta rent the studio for three days and the studio's $700 a day, and every one of those line items has to be discussed. And then your client says, "Oh, well I don't have "that much money, what do I do?" Well, now you need to cut your shot list. And that's where you arrive at 35 dishes for a cookbook, that's where you, you know what I mean? That's exactly how that happens. Because once you've educated your client as to what these things cost, forget about your time, everybody else's time. And if your client thinks they're gonna be the person that pushes out 25 dishes out of their own kitchen for a cookbook in a day, forget it, they're not gonna do it either. It's just not gonna work, the food isn't gonna look right. So, protect your art, protect your bankroll, and make your client happy by saying to them I know how i can make your work look great but these are the guidelines we're gonna go by and then negotiate all of those guidelines. When it comes down to angles and they start sort of micro... Tell me a little bit about the amount of shots and what your comfort level is when you're shooting one dish from a particular? Just talk a little bit towards that. Sure, and what Jim's really discussing is variations on one shot, right? Yeah, thank you. And when I do any given photo shoot, I always allot a certain amount of time with each dish. And I first try to get my shot. And once I get the shot that I know everybody wants, then I go about shooting it the way I wanna shoot it or giving variations that I think will work well for that dish. So, if I allot 30 minutes and I get my shot in the first five, I will spend 25 more minutes taking pictures of that particular dish because I want to give value to my client. So, that way when we're going to editing, they don't just see one angle, they see five angles, or three angles, they see an overhead, they see the table level, they see the diner's perspective, they see a close up. And it becomes cinematic for them because now they're seeing the idea of the push and the pull on each dish and they can make an educated decision about the entire package that way. So, if you shoot everything that way, in a cookbook or in a project, all of a sudden when your art director is laying out the layout and they have four overhead circles to work with and nothing else, that doesn't make for a good layout. But when they have a beautiful overhead, a tight closeup, they have a process shot, or they have a still life, they have a completed dish from diner's perspective, even if it's the same dish, you can view it from a couple of different angles on the layout and it still makes sense. And that's the way I think, you know, is the most effective use of your time and the way you can give value to your clients the best way. This question is the one that will influence just how much money is in it for you, because aside from the idea of work for hire, which we're gonna kind of leave alone because I think that horse beat dead. The usage is important in understanding, first of all, what, who is the client. Does the client have the opportunity to use this to make money? Is an editorial client that's telling a story? That's one thing. Is it an advertising client who's gonna use it for a campaign? That's another thing. Is it a cookbook client who's going to sell a cookbook? THat's a different kind of a client. So, one, understanding how the imagery will be used is essential as to how build a negotiation around pricing. So, you need to understand also what all those things mean as the person who's providing the imagery. When you ask the question, "How do you wanna use my imagery?" The answer can't be, "Oh, I just wanna have them "so I can use them wherever." And that's that work for hire thing again. Because that's exactly what that means. If somebody hires you to just shoot stuff, oh, just come in and shoot some stuff, then they own those pictures, they can do whatever they want with them. That's not what we want. We want control over our creative vision, we want control over our intellectual property. And that's what asking this question does for you, and we're gonna go into a little bit deeper about this when we talk about rates. But first asking the question, "How do you wanna use the images?" And whatever that answer is will influence what happens next in the negotiation. So, it's the driving force behind the idea of we are negotiating, this isn't about you just hiring me, I'm not your employee. I'm an independent contractor and I'm providing you a service. You don't go into the supermarket and negotiate the price of oranges with the guy behind the counter. That's just not the way it works. The oranges are a certain price, that's not photography. We're not selling oranges. Well, sometimes we're selling oranges. (audience laughing) The file formats. This is also one of their informed questions that can kind of prevent you from having one of these disasters where you spend a ton of time editing, retouching, and getting a package of photographs ready and you send them off as JPEG's and they say they wanted TIF's. And they were like, yeah, it was in that email like 20 emails into that chain, you know, the one that everyone was on and there was 75 emails in that chain. Yeah, it was said that the editor wanted TIF's. You need to be clear, ask the question, what file format do you want? Do you want JPEG's, you want TIF's, you want CMYK? You need to know how to deal with that situation because ultimately it matters and it's also about your comfort level and how you like to process your work. And this is also leads to a little bit of a bonus question about files is who's retouching those files? Are you retouching them? Is someone else retouching them? And if there is someone else, who is that someone else because these are my files. I want them to look a certain way. I process my pictures maybe differently than you do. SO, you need to understand if there is somebody retouching your photos, you wanna know what they're doing with them. Are they cropping them? So, because honestly, then the cropped photo is a very different image. So, the file formats are really important in understanding how that, what's gonna happen with those files as we go forward means a lot in the equation. And if you're working advertising, basically you're shooting and you're handing off raw files and you're giving them the whole drive and you, (light clapping) And that's it. And actually, that's a great situation because they've all ready calculated what they want, they don't care about this because they all ready recalculated who's going to be retouching and it's really not in your hands anymore. Because that's a very different environment. But when you're talking about cookbooks and magazine work and all of these other things, that all matters, it's all very important. Going back to retouching, is that something that you wrap into the budget when you're figuring stuff out? And if you don't know yet what type of retouching you're gonna need, how do you approach that? Well, I mean, I think if you are clearly expected to hand all the finished files, you need to just calculate what kind of time that's gonna take on the backend. And that really influences how many pictures you're gonna present to the client. So, if they want four variations on 30 dishes and you gotta present 120 finals, you need some time for that and you gotta budget that time and put that into the price. And again, the idea of what your time is worth is really about the negotiation that's happening here with all these questions is it's hard to be very specific about pricing because very client is different. Again, the difference between regular clients and one off clients, and you're gonna build flat feet clients, and all these other things. The end of the day, if you can live with the number, and you've had that discussion with other artists, and you are informed about what photography is costing these days in different venues, as long as you're in the ballpark and you feel that you're being served, your art is being served, and you're making money that you're comfortable with because in your market, this makes sense. Then absolutely, it's, there is no right and wrong, it's just about where you are personally, professionally, your region, all of it, the client. Whether that client's gonna use you again. All of those things matter. Make sure you account for the 25 hours you're gonna spend retouching, because if you don't, you're working for free. Okay, a photo maker would like to know brainstorming a little bit, besides file format, are there any other technical things that clients want? Do they want keyboarding, if you're providing images sometimes do they want-- Captioning. Colorspace or? Well, color space is essentially like the file, I mean, the CMYK designation is a color space designation. And as far as, what was the other thing you said? Like keywording? Oh, keywording, yeah. Captioning, yes, not keywording. I mean, you need to caption your work, that's just standard. People who are looking at these photos need to know what you just took a picture of. So, you need to capture everything that you shoot. Because it's very hard, especially like, for the pie book for example, if we didn't caption every photo, we were captioning it on set because there was no way we were gonna go back in editing and look at pictures of 90 pies and be like, which is which, I don't get it. So, that's really important and if you're working with a digital tech or you're working with somebody who's captioning your files, you can have them keywording or captioning as we go. So, we create folders. So, here's a folder, we're doing peach pie, 20 pictures of peach pie, next. Pecan pie, 20 pictures of pecan... So, then when you're going through them, you'll have sense of what is what. And what was the other part of the question? Um, I think you answered about the, you answered color space, you answered captioning. I was just thinking of any other sort of technical things that you've come across that a client might ask. Size, cropping sometimes too. Size, of course, yeah. If you're working and you really wanna know whether or not you're shooting vertical or horizontal, as you've shot a cookbook and you've shot everything horizontally, you're probably in trouble. But that's kind of common sense but you'd be surprised. If it's not communicated, sometimes things look better this way. Do you color correct for CMYK or do you let the people on the other end do that? No, if people, usually people asking for CMYK are, they have their own retouchers. Because they wanna work in a particular format. That makes sense. Yeah. This is an important question too because the amount of lead time you need to prepare your images, especially if you're being asked to do the retouching, depending on how big the project is, I would say whatever you think it's gonna take, add two weeks. You know what I mean? And then you are, one of my favorite phrases is under promise and over deliver. Because if you tell people it's gonna take a month when you know it's gonna take two weeks, and you deliver in 10 days, you look like a hero. And really, that's what it's about. The client relationship is do they feel they're getting value for their money? And when you give yourself enough breathing room in case things aren't going the way you want them to go and then you're able to come in under time and under deadline, you look great. It makes you look like a better professional. But if you tell them two weeks and you can't make two weeks and you're 17 days or 18 days and they got people waiting for these files, you're not gonna work with that client again. So, this is an important question to ask upfront and then when they give you, yeah, we need them tomorrow. Sorry, we're gonna need two days for that. So, whatever it is, double it. Because a lot of people want it yesterday and I understand that. But if you want my best work, you need to give me the time to do my best work. If you want me to rush it, you're not gonna get my best work. So, it's a good question to ask. It has, it's a very simple equation. Just give yourself enough time to deliver, to deliver the files that are on a timetable that everybody's comfortable with. And how much negotiation is involved with this in the sense of negotiation, like if you have a client that's your best client, been your best client for years. How much, is there any given bend? Absolutely. And is there also some price offer? Do you want it fast, good, or cheap? Well, I mean, I don't ever wanna kind of say you're not gonna get my best work. I don't wanna ever do that, but I do have a tendency to have certain clients that if they need it in an emergency and they need it by tomorrow, I'll make it work, even if I have to work all night. But if it's just a random one off client and they want me to work and they want me to turn it around in two days, I'm gonna push back at that because you haven't, you don't have any standing with me either as a client. You gotta remember, that relationship is a two way street. They're not just doing you a favor hiring you. And you gotta remember that. They aren't doing you no favors. If they like your work, like the same thing with the guy at the register, he ain't doing you a favor selling you an orange. It's the same thing, you're paying for what you get, you get what you pay for. And as a business person, you present yourself that way. I have something you want and I will sell it to you, but you're not doing me a favor by buying it because I will sell it to someone else. And you have to be confident to know that that is the case. That if you have a valuable commodity, somebody's going to want to buy it. And this isn't the only client on the street. And if they are taking advantage of you or presenting a relationship that makes you uncomfortable, then you need to look for another client. It's as simple as that. The file delivery, now again, what I spoke earlier is when you are handing off a drive at the end of the shoot, that is clearly file delivery. But you still have to ask the question because what do you want it on, do you want it on a drive, you want it uploaded into the cloud? You want, you know, there's a number of different ways to deliver files and you need to be clear about how you, what method you're going to use. It's a simple question but it's a question that needs to be answered because if they don't want them through the cloud or through the internet and you need to provide them with a drive, you need to have that with your set or have that in your studio when you're working so that you can have that and then you need to messenger it to somebody, you can't just stick it in the mail. So, you have to have a messenger service that's going to deliver that by hand to your client. And you need to have multiple copies, clearly, of the finals in case that thing gets lost. So, that's important in a professional workflow having the conversation about how you want your files, your finals, to be delivered to your client. It seems like a simple, like just common sense question, but it is definitely something that needs to be discussed. One thing I noticed in these wonderful photos you're showing is that there's hands. And so, do you hire hand models? I noticed they're all male hands, so far at least. (laughing) Did it look familiar? You're your own model? A lot of times, yeah. Do you ever work that into the price? No. I mean, I was lucky enough to inherit my father's hands. I think he might be watching, hi dad, hi mom. But no, Jim's not my dad. (audience laughing) But you know, my hands work pretty well on camera and I've done a lot of things where I will put the camera on the stand or have an assistant hit the shutter once we framed it up, and I'll put my own hands in it. But I also have a couple of male food stylists who also have nice hands. So, those male hands are not always mine, but they are sometimes a couple of others. Do you ever hire models or work with hand models? It would have to be on a big advertising job, there's no budget for hand models in editorial photography. (laughing) A question from over here. I know a lot of wedding photographers, for example, when they're presenting and delivering their client files, do you ever do dog and pony show where you print stuff out, where you have prints for them? Or you-- Oh, you mean test prints? Yeah. Or something like that? Yeah, doing anything-- It's not something I've done personally but I know it has been done and I know photographers who have done test prints and I've seen it more on the fashion end and things like that. As far as food photography, I haven't really seen much of it. It's a big expense on set to have a laser printer that's throwing out prints like that. And I think it's a little bit of an older workflow. It's not unheard of but it's not something that I've done, and I don't know that many food photographers, I mean, maybe at the highest ends in advertising, maybe, but I haven't experienced it.

Ratings and Reviews


I highly recommend this course! Andrew is an engaging and thoroughly knowledgable teacher. This class is less about how to photograph food - although there are some terrific tips - and more about the "nuts and bolts" or rather, "bread and butter" of running a successful business. A lot of the information is relevant to business in general, but the specific tips about food photography are especially exciting to implement! I found the hands-on portion during the morning of day 2 especially helpful in assimilating the general or more abstract ideas covered in day 1, which laid a fantastic foundation. 5 stars!

Delaney Brown

Andrew is not only a funny, incredibly entertaining person, he's a seriously great teacher. Being in the live studio audience for this class was such a treat. I was able to learn a lot of the nitty gritty lived-in details of what it takes to be a successful food photographer. Things that are hard to come by in books and online! I would highly recommend this class for anyone who wants to take their passion to the next step: making a living.

Amy Vaughn

While I'm not quite ready to focus my business on food photography, this class gave me a much clearer idea of what options and challenges there are in the food photography industry. Andrew covered everything from what jobs might be like when starting out on a tight budget to what options open up as the photographer becomes more experienced and successful. I already did my own internet research about the food photography business before the class, but this was more comprehensive and easy to understand in a short amount of time. Now I feel more confident about setting my business goals, who to look for to collaborate with on projects and eventually the kinds of clients I'd like to work with. He also gave many tips that are immediately applicable in my current photography business that isn't yet focused on food.

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