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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


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


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


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?


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.

Negotiating Licensing


How do you negotiate licensing or ask a client to stop using your photos when there was no contract in place at booking and/or during delivery of images?


Step one is to find the appropriate contact at the company who is using your images illegally. Step two is to educate the client as this usually occurs because they don’t understand copyright ownership. The photographer owns the copyright with or without a contract. Instead of asking the client to stop using your images, you can explain how they need to pay you to continue using them and a penalty fee for when they have already used them. Handle this yourself with legal copyright documentation or use a temp rep or lawyer on your team.

License and Perpetuity Estimate


I recently lost out on a job because my perpetuity number scared off the agency. They needed a 5 year license estimate and a perpetuity estimate. My 5 year license was $16,000 and perpetuity was 4 times that. Seemed fair to me because I’m not comfortable with a lifetime license of my images anyway. What are your thoughts on this? I’m gutted because I lost out on the job but I’m ok with not giving a lifetime license away for next to nothing. 


When bidding on a job requesting usage duration fee options, those are often an excellent place to start high, expecting to negotiate and not risk losing the job. 

The usual fundamental reasons you could lose a job you are bidding on:

-They have a #1 favorite choice in mind based on their style. 

-Your overall estimate price is much higher than someone else, so high they don’t even want to try to negotiate, 

-Your overall estimate price is very low, showing that you do not have the experience needed to fulfill the goals of this project. 

-Another bidder impressed them more with their treatment or ideas on the creative call.

Creative Concepting Fee

Bidding on a project without a shot list means you cannot know the exact costs for expenses, and you will be concepting the creative shot list. When you are wearing more hats, you need to charge for your time and call it a CREATIVE CONCEPTING FEE.

Don’t Hold Back in Stating Your Case

Clients don’t always have all the facts when we are bidding a job, leading us to under-bid certain areas. If more responsibility falls into your lap than expected, don’t hold back in stating your case to request more $. Clients know that some gray areas may result in an overage, but they need us to be the ones to ask for it.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Admit it; you are SELLING a product. Approach the conversations with a potential client as a LISTENER, ready to open the pathway to let your true purpose be heard. Choose your words wisely instead of filling any space. Trust me; there won’t be much empty space.