What price a portrait?

corporate portrait of businessman in Bristol

A corporate portrait can be more than a mugshot.

I should start by explaining that this article isn’t talking about family portraits or photos for the mantelpiece. What I’m talking about here is the business portrait. The corporate headshot for the profile page of a commercial website, newsletter or chairman’s statement in the annual report.

Why is this distinction important? Mainly for licensing reasons. If you go to a high street photographic studio and have photos taken you will probably pay about £30 for a sitting, and £100 for a print to hang on the wall. And personal use is all you’ll be allowed of that photo. Commercial use would require payment of an extra fee, and I suspect most studios wouldn’t be happy handing over an original digital file for that use as you could then get your own reprints done, which would of course breach the photographer’s copyright.

When you have a photographer visit your offices to take portraits for the company website/brochure etc, you’re not paying for prints for personal use (though you can probably buy those if you want), instead you’re paying a licence fee to use the images for corporate use. This is a different kind of agreement with the photographer and the pricing structure is different.

Of course if you book a photographer and then just have a single headhsot done, it can work out relatively expensive. Perhaps £250 to get a small selection of images for use across various media. But if you line up a few headshots to be taken at the same time, the cost will rise but the individual price for each headshot will drop quite dramatically.

It’s often quite difficult to explain this concept to clients who will say “well it’s only some portraits, they shouldn’t take long.” The thing is, in commercial and corporate photography, it isn’t just the time taken to get the shots that you’re being charged for, but also the commercial (as opposed to domestic) value of the photos. Remember, these photos are part of your marketing, and hopefully will help your business make more money. They may not be used as prominently as your product shots, or general photos of your business operation, but they’re all part of the mix and to have any value to your business, they have to be good. Which requires skill, time and equipment to achieve.

In short, you need to give the humble head and shoulders photo some respect and also understand that what you’re paying for is a combination of the photographer’s skill, experience and time on the commission, as well as a fee for the commercial exploitation of the results.

And what is that worth? As I said earlier, if you hire a photographer to take just one headshot you could easily pay £250 for that, maybe more. Get a batch of portraits done in half a day and the rate might rise to around £500, but if 10 portraits are done, that works out at £50 per head. That’s less than you’d pay for a 10-inch print to hang on your wall at home, and your clients can’t even see that photo. Unless they’ve broken into your house.

Shouting from the Gallery

I’ve recently introduced a new system for presenting and delivering images to clients. I haven’t shouted about it to everyone yet because I felt it needed to be tested with some trusted clients first, but it’s proving so popular that I’m offering it to anyone I think can benefit from it.

Here’s how it works, but a little history first:

female corporate portrait

The system is great for keeping any commercial images organised.

It used to be I’d shoot an assignment, then make a web gallery from the images before any post production was carried out on them. The client would choose images from the gallery, send me the image reference numbers, and I would carry out post production and send the photos via CD, email or FTP.

The client would either have an agreed number of images included in the price, or would pay an hourly post production fee according to how many images they needed.

This was all well and good, except that most clients would end up choosing 30 images from a 30-image deal (for example) when they only needed maybe 12 images to start with. The rest they were picking just to make up the package, when they didn’t necessarily know how they might use those photos.

Now with the client-specific, interactive gallery, I do the shoot, edit the pictures, do post production on all remaining shots and upload them to the client gallery, from where the client can download the files they need, when they need them. The files are all ready to be published when the client sees them, and they don’t need to download the entire package of photos in one go. The gallery remains for as long as the client requires it, and indeed the client can have me add to the gallery with subsequent shoots.

This development has also allowed me to put together a more formal pricing structure for all those assignments which don’t have special, extra requirements in either equipment, travel or licence to use the images. In other words, standard corporate shoots.

You can download the rates card here Tim Gander Fees to see how it works. I put together three packages to suit different business sizes, types and picture needs, from an all-in option for the busy client with a need for quick access to lots of images over a period of time, to the startup that might just want to have a bank of images sitting safely there for them to buy as and when they need them, thus managing their cashflow better.

Of course there will be times when clients need more extensive rights to the images than my standard terms allow for, and there will be clients with a much lesser requirement, or shoots will be more or less complicated or expensive to run, in which case rates will be negotiated according to the assignment and the client’s needs, but this system will suit the majority of standard, corporate assignments.

I welcome feedback on this, so have a look and tell me what you think.

Tim Gander is a commercial photographer shooting corporate photos for businesses in the Bath, Bristol, Swindon and Salisbury areas of the South West of England, and has a habit of talking about himself in the third person.

Contact Tim on  07703 124412 or tim@timgander.co.uk

Top 11 Tips for booking a photographer.

A couple of blogs ago I promised a quick guide to choosing a photographer for your project. Then I forgot and instead wrote something terribly witty about Leonardo da Vinci and infinite monkeys. I know it was witty because somebody said so. “That’s witty”, they said.

Getting back on track, here is the blog I originally promised. As a bonus I’m doing it in a top ten list sort of a form. As a double bonus, and in the style of Spinal Tap, my top ten list goes to number 11, so it’s one better than all the other top ten lists.

So here, in roughly the right order are your top 11 tips to finding, briefing and booking the right photographer for your project. This is only a rough guide of course, but it should help you with the basics.

1. You need to start by defining what the project is, and what style and quality you’re looking to achieve. From this you should be able to construct a rough brief, even if it needs adjusting later.

2. Start by looking for the photographers who can help you; specialists in the kind of photography you’re after. With each field of photography well catered for, there’s little point looking for a wedding photographer for a corporate shoot,  or an interiors photographer for press shots. It just happens I don’t shoot underwater pet weddings, so please don’t ask.

3. Talk to a few photographers and get an idea of the different rates and approaches they have.

4. It’s only fair to get firm quotes based on a clear brief, so whittle down your choice and start to talk about fees, either with a couple of photographers or with the one who shoots to the style and quality you need. I went into more detail about how rates work in the last-but-one blog. The photographer can often help develop the brief at this stage.

5. A brief consists of the date, time, location, what the pictures are to be of, how many pictures are required (approximately if necessary), your contact name, email and mobile number.

6. The brief also includes what the pictures are to be used for. This also helps define the likely fees, as well as informing the photographer on certain technical and artistic considerations.

7. You will need to know the photographer’s terms and conditions. These should be pretty standard, but check them all the same. Mine stipulate a bowl of M&M’s* on arrival.

8. Allow the photographer to liaise with your designer (if you’ve hired one). It can save a lot of time if the photographer knows how the images are to fit within the design.

9. Agree how the pictures are to be delivered, what file sizes are required (the photographer will advise you on this) and how soon after the shoot they are required.

10. Make sure you liaise on any special instructions that will help the photographer – props, access to the building, parking. It’s easy to forget that photographers need equipment, some of it heavy, so a nearby parking space makes us feel valued. We have such simple pleasures. Oh and don’t forget the M&M’s.

11. Finally, you should enjoy the day. It’s a break from the office routine, and I promise I’ll share the M&M’s. Mmm M&M’s…**

*Apostrophe police, please note the apostrophe in M&M’s is there because the manufacturer put it there, though it begs the question “M&M’s what?”

**I am not paid by Mars confectionary (manufacturer of M&M’s) to promote M&M’s, however if Mars would like to make a donation of M&M’s to me, they should contact me first for my address.

Article and photos © Tim Gander. All rights reserved 2009