Connecting The Dots: Writing A Photo Estimate That Gets You The Job

Posted on 1/25/2010 by John Martin Lund | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Invest In Yourself

An estimate offers you a unique opportunity to secure an assignment. Many photographers try to get the job by focusing on saving the client money, and yet that should never be your focus. Look at the estimate as an investment in yourself and your photography business. Prepare your estimate as a thorough plan that gives you the resources to do the best possible work. Your job is not to save the client money; your job is to provide the best possible photography.

What Label Do You Want?

Keep in mind that the photography you produce will reflect directly on the art director or art buyer who hires you. Their job could even be at stake. The job you produce will label you and possibly them as well. Do you want the label as “will work cheap” or “delivers great work”? Your long-term career depends on a reputation for delivering quality work. To do quality work you need the resources and time to do the job well. You also need clients that understand that. You are better off letting go of the jobs in which the resources you need are not available. Besides, low ball jobs take up your valuable time and in the long run will cost you money.

An Estimate That Gets You The Job

To create an estimate that gets you the job, and the resources to do that job well, requires detailing out how you will approach the job. It means thinking through each step and understanding the real costs involved. Include visuals and detailed written descriptions to insure that you and the client are on the same page.

A Detailed Plan And Twice The Money

I once bid on a job that required showing a businessman listening in on a conversation as he clung to the outside of a skyscraper using suction cups. I don’t recall the exact figures, but my estimate came in at about $30,000.00. That seemed like a very healthy amount and I was a little concerned that it might be too much for the client. I wasn’t all that surprised when I didn’t get the job. It turns out I knew the photographer who did get the job. I gave him a call and asked what he was getting for the job. He was getting more than twice the money I had estimated! Turned out his detailed plan was less risky than mine. Mine required shooting an actual building. It was in the winter and the weather could be a problem. His approach required a model maker to create the building…more expensive but less risk. He also provided for a set for the interior as opposed to my shooting in an existing office. Again, he would have more control with his approach.

The Clients You Want, Want the Best Job

My point here is that the clients you want are the ones that want the best job, not the lowest cost. I have had many experiences over the years that reinforce the wisdom of this approach. In your estimate, spell out exactly how you plan to do the job and your reasoning for that approach. Be as detailed as possible. Be specific about your expenses. It is hard to argue over costs when they are spelled out. Even your presentation is important. Your estimate gives the potential client a look at how you operate. Think back to an estimate that you have been given that impressed you. What worked for you? What was it about that estimate that influenced you to give someone the job? Use your estimate to build confidence with the client, confidence that you have thought the job through, have a good creative plan with necessary contingencies, and have spelled out all the terms and conditions. Unless it is a birthday party, in business, nobody likes surprises.

Make Your Estimate A Work Of Art

Your estimate speaks volumes about you and how you do business. It offers a great opportunity to instill confidence in a potential client and to help insure that you have quality clients and produce quality work. You are in the business of commercial art, make your estimate a work of art, and in the long run, you can’t lose.

Copyright © 2009 John Martin Lund. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

John Lund has been shooting professionally for over 30 years. John was
an early adopter of Photoshop, first using version 1.0 in 1990. He
began using digital capture in 1994. John has been active in the stock
photography world since 1989 and is a founding member of BLEND IMAGES
and long time contributor to Getty, Corbis, and, more recently
SuperStock. He specializes in shooting stock photos including a mix of
funny animal pictures with anthropomorphized pets (including dogs,
cats, cows, elephants, monkeys and more), and concept stock photos for
business and consumer communications. His work can be seen at

John has lectured on digital imaging and stock photography, has been a
columnist for PICTURE and DIGITAL IMAGING magazines, and has a
WITH JOHN LUND. John has been a frequent speaker at Photo Plus and
other venues and has taught workshops at Palm Beach Workshops and
Santa Fe Workshops.


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