Even though I met Emily Hoskins, an art buyer at Upshot in Chicago, for the first time at Le Book NYC this June, it feels like I have known her forever. She and I have emailed and talked on the phone lots about photography and our blog. She has great ideas for the creative industry and has started a blog of her own to share those ideas. I loved meeting her and hope that someday our paths will cross again soon.
Since she is so interested in the creative process, I wondered if she would be open to answering questions about the bid process. Knowing that the topic is always on the minds of photographers, reps and art buyers, she didn’t hesitate. Thank you Emily and good luck with your blog!
1) How often are you asked to triple bid a project? And, is there ever is a clear first choice, do you let that person know they are the recommend?
While I only have one client that requires a triple bid for every project, I have made the triple bids a standard practice across the board. Even if there is a clear first choice, I believe there is a certain amount of due diligence when researching your options. Whether that be from a creative or cost perspective, triple bidding often helps you round out options you otherwise may not have been considering.
There is often a clear first choice, however that first choice may be different from everyone involved depending on how they’ve invested in the particular project. While the art director may have a clear first choice based on visuals alone, the client may have a first choice that is rooted in meeting a budget or schedule constraint. When the first choice is clear across the board, it’s easy to become excited with AND for the artist. If I can predict the outcome of who will be awarded the job I often do share my excitement with the recommended artist. So, while I don’t specifically say ‘congratulations, you’re our first choice’,
the genuine excitement is hard to contain and it becomes more clear as our relationships forms.
2) Sometimes after a photographer bids a job, they will not hear back in regards to the outcome. Can you shed some light on why that may be?
I would like to think that when a job awards I follow up with the other photographers that have bid to cap off that live wire and create some kind of closure in a long chain of emails. In reality, projects often move fast and once the job is awarded we hit the ground running and unfortunately, and to no fault of their own, photographers get left in the dust.
I find following up with everyone who bid the job is a genuine relationship building exercise that should be practiced every time a job is awarded. Afterall, it’s how you and I began our email relationship!
3) We all know there are many reasons for a photographer not getting a project. Besides the obvious of price or creative, can you share some other reasons that they may not be awarded a project?
There are the obvious misses in price or creative that can send a photographer to the back of the list for specific projects, however I find the creative call to be where jobs are won or lost.
If Rob Haggart heard me say that, he’d question what the phone personality of a photographer has to do with taking pictures. Which is fair, however the creative call plays a crucial role in deciding who gets the job. It creates an environment that allows the photographer to indicate their level of interest in not only the content of the shoot, but in the process of collaboration. It’s like a job interview.
The best case scenario is the photographer listens to the ideas presented, offers up a few solutions, indicates genuine creative investment to the project and everyone walks away feeling positive.
The worst-case scenario is the first choice photographer disqualifies themself by not communicating a true sense of understanding or, worse – making suggestions to take the concept in a different direction.
4) What sort of things are you dealing with on your end to get an estimate approved? We all know it is not always as easy as presenting a photo estimate for approval. What other things could your client be considering at the same time that could hold up the process?
My previous lives as studio manager/producer have taught me that budgets are put together with intention and strategy. It’s a process that I have a lot of respect for. Therefore, I don’t fight an estimate that comes within budget. And, when budgets do need to come down, I ask the rep and photographer to move costs around as they see fit. I strictly avoid suggesting how many days a food stylist needs to prep or how long a pre-light should go.
From the client perspective, they often lean toward an estimate that allows for the most flexibility. When they understand that unlimited usage from one photographer is close to the cost of the photoshoot for another, I’ve learned that often the regard for quality goes out the window and is replaced with the idea of a ‘bargain’.
6) Do you share budgets when they are available? Why or why not?
When I initially request an estimate, I never share the budget. In fact, I encourage the rep and photographer to bid the job based on what details we know at the time and what they feel is fair for usage.
There are two reasons why I do this. I usually do not have an approved budget to share even if I wanted to, and requesting a fair bid informs me on where they feel they stand in the market and gives me some insight to what they’ve been charging for similar jobs.
Once the budget is approved and I’ve received the estimate, I will typically share the budget and any cost restraints with the rep and photographer. If the job is bid to the right pool of talent, I know what to expect on the estimates as they come in. Thankfully, this takes very little shuffling of numbers to get it into shape. If the estimate comes in with a hefty price tag and needs to come down, I disclose our budget and ask them to consider revising their costs to reflect what the client is willing to pay. Usually, they’re more than willing to do so.
5) What sort of things are you doing behind the scenes that you would like photographers to know you are doing to sell the photographer to a client?
I feel the days of calling in portfolios are a thing of the past (too new age? Possibly, but true). Instead, printed portfolios have become a tool to get you in the door for some very valuable face time with an art buyer or better, the creative department.
As a result, it has become the art buyers responsibly to expose the creative teams to not only new talent, but photographers that have years of experience shooting exactly what it is they’re looking for. Just because an art buyer does not ask you to send in your portfolio, does not mean your not being considered for jobs. For nearly every job we bid, I put together a deck of photographers that include jpgs from their websites and the reps websites (even their presence on Instagram, FB, Behance, and FFFound).
Luckily, I’m in a position that allows me to educate the creative as to the photographers capabilities and imparting this knowledge often sways the decision of the creative and consequently, the client.
7) What is your client’s/agency’s policy surrounding advances on projects? What do you do as an art producer to help facilitate that process? And, what can a photographer do to help it along as well?
The policy is to provide an advance based on the fine print of the estimate. Often this varies between photographers. Some ask for ‘production expenses’ up front, others ask for 50%. If there is no fine print that requires an advance and I know we have the time, I’ll set them up in our system and offer 50% if I know I can get it to them before the shoot.
As an art buyer working at an agency, there is a lot of red tape to go through to get someone set up and paid and there is a different person or department to approve each of these steps. Once we receive your W9 there are a handful of signatures that need to appear, one person to processes that info, another to verify it and finally someone offsite punches the information into the system and yet another cuts the advance check. Unfortunately, for all of this to happen in the small window of awarding the job and shooting the job is rare. It’s a process that has me continuously rolling my eyes in disbelief.
Knowing this, I encourage our vendors to provide us with wire transfer information while we’re setting this process up.