Art Historian. UT College of Fine Arts.
I've been doing a style of portraiture (below) for the last few years that I have come to like very much. I started doing it in earnest for a law firm after initial successes with executives from a medical devices firm. The style is to do environmental portraits in the offices of the company. I find what I think will make great backgrounds when put out of focus and then I put the portrait subject far enough in front of the background to ensure I can drop the details out as much as I want via aperture controls.
There are several parameters that have to be in place for this kind of interior, environmental portrait to be successful. You need to work in a space that is uncluttered and well designed. There needs to be some color contrast in the background. You have to have enough working space between the camera and subject in order to use as long a lens as you'd like and, even more importantly, you need enough working space between the subject and the background to effectively throw the background details out of focus in a convincing manner. You get extra points if there are some objects midway between the subject and the final background as these additions add to the perception of depth in the photos.
While my goal, as much as possible, is to make the light look natural I find that the more natural you want the light to look the more often you'll need to get in there and work with your own lights to make the overall look happen with any measure of success. Many locations have "can" lights in the ceiling that project unwanted warm and green (compared to daylight) color cast and can act as nasty hair lights. In most office situations I find I must place a diffuser or even a hard scrim between a ceiling mounted florescent fixture or can light in order to control the negative effects of the raw illumination. Once I've "killed" the unwanted top light I find that the subject needs more and better illumination. In my book that means a soft light from one side or another from a higher position so the light isn't lateral to the subject horizontally (see a b.h.s. shot below).
So, I just wanted to set the scene for my real subject: how do you estimate this kind of work for a client? Usually a client calls and tells me that they've seen my work at XXXX website and would like to have it done for their company. They tell me they have (example) 15 executives who need to be photographed and they would like to do all fifteen of them in one day. How much will it cost?
Here's how I respond:
Make 15 portraits at a client location in the style shown in the supplied samples. Images will be used in social media, on the company website and in public relations materials for a period of three years. We will be supplying digital files of one selected image per person directly to the ad agency or client.
Arrange to scout the location to see what potential sites within their offices can be used. I generally counsel against using views out of windows as backgrounds since all the portraits need to be lit and generating enough power to match the exterior light generally means that you get a lot of reflections in the windows between the subject and the outdoors. It’s best to find swaths of color and various shapes that can be put out of focus in the backgrounds (see the XXX website images…). The scouting allows me to see if best locations will impede traffic flow (can we make arrangements for that?), how we’ll run power cables, and whether otherwise good locations require clean up or special access on the shoot days.
On the day of actual photography I like to load in my gear as early as possible. Client or agency will provide for garage parking in an adjacent or close by facility. We’ll position the gear in a central location in the client offices and set up and light various locations during the day to provide variation in backgrounds; variations in “look and feel” within the overall style. The first set up is usually the longest as we are getting adapted to the space. Figure about 30-45 minutes for the initial set-up. We’ll need about 15 minutes for each person we photograph. That’s fifteen minutes for each person in front of the camera. We should pick five different locations during the day and schedule three people for each location. Changing locations requires about a half an hour to move and re-light. We will be able to handle photographing all 15 people over the course of the work day.
If time permits and the the client needs to add additional portrait subject each of those additions will be billed at $250 each to offset the additional time required as well as extensions of post production time and resources.
After the shooting day I’ll edit the entire collection of images. By “editing” I mean I will narrow down the total number of images by deleting close duplicates, images with blinks or unusable expressions, or other glitches. After I edit down the number of images I’ll globally color correct (no individual corrections at this point) the remaining files and convert them from Raw to Jpeg in order to make a master online gallery for image selection. The online gallery will allow anyone from client or agency side with a password to go through the images and make selections for final post production and retouching. The online gallery serves also as a back-up.
The agency and client will make selections for each participant from the online gallery and I will retouch, color correct, correct for tonality, and make ready the files in post production. There is a charge for each retouched image. I will deliver the images via FTP in three formats per image = one .PSD, one Tiff and one Jpeg. Upon payment in full of our invoice the client will receive a license for unlimited exclusive use of the images for three years. I retain all copyright and rights of authorship including the right to use the images on my own website and for the marketing of my own services.
In order to color match the selected images and ensure a homogenous "look and feel" to the finished files I require the agency to provide all the selections at one time. This is part of our agreement. Should you need to provide the selections randomly or individually we will apply an extra charge of $25 per order.
Scouting: $ 350
Shooting for one day on location with equipment package = $2,500
Editing and gallery creation = $400
Assistant fee for shoot day = $350
Post production / editing = $50 per image ($50 X 15 = $750) = $750
Project total = $4,350. + applicable sales tax if billed direct to client.
This is my favorite kind of assignment and I hope we are able to work together on it. Let me know if I’ve gotten all the details right and we’ll go from there.
Thanks very much! Kirk
The high backed office chair is (emphatically) not for the subject to sit in but
for the subject to stand behind. The chair "anchors" the subject into position while
giving them a reassuring place to put their hands. Like a portable podium.
I find the use of LED lighting advantageous when "blending" our lights with
existing lights on location. Paired with a fast aperture portrait focal length
these choices add to our overall control.
This sort of assignment has long been my bread and butter for my photography business. It's a niche that I like and feel comfortable working in.
New clients rarely understand the time it takes to do this well and the (invisible) time it takes to do all the post production. While this proposal was aimed at an advertising agency representing a company I find that giving all clients as much information as I can helps to mitigate any push back I get about pricing. I have had a number of clients try to negotiate our pricing down by as much as 10-20% but I am not willing to budge very often. I've done this long enough to know that there will be roadblocks all through each project that will take extra time and extra handling.
My goal each year is to push my prices up by 5-10% (depending on the nature of the service). I know it sounds like this exceeds current inflation rates but I would argue that, for the things I like to buy and the restaurants I like to frequent, we're actually losing ground on real inflation. Client beat up everyone who worked freelance really hard during the last (great) recession. It's important to recover lost ground and to do it while the current economy is robust. End of numbers oriented post for the week.
Think I'm charging too little? Let me know where you think I should beef up my charges. Thanks. KT