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Photography Question 
Gunn Vuttudal

Hourly rate for commercial shots

I might have the possibility to do some commercial work for a grocery chain, but have no idea what to charge...

The work will be shooting produce/food for their weekly flyer, so an ongoing thing. There will be no postprocessing on my side, as I'll just pass the images on to a graphic designer.

I know they're too cheap to hire a pro photographer, so I don't want to price myself out of their market, but I also don't want to do this too cheap.

Does anyone have a ballpark number? How does $35/hour sound? Too much? Too little?

Will start asking about contracts, copyrights and all that kind of stuff after I've figured this first part out. ;o)

Thanks in advance!

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4/10/2008 4:58:15 AM

Jerry Frazier   That's the spirit; undercut the market.

Look, you can't go out to a steak house and just pay half because you can't afford full price. If real commercial photographers are not willing to do this, there is probably a reason for that.

This gets my goat, man.

$10k to start. That's what I would quote. YOU DO NOT QUOTE COMMERCIAL JOBS BY THE HOUR. You quote them based on their intended use. You also do not hand them your files.

They are going to profit from the use of your images. This is valuable. I don't know what the real price should be, but it's not $35/hour. Maybe $1,500 day and then on top of that, a limited use license. A decent professional quote might look like around $3 to $5k per day and will vary based on image use, just guessing. But, that's far more reasonable for you.

If they don't have that kind of budget, then they don't get you.

It is NOT an opportunity for you. It is a choice on their part. I hate that we think they are doing us a favor. They are not. You are actually contributing to their bottom line. They owe you.

or, negotiate profit sharing into the deal. Find out their baseline today, and as their profit goes up as a result of your images in the ads, you get a percentage of their additional profit.

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4/10/2008 12:14:29 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  BLESS YOU, Jerry !!!
I agree with absolutely every word you said and the spirit in which I think it's intended.

And (I might add) when Gunn can shoot produce the way produce growers (and sellers) need it shot and without having to fix it in any way (truth in advertising laws among others), by that point he should have an idea of what to charge and WHY !
Thanks again Jer.

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4/10/2008 3:46:41 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Troll Alert!

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4/10/2008 6:17:52 PM

Gunn Vuttudal   Geez, thanks guys, for the warm welcome!

Jerry - if I can't afford steak, I'll go somewhere cheaper, where the food might not be exactly what I wanted, but it'll still fill me up.

The reason I was thinking of using an hourly rate, is that I don't know yet how big the job is, and how many hours it would take. Quoting an hourly rate seemed to make sense to me, as then I'd be certain not to bust my behind for nothing.
I do see your point about quoting a price per project, though, and will look closer into that.

The limited use licence I've already though about, but the profit sharing idea is new to me - thanks!

Mark - Would you like to share some of your knowledge about produce and shooting it with those of us who don't know as much about it as you (seem to) do?

(And I'm a she, btw.)

Pete - Sorry, I have better things to do than troll around - like asking genuine questions to people in great need of better manners.

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4/10/2008 6:56:02 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Plain and simple, Gunn? Knowing how to shoot food, any food including produce, is an art. I charge and receive $2,250 per day PLUS expenses including assistants, travel fees all over the western U.S., royalties on reprints, and incidentals, etc. I work with large format film cameras, studio lighting (even on location) and know how to shoot anything from asparagus and brocoflower to zuccini; from apples to zinnias (flowers are produce too. I know how to identify varietals, seeds and seed coatings. I know the growers, shippers, container manufactuers, ice-house owners, distribitors, wholesalers, retailers and their marketing directors, editors and art directors for all the trades.

In all the years I've been in this business, I don't know a single marketing director of even one food chain, who, would retain the services of anyone but a genuine, established professional, knows produce, knows photography AND the commercial printing business, and knows the general fee scales and sufficiently understands the business practices in order to successfully work with art directors, designers and illustrators for conceptualization purposes and also has the talent and equipment to back it up. That's just for openers.

Anyone at any food chain who's willing to overlook those very fundamental attributes is doing their employer a huge disservice, probably wasting their money, and likely yanking your chain.

And if you want to learn this business, get a job as an assistant and apprentice full-time with someone for at least a few years. So, after you've apprenticed, joined an association or two, paid your dues AND learned the value of these types of services to a multi-billion dollar industry, THEN maybe at that point we might discuss sharing professional knowledge. And if this response strikes you as my being either rude, arrogant, harsh or rather territorial, given the dues I've personally paid to learn my skills, hone them and capitalize on them to build a large client list, you, my friend, are absolutely, 100% correct. I can afford to be.

When you mention $35 an hour, I don't even load a Polaroid holder for $35 bucks an hour let alone shoot anything. Asking that question, I'm sorry to say, means that you are clearly over your head before you even have a chance to bid a job for this type of work. Jerry was trying to tell you that.

Now, I'll give you this one for free: The guys handling marketing for supermarkets don't get a second chance to make a deadline to sell produce that's in a cooler somewhere spoiling as we speak. Small chains buy or receive their marketing materials from the growers or wholesalers.

Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing you at PMA. ;>)
Take it light.

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4/10/2008 8:35:02 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  And if you've done this kind of work before, Gunn, let's have a look. If you want to see some more of my stuff, take a look at the packaging for Fresh Express, Tanimura and Antle, Mann, Nunez, among others, and various duratrans displays in supermarkets along with the advertising flyers promoting them.

I don't understand why a small chain would hire someone at any rate to shoot work they get available for free from their suppliers or why even a small chain would risk their reputation in hiring someone without a very strong portfolio in this type of work and a track record shooting it.

I think that's what Pete was referring to. Something here isn't quite passing the smell test. Feel free to enlighten us. Thanks.

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4/10/2008 8:44:33 PM

Jerry Frazier   Hey Mark,

Great thoughts. I wonder if a tax attorney would take a criminal case of grand theft auto? I wonder of a Corporate laywer would dabble in immigration law?

Just because you have a camera and equipment and understand exposure and composition doesn't mean you can shoot anything. There is another discussion going on at a pro forum I am part of where we are asking each other why don't we refer more. If a potential portrait client calls, and I only pretty much do corporate work, why would I even consider it? Why not send that work to my buddy Mark, who does portraits. And when my buddy Mark gets requests for Corporate work, why not say, I don't do that, but Jerry does, you should call him?

If you want to succeed in photography, the specialists do better than the generalists. There are many reasons for this, but it has been written alot about in books and such. It is easier to market and hone in when you only do one thing. Your concentration and market penetration is very precise and clear. The message is clear, and you become known for that thing.

I hope this was a real posting and not a troll. But, in case someone else reads it, at least maybe they'll get something out of it.

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4/11/2008 11:40:18 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  I think photographers who have already been doing it for a long time mainly pass on types of jobs because of things like availability.
This thing about having to specialize seems like it's come from editors/art directors and worked it's way out and is a generation thing. Or at least something you can look to a period of time and say it didn't used to be that way.
Anyway, since it's produce, charge by the pound.

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4/11/2008 12:14:17 PM

Jerry Frazier   I don't know Gregory. Seth Godin is a huge propnent of specialization. I think that it makes more sense than generalizing. It's not an old school thought, in fact, it's more non-old school than you might think. I hear more about it. Probably because of the internet, and other things, alot of people think they can do many things, like a web designer that does any site anyone will pay for. But, I've seen huge sucess from web comapnies that specialize in one type of design or industry because they get to know the needs of that industry intimately and deliver like no other can. Photography is no different than any other service business.

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4/11/2008 12:41:00 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Gee, I hope we didn't offend or scare him off.

On one hand, again I agree with Jerry about referrals. That's one of the main reasons I advocate joining local pro get help, give help, ask for advice or mutual aid.

On the other hand, I don't disfavor a guy learning how to shoot something he's never shot before for a new or existing client. The problem with that is twofold: First, how much do you charge the client for your own learning curve? Second, and even more significant to me, is how much do you low ball your association pals to learn at the expense of your client?

What Gunn proposed here is clearly and severely undercutting anyone who shoots veg or ag or any other kind of produce for a living. In fact, I saw his question and got angry. It struck me as the "I'm going to shoot my first wedding for $25 does anyone have any advice for me?" question.

I try to maintain a mentoring attitude although I continue to learn a lot even on a daily basis. And I don't usually mind sharing what I know with my assistants or to some degree, people here if it can be helpful and people want to learn a particular aspect of photography. BUT what I will NOT do is assist someone who has absolutely no concept of what his potential work is worth and even if he produces garbage for $35 bucks an hour (or less) if some art director calls me to reshoot it for my usual fee, I'll probably double it for angst money. LOL !!! And I would encourge everyone else to do the same under similar circumstances when a job, in fact, can be reshot.

That's my rant. I'm sticking to it.

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4/11/2008 5:10:48 PM

Gunn Vuttudal   Careful, guys, I smell high blood pressure and heart attacks aplenty here. ;o)

No, you didn't scare me off - I've been busy discussing matters with other people, whom, I might say, have been even more constructive in their advice than you guys.

Mark - I (and I thought this was pretty obvious! *grin*) haven't done this kind of work before, so I don't have any produce work to show you. I have to start _somewhere_. I'll get back to you. :o)

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4/11/2008 5:33:05 PM

Chris H. Ludwick   Gunn, the guys here do want to help, they know there stuff, but you got to look at this from our view, We make a living by doing this, some of us like me, spent years in college, tens of thousands of dollars, and worked as an intern for no pay just so we could learn how to do this.

Then someone like you comes along and wants this knowlege and experience told to them for free. Thats gonna ruffle some feathers. Worse yet is by offering to do commercial work @ $35 per hour.

Don't get mad here, your intittle to know why your getting these answers and were doing our best to explain.

As both Jerry & Mark have mentioned, I don't know of any Pro commercial photog that charges per hour. I do catalogs, and Wine shoots and always charge by the job. I have them tell me up front how much do they want to photograph and figure out a price.

If your going to pursue this....and have no experience doing this I would politly bow out of the job. Otherwise
start doing some home work (books).

And don't be cheap here, any chain store has money, which i'm surprised they just didn't go directly to a pro in the first place??

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4/15/2008 8:21:54 AM

Jerry Frazier   Chris,

Don't be surprised. I am seeing alot of this around town. Business that can afford pro rates, but decide to see what happens if they hire someone for $35/hour. They laugh all the way to the bank, if it works out. But, it wont, as you probably know. Anyway, it's not too much of a threat, I think it's a blip right now. There are all these people with digital cameras that have found art as a new hobby. Eventually, it will die out and go back to normal.

I see people being photographers in their work places. So, they work at a place. The place decides it wants photos of something. The person thinks it will be fun and does it for them for free. This is happening more than you think.

I don't know what will happen in the end, but there is a pretty clear distinction between the pros and a hobbyist. I mean, look at any pro commercial website. There's no comparison. If a company wants that, they know where to go. If they want to settle for something less, than that's what they'll get.

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4/15/2008 11:17:43 AM

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