Lisa Pritchard, from photography agency LPA, has just written a handy step by step guide to commissioning photography. Here she summarises some key considerations.
As well as representing photographers, we produce a lot of photoshoots on all scales and with various budgets. I love seeing a brief brought to life and dealing with all the stages of shoot production, but as enjoyable as it can be, commissioning photography can also be a minefield. If certain factors aren’t considered and some basic processes put into place it can all turn into a nightmare very quickly!
And don’t think this is only relevant for complex shoots with big crews. Whether it’s a library of lifestyle images or a simple portrait, a creative still life or range of recipes, a corporate, charity or car shoot, all the same things need to be considered.
Commissioned or Stock?
Well of course that’s a no-brainer. Bespoke, commissioned photography will bring your project alive in a unique way. It adds a consistent feel to a brand. You can guarantee no one else will by using the same images. You can tailor-make the end images to your exact needs. Believe it or not it can actually be cheaper and quicker than buying stock. Photoshoots are creative and collaborative, and usually a lot of fun. And that’s just a few good reasons!
Finding the Right Photographer for your Shoot
The number one thing to consider is the actual work of the photographer. Can they translate visually exactly what you have in mind. Personality and a shared attitude is just as important, Other things that should be on your check list are relevant experience, approach, price and availability plus whether the photographer needs a production team behind them.
Writing the Brief
If you want to commission a photoshoot you need to write a brief. A clear, defined brief is the starting block for a smooth running shoot. It’s about expectations, so the clearer you can be as to what you need and expect, the easier it will be to achieve this for you. What final images do you require and when do you need them by (visuals and scamps are handy)? How will the images be used? Do you need any locations, models, styling and props sourcing? What’s your budget? We basically need to know who, what, why, where, how and when.
The Cost of a Photoshoot
Once you’ve supplied us with the brief we can usually work out the costs. Like many services photography costs breaks down into fees and expenses, labour costs and materials if you like. Although in the world of photography the labour fees aren’t generally a flat rate, they are based on how the images will be used. We start off by working out how many days the photographer will need to capture all the required images – the photographers shoot fees. Then we take into account how much of their time, if any, will be required for pre-production- recce or casting fees for example, and perhaps post-production. Finally we work out associated production expenses, what else do we need to factor into the budget to make it happen and meet expectations.
Timings and the Production Process
Pretty much the same key milestones apply to all shoots however straightforward or complex they might seem. We need to agree a budget based on a final brief and get that approved in writing, then we need to agree business terms ( although generally we are all singing from the same hymn sheet) and finally we can work out a realistic schedule factoring in any time dependent elements such as permits, visas, castings, location scouting, children’s performance licences, styling , set – building, model making and post production. We can turn around a shoot in 24 hours but if it requires casting, location scouting and styling and also depends on client’s approvals, two to three weeks is more like it.
Agreeing to provide photography, with or without the whole shoot production service and the liabilities that comes with that, is a big responsibility both financially and legally. Our business terms protect our rights and limit our liabilities. They are very reasonable and straightforward, nothing more than a set of clear guidelines, “ground rules” if you like. Their main purpose is to prevent any disputes as expectations and responsibilities are clearly set out from the onset, in writing.
We send out a full set of our terms and conditions with our estimates and our invoices. We sometimes receive contracts back from our clients with very similar contents, very occasionally there is some disparity or conflicting clauses, ( most of the time something to do with copyright and indemnity!) but most of the time, clients terms of business are very much along the same lines and it’s generally a fairly painless process to reach an mutually acceptable agreement.
Photoshoot Legal Obligations and Codes of Practice
Commissioning a photoshoot is usually a very creative and fulfilling process, but there are a fair few legal obligations and industry codes of practice that you need to be mindful of. The ‘hazard areas’ are mostly connected to shooting people, places and things. Model releases, performance licences and working with children, location permits, intellectual property right and certain criteria when it comes to shooting overseas are the main ones.
Insurance and Liability are essential to every business. Some insurances are legal requirements and some are optional and advised. As you can imagine, inadequate cover on a shoot, even on the advised options, can have a catastrophic effect financially. If you are commissioning a professional photographer they should have certain insurance policies in place as should production agencies if your shoot involves a big production.
The Day of the Shoot
If all expectations have been communicated clearly, the ‘pre-production’ efficiently organised and all key elements approved, then, in theory, everything should run like clock-work when it comes to the day of the shoot. As producers we will ensure everyone is in the right place at the right time and has what the need on the day. We’ll prepare a call sheet so it’s all down in writing. Then all we need from you is an art director to work in partnership with the photographer.
After the Shoot. What happens now?
Well that’s pretty much all in my top 10 things to consider when commissioning photography. Let’s just tie up those loose ends. Straight after the shoot the photographer will usually send over all the low resolution files and the final images can be chosen. The photographer can then put their final stamp on the images in the post-production stage, ranging from processing and basic colour correcting to more complex retouching. We will then reconcile the expenses and send you an invoice, along with any permits or model releases you might also need to keep on file. We usually can’t wait to start showing off our shoots but don’t worry ,we’ll check with the you first images in promotion. We issue a licence to use photography , which will be stated on the estimate and final invoice, but if you want to negotiate an additional , extended usage licence, that’s no problem , just let us know. Then stay in touch!
How to Commission a Photographer: A step by step guide for anyone commissioning a photoshoot can be found on the LPA blog