How To Do A Professional Assignment

Step One

by William Lulow

At the risk of repeating myself, I thought I would go over the steps I take when I get an assignment from a magazine (or even from a private client).

The first thing I need to know is what kind and how many images the client is looking for. This will determine much of my workflow and also give me an idea of what to charge. I need to know how the images will be used, where they will be placed and what kinds of rights the client needs. A shoot for a private client, these days, is usually made for the internet. People need good quality head shots and portraits even if they will be used very small. The better the quality to begin with, the better the quality on a computer. I usually have a flat rate for doing head shots and private clients can use them either on the web or in a brochure. If I’m shooting for an advertising agency or public relations firm, it’s a different story. They know how much use the image will get, where it will be placed and usually what the circulation will be. All these things influence the fee I charge.

Most times, an agency will have a budget for photography. They will call the studio and say, we have so-and-so and we need a portrait done for such-and-such magazine. We’ll discuss the parameters of the job. Often, they will provide me with a galley of the article (if they have it), so I’ll know what the article will be saying about the subject. This helps me decide what kind of a portrait to make. Typically, at the end, an art director will say “The budge for the shot is $1,500. Can you do it?” Usually, my answer is “Yes, of course.” Magazines usually have fees they pay for articles and photographs. Some work on what is called a “Day Rate over Page Rate.” This means that they will pay so much per day of shooting or so much per image used depending on which is higher. Once, I shot an assignment for Money Magazine and the shoot took two days to complete. I gave them all the images and they paid me for the two days, even though they used about six images for the article. Sometimes, a magazine will use only one photo and pay you the page rate. You can generally make more money if they pay the day rate rather than the page rate. Also, most major magazines are very good at keeping records and paying you for each image’s use. I did a number of shoots for PEOPLE Magazine and they paid me for each job. Then, I got a call because they wanted to re-use one of my images for a back cover. In a couple of weeks, I had a check just for the reuse fees. I didn’t even have to ask them.

So, step one in dealing with an assignment is to make sure you know what the images will be used for and how many of them are needed. You also need to find out who will be the judge of the photos. If it’s the art director, she is the one you need to please. If it’s the subject, as in a private commission, they need to be pleased.

To be continued….