Case Study:

Estimating a Corporate VR Photo Shoot

In the Fall of 2003, Virtual Reality Photography was asked to present a Business Estimating Panel for the International QuickTime VR Association (IQTVRA) at their IQTVRA Summit Conference in Washington, DC. We invited three leading VR photographers to prepare estimates on a fictitious corporate VR photo shoot, showing how they structure their fees and approach the preparation and shooting of a moderate sized commercial VR project.

The photographers who generously agreed to share their approaches with the VR community were:

John Greenleigh - Flipside Studios, Berkeley, CA

Pat St. Clair - St. Clair Photo Imaging, Henrietta, NY

Scott Highton - Virtual Reality Photography, San Carlos, CA

The results show not only the different approaches taken by different photographers in how they price their services, but also regional differences in the cost of doing business. It is important to note that photographers should never set their fees based on what another photographer or business charges, but rather, should set their fees based on their own costs of doing business, the value their work provides to their client, the unique abilities and value they bring to the assignment, and the specific market for their work.

Virtual Reality Photography provides a free Business Costs Calculator to help individual photographers determine their own costs of being in business and mimimum rates that they should charge in order to keep their business profitable. Download this free calculator here.

The Request for Estimate was as follows:

Detailed estimates and responses from the three panelists can be viewed by clicking on the links in the following summary. While total cost is generally a prime consideration for almost every client, most photo buyers consider many other factors when choosing which photographer they hire. These include the photographer's proven track record at shooting the kinds of work they need, style of work, professional reputation, capabilities, professionalism, personality and enthusiasm, among others. Most clients today hire photographers that they've either worked successfully with before or that are referred to them from other satisfied clients. However, when seeking a new photographer, their first encounter often occurs via the photographer's web site.

If you were the client in this project scenario, which photographer would you select, and why? (For the purposes of this exercise, assume that they are all local to your area, so client proximity is not a factor.) Click here to send us your thoughts.

Summary of Estimates: Urban Family Hospital VR Shoot
Notes & Comments
John Greenleigh
Flipside Studios

Estimated a total of 7.5 shooting days (4 for panoramas and 3.5 for objects). Two objects would be shot in John's studio (the bed and the wheelchair), while all other objects and panos were to be shot on location. Usage included "Web, CD-ROM, trade show, collateral/promotional print" but no term of use was specified (assume in perpetuity?). Additional advertising uses were outlined with varying fee increases (20-50% more each). Unlimited use without client ownership of images was additional 100% of fees. Transfer of ownership to client was additional 200%. None of these are included in the Total Cost.

Base fees were as follows: Panoramas total $22,800 (include $12,000 photo fee, $3,000 assistants and expenses, $4,800 post production & QTVR authoring, and $3,000 digital production for still prints from panoramas). Add $18,100 for object movies shooting & production, plus 8.25% CA sales tax.

Professional models would be added costs not included in total below ($360 - $1,500 per model per panorama or object movie). Turnaround time for everything – approximately 4 weeks.

33 percent advance required prior to start of shoot.

Scott Highton
Virtual Reality Photography

Highton estimated 9 days of shooting at $2,500 per day ($22,500), plus expenses and post production costs. He specifies the usage rights and their individual costs in an accompanying chart, and then applies these fees against the shooting fee (or vice versa, whichever is more). In this instance, he included 3 years corporate web site use (12 panoramas and 6 object movies), along with 3 half page ads in a national magazine (2.5 million circulation, 2 images each), plus 8 half page ads in a trade magazine (25,000 circulation, 2 images). These usage fees totaled just below the $22,500 shooting fee, so they were included as a part of that fee.

Other production costs, including assistant, film, processing, scanning, etc, added about $5,400. Post production assembly of 12 panoramas added $3,000 and post production of 6 object movies added $2,400. Add 8.25% CA sales tax of $2,747.

Client is responsible for providing all models and for making each room or area of the facility being shot available exclusively for photography on a reasonable schedule for a minimum period of four hours each.

40 percent deposit due before start of shoot.

Pat St. Clair
St. Clair Photo Imaging

St. Clair Photo Imaging provided a very nice three-page cover letter describing in detail how the assignment would be shot, what the client's and St. Clair Photo Imaging's responsibilities would be, what the usage granted would be (mostly for two year terms), and what kinds of images would be provided (assignment would be shot completely digitally) at what resolutions (all very high, featuring Pat's DCS 14n capabilities). Everything is to be shot on location at the hospital. The estimate included post production of all panorama and single row object movies, but hotspot linking, rollovers, multi-row objects and other effects would be extra.

The shoot was estimated to take 7 days ($10,500). Image processing & QTVR authoring was another $7,200. Expenses and contingency were $2,250, and NY State sales tax added another $1,621.

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