Great photography is an essential marketing tool for architects, designers, engineers and builders. So it should come as no surprise that all of these different businesses could benefit from the same set of photographs if they work on a project together. Rather than each business hiring a photographer to go out and photograph their handiwork, sharing the production costs of a photo shoot can be a great way to stretch your budget.
As you may already know, according to U.S. copyright law, images are non-transferable. Which means that the purchaser of an image is buying the rights to use the image but not ownership. Usually there is an arrangement with the buyer describing how the image(s) can be used, for how long and in what media. So, the purchaser is free to use the images as described in their license but cannot give them to another party to use or sell them to another party. To illustrate the concept, if you were to buy a poster with the Mona Lisa printed on it, although you payed something for the image, you do not own the image itself. Nor do you have the rights to sell the image to another business. Also, If you were to license the Mona Lisa image for a tote bag that you would like to sell, then the image is licensed for that use and none other. You couldn’t begin selling posters and you couldn’t sell the image itself to another business to use however they wish. Creative work is considered “intellectual property”, meaning that even if rights for use are sold the image copyright remains the property of the creator.
On rare occasions either the copyright is transferred or exclusive rights are sold. These scenarios apply to employees making work for their employers, or when a business is willing to pay the far higher price for ownership and the ability to transfer the images. In the case of the business wanting exclusivity the cost is usually prohibitive since the image can be used without limit.
Architects, engineers and developers typically want licenses that allow them to use the images for quite a while because their work will likely remain in their portfolio for years, so typically the time frame is “perpetual”, meaning the images can be used forever. The image license is usually “non-exclusive”, which means that the images can be licensed by the photographer to others involved in the project. And the usage rights most often covers direct mail, internet use and contest submission. For these types of businesses this package covers probably 99% of the advertising they will do with the pictures. If the firm decides later that they love one of the images and want to use it for a full page ad or a bunch of billboards, the additional usage is negotiated separately. This insures that the client doesn’t pay for licensing that they will never use, which keeps costs down.
When you hire a professional architectural photographer to create an image for you, there are two major costs that factor into the bottom line. There is the photographers fee, which would include the photographers time, an assistant if necessary, post-production and retouching. And the usage, which would include the terms of the licensing, like, how long can the image be used and in what media. Both of these numbers can vary wildly depending on the circumstances of the shoot and how widely the image(s) will be used. If two parties decide to jointly work with a photographer then the photographers fee stays the same and usage for one additional party is added.
To break this down into dollars and cents, say, a full day shoot of 12 images costs $2,000. which includes the production cost and usage. If you were add usage for an additional party that would add something like $800. to the total amount. Once the two parties split the $2,800. total, the cost for each participant would be $1,400. A savings of $600. So, the cost for two participants is less for each party than hiring the photographer for a single end user. And if there are more participants the price continues to go down for each separate user. For three parties one more usage would be added, in this demonstration the total would be $3600 split three ways, or $1200. each. The same amount of photos are shot
Splitting costs happens before the shoot. This is because the shoot is speculative, the parties agree on a shot list and agree to purchase the images. They are commissioning work to be done, they trust it will be done to the standard of the photographers previous work but they do not know what the photos will look like. If, one year later an additional firm wanted to split costs, it is too late. They can see the photos and know exactly what they are getting, they are available immediately and without the effort of arranging for the space to be available. In this circumstance the photos cost somewhere near or slightly more than the original one user price.
Many of my clients spit costs whenever they can because it saves money or allows them to get more individual images within their marketing budget. If I had to guess about half of the architectural shoots I do are for more than one client. The practice is so common that many times when I am asked to provide a bid the architect has already discussed splitting production costs with another firm and will ask for rates with one or two additional parties involved before I ever suggest the idea. So, if you have never considered the idea maybe for your next shoot, you can pool your resources and pair with another firm to get some great photos and save a little money at the same time.
Thanks for reading, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I have posted on many issues related to architectural photography so please stop by If you would like to learn more about copyright or picking the right photographer for you. I am located outside of Philadelphia and am only a short drive away from D.C. and New York, if you are an architect, engineer, builder or developer and need great photography to promote your business give me a call, I would love to hear about your project.