We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.
We are asked a version of this question on at least a daily basis…”Erica + Jon, how do I handle pricing for brand shoots?” And we completely understand why we are getting these questions. When we transitioned from wedding and lifestyle photography into brand photography, we wrestled with this the MOST! As in…lost sleep, cried a few times, stressed until our hair turned grey, and generally worried and fretted every decision we made. Talk about a hot mess express!!
We felt lost, helpless, and really unsettled with exactly what we were charging for brand shoots. We would work together to try to come up with the PERFECT solution and then quickly find that all of our hopes and dreams were dashed the second we got the next inquiry. So today we want to help bring a little bit of clarity to this area and talk about pricing for brand shoots, some strategies that you can employ to make this more effective, and avoid some of the mistakes that we made!
As we mentioned, we originally started our careers in the wedding & lifestyle photography space and transitioned into the commercial brand photography industry. Wedding & lifestyle photography mostly centers around a pricing strategy where you create three to four different tiered pricing collections. They’re set up intentionally to try to get the brides and families to choose the your middle or upper tier package. You can include different things within those collections, but on the whole that’s pretty much how pricing works for weddings.
So naturally, since this was our background, we tried to carry this over working with brands. That’s where all of the wrestling, crying, and stressing until our hair turned grey came into play! ALL ABOARD that hot mess express!! We would try SOOO hard to come up with a collection that would work for our brand clients. Then we came up with three different pricing packages and figured “AHHH THIS IS IT!!” We finally conquered the world and have the perfect collections!
But then the next time we got an inquiry, we would realize…they fit none of them. They needed a little bit of package A, a twist of package B and a spritz of package C. Kind of like handcrafting the perfect cocktail…which we could have used a few of at the time. We were left wondering how the heck we should price this thing because it didn’t fit our collections.
We realized really quickly that wedding & lifestyle pricing collections would simply not work with brands…and there is a good reason for it too!
You see, all brands are unique. Think of it this way. Consider Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They both sell very similar products, and sure…we can dive deep into the weeds to talk about how Coca-Cola is NOTHING like Pepsi and how Pepsi is NOTHING like Coca-Cola. We completely realize there are people who are very opinionated on either side of this and heck…maybe you’re one of them… BUT, by and large they sell a very similar product. A carbonated soda beverage with a somewhat similar taste that’s sugary, sweet, dark and ohhh sooo refreshing on those summer days!
That said, Coca-Cola and Pepsi could not be anymore different from their marketing, branding and messaging. It’s ALL different. Think of “Grab a coke” vs. “That’s what I like.” Two brands that do the same thing, but they’re completely unique. So, what does that mean? Even though both brands produce a similar product, their brands are unique…and their brand imagery will be unique as well. Right!?
A photoshoot for Coca-Cola is going to look COMPLETELY different than a photoshoot for Pepsi. And trust us, we’ll be the first ones to raise our hands and say, “Sign me up for either one!” WE’LL TAKE EM!! That would be an amazing shoot! But the point here is the same. Wedding & lifestyle collections simply don’t work because brands are unique, and so are their needs for the photoshoots. With that, you’re NEVER going to come up with a collection that seems to be a perfect catch all for all the types of needs brands have. Don’t even waste your energy trying to take on a beast like that…we did and it didn’t work.
So that left us with ONE option. An option that was initially a very scary option.
We had to custom quote everything…
And before you hit the panic button, click X on this page and say these guys are CRAZY….I’m outta here!! Give us a second to explain ourselves.
Custom quoting is the answer. Remember what we just unpacked…brands are unique and so are their imagery needs. So naturally, each client is going to be different and has to be treated individually. Choosing a small, medium, or large fry doesn’t work when you want to choose sweet potato fries…(anyone?). And some brands need the sweet potato fry option!
But when we say custom quote, we’re not saying that you have to start from scratch every single time you put a quote together. No way! That WOULD be crazy. Instead we’re going to quote each brand on a custom basis, but based on some pretty standard different pieces of information that you’ll need to gather from your brand client.
The first thing you need to establish is the length of the photoshoot. How long is the shoot going to last? How many hours will you be shooting for…and what about set up and tear down? All of those factors play into the overall length of the photoshoot, which directly impacts the custom quote you put together for your prospective client.
Next, you want to consider the additional value add services you are going to provide for your client. Are you going to have to have a lighting assistant on site to help with lighting? Are you going to help with planning and styling everything for them? If you’re offering services that make the shoot completely different from what it would be if you didn’t offer those services…well you should probably be charging for that and definitely include it in your custom quote.
And then there is Image Licensing! Ooooo…..big SCARY word. We know! At least, it was for us at one point too. But if the images are going to be used to make a business money, you should definitely be licensing them. Think of it this way…if a business wasn’t using the custom images you are creating for them to market with, they’d be licensing stock images from a stock image website instead – licensing is definitely a big part of our pricing structure and one that many photographers miss!
Finally, don’t forget about expenses! Are there any direct expenses to the shoot that you have to bear as a brand photographer? Pretty much ANYTHING outside the normal expected equipment in a photographers kit, you can bill out as expenses if it’s required for the shoot. For example, we’ve had to shoot on custom backdrops or we’ve had to rent specialty lighting equipment for an outdoor shoot at high sun. Those types of things aren’t expected to be in our kit. So we charge the brand directly for those expenses. Sometimes increasing revenue really comes down to minimizing expenses.
Although custom quotes might sound really scary, if you’re pulling from these four areas every single time you put one together, it starts to become pretty straight forward to quote these brand projects.
Okay so, if now we’ve given you enough information that you realize why your collections pricing hasn’t been working, but you’re still scratching your head a little bit on EXACTLY how custom quoting IS the answer because this still sounds just a little complicated. Don’t worry! We’ve got some great things coming for you that we’re VERY excited to tell you about. And when we say we got great things coming for you, we mean they are JUST around the corner. So join us here next week on the blog because we think you’re going to be pretty excited and PUMPED with what we have to share for you all.