The Anatomy of a $100K Commercial Photography Estimate

The Anatomy of a $100K Commercial Photography Estimate

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.

Print One EstimateIn 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.

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Previous comments

Its that $10 that really gets ya.

There is a mistake in the invoice : 8 selects processed at 150 is 1200 not 600. This guy has lost 600$. Too bad ! You should tell him. Maybe you'll get a commission.

How many people would do it free "for the exposure"? And then lose their shirts :-)

This is a great article and it's funny that I just did a bid for a commercial shoot last week. The shoot entailed a buy out of rights which basically meant they wanted to have no limits as to where they could use the image and for how long. I had to figure out the realistic lifespan of the image and give them a figure for a perpetual license even though I know the image would be replaced between 3 and 5 years. I gave them a perpetual national license for the cost of 5 years at $42,500. Thats for one image with the main purpose of Billboard (OOH) advertising.

One thing I've learned is that you can't be afraid to charge. Everyone else in the supporting industries are sure not scared. I got a quote for a suspension/wire coordinator (for suspending people) for 3300.00 for the day. How bout 1 mammoth fog machine and 2 large fog machines for 800.00 a day. Why should photographers be the ones that break and crumble under the slightest pressure for a discount?

Everardo Keeme's picture

Fantastic! Thank you for the insight!

they didn't even charge tax LOL?

Michael Warth's picture

The images are licensed not sold. This is a B2B invoice, sales tax is for retail gigs.

good insight! this is happen to me when budgeting production cost. mark up is a must, sometimes we dont know if there is overtime, adding tax and travel insurance for the crew and any miscellaneous expanses.

Kool story bro...


True but completely irrelevant. ;)

They misspelled "catering" You would think they would spell check for a 100k client lol