The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

Lesson 25 of 30

Estimates & Invoices - Editorial

 

The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

Lesson 25 of 30

Estimates & Invoices - Editorial

 

Lesson Info

Estimates & Invoices - Editorial

So lets talk more specifically about estimates. We'll start off with editorial, specifically. Now that we all know that you can't make money in editorial. (audience laughing) But we'll just talk about some of the basic principals of editorial work. Typically, I guess, how you get an editorial job, we've kinda covered that, you know, you're doing work that is of interest to someone. I don't know if there's anything else you wanna add in terms of how they come in. But, in my opinion, one of the really nice things about working editorially is when you get a call, and I think we already mentioned this, it's your job if you want it, you know, you're not, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, you're not typically bidding against other people. You know, if you don't answer, like Maren said, they may call the next person pretty quickly. But they know, in this case, that they wanna work with you, so that's the nice thing. And that's where it's very different from ad work. It's also nice becaus...

e their day rates are standard and they just are what they are. There's no negotiation or guessing or anything, it's just, it's simply, "What's your day rate?" Some of the fees are not what they need to be but, like for assistants, some magazines don't pay enough. I mean they haven't changed since 1975, and assistants are earning, rightfully so, at least double what they used to. But some magazines say "We only pay," so as Maren said, you can say, "What's your creative fee? "What do you pay for assistants, what do you pay for gear?" and all that kind of stuff. It's not a negotiation, you don't have to worry about them trying to lowball you. They're gonna tell you this is what we do. Or sometimes they'll say, "We'll pay X amount creative fee, "X amount for assistants, plus gear." And so then in that case it's up to you. Like, what do you charge for gear? And that's something that you'll have to inform the client about. And I would say when John first started doing editorial, it's similar to any other kind of photography where there's not a rule book out there, you know, there's not lists available of, like, all of the possible expenses that you can bill for. And so we would do, we did jobs for a couple of years. Even with an agent, you know, and we billed the basics. We billed the creative fee, maybe an assistant, maybe mileage, like, literally the number, like 18 miles at 45 cents per mile. But we just had no idea what possible expenses. And as far as the cost of doing business that we were talking about earlier, any expense that you incur that you don't pass on to the client, that's coming out of your day rate. And so it's really to your benefit to be thoughtful about all the expenses that you are going to incur for that job. And to go ahead and put them, you know you might need to get them approved by the client before you send 'em the bill, but it's really to your benefit to make sure that, you know, you keep track of your mileage. We learned a really awesome tip when we started working with Maren, that I noticed that when she bids for travel, that you kind of lump it, like gas, mileage, tolls, and parking, like, all as a single fee, and it's like $150. And my interpretation of that was that we just can bill that to the client. That we don't have to break it out, like, I spent this many miles and we paid this much in parking. It was just a lump travel fee that encompassed all these things. Well, we went from being able to bill, like, $8.33 for mileage to suddenly being able to bill $150, and when your creative fee is $ and the sum of the entire job is $1500, that extra $100 that you're able to bill, because it's a lump fee, is kinda huge. I think I really thought it did cost $150. (Maren and Nichelle laughing) But that's great! And I think that's with any business. If you have a plumber fixing your sink or something, you're not gonna be like, "What did you pay for that pipe?" You know, like, "Why are you charging me more?" That's a business, that's what business is. It's to make money, they have expenses, and when they buy a pipe for $5, they're gonna sell it to you for $10 or something. And it's not because they're trying to take you for a ride, it's because they're not running a charity, like, they need to make money, that's part of running the business. I think what Nichelle was saying, at one point, I don't remember where, but with our first rep, I saw someone else's estimate at one point, and I was like, "What, like you can charge for gear "and lighting and I can get reimbursed for my gas? "Like, I don't have to take a hit on that?" No one had ever even told us that! And so that was kind of eye opening-- And even our agent that we had been working with hadn't told us that. I mean I tell people to bill back for insurance. I mean, you have to carry liability insurance plans, so wherever we can, we'll put in $ for their insurance, it adds up over the jobs of the year, you pay for your insurance, it's a cost of doing business. It's not a bogus cost, it's a real cost that you're paying. We generally don't even cover it. But you have to try and recoup your expenses wherever you can. So this is an example of a editorial invoice from early in my career. This was for a national magazine. You'll see here movin' up kind of the difference between this and some other things. But this is basically just, you know, we have our creative fee or day rate, which is dictated by the editorial client. And then your digital capture and processing, which is kind of the equivalent of film and developing from the old days. But it's basically your time and ability and equipment to capture the images digitally and to make, and edit, and to deliver proofs. Maybe you have a subscription to some sort of delivery service online, or something like that. But there's a lot of time that goes into the digital capture and processing of images, even on a digital level. And then you have a fee for an assistant. This was maybe one of the first times I'd ever worked with a stylist. So for this particular shoot, what that meant was really just, kind of hair and make-up and maybe some grooming for the subject. And then we have our mileage and then our equipment rental. And you'll see here, we have an equipment rental for a rental house that we actually rent from. We have an equipment rental for our own gear, as well. And, again, just like you're not looking to pass on savings, for us, and I would imagine everyone else, we have gear that costs a lot of money and that gear breaks. And sometimes, you know, you'll have someone working with you that doesn't care about it as much as you do and it breaks faster than you'd like. So you have to be able to justify that investment that you've made and make sure you're able to maintain that. So, it's probably because editorial hasn't changed very much, this might still be fairly accurate in terms of what a fee might look like for shooters and things. Well, except for now-a-days people say "We have $250 all-in, can you do it?" (laughs) Yeah, and that does still happen. This is from a more recent editorial client. And the names have been made up to protect. (audience laughing) But this is more recent. And so this was a really high profile subject. And it was not only a portrait shoot, but it was also a video, I interviewed the subject as well. So this is, not necessarily typical, and even if someone had asked you to do this, this is still, editorially speaking, a fairly generous budget, I would say. There's a few clients that can do this, and they're really great about making sure they're doing their best to take care of the people that they're working. Business magazines tend to pay more fairly, I think, than other magazines. Or AARP. (audience laughing) So, this one you can see there's a bigger crew. There's a digital tech, which is, again, the digital tech is someone who's working with the digital capture and the naming of files. And they're checking to make sure things are in focus, and they're backing up images as you go so you don't have any problems and lose some pictures. And, if something happens with capture, a cable goes out, they're handling all that. And then we have, now we've introduced retouching. We didn't have that on the last estimate, you know, I think I was still doing some sort of editing or processing to my images, but it just was, I was just, that time was just coming out of my creative fee. So, now, you know, I don't do that anymore, so we are actually paying someone to do the retouching on images that we're doing. We have a digital package which just covers your digital equipment like a laptop and cables and all that kinda stuff, and the list goes on and on. You can see, if we're using something, we're billing for it. We're not just taking a hit on that kinda thing. And I think some of the numbers here might be a little unusual. It's mostly because I think we were said, "Hey," they said, "We have a flat fee, like, "this is what we have, can you make it work?" So you kinda work backwards, and you hafta fit certain things in if you're gonna do it. I would say, couple of things that we also learned when working with Maren is about how you bill for equipment. I mean, in the previous invoice, it was very, like, I had exactly what we rented from the rental house, and then I would ask John after every shoot, like, "Tell me every piece of equipment "that you used on this photoshoot!" And I would, like, be very specific about every single piece, and I would compare it to our local rental house, and I would, like, put a rate next to it, and we would send that in with the receipt for the job. But when we started working with Maren, I noticed that, you know, she split it up "camera kit," so you, billing for the camera, and then you're billing for lighting. And, you know, you mentioned the other day that, like, a magazine doesn't necessarily blink an eye at the equipment. Yeah, I didn't, 'cause, I mean, I was a photo editor and I, I mean, all the technical stuff was scary to me. And you know, when we'd be having to get budgets down, the photographer, I would be like, or they would be like, "Well, I guess I can cut down on my gear." And I'd be like "No, no, don't do that! "I want you to be prepared!" And so I would never touch that, and I have heard about these magazines that pay 350 for a fee and then people have a gear line item that's $2000. And now I know from being on the other side that they, that may or may not have been representative of actually how many lights they were renting. It probably wasn't, and I was probably naive to that. I had no idea, I remember speaking in a photographer's class and he was like, "You can charge for this and this and that!" And I was like (gasps loudly)! (audience laughs) I was like, "That guy!" But, you know, I also had no idea that I was not paying people enough to feed themselves. And I was, it was just naive, I mean, you just have to have some empathy for people instead of being angry at them that they really just don't know what it takes for you to do what you're doing and produce what you're producing for them. And you have to be able to justify it too, you know, if you're a natural light lifestyle photographer, you're probably not gonna get away with even a or $500 line for lighting in, you know, strobe lights, they're like, "I've never seen you use that before." But, I mean, if it's something that you genuinely use, you know, you hafta be honest obviously in that way, but. I had a photographer who was more of a lifestyle photographer just say to me recently, "I need to double my kit fee." So I generally do somewhere between, like, 350 to 500 for a kit fee on commercial jobs. And his wife called me and was like, "I don't think you know, "but he breaks a camera on pretty much every job." He's a maniac, he like jumps in the water and is like, he's like, chasing crocodiles, he's just like a total maniac on a shoot and she's like, "It's killing us. "Like we literally, we look at our bills at the end "of the year and we need to charge more for his cameras." And I was like, "Oh, I had no idea!" And now I can have that conversation with a client! They'll say, "Gee, this kit fee seems high!" And I'll say, "Actually, it represents a camera "and a backup camera because he's a maniac. (laughs) "And so it's not one camera that you're paying for, it's two, and he tends to break cameras." And that's how you get this, like, you know, for the guy that's doing more sports action work, you might be in the rain. Corey the fishing guy built a custom ice protection housing for his camera. I mean, if you're shooting in extreme conditions, you will break gear, and you, they're expensive, and you have to charge for them. So I have two questions. First, you talk about the magazine's set rate. So, are these fees above and beyond that rate? Or is your bottom-line gonna come in at the 500? It's fees and expenses. And expenses, okay, so that's where the-- So day rate would be your fee, and that's untouchable, ideally, unless somebody says "I have an all inclusive." So it's fees and then expenses, and you'll see here that it's separated. So, I sometimes will say it's like above the line fees and below the line expenses. And the second question is, is I notice the hard drive there. Is that how you deliver your images, or do you deliver, how do you deliver them? The hard drive is for, we're buying hard drives to backup images so that we can ensure that they're not just, we're spending all this money on a shoot and we just have images on our one drive and it could go bad or something. So that's for us to ensure we'll, we deliver them digitally. And so, we're not giving a hard drive to a client. And here in Washington state, and I'm not sure about other states but, if you actually put the images on a hard drive and you deliver them physically, you hafta bill sales tax. On the whole shoot, not just the drive. On the whole shoot. If you're taking digital images for a company and they're using it for their company in some fashion, you don't hafta charge sales tax. But if you were to, like, put it on a thumb drive and hand it to 'em or give 'em something, then you do. So the way we get around that in our estimates, and I put everything in an estimate, I just leave nothing to chance, I will say, "Hard drive provided by client if needed." So that you can suggest to your client sort of gently on the pre pro call or the first call, you can just say, "Hey, if you wanna take away a drive from the shoot, "just bring your own drive," so that you don't have to deal with that exchange of goods and services and charge sales tax. And so again, yeah, all these things, these are not things that anyone else is gonna prompt you for. A client's not gonna be like, "You sure you don't wanna bill for a backup camera?" or whatever, like if you need that, it's your job to educate your client or whoever it is that you're working with and let 'em know, "This is what I need for part of my process." Some people might say, "Oh my gosh, "yeah, I've never seen anyone charge for, "that much for a camera before!" But if you can say like, the example Maren was giving, "Yeah, well, the way I get the shot of the inside "of a crocodile's mouth is I usually lose a camera." (audience laughing) Then they're gonna be like, "That makes sense, let's make sure that we, you know, cover our bases," kinda thing. So you hafta be the one that's telling people, 'cause no one else will do it for you. And one other thing before you turn. So, even on editorial jobs, I make sure that we have the licensing terms written down on all the invoices. So, Maren makes estimates and that licensing information is gonna be on the estimate, and I usually just copy and paste, or, for editorial there's pretty standard, they're just gonna use that image one time in the magazine, and then likely they'll put it on their web page. But that's a protection for you, if you start finding that image is on, being used, like, printed in a magazine again or they're using it in some kinda advertisement or something, it's just, the information is there and they've received it, and it can be a protection for you if you ever hafta dispute a copyright or an infringement. Do you ever find that someone else will use a client's image and repost it, and how do you handle that? I've had that happen with, like, a boutique that I work for, that brands will take the images that I've shot for them and use them, like, I had someone use it for like, their New Year's Eve advertisement, and I was like, "You just stole my work!" So how do you? (Nichelle laughing) It happens more and more these days. It actually is taking up a lot more of my time than it used to. People really don't understand copyright at all. And I usually approach them gently and say, "I'm sure you didn't realize that, "but it's a copyrighted image, "and this is what I would've charged if you had asked me." And either it's a sort of cease and desist situation, or, which means, "Oh, I'll take it down right away, "I didn't realize it!" And most of the time that's good enough, unless it's, like, a real commercial entity. If it's a commercial entity, people have done the right thing, often, with us, and I've been really impressed by that, where they've said, "Oh my gosh, we're so sorry, we had no idea." And they'll write us a check! And I'll write up a licensing agreement that grants them the rights for that use based on what it would've been if they had known how to do the right thing. But it's really important for you to copyright your images, that's like, one of the best things you can do for yourself, 'cause it gives you a better leg to stand on, so. Will you guys talk about that a little bit? Because I actually would like to tell other photographers that I work with about that, and I actually don't know the process that well. Nichelle can actually. I spent a lot of time working on copyrighting. John hadn't copyrighted any of his images for the 10 years that he'd been creating work that could be used in that realm. (clears throat) So, if you do find that images are being used, (clears throat) excuse me, you can go and back, copyright all of your images, even if it's, like, years old, 10 years old, so, gosh, (clears throat) excuse me. I spent a good number of, the hardest part is, like, going back through your archives and finding all of the work that needs it, so that took quite a bit of time. But you can either go directly to the United States Copyright Office and, like, upload your information in there. It's a slow and painful process if you go through the Copyright Office, you know, you can submit your paperwork and then it could take up to a year for them to get back to you with the copyright information. There are agencies out there that are now doing, they have a more streamlined process, so they, you can upload your images, and then they're monitoring the internet for use of those images, but they also have an in with the US Copyright, where they've kinda developed this relationship, and so, we, now I use this organization who has this really developed process. So in that respect, like, we get our copyright back within, like, two months or something. But the nice thing about it is that they're just constantly monitoring the internet for any use, and it does require work on your part to then go through and look through every instance of infringement and decide, right. Like if it's just on somebody's blog, you're probably not gonna go after them. But, if you find a corporation that has been using your image as an advertisement or something along those lines, then they can start the process of contacting that company and negotiating with them to have a fair rate for the use that they've used. So, it is a really, it can take a lot of your time, so the ideal would be that you register your images within about three months of having created it. But you can go back and do, you know, full year at a time, uploading those images. And so it has taken a quite a bit of time, but now that the process is rolling, it's a little easier. Oh, yes! Um, I've heard that the Copyright Office is charging a lot more, or they're limiting the number of images that you can submit. You used to be able to do unlimited, and so this is a very costly endeavor for us photographers now. And so I was wondering, did you have that on the list of your expenses for copyrighting? No, we don't list that, what? No, I just have never, I've never seen that. It was just an interesting question. I believe it's, like, $85 per batch that you send, you know, that you register. But if you register, like, I've registered 500 pictures at a time, and that's still the same amount of money as if you registered just 20, so, certain programs that you can use will, like, included with the fee. Like you might get three uploads per year for, like, included in that rate, and then any additional registrations beyond three, then you just pay for them, so. But no, we haven't ever billed for the copyright. I think in terms of industry standard and what people are used to seeing, it would probably be considered a cost of doing business and people wouldn't let you do that. And you just hafta get a feel for what people are used to paying for and what they aren't. And, you know, it is changing, and people are starting to charge production fees because in the broadcast world, that's standard. When I saw it in the print world, I was like, "How can you charge me that, that's so much money!" to producers that were working to us, working with us, and now everybody's trying to start to do that. So, what people get used to seeing changes depending on changes in the industry, but I have not ever seen that charge.

Class Description

Whether just starting out in the commercial photography industry, or ready for a new chapter in your career, John Keatley shows you how to survive in a competitive field. Known for being innovative, creative and thinking outside the box when it comes to his photography, John applies those same skills into running his business. In this in-depth course, John shares some of the key elements that allow you to be an artist and a business owner. You’ll learn:

  • How to find your style and attract the clients you want
  • How to create a bid
  • The importance of drafting a treatment
  • Estimates and billing for your work
  • Planning and scheduling your production
  • Tips on memorable branding
  • The difference between an Art Director/Agent/Art Buyer
  • Techniques for editing your portfolio

If you’re at the start of your career or ready to expand your client list, this course will be the game changer you need to create a solid foundation for a thriving business.

Reviews

Bonnie Aunchman
 

John & Creative Live - Thank you - Best. Class. Ever.! This is a GREAT class! If you are a photographer, this is definitely a MUST GET class, but even if you work with photographers as part of a creative team - you have to take this class. (I'm a Photo Stylist) John covers it ALL in this class - it really, truly is a Survival (Success) Guide. John is so detailed, honest, and generous in his knowledge/experience/wisdom in the commercial photography industry in helping you understand the business and really succeed (& stand out). When I see that John is teaching a class on Creative Live - I'm in! (I have his other valuable courses as well)

a Creativelive Student
 

I was lucky to be part of the studio audience for this course. John is an awesome teacher and did an outstanding job of making sense of a very difficult side of photography for a creative to understand. He shared his 18+ years of experience, including the good and bad he has gone through. The "special guests" alone are worth the cost of this class. John has an amazing team working beside him behind the scenes. Their perspective on his business was priceless!

Amy Vaughn
 

Thanks to John for being so open his experience in the commercial photography industry and giving us so many real world examples. I especially appreciated the contributions by the non-photographers in the second day of the course - Nichelle and Maren. Nichelle gave a good perspective on the finance and business communications side. Maren is John's agent and offered her insight on how agencies worked. I've heard photographers discuss working with agents before, but it was helpful to hear an agent answer questions directly about her experience.