“So how much can you shoot in [an eight-hour] day?” I get this question often, and promptly send along my rate card when requested. But I always send it along with an *asterisk* next to it.
Day rates are the creative fees, or cost of doing business (CODB) to hire a photographer to capture your project. And a little- known fact: When it comes to an architectural shoot, capturing the projects themselves take the least amount of time compared with the advanced planning and post-processing activities around a shoot.
You already know that an architectural photographer helps you more effectively market your firm’s completed projects, new construction or available property with professional images that showcase the location’s best assets. Maybe you’ve collaborated with an architectural photographer before, and have reaped the benefits for your firm or business. So a day rate is the cost to know — as opposed to a project rate — right?
Quality, architectural commercial photography is by no means a case of showing up on shoot day and pressing the shutter.
An experienced architectural photographer will be willing and able to guide you through figuring out what cost approach works best for you in terms of building in the most value for your budget. (They manage this all the time, after all.) One of the important goals of an architectural photographer is to have a shoot be a success, and much of that effort happens before and after — not just during — the shoot.
Remember that a day rate — or an eight-hour day of shooting — doesn’t take the full scope of work (SOW) into account. The SOW involves more than just shooting photos. The time a photographer spends getting familiar with and advising the client on, to prepare a site before an architectural shoot is crucial to its success.
Depending on the project, this can involve multiple site walk-throughs, logistical and staging calls, decisions on elevation needs; access considerations; coordination of models, and specialized planning for the season or time of day. In the industry, we refer to this expense of time and effort as pre-production.
Here are some of the advance factors at play:
- How much time is needed to prepare and stage the site in advance of the shoot?
- Does the photographer have access to the site, or do they need special escort and/or advanced clearance?
- Will the client plan the logistics with the site’s property manager, or will the photographer handle it?
- Will you join the photographer on the shoot, or can they go on their own?
- Do you want models in the shoot? Or what other ways can we handle the people aspect of a public space?
After the shoot, image retouching, or post production, is the final step before delivery. Quality architectural photography requires everything from basic balancing and color correction to advanced editing — which can be removal up through very advanced image merging or “stitching.” Very often, advanced retouching is needed on a few of the shots, if not all.
Day rates are simply the creative fees for hiring the photographer to shoot if they were to shoot for eight hours continuously. However, the sun is not in an ideal position at least four hours (or more) on any given day, and it may get complicated when exteriors are involved. Or for interiors with window exposure to the outside, shooting “all day” does not apply.
A trusted photographer will share with you all the fees and expenses involved, based on what you need. I offer my clients pricing transparency to ensure I never go back to them with added costs after the SOW has been determined, unless the scope changes. If the SOW changes, then change orders follow with client approval in advance of doing the additional work. It’s so important to me that everyone is on the same page, collaborating together. No surprises.
I’ve also been asked about a day rate vs. half-day rate. What does it mean? Again, simply put, a half-day rate is what it costs for the photographer to show up and turn on the camera. If you need one shot, and they travel all the way out to your project site, why not try to get more images? Work toward efficiency with what’s needed for a successful shoot, such as staging. Bundling multiple locations in one day that are in close proximity to one another works even better.
Pricing the entire project allows an architectural photographer to work the whole of the project — which will ultimately benefit your bottom line.
Asking an architectural photographer for a day rate is like seeing the tip of a rock in the ocean. The rock looks one way from that angle. But the further you delve into the depths, the more information you take in, anticipate and understand about a project: a project rate makes sense most of the time. A professional architectural photographer’s experience will highlight the best facets of your shoot, building in cost considerations along the way.
If you’re short on project management resources or have yet to talk to, or hire, a professional – I suggest we get some coffee. Contact me any time, I’m here to help support you and your team.