How to structure a retainer contract

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by, Dec 21, 2011.

  1. These kind of problems are always the hardest for me.
    I've been approached by representatives of the city I live in to provide a library of stock images we can use to promote our tourism industry and/or encourage people to move here. They want to have a one year arrangement where they will have me cover events, town life, and even go on some touristy outings like balloon rides, a rodeo, and whatever else they want to project as our image (I already cover a lot of sporting events like cycling and skiing). I'm flattered they asked me, but I know their budget is somewhat limited. We are a small town in Western Colorado and we aren't Aspen or Vail! I'm not in this purely for the money up front, but also to help the community and get some exposure. I would retain ownership of the photos but would give them license to use them for marketing and documentary purposes.
    Both parties want this to be fair for everyone, but I don't think either of us have what that means very clearly defined. I mentioned to them that I sold a photo to the local college's marketing efforts for $500 and they noticeably gulped. Now, I wouldn't expect that much per photo with an on-going arrangement, but threw that out to test the waters. With guaranteed income I'd be willing to lower the per photo price in exchange for some "sure thing" business on a revolving basis.
    I already do this to some extent on my own because I enjoy it and I sell some images to help cover expenses now and then. With this arrangement, the city would get me access to more of these types of events, and probably better access than I have now (they mentioned use of their bucket truck, for example).
    Now it's my job to do a little research and come back with a proposal which brings me here!
    Does anyone have any examples of an arrangement like this? Have you ever been a part of something like this? How did it work? What are the potential caveats? I have only ever charged by the shoot, photo, or print so this is new territory for me.
    For some background, photography isn't my day job, but I consider it my side business. I've got work in a couple of galleries and get published now and then in the paper and magazines. I'd like to go fully pro if I could make a go of it, but I need reliable income to pay the bills so for now so I remain "semi-pro".
    Any insight would be appreciated!
  2. I guess the best place to start is to get a calendar of events from them to see what you can do and what your day job will prevent you from doing. Also determine (with family) how many weekends you want to give-up to make this all happen.
    Next do a tentative time-line as to the amount of time needed for each project on the calendar, then do the math using your regular fee schedule. Now you have an idea of what they're asking for is really worth. Whether you ask for that number, or offer some sort of break based upon quantity is up to you. Or you can write it up based upon the number of events as well as a guarranteed minimum dollar, so if they change the schedule and/or add events, you're not left hanging in the breeze!
    If this place is busy enough to keep you working, maybe they can just pay a professional day rate like other per diems such as an engineering firm doing a "study"? If they can swallow say a $500.00 day rate and all you have to do is to shoot raw and deliver the disks, and you're happy with that, then it's a win-win! How much do you need to make in a day to give up the whole day for them?

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