Minardi Photography

Great! You've been asked by the Art Director to put a budget together and bid on a photo shoot or assignment.

Sometimes when you get a chance to work with a real pro, the Art Director will give you a budget with which the agency, magazine, or corporation has already come up with. If they are experienced and good, the budget usually is fair and includes "just compensation" for the photographer and all involved in the shoot, and considers all the usage rights they desire.

You must still go through the mental exercise of thinking through the entire shoot and consider all the aspects and probelms to achieve the assignment. Remember, their wish is your command.

Sometimes the client gives drawings or sketches that you are to follow exactly, and sometimes they like to give the artist-photographer more creative freedom.

By mentally going through the entire photo shoot from "soup to nuts", from beginning to end, you virtually plan the assignment. You also get a handle on what will be required to achieve what the client wants. Remember, that is what this photo shoot is all about -not your ego trip. As my Mentor told me, "Michael, put your ego in the closet if you want to be a great photographer." Achieve what the client wants and everyone will be happy...and you will get paid.

Discuss in detail with the Art Director, Creative Director, Photo Director, or client what they want to achieve. Try to nail things down. It is important to convert those great ideas and concepts to visual images. What will it take to accomplish what they want visually. It is of utmost importance to know your medium and what technologies and costs are essential to accomplish a job.

I've had a potential client in NY copy pages out of the Black Book and want me to replicate almost the same look for $500. I had to inform him that $500 would be used on instant film to check the real job film. In this "dream shoot" there were 8 models in the picture who would be no less than $800 per day. The Art Director of the Agency had already quoted $500 to the client as the cost of the shoot. He asked me if I could please "save his neck" this time, and he would make it up to me later. Sorry! It was really a $10,000 photo shoot, and I just couldn't make magic like that. Believe me I wish I could, but a case of reality sets in. I can't spend $9,500 on a shoot to make $500. Not even to save his job.

I have had honest, good corporate clients with selective memory when it comes to paying for things like the helicopter at $800 per hour for three hours. The client thought I was paying for it, and it was included in my day rate. At the time, my day rate was $500 per day. It wasn't even logical, but he was sure that he didn't have to pay for the chopper.

Luckily I use quote sheets and submit them in writing to every client prior to any photo shoot. It keeps clients. It also eliminates misunderstandings among friends. It's important to keep copies of your quote sheets in organized files even long after the shoot. ASMP sells a great form book which includes almost evey form that you need to have for a successful shoot and to quote it properly.

When I first began I always forgot to charge for all the long distance phone calls back and forth to the client, Art Director, models, and people and companies involved in a big shoot. So inevitably I would have to eat several hundreds of dollars in phone charges that should have been expensed to the shoot. You are probably going to make three times the calls that you originally estimated. Also calls made on mobile phones are very expensive and that cost should be budgeted.

You need to get a firm grip on your costs and put at least a 10% to 15% fudge factor into your bid to cover unseen expenses that catch even the most experienced photographers.

On an assignment outside the U.S. for an international airline company I was expected to "bribe" in order to accomplish my job. The client however was aware of this custom, and told me to list them as "tips" on my expense report. Without the client's support, I would have been impossibly over budget.

Are you going to need special services such as a runner, or a lab open after-hours for special runs of daily photography for the client or AD to see how the shoot is progressing? Are you going to need special digital equipment for a special assignment? Will there be any rental equipment or a studio needed? Will there be any extra insurance needed for additional equipment or increased liability?

Buy all the film for a shoot with the same batch number. That means all those rolls of film were made from the same batch of chemicals and will have the same color balance and characteristics. This will help when scanning the film to make the color separations.

Safety is always first! Think the worst. An assistant whose job it is to keep people from walking into a rear blade of a helicopter while it's on the ground could be cheap insurance. There have been many times I needed body guards and special security for myself, my staff and to guard equipment or important persons.

I always think through an assignment completely mentally just like I'm actually shooting it, prior to submitting the budget. This gets me in the mood so to speak, but it also helps me focus on what is desired and how to acheive it.

I love the client who tells me that they want a "strong" picture to sell their product. What color is strong?

Think ahead. It makes for great pictures and satisfied clients.