21 questions to accurately estimate a photography job

Estimating is one of the most important steps in winning new jobs. When estimating a job, there are quite a few things you need to remember.

The more details and variables your estimate includes, the easier it will be for your client to understand. Showing that you have anticipated all the details for production also helps build trust with your client.

Invest in an Estimating Program

If you do not have estimating software, I recommend using BlinkBid. It has a really nice format that produces a clean and clear proposal to present to your clients.

Creating an Accurate Estimate

Here is a list of questions to ask your potential client to help create an accurate estimate that fulfills both their expectations and your needs.


1. How did you find out about me? Website? Friend? Reference? Contest? Google search?

Project description:

2. Do you have a layout? What can you tell me about the imagery? How many images? Look and feel? Concept?

3. Where will we shoot? Is this a studio or location job? If location, is travel involved? Should I include travel costs in my estimate?

4. Location scouting?

5. Who is supplying the props, wardrobe, and sets?

6. Makeup stylist? Hair stylist? Wardrobe stylist? Prop stylist? Stylist assistants?

7. Who will supply talent? Can talent agencies invoice the agency directly?

8. Talent specs? Sex, race, age? Budget range?

9. Will casting be necessary? Web galleries? Or will the client be present?

10. Catering? The number of people from the client-side and number of people from the agency? RV’s for clients? RV’s for talent? Any special requirements? Dietary likes or dislikes from your team.

Post-production imaging:

11. Will you be handling post-production? Retouching?

12. Image delivery? Hard drive? FTP?

Qualifying the client and budget:

13. You need to qualify the client in order to set your Creative Fee – Clarify whether they are an ad agency, editorial, direct client, mom and pop shop, consumer, etc.

14. Can you give me an idea of the budget parameters? Or should I just work the estimate up as if it were an ideal situation?


15. What is your projected production date?

16. When will you need this estimate?

Licensing – how will the image(s) be used? Factors to consider when defining rights:

17. What is the media use – Consumer ad, trade ad, packaging, direct mail, billboards, brochures – single-use, or multiple-use?

18 What is the specific area of circulation – Local, state, regional, national, international?

19. What is the frequency? Size of the print run? What is the planned number of insertions?

20. What is the period of use? Duration of license.

21. Do you want to see licensing options?

Hang up before giving an estimate. Take the time to consider all parameters. Avoid giving “ballpark” figures without giving the project the proper thought it deserves.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. What is the scope of the project? What is the difficulty of production and uniqueness of the image? Is it a single image, multiple images, and is it a campaign?
  2. Did they call me because I am the only one who can do the job? Do they want my vision specifically?
  3. Is there value to having tear sheets? Give serious thought to this question. Consider the real value – to you as well as to the client.
  4. If editorial, how important is the credit line?
  5. Will this image have resale potential in stock or other markets? Does your licensing give you this option?

Finally – Things to Remember

Have the client sign your estimate and initial the reverse Terms and Conditions. This is especially important for “newer” and “out-of-town clients.” Get the advance. Have models and other third parties bill direct. Charge appropriate sales, use, and/or transit tax. Keep a shipping receipt as proof of out-of-state sales. Sign your invoice. Get the job!

Jennifer Kilberg

Jennifer Kilberg’s unique insight into the photo industry is a result of her extensive experience and understanding of all aspects of photography since joining the industry in 1996. In 2004, Jennifer started FluidVision Inc. and has worked with a diverse international client base of photographers and illustrators of all styles and specialties. As a strong communicator, Jennifer enjoys working with all types of personalities, and her loyal client base is a testament to her ability to build long-term relationships. Jennifer has worked with Agency Access clients since 2009 in both Campaign Manager programs and other types of consultations.

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