Transitioning into commercial photography is no easy task. For some it’s the holy grail, end game, and ultimate dream job to have in the industry. For others it couldn’t be further from what they want- and that's fine! However, for those of you planning a transition from event/portrait based photography into the commercial advertising world, there is a long list of connections, lingo, and experience based knowledge you need to have in addition to being at the top of your game visually. The blog A Photo Editor, is a fantastic place to start your journey on educating yourself on some of the moving parts, or inner workings, of how to present your brand and talk with art buyers. It’s a good place to get into the mind of what an art buyer looks for and acceptable rates. You will have a lot of archived reading to do if you haven’t yet perused this blog by Rob Haggart, the former director of photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine.
In a recent Photo Editor article titled “Pricing & Negotiating: Portraits of Real Customers for Advertising Shoot,” by Jess Dudley from Wonderful Machine, we see real photo estimates (above) and a back and forth dialogue between a producer and an art buyer. These back and forth dialogues with real-world estimates are critical for you to know if you do not have a mentor in your life with years of experience doing this. No, all of the numbers won't be the same for everyone in all arena's but this will help you get an idea of what else it out there. For most of you, this estimate may have considerable sticker shock coming it at $102,710 for "environmental portraits of real customers/users on location." You may be thinking “who the hell would pay that much for 8 portraits?” The answer is many clients and art buyers in the commercial photography world.
Take a look at the article and examine the breakdown of how the numbers come together. Look at the shear size of the team required to pull something like this off and compare that to what you would have estimated this at. Learn the language, familiarize yourself with acceptable day rates for crew, and learn everything you can about usage fees. At the end of the day, this knowledge is just as important as your ability to create an image and for many, may be harder to master than making a great image.