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Negotiating

Image Licensing Rights With No Contract

Question:

My long-time restaurant client plans to publish a cocktail book showcasing their cocktail recipes, all of which I have shot. She asked me about image licensing rights because I was so green when this started and did not send them contracts (I know, big fail). Ideally, I would like to send her a new contract for the images she’d like to use in the cocktail book, and I was wondering if this was the best course of action.

Answer:

The root of the issue with no contracts is how you and the client were both green. Uncontracted clients may assume they own the copyright without needing your usage approvals. The overall solution is to follow up with all uncontracted clients before an issue arises, verifying your image ownership and assuming usage rights. Talk to your clients, make this a two-way conversation asking what they’d like to use the images for in the future and become part of their long-term solution… for a price, of course.

Bidding and Negotiating is an Opportunity

You are up for a job. Bidding and negotiating is the open door opportunity to get the client to understand how you are best for this project based on your approach. Our challenge is to align our ideas to match what they are going for. I see it like a maze of gated doorways as we look to follow the one that opens. Throw out your ideas and see what sticks with a question format allowing them a chance to redirect your ideas toward their goal. 

Low Rate Job

Q:

I shot an event for a startup event company at a very low rate and included a “no third party usage” term in the contract. A top five ad agency working with the new alcohol brand requested rights for unlimited usage in perpetuity for the images. What is the tactful, business-savvy way to respond?

A:

You hit the jackpot! The goal of shooting a low-rate “favor” job is to have it open doors leading to a higher payoff. 

Business savvy responses:

  1. Use this opportunity to develop a long-term relationship by warming it up with a phone conversation.
  2. Position yourself for shooting future projects for this client by asking if they’d like to negotiate a recurring package standard rate deal. 
  3. Clients asking for general usage like this will often reciprocate your offer by reducing their requests to bring your costs down. Prepare for that by starting with higher prices and optional cost groupings (amount of images, duration of usage, etc.).

Exciting Job, Low Budget

When offered an exciting job for a low budget, you can always offer your time and usage licensing for a discounted rate while having the client handle all production. If you feel you can create high-quality images, these jobs require clear terms of what you are and NOT including. 

Sample Negotiation:

Client: How much would it be to shoot this?

You: I don’t have enough information to give you an accurate price. What is your budget?

Client: We have $2000. 

You: For a $3500 discounted rate, I would do this for one month of social media for four final images within an 8 hour shoot day, and that does not include any production expenses only my time. 

Images For Broadcast

Q:

I always put the terms “excluding outdoor and broadcast” on my estimates and invoices. Now a client wants to use the images for Broadcast. Do you have a rough idea of what Broadcast usage would be? What does Getty quote for it?

A:

The only reason to fill the usage terms of what is excluded would be to educate a client who may not know much about licensing rights or as a teaser to encourage them to use it for OOH or Broadcast. Legally, they can only use it for what you are granting them. Getty may have something you can look at on their site, but I don’t use it. All fees are random as there is no set amount for Broadcast or others. I’ve seen fees go across the board, so I hate to rely on one set of numbers. Broadcast is large, so you can double or triple what they paid in usage for the other usage. I find negotiating tactics are the real answer to these questions because it depends on the client’s budget.

Be Prepared To Discuss Your Costs With Your Client

When bidding on a job, clients may ask us to dive deeper into the basis of the costs. Put your business mind to work by understanding what the client needs to hear from you. 

Our estimates cover us for unexpected real-life additions like grip truck availability, insurance changes, crew covid testing results, overtime, etc. 

Our bids are not as black and white as clients would assume, so get ready to explain the gray areas in ways that speak their language.

Charging for Interior Shoots

Q:

How do I know what to charge for interior shoots? The scaling of projects is all over the place.

A:

We are in an industry with no set rate structure. It’s a bit of a guessing game based mainly on usage licensing terms, the size of the company hiring us, and our experience in the different types of photography. 

Each photographer has to come up with their midline rates based on previous jobs, the word from others, and where they are in their career and go from there. It will always fluctuate, but the one solid component of negotiation skills is asking for a higher rate than you expect, which can work in your favor.

Negotiation Points Relating to Creative Fees

Negotiation points to use when clients ask specifically for a eduction in Creative Fees:

  1. Scaling down any area of their usage terms.
  2. Trimming amount of images, variations, and angles on the shot-list.
  3. Reducing the number of final images included in usage terms,
  4. Limiting shoot days hours maximum.
  5. Time-saving production tasks they take over like prop shopping, producing, retouching, casting, scouting, etc.
  6. Predetermined creative concepts/shot list they supply before the shoot day begins.
  7. Guaranteed faster final payment and/or larger advance payment before the shoot begins.
  8. Bulk discounted rate based on future projects

Keeping The Calm With Out-Of-Control Clients

Q:

I am experiencing out-of-control clients requesting added or changed images as we are shooting, missing detailed composition into not included in the brief, and even complaining about actual details they didn’t want to see after I light their props – it’s crazy how uneducated these clients are! How do I handle this?

A:

The multi-parted answer to keeping the calm with out-of-control clients is all about covering yourself before any craziness begins. 

  1. Have your estimate terms & conditions signed to protect you legally. 
  2. Break out the job details step by step by covering the costs, what is included/not included, what the client will provide, including timeline and specific dates. 
  3. It’s a good idea to submit a calendar schedule backing up the estimate line items clearly showing the expected dates. 
  4. Best to have a producer on board to handle the clear communication, allowing you to focus on what you do best. 
  5. A pre-production call is important to go over the step-by-step process, limiting any unknown surprises. 
  6. Do not begin production and incur any costs without the advance payment of at least 50% of the total upfront. 
  7. Do not hand over the final images until you have deposited the final payment. 

Negotiation Can Be Tricky

Negotiation can be tricky, especially in unknown scenarios with no previous relationship with a client. My goal is to figure out what the client has for a budget, even though they usually won’t offer that info. I like to begin with a higher $ than I’m assuming the budget will be. That higher starting point approach depends on creating an honest two-way discussion from the start to achieve truthful negotiation.