Pricing Assistance :: RFP for Large Corporate Marketing Campaign

Are there any fellow photographers in the group with experience in RFPs for large corporate projects? I’d really appreciate some advice or assistance.

I was recently asked to submit a proposal for my city’s tourism campagne. However, I feel that their description of the campaign is very vague and incomplete. It’s a larger request than I’m accustomed to and do not know how to price for full copyrights and usage, especially when I don’t know the full scope of the campaign.

I have already asked for more details, but they are only offering more detail to whomever the contract is awarded to. I’m not sure how to even begin pricing this job.

Any assistance or guidance would be helpful.

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Hi Jennifer,

I would definitely get them on the phone (not email) and kindly explain that you can’t give a complete quote without the full scope of the project. You mention the request ‘for large corporate’ - but then you mention ‘city’s tourism campaign.’ Is it a corporate project? Or the city’s tourism campaign? Is it beauty imagery that illustrates why one would want to live in that city? Or is it something driven by a specific corporation? Those are two different channels, really. I’d get that figured out.
Have they spelled out that it MUST be full copyright buyout? Or is there flexibility in the usage? Or do they not know and want options?
I find working via email, sometimes it makes it easier to ghost a photographer - so I get them on the phone and ask the harder questions to tweeze out of them the scope / while also explaining that you need to know the scope to be able to deliver an accurate estimate - otherwise you could just say “Ten million dollars.” They look shocked and then you say, “Oh well, I guess that’s too much? Tell me what’s too much.” You see? If they can’t give the scope, then you’ll either be too high - or too low.
Of course, THEY want you to be too low - so the scope is critical.

It’s funny I’m actually working on a video for my own youtube on this topic. Maybe the school will reference it at some point. The takeaway from it though is:

What do you imagine the value of the images will be for you?
Will you have the ability to make money off the images in the future in stock, or third party sales? Valuable for your portfolio to get more similar work?
If yes: then you need to limit their exclusivity to the imagery, limit the time period of use, and no buyout - only usage.
If the images don’t hold any value to you for the future, then a buyout could be a decent way to go: just remember that means THEY can resell/redistribute the imagery to whoever, whenever, forever. If they are wanting buyout, then for sure: the images will valuable to them on some level.
If it’s via ‘corporate’ as you mentioned: they’ll be used in some way to drive more income. If it’s just The City, then they are likely after some other variety of needs you need to discover.
The proposal can’t even happen if you don’t know what they are wanting - unless they are hoping for the proposer to propose the entire campaign from concept to complete. In that case, you’d AT LEAST need to know the purpose of the campaign. And to do their ad agency work for them is pretty unethical. Price yourself accordingly.

More questions for them:
What is the purpose of the campaign?
Is there an operating philosophy of the organization and campaign direction?
Do they want to put images on billboards?
Do they want to run ads in national magazines? Or just regional publications?
Will they be running these on social media channels?

Full copyright buyouts should/do come at a high price - and remove your ability to ever use the images again, even in your own portfolio or instagram etc. So, tread carefully through that.

If they refuse to give you the scope - and you have to create the concept and treatment then just have fun with coming up with something you think would be cool to do - and give them a price you feel is fair with Limited Rights - and then give them an additional estimate that has a Right to Reproduce in All Media In Perpetuity (you, of course, still holding onto the copyright for your own future) – but price that one super high to an amount you think is fair for their ability to reproduce it in all media. Then they have the choice between the Limited package, and the free reign package.

I can’t quote numbers, because, well, we don’t have any information and you’d need to run your cost of doing business first to determine your base fees for your own enterprise.

Hope this helps on some level - you definitely need more info, in my opinion. Get them on the phone if you can.


Hello Jeff,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I greatly appreciate it.
To offer more clarification, the project is for a local city’s tourism campaign. They did not mention where and how the work will be displayed and distributed. Considering we are a major tourist destination, with a large chunk of the areas revenue coming from tourists throughout the US and Canada, I assume the distribution will be pretty expansive. They specifically mention that ALL copyrights will be transferred to them and participating venues. I will not be allowed to retain any rights to the images.

They also specifically stated that they will not receive any phone calls about it and my other contact in the city said that no one is allowed to speak about it. All inquiries had to be submitted in writing by last Monday, which is when I requested more details. They didn’t give much more information. All I know at this point is that there will be 10 location shoots at various resorts and attractions within the city. The images will be given to each venue for their own use as well.

The RFP mentions that the proposal should include expenses such as models, permits, etc. However, they would not elaborate on any nature of a styled shoot(s), how many models, for how long, which permits. They would not elaborate on the scope of photography desired for each location other than “mostly landscape”. They did mention that there could be a TDB section of the proposal for expenses. The RFP also mentions that the awarded proposal will be good for 180 days with no amendments or retractions allowed.

At this point, I’m wondering if I just submit our hourly rate for time, plus a cost per finished image for the full copyright to be transfered. I’ve never bid for a job of this level before, so I don’t know how to begin pricing the full copyright or what the industry standards are for a job like this. I’ve been event, portrait and landscape photographers in the area for the past 12 years. This would be an exciting growth opportunity, but it may be more than I can handle at the moment.

  • Jennifer

Quite frankly, the whole thing seems really suspect to me.
One the one hand, maybe it’s an ok opportunity to shoot some images that you can use for your own portfolio, but ‘portfolio’ is designed to get you more similar work. It will feel temporarily good to see your work all over town - until you start to feel like you got taken advantage of by every single company using that imagery.

It sounds like a possible Rights-Grab - especially since they come out and say that other entities will have access to the images. ie: they will provide (or sell) your images to other interested parties to use for their own marketing endeavors. Excluding you, the copyright owner by default, from the process.

So, if you shoot a great lifestyle image of someone by a hotel pool, for example, that means you don’t get any fees from the hotel for their use of your imagery. Or if you get great shots out at the golf course of people golfing, they can sell those to the golf course and you get zero. You’ll be getting paid once, by the original client, and they will be either giving images away, or pricing them and selling them to interested parties. It’s highly unethical - however, the bigger issue is, there are many eager beavers who would be totally willing to give it away for a few hundred dollars because they also see it as “an exciting growth opportunity.” I get it - it could be. It’s also going to contribute to the Race to the Bottom as this RFP is essentially wanting to skirt around hiring a commercial photographer and paying them well, by just hiring someone to provide the imagery and then shut them out of all the subsequent sales to Third Parties.

One thing you can do, is to research around the internet and see if you can find your city’s operating budget, or ask a reference librarian where you can see that information for this year. For example, here is Glenwood Spring’s from 2019:

Doing some research to get an idea as to how much total money is in the Tourism operating budget, could be helpful to determine what price seems fair.

Sure, you could throw out a price (and I’m being totally reasonable here) of $150,000.00 to cover all the various things you think you’d photograph - but any sort of arrangement where they agree on a price and THEN tell you what they want photographed is a bad deal.

Say we figure 10 locations. We don’t know how far away each one will be from city center. We don’t know if Location 1 is “just a nice sunset shot looking over the city” and Location 2 is “a group of 30-40somethings having dinner alfresco at a downtown restaurant,” which is an entirely different kind of shoot.

I’d probably take the 10 locations and theorize an expensive scenario for each: “each location to include no more than 5 models shot as a group at $400 each for the 2 hour shoot, plus whatever lighting and crew you need, plus the permit fee and certificate of insurance for each location to cover liability and property damage, plus craft services.”

Most likely I would not be awarded this kind of job because I’d price it very high given the nature of a total buyout of imagery - and the fact that they come right out to say they will be giving YOUR work to other entities. But someone will be awarded this project, and I bet that it will most likely be someone with the lowest figure. Not to sound too salty, but it seems sketchy and possibly not actually worth the headache you’d experience dealing with a “we’ll tell you what the project is after we’ve accepted your price and you can’t change your price if you deem that you anchored too low to start.” That’s sketchy and unethical. Reminds me of that game show where you had to choose Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3 - Oh! You won seven bales of hay. (sad trombone)

I’d probably aim very high and visualize each location to be an expensive production, price that, and then quintuple that amount to make up for lost revenue from copyright buyout. I probably won’t get the gig, but at least I can feel confident that if they did award me the project that I could make money.

Just don’t sign any contracts until you agree on the scope and price. Full stop.