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Product photography pricing strategies

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Product photography pricing strategies

Hi all,

I'm in the process of preparing a quote for commercial photography: products on a white background to be used for a catalog. I'm having trouble figuring out what the best pricing strategy would be.

Now, the client does ask for the day rate and I'm inclined to think this would be best, but realistically, how many products can you shoot in a day of work? It also seems not all the items would be delivered at the same time, which would mean more days. Guess I'm mostly concerned that by going with day rates the final cost would become too high and even overshoot their budget.

I've seen other photographers go the 'charge per item' route with discounts for volume (heck, I've even listed such pricing on my site myself), but I'm not sure if this would be a good approach, since I don't know how many 'sets' I'd have to build since not all the items are of the same size (things ranging from pens and water bottles to lawn chairs).

Any advice you'd kindly be able to provide is much appreciated. Not so much as to how much to charge, but as how are these projects usually structured when it comes to quotes and proposals.

Big question here also is: realistically, how many items can be shot per day?

Nov 15, 2016 at 06:35 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Product photography pricing strategies

"Big question here also is: realistically, how many items can be shot per day?"

It all depends on how you're shooting the products. I've done as many as eighty or a hundred shots in a day when it's just swap and pop, but as few as three or four when the setups are more complicated. I'm in the middle of a job right now shooting products and every single shot is focus stacked with between five and forty images and then there is extensive retouching and even building new products out of prototypes combined with CAD renderings. For that I try and arrive at a fair day rate for the photography and then a separate charge for all the post production. I never do it on a per shot basis but sometimes I do that math to let them know what a smokin' deal they're getting.

Nov 15, 2016 at 08:45 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Product photography pricing strategies

Peter has posted great information and I will add just one thought. Once you've figured out how many shots you can accomplish in a day and accounted for post work, I would be careful on licensing and term of use. You may find that limited those areas may generate additional revenue, so don't give it away. I recently drafted an estimate based upon the information given and may end up doubling my fee because the client doesn't want to come back to relicense.

Nov 16, 2016 at 03:47 PM

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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Product photography pricing strategies

Thanks for the pointers. They do help to prepare this quote.

Nov 16, 2016 at 11:24 PM

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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Product photography pricing strategies

You need to ask more questions and qualify your client far better.
you are asking us about things you don't even know yourself. How can you possibly prepare a quote when you don't even know what you are doing?
At this point in time, you are putting the cart well before the horse and asking for people to tell you where you are going.

Myself, I'd be finding out a lot more about what they want.
What sort of products? How many? What sort of end use? What sort of backgrounds? White of greenscreen for deep etch, studio set, location? Will all the products be delivered at once or will the shoot be spread?
How much post work will you have to do? Big variation between setting up a table top set and batch processing against having to individually tweak shots of 20 different products in 5 different locations......

ASK questions.
Untill you do and get a better idea of what the hell you are going to be doing, you may as well ask how long is a piece of string.
And yes, I realise this is not an answer to the question you asked and the reason for that is, at this point you haven't asked enough questions to know how to answer it yourself let alone anyone else being able to ask it for you.


As far as licensing goes, my suggestion would don't try and be too clever or greedy.
I would be finding out if this company has licensed pictures before. If they have just bought them outright, then you are going to be shooting yourself in the foot carrying on about licensing.
Yes, they may run a pics for 10 years and yes, you may have lost some revenue if you don't charge licensing. OTOH, If they are unfamiliar with the concept and have never done it before, you stand a 1000 times better chance of loosing the whole deal in the first place.

The reality is for a lot of people outside the advertising world, licensing fees are seen as paying twice and you sure as hell aren't good enough at sales to turn that belief around and myself, I wouldn't even try. In fact I never have. I charge for the job and that's it. If they use them for years, great, I'll be able to show the next client a pic they have seen and get the promo value there.

I have read a shipload of threads asking about licensing and I don't EVER recal anyone coming back and saying they were successful with getting the client to pony up. I know some would have had to but the amount I know that haven't make the other outcome a very remote possibility indeed.

One other consideration..... You have no clue what to charge for taking the pics. How in the hell are you going to work out what to charge for licensing. I will guarantee you look at any calculator or guide and you'll come up with a number that will blow the client out the water and make them think you are crazy, a rip off merchant or both.

Again, don't get too clever for your own good. If they are familiar with licensing , great. If they aren't, I wouldn't even mention it other than to say your shoot fee includes unlimited use or use for 2 years etc. Get any more technical than that and you are just driving a stake through the heart of the deal and making it less likley.

Nov 18, 2016 at 04:09 AM

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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Product photography pricing strategies

The client did provide a brief with specifications. Thing is, this is one of those 'official' clients that go through a tendering system. Thus, I can't even approach the corporation itself to ask questions, for I'd be breaking the system's rules and I'd be automatically disqualified. Nor can I share information about the tender itself. Hence my 'lack of detail' here. I have to ask on the side and circumvent like heck. They did specify the estimated number of images and provided samples of the subjects. It was mentioned also that some subjects will/might require different backgrounds or arrangements. That's why I'm having trouble figuring out how to fit all that into a day rate.

If this were assembly-line mechanics –'swap and pop' as Peter Figen said–, I guess I could calculate how many minutes it would take me to shoot a single product and then multiply by the total. But, since the same background and light positioning might not be the same for other items that might be larger or different in terms of texture, &c., I take it that it'd would take time to change/move things around or build a new set. All of which would extend the time per product shot.

Frankly, I'm thinking that a per image pricing approach might be best and even cheaper for them. Guess I'll quote both options and let them pick. Dunno if they'll see that as confusing or amateurish, but as I said, I cannot ring them up and ask.

Licensing is a moot point: they will be requesting copyright transfer. I'm fine with that.

Nov 18, 2016 at 04:28 AM
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Product photography pricing strategies

Sounds odd to me.
They don't give you specifics on the job or how they want you to quote it out??
Not being able to ask questions also sounds weird. Nothing wrong with qualifying exactly what they want to make sure it's what they expect.

Seems you could go a low hourly rate then hit them for a lot more hours than others might to make up the numbers.
You could also quote on the job all up with variations allowed for.

Personally, I wouldn't be putting too much effort into this. Sounds like a real good opportunity to get burnt and an even better one there are going to be people low balling the hell out of the job to get experience or pics for their folio.

Nov 19, 2016 at 09:05 AM

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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Product photography pricing strategies

The fun of doing business with government.

They did give specifics: a multi-page brief, and they did ask for a day rate. Guess they assume that someone with experience will have no problem quoting or figuring out how many shots he can take per day.

They do say that the lowest bid won't necessarily be the winner. Whether that's true or not, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. If you ask me, being government, I don't think they're too worried about economising –it's not their money after all, it's mostly come from our taxes.

Don't think people can use the photos for their portfolio, though. When you deal with government, all photos you make become theirs when the bill is settled. You couldn't use them or shew them without copyright infringement.

Nov 19, 2016 at 04:41 PM

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