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First, a quick poll:

How many of you would enjoy a few hours photographing a cool new food product?

OK, how many of you would enjoy creating a quote for a day of executive portrait sessions?

That’s what I thought.

Given a choice, most of us would rather be shooting. But any small business needs more than a product to sell.

Once you’ve attracted new customers (an art form in itself), you’ve got to present your product, negotiate and close the sale. None of this happens without some conversation. It definitely takes more than just a couple email exchanges.

Too Many Portraits In A Day?
A new client expressed interest in my photography services. After some preliminary emails and phone discussions to establish my fee for executive portraits, she asked in an email, “We need pictures of our entire staff, all 50 of them. How much would your quote be for a day to shoot them?”

The answer depended on much more than my fee. I had to answer a few other questions before I could make a realistic quote with any chance of acceptance.

But the first thing was the fee question. I’d already approached this client with estimates for a couple other jobs. The first one was for food photography. I produced sample shots of one of the client’s new food products to get in the game.

Creamy Pasta Parmesan

Job Mismatch = No Job
The client loved several images, but when she asked about my fee for work like what I’d done, my time-based quote was too high. The client needed less artistry and pictures of many products on short notice.

For the second one, the executive portrait, the client accepted my proposal estimate. Before we got to a specific agreement with dates, she decided to add more executives to the list and asked me to wait for her to arrange it.

A couple weeks later, she got back to me with the question about portraits for the entire staff.

Patience Pays – And How Fast Can You Work?
That’s the first point – be patient. Your client is busy, and you’re not her top priority. If you wait, she may give you more than you expect.

Then you need to know how long it takes to do the work. I knew executives and managers needed a little time to arrange their clothes and appearance, but couldn’t spare more than a few minutes. 10 to 15 minutes per portrait was enough for photographs of vets with their pets at a veterinary hospital, much more challenging sessions. I figured on 15 minutes for execs and managers, and 10 minutes for staff.

Shot Design + Lighting = Memorable Story
That didn’t include setup time to choose camera angles and place lights. That’s the difference between professional photographs and Aunt Mary’s snapshots. The pro listens to the client first, then picks the location and a camera angle. He chooses lighting that will highlight the subject and show her relationship to her work. That could be anything from docs looking at X-rays to execs holding a product development meeting.

A well-composed photograph tells a story, and lighting gives it a memorable impact.

The client’s 50-person staff broke down to 40 staff members plus 10 execs and managers. That meant a total of just over 9 hours of shooting, and didn’t include transportation, visualization, lighting setup and teardown time.

So I called the client and said more than a day would be needed for 10 execs and managers plus 40 staff. I also asked about final use of the pictures to get a better idea of my post-processing time.

She responded with, “You’re the expert. How long should it take to shoot 50 portraits?” She agreed that a day and a half with the same light setup and composition for all portraits was fine. I ended by saying that sounded very doable, and told her a proposal would be in her hands in 24 hours.

The main point?

Talk to the client to craft a proposal that works for both of you. Your professional advice is part of the service you offer.