a couple of years ago

Advertising photography: How to estimate an advertising photo shoot

Estimating an advertising photo shoot – it’s all about the details

As you can imagine there are about a million details that go into creating an advertising photograph. In the end, everything needs to work together to create the perfect image. Starting with the talent, the crew, the weather, the location, the gear, the logistics, and much more. The smallest issue can bring a carefully planned shoot to a grinding halt, but a thorough estimate and planning can help you get over that wrench that get’s thrown into the job on the second day at 4am (like it did on this one) – more about that on the third post in this series.

ABE Website screenshot

Working on the production of this ad begins about a month before the crew steps foot on the beach. It starts like many of my photo shoots do. My phone chimes out a notification: someone has filled out the contact form on my website: “We need new photos of our running armbands in action.” it reads “Ideally shot locally in Miami or vicinity. Our small business is located in Broward, and we would like to work with a local photographer. Can you contact us, and let us know if you are interested, and what you need to make a quote? Thank you.

Estimating an advertising job

Of course I’m interested. And I’m local. So what next? I’ve had people ask me “How much do you charge for an advertising photo shoot?” You’ll see why that question is impossible to answer without some more information. First I need to know how many images we are going to be creating. That number is made up from the products that we’ll shoot. How many colors does that come in again? Are there multiple sizes? Although this is a technically is an assignment for a product photographer, in this case we’re going for that aspirational feel. After all the client is advertising how awesome their product is. How many days is the production going to take. All those questions go back to the client. A llittle while later I get an email back from with answers to those questions.

The more you know, the more accurate you can estimate

Then I need to get even more detailed: What’s the brands demographic that these advertising photos are going to target? Am I looking for fashion models, real people or athletes? What is the age of the target market? How many different looks are we going for? Where type of locations are we looking for? Do we need special photo gear? It goes on and on. Here’s where creating photo estimates for over 20 years comes in handy. I know where the hidden costs are. I’ve been using a template that ASMP (the American Society of Media Photographers) created, which protects me from forgetting production items in the estimate.

Finally you have to get an idea of the budget. Is the client planning to use friends and family for the photos? Or are we flying in known athletes? Probably somewhere in between. What about stylists and hair and make up? Do we need to rent an RV with a driver? Are we going to pick the perfect locations or are we limited to work on the cheap ones? All these questions can help you figure out where a clients head is. Some times they just don’t know what a real advertising photo shoot costs – especially small business that are just starting out – other times creative departments don’t want to give you a budget.

Long story short, after a few emails and phone calls, you should have information to know what you need to shoot, how much it’s gonna cost and how much of your time it’s gonna take.


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