Estimating for a Job: Licensing and the 3 Important Things to Consider



It’s really exciting when you finally start getting paid to do what you love. Often times, in the beginning, we’re so excited that someone finally likes our work so much that they want to hire us and give us money to shoot their job. But what can often happen, especially when you’re first starting out and especially when you don’t have an agent, is that we tend to give more away and not get paid properly for the amount of work that we’re asked to do.

There are many things to consider when you’re asked to shoot a job for a client. For one, you aren’t selling your photographs to a client. You are licensing them for a particular use. This is also called Usage. So you have your day rate or creative fee and then you also have what we refer to as a licensing agreement. I’ve put together a list of some important things to consider when you are putting together your licensing agreement. The main things that you’ll want to know right away are Time, Territory and Media. So let’s break those 3 things down:


Time refers to how long the pictures that you’ll be shooting will be used for. Will it be a one time ad in a magazine that only runs that one month? Will it be for an ad that will be used for an entire year? Time equals the time the pictures will be used for.


Territory refers to where the pictures will be run. Is it for a local newspaper, like The LA Weekly? The LA Weekly is a local newsprint magazine that comes out every Thursday in Los Angeles only. That’s local. Regional refers to, say, Southern California. Or all of California. National is, of course, the United States. That means, if your client says the pictures you shoot for an ad for them will be run nationally then your photos will be seen on a national level. Global is of course, the entire world. It can be broken down in many different ways. I’ve had a situation where I worked out a deal with Dell Computer where my images were to be used in Mainland China, excluding Hong Kong and Shanghai. So the numbers will reflect that.


Media is of course in what type of media the images will be seen. Magazine? Billboards? CD covers? Press kits? Postcards? Point of Sales?

This can all a bit daunting and your next question might be “yes but what numbers do I use?” Without an agent that keeps up to date with all the usage rates it can be overwhelming. There is a great site out there that can help you out. is an excellent site. The site was created by creative people who understand our industry. And not only will you be able to get numbers for the usage, you can create estimates, invoices and work out the production costs as well. For a $229 flat fee, it’s well worth the price. They also offer a 14 day trial. I have met the owner, Lou Lesko, and he’s a great guy. I highly recommend it to fashion photographers who are not represented.

I will add this: make sure to ask a lot of questions when you are approached to shoot a job. The more you know before hand, the better equipped you are at estimating the right numbers. That way you won’t feel you’ve been taken advantage of in the end.

Melissa Rodwell