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Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Lesson 5 of 12

How to Craft a Budget

Ron Haviv

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Ron Haviv

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Lesson Info

5. How to Craft a Budget

Lesson Info

How to Craft a Budget

Talk a little bit about about budgets, so obviously, you know, this is incredibly important. We're just talking about the ability to make a living, and so on, one of the things that's really important, um, is not losing money, right? So probably, I think maybe only in the world of photo journalism as opposed to other fashion photography still life advertising, of course, two photographers kind of fuel unease e about talking about money in relationship to this type of work and it's not even pushing it to the idea of refugees or war or famine and just daily life or stuff like that because people are like, oh, well, you know, it's, like, I really care about this family, and I want their story to be told on dh saw it and said, I don't want to feel like I'm exploiting them or song, and while I can understand those feelings very, very easily, the best way for you to look at it is if you cannot survive as a photographer, you will not be able to tell any stories, and then nobody will know what...

's going on, so you have to treat this like a business, and we're not gonna get into the depths of business, but we will talk about a few things the first is is about budgets. This is really very basic stuff, but you really have to learn now how to do a budget so what's happening now especially in the editorial world is because money is so tight that people need to know exactly how much things were going to cost so this goes in conjunction with the picture letter which we'll talk about it a bit but it's getting to the point now where this idea of journalism photojournalism, visual storytelling going off into the world finding something bye exploration and kind of following the lead and doing that and being supported by a publication because you know you don't know exactly you have an idea what you want to do but you don't know exactly is pretty much gone nobody has a luxury now to send you off for weeks at a time to kind of explore and find that story they they want to know both through the pitch letter and threw the budget what exactly are you going to do and how much is it going to cost which for me is kind of a little bit of like the antithesis of this world of journalism exploration? So now the world of exploration is on your shoulders and now you have to come to the magazine and say, okay, this is the budget you need to understand how to do the budget so not only do the magazines wanted budget but the grants wanna budget and the budget means that basically, everything that you do in relationship to creating that story has to be put in there. If you're going to spend five days on research, you have to figure out how to compensate yourself for for that time, a soon as you walk out the door to go to the airport or to take a bus across town and get on the subway, whatever is going to be whether it's a buck fifty or ten bucks for cab that's part of the budget like so you you there's so many times with the small things that photographers don't bother to lie to budget for, and you wind up losing that money. And then after a while that starts this starts and so magazines want the budget, the grants from the budgets that everybody wants and when you're doing a job, a spectral, because don't expect job is when you're doing something on your own that you hope to sell later. It's really important to do a budget for yourself and why do you want that? Because when you go to sell the story and somebody says, okay, we'll give you five hundred dollars for that story and you look and you have a budget and you said yeah, but I spent between time and expenses I spent ten thousand dollars on this story and then you could say that person I'm not going to sell it for five hundred dollars because sake that's a joke and they're going and that's the only place you could be able to sell it it'll be financial suicide but so many times photographers especially when they're doing something on spec I don't actually know how much they've spent and so you should well this is obviously very fluid but at least for your own spect budget give yourself a basic magazine dear eight, five hundred dollars every time you spend a certain amount of time working on that story so you really know how much time and that way when you go to negotiate to sell this story you least have you have a number to start with you have both the actual expenses and then also your time expenses and then if you say okay, I'm willing to cut it fifty percent off my time because I really want the story to be seen at least you have that leeway but at least you're starting you're starting with the number and and most photographers don't do that and then so sorry it's really the budgets and estimate budget which is what they're asking for first and then you basically as time goes on maybe stories change flights change cars change it's a kind of kid constantly be in contact with your editor saying, you know you want me to stay an extra day that's going to cost exits like so many photographers kind of assume like everything's taken care of but whenever money starts changing with numbers, start changing from your budget it's really important to be completely up front with whoever's funding you because it is not there if there's not a paper trail it's not an email it's not so on there and this happens sadly they're just like, oh, we never approved that so I always take care of yourself always be really conscious of of of thie idea of the budget so no only with the budget that will happen make sure that you've got a really good invoicing system, preferably something that can do can do both. I used a company called blink bid, which I'll show you a couple of examples on on the next slide, but he's quickbooks I mean there are other systems like whatever the system is fine, the system that works for you that makes sense both in the immediate like in terms of billing, invoicing and then of course most importantly uh at the end of the year when you have to do your taxes something that's like super simple, so you're not spending lots of time kind of finding even invoices and someone but there every day there's new programs and new things so whatever works for you makes it so this is an example of the blink pid system some of these things on the right come with the program is for photographers on lee and other things it's very easy to kind of add add to it and then they're all kind of like click and so on they have on the left all sorts of different things about about different rates and they also will we'll track we'll track sales will track when you get paid so I was there a lot of different things like anything that you could do unless you have like a great studio manager working for you if your mate maintaining all of this for yourself anything that you can do to kind of streamline makes sense at a glance and keep your finances in order um is super helpful so this is a sample which will be in the bonus materials of of ah sample seven invoice in the estimate it still starts to give you a licensing conversation words that you can use invoice terms and then basically breaking it down into all sorts of different things and so now these different things that we're breaking it down into our becoming important conversations with all clients editorial ngo and so it's the first is is your feet right how much are you going to make um per day at the moment there's a huge conversation going on with time ink on the photographic world as they're trying to standardize the payments across all time inc publications and will follow with the conversation with kirsten kanda nets you're supposed to be aware of this as a working photographer, how much do people pay? And the best way to do this when you're working on assignment is to ask the editor you're talking too? What is your day rate? And then decide our do you accept that? What are you giving up in exchange for that? Uh, they're different things that come into play there's embargoes on syndication there's clients until you're not allowed vergis indicate the work uh, there are there are times when they're going to say we'll pay you for one time usage and other times we're going to say that we can use these photographs indefinitely forever imprint on the web every client is going to come to you with different different rules from things in their contract. It is really important is really, really important, uh, to to read them and their organizations like snp and a p a's or photographic organizations that are there to help you understand contract so you can join these organizations, they could be incredibly helpful, so you don't have to feel like you're doing this on your own but the's air contracts they're written by lawyers not by photo editors not by journalists but by lawyers and given that most photographers are not lawyers and most photographers are terrible business people it is really, really helpful to try to get support but don't blindly just sign anything because you're so desperate toe work for ex publication it's fine to work for them if you agree but I understand what you're agreeing to that's really important so you have a photographer feet now you have something else called uh travel fee so most publications as they should if you're going somewhere traveling somewhere and not shooting that day I should pay you a travel fee generally the travel fee for most publications is fifty percent of the day, right? I personally think it should be one hundred percent because you're traveling you can't shoot but photographers lost that fight a long time ago but again it's kind of like when you're doing your budget don't forget to add like to travel day takes me even if you're driving you're driving from l a to san francisco or whatever it's like that your time and your time is now been engaged by someone and you need to be compensated for that time so the two general fees they're going to be a photographer fee and the trouble right now we move into kind of you when the world transition primarily from film into digital all of a sudden, there was a huge line item that disappeared from the magazines magazines used to pay quite a lot of money to buy the film, to process the film, and then if it was shooting black and white or color neg, they would also be making contact sheets so we would be giving in bill's play, probably thirty dollars, parole and magazines was part of their budget and was normal, and then as we start to shoot digital, they're like, oh, great, we don't have to pay that anymore, and we don't have to pay anything at all even though we, the photographers, are making these very expensive investments in digital cameras, computers, hard drives, card readers and cards. So this is a constant fight and it's something that's important for all photographers to bring up. But there has to be some sort of compensation for for this and so dependent of photographer people call it different things. I call it digital capture, and I asked for a fee at the very least per day, if not per job, to compensate all of this investment that I'm doing. And rather than billing a client for a sixty four gig card here, a two hundred gig hard drive there when terabyte drive there, just make it like a flat feet. And it's up to you to decide what you want to do. I base it on a minimum of a couple hundred dollars a day when I can get it, and and a lot of clients are paying it because I understand how fair it is because of the investment that that we're doing, but that's something to to include now the other part of digital, many photographers are kind of losing the fight or not even trying is post production. And so one of the things that's happened in the transition from digital, too sorry from film to digital is that weird now become the editors right? We're the first line editor, which in some ways is fantastic, but in other ways there's a lot more work that we have to do, so we have to know we do the edit, and then we have to, um, prepare the edit to be print ready photographs I highly recommend never sending a file out of your studio out of your house out of your computer to a client that you don't want to see printed, meaning that because so many things have gone wrong in the past where you're like, oh, here's, like a low res file or hears a file that I work on later, just let me know if you want it. And then all the sudden you open up the magazine or click on the website and there's that file this way if you know that everything you've done has been photoshopped the way that you want looks exactly what you want that way that's what goes out and so basically the clients because this is extra time this is not this is something that some photographers outsource they outsourced to retouch hers and outsource the laps is not I should like again this kind of one man band idea shouldn't expect that you should be able to be the most you know, advanced photoshopped photography course of photojournalism you're not changing a great deal but you're doing toning and so on but still there there are people that are very good at this and so some photographers outsourcing, but if you don't outsource it or the client doesn't want to pay for it that's a problem and so you have to make sure that you're charging for a post production re some some publications and some media companies have like a set rate and others will ask you what yours is and you have to determine how much time are you spending doing post production on your head it meaning that you're not you shoot a thousand frames were not doing post production on thousand frames, you're going to edit it down to whatever you think is the right amount for that story and then I will do I would do post production on that and that's what I send that's what I said to the client um and I wanted and I expect to be compensated for that. So for myself, my general rule is if I have an assignment one to three days, I usually do it like half of the day rate would be my post production and if it's three to five days meaning that beam or photographs to work on, I would add another day and other photographers do it differently. There's no real set rule from the photographer side, but now magazines are starting to say, like we paid two fifty a day for postproduction we paid one hundred today or we pay to fifty when they don't pay anything, then I think you need to, like have a real conversation see if they have a policy against it see if the editor will or the thunder will compensate you in a different way, but this is like, again, this is like this's real time that you're spending, so you need to be able to be compensated for it's it's. Really? Um, you know and then there all these other little things you have to kind of remember, like, you know, as photographers, you should have insurance liability insurance if you're going somewhere outside your home you might want to have medical insurance or various different things. These are all things that the client is supposed to pay for. Maybe you'll need vaccinations, maybe you'll need medication, whatever is related directly to the assignment, the client should be should be paying, and at least put it in the estimate so you can have a conversation if you don't put it in the estimate, going back afterwards, it's going to be a little bit harder to try to get that money back. Um, if you're doing motion, then you have all these other things that are gonna be above, right? So there's cinematography, which hopefully with some clients election say, okay, we want to shoot stills we want you should want you to shoot motion, and some clients will give you a day rate to do still don't give you the right to shoot cinematography, or it might just be a cinematography job only, but you have to understand the differences in what your client once but that this is, like, very basic, but they're more but color correction. You need to hire an editor, you need money for music licensing. If you're doing something overseas, you might need money for translation you might need to rent here this's something is also incredibly amazing in the world of photojournalism, where in the terms of motion, certainly in terms of tv guys that are shooting for the bbc and other places is that there is a line item for them to rent their equipment to the company, and then they went, and then they're on their own feet somehow, somewhere along the line, photographers forgot to do this. And so, therefore, where again, responsible for obviously buying all our gear, but now is we're being asked to shoot more and more emotion, and sometimes it might not be on your dslr you might need to use ah, the c three hundred or read or something like that, then, you know, you need to make sure that's the line item that you were going be billing you two hundred dollars a day for camera, that you know, I don't have that camera, I need to go and get it, or I need these lenses or so these things are always important to really kind of talk about, um, in shipping transfer, you contrived for digital transfer. Usually that gets kind put into the capture and the production, but some people will pay for it. And then, of course, all the airfare stuff I started, all the travel stuff is these are all line items and again like the easiest way to do it if you're like a little bit like I don't know exactly what to do is like break down your trip like what am I going to do when I walk out my door hell cab I'm gonna get on a bus do this don't do that I'm gonna have a meeting at the airport or have a meal on the road all that stuff and that has to come up in conversation there magazines now it's incredulous to me but there are magazines now they're saying we won't pay well but you want to sign me but we won't pay your meals but that's their policy and saying, well, you know if all of us say we refuse that maybe we could have some impact it says photographers are generally not known for banding together it's just important for you to understand like but if you don't put that in your in your budget you don't have a meal item and the client says afterwards yeah, we're not paying for meals and you had a one week assignment and you spent I know one two hundred dollars on food that's going to come out of your bottom lines who should you need to know all that stuff from from the beginning so all the different stuff so visas and so on and then like what happens off of course obviously you know what kind of infrastructure you have when you're on the ground do you need to fix her? We'll talk about that in a bit you know driver car's gas etcetera do you do any mark ups with regard teo rentals and things like that in your in your invoicing or in your estimate I generally don't generally don't really do major mark ups I mean it's a fight enough to get these digital fees mark ups are much more traditional in in portrait and advertising's tto life then it has been in for journalism we are really sort of like the low people on the totem pole so while I think it would be great and would make sense business wise and if you can do it I certainly I mean within reason I certainly wouldn't say not to but I think that we're dealing you know, with very small budgets and so I think we need to try to be treated fairly and to be and to bill fairly but at the same time uh to to find a way to work so if you have the ability to you know, to add ten twenty percent that makes sense that's maybe you're not getting a big enough dare aid or you're working more than they're willing to pay you or so I think there are other ways to kind of compensate that but you know it's your business and you have to run it you have to run it well and what works for you. And then they're people. That won't pay it. And you don't want to work for that. And then, like in any business, that's, that's, just the way it will go.

Class Description

Capturing a story on film is a complex process. It demands an understanding of the issue at hand as well as the ability to condense, package, and pitch the story to a distributor. Successful photojournalists make a job of nailing down the details before a shoot and being prepared for anything.

In Your Photojournalism Survival Kit, Ron Haviv brings two decades of experience in building a photojournalism career on carefully laid groundwork. 

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to identify a captivating story and organize a plan for shooting it 
  • How to create a budget and a pitch letter
  • How to plan for any eventuality during the shoot, and cope with setbacks when they strike
Ron Haviv draws on his long career for anecdotes and suggestions for aspiring photographers. He’ll teach you that your assignment starts before you leave your house; planning, packing and preparing for even the best-laid plans to go awry is essential. You’ll learn tricks for assessing your preparedness, safety, and support while on assignment in the field.

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit is crucial for beginners, and for current photojournalists who may need to brush up on their checklists. Learn from Ron Haviv’s early-career mistakes, and lay the foundations of your own successful, impactful enterprise in visual storytelling.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Budget and Invoice Template

Medical Kit Supplies

Resource Guide

Resources Mentioned In Class

Workshop Print Sale

Pitch Letter Template

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


KAren OLlis

Thank you Ron and Creative Live for the thoughtful and expansive course. Even for a pro, the information was often enlightening and definitely inspirational. The best way to learn is from a seasoned professional who knows how to teach in an organized manner. Appreciate the support materials as well. Will be out shooting stories no doubt! All the best, Karen Ollis, Karen Ollis Photo

Connie Kennedy

Ron Haviv presents his generous insights and experience in a wonderfully paced and very clearly delivered manner. Combine him with the Creative Live platform and you have a magical educational experience. I'm so grateful to attend this course. I wish I had heard a presentation like this years back; it would have spared me some mistakes. If you're sitting on the fence buy this course. Tap into his wisdom. Enjoy.


I've been a following Ron Haviv for years. Love his expressions in delivering explanations. It's amazing to see and hear from the photographer behind the photos. Well structured course. Having Kenna's facilitation makes this workshop so worth watching. Thank you creativeLive for this great sensory experience!