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As the founder and publisher of Waltz Books – and Associate Director at Light Work before that – Mary Goodwin has reviewed hundreds of bodies of photographic works. She brought her brilliant eye and keen aesthetic sensibilities to her role as juror for ASMP’s Best of 2015 annual and today, shares her excellent advice for how you can maximize the value of every portfolio review. ~Judy Herrmann, Editor
Face-to-face portfolio reviews provide a rare, intensive chance to raise the profile of your work with industry professionals. Most of these reviews are painfully short, with those twenty or so minutes zipping by so quickly. The time constraints, the financial investment, plus the excitement of showing your work, very often lead to nervousness, or a pressure to squeeze every last ounce out of the opportunity and get that book, exhibition, or residency RIGHT NOW.
I’ve seen this play out in some pretty tragic ways, with artists so verklempt about the twenty minutes that they shoot themselves in the foot – by talking non-stop, flipping lightning speed through six bodies of unrelated work, and generally inhibiting any meaningful conversation about the work.
Having a game plan before you enter the review is key to alleviating a lot of that stress. To prepare for a review, the first thing you should do is make sure you know your reviewer. Hopefully, you’ve selected this person to review your work because you’ve researched and admire what they do – shows that they have curated, books that they have published – and feel it is a good fit for your work.
Even if you just want this person to give some feedback on your images, unrelated to a specific opportunity, spend the couple of minutes it takes to look at the reviewer’s website (or their company’s website) and Facebook page. While you’re at it, go ahead and be slick by signing up for their mailing list, or liking their page. As a small, hands-on business owner, I can tell you that I notice when someone has done those things.
If you see something that you like or find interesting, you might mention it to the reviewer as you are unpacking your portfolio. For example, complimenting a curator on or asking a question about an exhibition that she recently curated is a great way to show that you are interested and engaged in the work that she does specifically – a sign of potentially being a good collaborator.
Secondly, know what you want to accomplish in the review and be ready to suggest a course of action for the twenty minutes. The reviewer may just launch into it and start talking, but if not, take the opportunity in hand and state your goal for the review. For example, you might say something along the lines of, “Thank you for meeting with me today. Unless you already have a plan for the time, I’d like to show you a selection from my most recent series, and then talk to you about how to best realize this project in the book format.”
Having a plan and knowing your reviewer can go a long way to maximizing your twenty minutes and starting a lasting conversation.
Mary Goodwin is the founder and publisher of Waltz Books, an independent photobook publishing company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Previously, she was the Associate Director at Light Work in Syracuse, New York. Her writings about photography have been printed in numerous publications, including American Photo magazine and the photo-eye booklist. With Hannah Frieser, Goodwin is the cofounder of The Flexible Classroom, a consultancy that offers customized professional practices workshops for students and emerging artists. For more information about Goodwin and her work, please visit her website at marygoodwin.net.
Shoot Concept: Architectural photography of an event venue and city park
Licensing: Collateral and Publicity use of 50 images in perpetuity
Location: A prominent city in the South.
Shoot Days: Four
Photographer: Architectural specialist
Client: A landscape design company plus four other partners
Here is the estimate:
Creative/Licensing: A landscape design company contacted the photographer to discuss a project that they hoped to split the cost of between themselves and four other parties who were partners in the development of the new venue. At first, they wouldn’t reveal exactly who the other parties would be (or perhaps it wasn’t finalized at that point), but from conversations with the photographer and client, it was likely that they were collaborating with the architectural firm that designed the venue, the company that would promote the events at the venue, a local design firm and potentially the local tourism board.
When discussing the project with the photographer, I told him that this is actually quite common in the world of commercial architectural photography. It typically takes many parties to plan, build, decorate and manage a property (whether it’s a residential house or a commercial building), and it therefore makes sense that all of these companies might want images of the final product to help promote their particular product or service. Most of the time, architecture firms, landscape designers, interior designers or general contractors will want to put the images in their online portfolios or submit them to industry publications and contests, and other times they’ll want to use the images for collateral pieces and to have them on hand for other publicity purposes.
Despite their intended use, it’s common for such clients to request unlimited use (including advertising), which was the original request from this client. However, I felt that such usage should be negotiated separately for each client (especially in this case since there were a few companies involved that could take full advantage of unlimited use), and we were able to convince them to limit the initial licensing to Collateral and Publicity use only.
Additionally, the commercial architectural photography segment of the industry has established rates that have more or less become standard. That’s mostly due to the same type of projects arising again and again for the same types of clients with similar expecations for the scope of the project and licensing. Oftentimes, architectural photographers are charging up to a few thousand dollars a day, plus expenses and a per image processing fee. In some cases, architectural photographers are even making more money on the processing than they are on the shoot. Given the time it takes for an experienced architectural photographer to process an image, they can earn a substantial amount of money by charging accordingly.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these “standard” rates, as long as the photographer recognizes projects that fall outside of the typical project for an architecture firm or an interior design company. For instance, there are plenty of major brands that need architectural images to promote and sell products (like paint companies, home/garden products, appliance manufactures), and the typical rates that architectural photographers are charging their real-estate or architecture firm clients are most definitely not appropriate for these other companies.
In this case, we knew the parties were all interested in having the photographer capture 30 exterior images (20 during the day and 10 at night), and 20 interior images. Also, based on the shot list, time of day required for each shot and the photographer’s experience, we determined that the shoot would require four shoot days. Given the intended use, and having a grasp on what the local competition might be charging, we came up with a modest creative/licensing fee of $10,000. However, that fee did not account for multiple parties, and I felt it was only appropriate for a single client. So, that begs the question of how to charge for multiple parties licensing the same images.
A common tactic used by architectural photographers in these situations is to add a 33% surcharge to the fee for each additional party involved, and have all of the clients split the overall fee and all expenses. This tactic and approach can vary, especially if each client wants different images, but based on this concept and the fact that everyone was planning to share all of the images, we decided that each additional party joining in would increase the fee by $3,300 (33% of the $10,000 fee). Since those parties were still being lined up while we compiled the estimate, we included this rate as a “licensing option”.
Photographer Travel/Scout Days: The photographer would fly to the location on one day, scout the following day, and then fly home the day after the final shoot day.
First Assistant: The photographer would bring his first assistant with him, and this accounted for two travel days, one scout day and four shoot days.
Second Assistant: We included a local second assistant for each shoot day since the venue was quite large, and the photographer would need an extra set of hands to carry and set up equipment.
Equipment: The photographer owned all of his own gear, and decided to charge a rate of $1,000/day for wear and tear on his camera, lenses, lighting and grip, and based the total rate on a “3 days same as a week” discount that most rental houses apply.
Airfare, Lodging, Car Rental: I used kayak.com to estimate these rates based on the production schedule. Flights were a few hundred dollars round trip, which I rounded up to $500 per person (for the photographer and his assistant) to include baggage fees and fluctuation. Lodging was in the neighborhood of $200/night and I factored in six nights for two rooms. The car rental rate included $20/day insurance and fuel.
Parking, Meals, Misc.: I included a $75/day per diem for the photographer and his assistant for 7 days each, and included $25/day for lunch for the second assistant each day. Additionally, I included $100 for each shoot day to account for miscellaneous unpredictable expenses that may have come up during the trip. That totaled $1,550, which I rounded down to an even $1,500.
Shoot Processing for Client Review: This covered the time it would take the photographer to transfer and review all of the images in order to compile a web gallery for the client to choose from. Since most architectural images require a descent amount of post production and layering, I included this rate to account for some basic compositing the photographer would need to do prior to showing the images to his client. It would basically get the images headed in the right direction before really diving in and performing the more time consuming processing.
Selects Processed for Reproduction: As I mentioned earlier, it’s common to separate image processing fees and charge them to each party involved based on the images they want. However, since we felt we were already at the limits of the budgetary threshold, we included all 50 images for a single lump fee of $10,000. This broke down to $200/image, which would account for an additional 1-2 hours of retouching for each image.
Results: The project was awarded to the photographer, although he did end up making a few concessions by waiving his travel days, reducing the post processing fee a bit, and coming down on his equipment expenses. However, the four other clients did jump on board, which increased his fee by $13,200 ($3,300 each).
[by Todd Joyce]
She loves you, but she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. And, even if she does have a good eye, she’s not who you ask for an objective review. And that goes for friends and other family members. Don’t ask them to review your work either.
And, don’t ask your clients for a critique of your portfolio. You don’t want them looking for ways to find fault with your work. When you show your work, leave them with a great impression and focus on your relationship, rather than ferreting out portfolio advice. (Try asking your significant other what they don’t like about you and tell me how that works out for your relationship…)
Pay for an experienced, objective review. Shut up and listen. Get your money’s worth by letting them give you what you paid them to do. Be open to change and drop your defenses.
Make sure you understand their comments completely. Don’t assume you understood what they meant.
Ask questions about what the reviewer likes or doesn’t like – not just which images, but what they see as good or bad in each image. Is it too posed? Is it overly lit or too slick? Is it honest or genuine? Understand what resonates with them at their core. Being able to recognize that, will help you when you’re adding work in the future and possibly in your choices when shooting, too.
One more thing…ultimately, it’s your work and what you love doing. If you don’t agree with the review, get a second opinion but don’t fight with them during the review.
Todd Joyce – Todd orchestrates events to capture people to help his clients sell things. IE He’s a people photographer who manages high end productions in the advertising industry.