If you’ve been following along, we’ve been talking about food photography pricing. We’ve covered what kinds of clients you will have, how to figure out your expenses, and how to price small food photography jobs.
Today we are going to cover the anatomy of the food photography estimate and go over the items that should be included in it.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney or an accountant. I am not giving legal advice. Please seek the advice of your attorney and/or accountant for any and all business matters.
The estimate is your tool to use with your potential client that shows your understanding of the job, what is expected during the photo shoot, details about the job, all costs associated with the job, etc.
As you are learning, there is A LOT to this, and every job is different. For every potential job, I do an estimate.
ESTIMATE VS BID
We are calling this an estimate and not a bid. There are very important differences between the two. A bid is a final amount the client will pay, no matter what it ended up actually costing you. This means if you came in under budget, you keep the extra money. If you come in over budget, you must pay for that out of your fee or any extra padding you put into the bid.
Big difference there, right? If my clients ask for a bid, I make sure they understand the difference just to make sure. As long as nothing changes during the job, I always come in under budget. I feel as I am getting the fee and usage I asked for, it’s only fair to let the client save some money if I managed to do the job with less expenses. I am always trying to look out for their bottom line. A lot of shooters don’t do this, and I hear about it all the time from my clients.
COMPONENTS OF THE ESTIMATE
Let’s break down what should be in your estimate. I am not going to give you my estimate form. As I am not an attorney, I am not allowed to. If you are in the Food Photography Club I will go over my estimate form in detail with Club members, but always with the caveat that they have to make their own forms, and what I have in my forms is just a suggestion.
I have two estimates. One is a one page short form, and the other is a 5 page long form for big jobs. We are just going to go over my short 1 page estimate here.
The estimate really has three parts
- Top section are the details
- Middle section are all the expenses
- Bottom has total costs, advance payments, some terms and conditions plus maybe extra usage information
TOP SECTION – INFORMATION
I use Excel to make my forms, by the way. Yes, there are accounting programs that have forms you can use but I’ve always just made my own templates, as it’s super easy to do in Excel.
I will mention some online options for creating these forms later. But for now, here is what I put in mine.
- The top section must have your company name and contact info. If you don’t choose to put your contact info at the top, it better be somewhere on that form that’s easy to find. I also put my estimate number, the date, the job name, and title.
- The “Bill To” section. This is where you put your client’s info, or the ad agency for the job. People, make sure to get the business name along with the person’s name for who to send your bill to. It’s very unprofessional to not have the complete billing information for you client. If you can’t find it, just ask them for it.
- Next I put the description for the job. Be as detailed as possible here – this is your understanding of the shoot, so get as much info as you can. How many shots, what they are of, reference a shot list if you were provided one, the shoot dates, etc.
- Next is the paragraph for the license. Again, every job is different here. Some jobs I do are still day rates that include the usage that we negotiate, and other jobs are a photography fee plus the usage on top of that. If this confuses you, don’t worry, I have an amazing free resource for you coming up to explain this. This is very important.
MIDDLE SECTION – COSTS AND EXPENSES
So this is the nuts and bolts of the estimate. Every photographer does things differently but I feel it is very important to have every expense listed out as a line item so it’s very clear what the costs are for each item. This is also helpful for trying to figure out where to shave costs down if the client’s budget just won’t allow for all the expenses.
The first part – is the section I call, “Photography Fees”. This is it’s own box where I list out the following:
- Shoot Fees
- Pre-Production Fees (I usually do my own production so I charge separately for that)
- License Fees (when it’s not a day rate including usage)
- Post-Production Fees (this might include overseeing the retouching)
Next is the box with all the expenses – this is the largest section of the estimate.
Here are some expenses that are very common for food shoots:
- Photo assistant
- Food Stylist
- Food Stylist assistant
- Food Stylist Prep
- Fresh Food Purchase
- Prop Stylist
- Prop Purchase/Rental
- Digital Tech
- Studio Rental
- Grip and Lighting Equipment
- Production Expenses (this is just an extra line item for something that might come up that we don’t have a line item for, and I’ll add $150 in here)
- Digital Capture Package (that $17,000 digital back I use, yeah, I rent that out to the clients for my jobs)
- Meals and Craft Services
- Backgrounds and Surfaces (I make a lot of wood backgrounds so I charge separately for that)
- Kitchen Equipment Rental (Many times I have to rent additional refrigerators and other equipment to do jobs)
I know that seems like a lot, but that’s what it takes to do a lot of these advertising jobs.
So I have formulas in the fields in Excel to add up the photography fees, and all the expenses.
Then I ask for an advance of 50% of the entire job before it starts, and ask for a signature and the date.
BOTTOM SECTION – TERMS AND CONDITIONS & CANCELLATION POLICY
Now, the bottom section has language that explains some of my terms and conditions along with my cancellation policy. When needed, like for cookbooks, the licensing can be rather lengthy, so I might add that in here.
Depending on the client, I might have an additional document that is two pages with my terms and conditions that they must also sign.
Here’s the thing – when you start doing ad agency work, we usually never get them to sign anything. Instead, they take our estimate and create a purchase order from our estimate that I have to sign.
This can be its own blog post entirely, but basically, you better read their terms and conditions because most times, everything you just negotiated with usage is thrown out the window, and they have terms in there like, “work for hire”, where you give up all your rights. It’s pretty slimy and many agencies do this, I’m sad to say.
I just simply cross all that out, initial and date it. I might even hand write on their PO that we are using the terms and conditions on my estimate and not their PO.
Some agencies won’t allow this – so guess what, that means I won’t shoot that job, and I have turned down jobs because they demanded my copyright, but don’t want to pay for that.
Just make sure that you work with an attorney to help you come up with a good estimate, and terms and conditions, and ALWAYS read what you are being asked to sign.
Oh, one more thing – my invoice is the exact same form. I just change the word estimate to the word invoice, and update any language that says it’s an estimate and add the final costs into the expenses – easy!
THE APA BUSINESS MANUAL
Now for something that will be very helpful for you – the APA Business Manual. This used to be only for members of the APA, (which I was for many years). Now, they are letting non-members have access to this very valuable resource.
You can check it out and download it here: APA Business Manual.
It’s a little unorganized, BUT I suggest you download everything here, and please take the time to go through everything and READ it.
They talk in detail about image licensing, estimating, billing terminology, and so much more. They even have estimate and invoice forms in here people! You can actually use their forms.
If you are just starting out, and want to talk to one of their attorneys to help you set things up, you can join at different levels and have access to their resources for help. I do highly suggest it, as it really helped me when I started out.
Actually, my form is a version of their form, when you break it down the way that I did. The difference is my expenses are for food shooting, and their forms aren’t.
I did want to mention one thing here – they say that shooters never use the term day rate for jobs any more. Ahhh, I do all the time. Many of my ad agency clients expect to work this way still, so many of my jobs are done with day rates. Just wanted to point that out, as I think it’s not accurate. But all the other info is really awesome.
ACCOUNTING AND ESTIMATE RESOURCES
Ok, so now for some more resources to help you with all this.
- The world of licensing images is very complex. You can use the Getty Pricing Calculator to help you come up with some pricing, and give you some ideas of what to charge.
- I use Quickbooks – not their online versions, but their desktop version – I hate their online version actually, and so do my accountants – just my personal opinion.
- FotoQuote is an estimating website for photographers – I’ve never used it, and I don’t know if they have things for food photographers, but worth a look.
- I’ve heard folks use Less Accounting for estimating and invoicing as well.
- Here’s a list of some free accounting software websites.
- This one is also online – Studio Cloud
- Many wedding shooters use this one: 17 Hats
- Many shooters use Blink Bid – they also partner with the APA
- Small business accounting software – Fresh Books
- For accepting payments – Braintree
Alright, that’s a ton of info for you to check out. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Have a great week and sign up below so you don’t miss the next post.
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