Don’t be the bird that swallows the plate.

I’m a huge fan of Black Adder, and there are many hilariously memorable scenes, but the one which springs to mind as I write this week’s article is in Black Adder II when Percy enters Black Adder’s chamber wearing an outrageously large neck rough. On seeing it Black Adder remarks that Percy “looks like a bird who’s swallowed a plate!”

Why is this relevant to anything I have to say about photography? Well it’s simple really, dear reader; When a business plans its photography in small, manageable chunks throughout the year it can cope with getting what it needs without too much drama, but leave it for a year, two years, five years, and the project becomes rather like a bird swallowing a plate. Trying to ingest the ingestible, and risking some kind of injury in the process.

I’ve said before that photography should be treated as part of the over-all marketing plan, not as part of the web budget, because photos can be used in print as well as web. Try printing a website as a brochure, and you’ll start to understand what I mean – they’re separate budgets within the over all marketing budget.

By keeping your photography fresh and up-to-date you might very well spend a little more over time, but at least you won’t have a colossal expenditure to make in one go if you’re trying to start from scratch, having neglected the photography for some years. And since business people like to say “cash is king,” doesn’t it make sense to make smaller investments that add up to a solid image library than to trying to buy your entire photo library in one huge gulp?

So keep headshots up to date regularly, don’t wait until there’s a week’s worth to be shot unless you’re prepared for the cost. Keep on top of product, site, process and PR images. Consider planning a shoot every three months (or whatever suits best, so long as it’s regular). Or at the very least, review what you have and what you need on a quarterly basis.

espresso cup and small change

You’re buying the coffee, not the cafe. Buy in stages and don’t insist on all copyright.

To extend the subject a little, think more carefully about the image rights you need. Consider restricting your requirements to (for example) a three-year time limit. Certainly avoid all-rights or full copyright buyouts as it’s extremely rare for a business to actually require these rights, and most sensible photographers will charge more if you demand full copyright because they’ll assume you wish to allow other businesses use of your images, when the photographer might reasonably expect to be able to re-licence the images to those third-parties (with your permission, of course).

Certainly it’s normal for editorial images to be bought on licences that are limited by print run, territory/language and duration of use. Commercial images tend to be sold on wider licences, but limits can help in the negotiation process and you can always top-up the licence later.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve said here, or have a favourite Black Adder scene, feel free to comment below.

“How much?!” A guide to photography rates.

Welcome to my blog-type thing, I’m glad you could make it.

Having convinced you in my previous blog of the terrors and pitfalls of using micro-payment stock photography for your corporate website and brochure (in short, every time you use istockphoto, a fairy dies), this time around I was going to lay out what level of investment is required to hire a real photographer to take genuine photos that will make your business stand out from the generic stock crowd.

Unfortunately it’s nigh on impossible to condense all possible fee structures into a single blog article, so I’ve come up with a much better answer.

Basically, what you need to pay for photography falls somewhere between you being embarrassed at expecting so much for so little money, and the photographer being embarrassed at charging so much for something they’re professional enough to make look easy.

There, I think that covers all the bases.

Well ok, there’s a bit more to it than that, so I will try to guide you and leave you better equipped to work out what your budget should be.

The first considerations are the quality, style, creativity and experience of the photographer you’re looking to hire. Also, what the photos are to be used for and for how long. These elements will almost certainly be the most influential in setting costs.

Many photographers will quote a time rate, but others like myself will work out a project rate based on the brief and what the pictures are to be used for. This tends to reflect the true value of the work produced, while also avoiding sneakybeaky add-on charges that can crop up when a project is priced on a menu basis.

One element which is often overlooked by clients is the post production time. Post production is what gets a digital camera file into shape ready for either electronic or print use. The file straight from the camera is no use for either, so the photographer has to spend time after the shoot preparing the files for publication, including adjusting colour, exposure, resolution and many other time-consuming and rather dull tasks.

As a guide, a day’s shoot can easily equate to a half day’s post production, though this also varies from project to project. Again, in my case I’ll generally include a certain amount of post production so there are no nasty surprises later.

Ok, so you really want some hard figures? Speaking for myself a project can be as little as £190 for a locally shot PR event with a limited shelf life. At the other end of the spectrum, I have charged £1,500 per picture for complicated national projects with multiple, ongoing uses, vast coverage and a lot of planning involved.

lloyds tsb cheque presentation to housing association © Tim Gander

Good PR shots get good publicity. © Tim Gander

In that first example, the client might be slightly abashed to know that I’ve brought 20 years’ experience, £20,000 worth of equipment and free exposure in local newspapers for less than it would cost to hire a plasterer for half a day. In the latter case, I felt suitably scared of screwing up the client’s expensive campaign that I made damn sure the results exceeded their wildest expectations.

When considering the budget, try to take into account the financial return you hope to get from the exercise. If you want a good return, you’ll need top-notch pictures. Rather than trying to find the lowest talent that will do the job for your budget, it might be better to spend extra so that your project punches above its weight. Better to spend a little more and find you’ve got pictures that really project your message than find you’ve spent too little and the project fails. Ha’peth of tar anyone?

For further guidance on typical prevailing fees, see:

“NUJ Freelance Fees Guide”

barbary lion

Barbary Lion © Tim Gander

Finally, if you like this lion photo I have a free A4 digital print I will send to the first UK-based reader of my blog to email me their name and address.

Until my next blog, when I’ll help you through the process of choosing a photographer, take care, and I wish you all the best with your business.

“Tim Gander is a press, PR and commercial photographer based in Somerset, who likes to talk about himself in the third person”

Article and photos © Tim Gander. All rights reserved 2009