I recently shared that the overwhelming reason potential clients don’t hire a professional photographer to document their projects is cost. Understandably, there can be a bit of sticker shock when you receive that first estimate from a commercial photographer; However, what if I told you there was a way to reduce the cost of photographing your projects without having to guilt your neighbor’s tech-savvy teenager into doing it. That’s right! I’m suggesting a way of commissioning photography for your projects without having to sacrifice quality or even the amount of images you would normally expect from hiring a professional.
How? By cost sharing! Cost sharing (or sometimes referred to as multiple client usage) is simply the act of teaming up with other people who also have an interest in the outcome of a project and splitting the cost of a photoshoot. This arrangement is especially nice for architectural photography since there are usually a lot of parties involved in any given project interested in licensing images, including architects, designers, construction companies, product manufacturers, landscapers, etc… Instead of each individual client hiring one photographer to repeatedly come out and photograph the same project multiple times, multiple clients can hire one photographer to shoot a project one time and split the cost!
This arrangement is a great deal for clients, so what’s in it for the photographer? This is where it can get a bit tricky, and it requires one to know a bit about the business of commercial photography. Contrary to popular belief, commercial photographers make little money actually showing up and taking pictures (production costs). The actual profit comes from licensing images (sometimes called a creative fee), which is in itself a whole other topic. Basically, commercial photographers want to create images that appeal to as many people as possible. The more that image is intended to be used (think advertising), the more expensive that image will be. Contrast this to other areas of photography, such as family portraiture, where the images are intended for personal use resulting in (typically) a lower cost. So what you’re actually paying for when you work with professional photographers is not a photograph itself, but rather a license of it.
When I offer cost sharing to my clients, all involved parties split the production cost (yay for the clients!), plus each party pays a reduced licensing fee (yay for the photographer!). The production cost and all licensing fees are added up and then divided by the total number of parties involved (yay for everyone!). For example, say that an interior designer client wants photographs for a recently renovated kitchen and the estimate, including production and licensing fees, is $1000. After a brief discussion we find out that the custom cabinet builder and the contractor that did the tile work would also be interested in obtaining photographs of the project for their websites. Now we can simply license the images to the other 2 parties for $300 each and split the total cost 3 ways. Each interested party now only pays $533.33 each.
Initial Project Cost: $ 1000
Additional Interested Parties: $ 300 each = 2@600 is added to the original project cost
New Project Cost: $ 1600
Final Cost Share Fee: $ 533.33 for each party (if split equally among 3)
As you can see, it benefits everyone involved to utilize cost sharing. That final fee can be reduced even further if we add more interested parties, such as the painting company and the company that manufactured the lighting fixtures.
Initial Project Cost: $ 1000
Additional Interested Parties: $ 300 each = 4@1200 is added to the original project cost
New Project Cost: $ 2200
Final Cost Share Fee: $ 440 for each party (if split equally among 5)
What would happen if each of these clients tried to commission photography services independently? Each party would pay that $1000 of the initial estimate. Similarly, if someone wanted to license the images of a project AFTER the project has been photographed and were not part of the initial cost sharing agreement, they would not pay the production cost, but they wouldn’t benefit from a reduced licensing fee either. By offering cost sharing, I aim to maximize marketing budgets for all of my clients involved.
As the client booking a photography project, it's important to remember who was involved in the project and try to bring them in on sharing the cost of the photography. I always try to involve additional parties early and educate them on the benefits of a cost share. The project cost ends up being lower for everyone involved.