Thanks, Gerome Soriano, for your questions. I had originally written these two articles for my staff, and later updated and expanded them for my students (I teach Business of Photography at the College of Saint Benilde), but since you asked me to write on “bidding,” here they are.
Attending Bidding or Pre-pricing Meetings
First of all, offer to meet prospective customers face to face, and avoid giving quotations or cost estimates to someone calling you on the phone.
At the meeting, check who is and should be present – in advertising, that would be the account executive, art director, print producer, other agency/client representatives, and other photographers.
(Note: I would be describing situations for advertising photographers. If you are not an advertising photographer, whom you would meet might have different titles and roles, but basically, they’re the people who will be contracting your services. If you are a wedding photographer, that might be the future bride and groom, or a wedding coordinator – maybe even a parent of either the bride or the groom. If you are a travel photographer, that person who will brief you about your possible assignment might be the editor of a travel magazine, or the marketing manager of a resort. Whatever your situation is, your first meeting would be with the people who would describe to you what they need from the photographer whose services they would like to engage).
Write down names of all present and expected (photographers who are late may still be considered qualified for the bidding, especially if they are being favored by the client or agency). If you are meeting them for the first time, do ask nicely for their calling cards, and hand them yours.
If you are meeting with your future client one-on-one, gently and politely ask whom else they are considering. You should find a way to find out who your competitors are.
Engage your client in some small talk and establish some commonalities. Then move on to asking about their requirements.
In order to have a basis for your cost estimates, inquire about (again, you would need to substitute what is relevant to your specialization. Wedding photographers would be asking about on-site edited videos or AVPs, albums, display prints. Editorial photographers would need to know if there are other intended purposes for your photos, other than for publication).
1.Usage – let your future client tell you what they need the photos for – brochures, calendars, print ads, annual reports, displays. Some printing requirements that you yourself don’t do may be outsourced, and they might need your supervision. In advertising, it is not unusual to ask more technical or definitive questions such as how long the display materials would be used, or in what other countries your images would be published.
Ask all the questions that you need to ask in order to fully understand what they need and want.
2. File Size – you may want to inquire or recommend the required file size. This often depends on the usage, and how big the final reproductions would be. Please take note that certain materials, like billboard, may require smaller files than those needed to produce murals and posters – this is because billboards are seen from a distance and low-resolutions are not obvious when not seen up close.
3. Creative Scenario – what images do they foresee? Ask to see their compres or pegs, and get copies. Get some explanation as to how strictly they will adhere to their compres, or if the compres are just basic guides, with art directors or clients taking a free hand in having them interpreted. Find out:
a. What are the elements to be photographed – product? group of products? food? models? building? time of day of shoot?
b. What special information should you know – is the talent a celebrity? Is the product highly reflective?
c. What effects does the art director want?
d. Will there be variations? What are the expected variations? Some variations are now called “progressions.”
e. What backgrounds will be used? Will the images be dropped out?
f. How will the photographs be used in the end product – with other images? With text? With special backgrounds?
g. Will they need special photo retouching, and are you
expected to do that?
4. Consider logistics. Are there other responsibilities for you to handle – locations, props, talents, services, etc.? Will we provide food for talents and company? How many people do they expect to attend the shoot?
5. Ask about schedules/timetables or estimates thereof. Will there be several set ups? Will they be photographed in one or several sessions? Is this a rush project?
6. Ask about locations. Where will the photography be done – in the studio, or location or in several locations?
7. When do they want the bids to be submitted? To whom? Sealed?
8. Any other instructions?
If your specialization is not advertising, you may want to rewrite this article to make the questions relevant to the type of photography assignment that you would get.
Here are a few more tips on submitting bids (some are repeated in the next article).
1. If you ask nicely, and if your client has a predetermined budget, you might be able to ask for a range in pricing that could get you in among those to be considered. Ask nicely, but don’t insist if they won’t give any indications to you.
2. Unlike in other industries, such as construction, or supply of equipment, biddings for creative works are not solicited to just get the lowest bid. They would study your selling points – your skills, expertise, equipment, facilities, service, reliability, and suitability to this project etc. and see if your price seems reasonable. This means – you could have a higher bid and still win.
3. However, if they have limited the invitation to the bid to a very limited and tight group of pre-qualified photographers who have been deemed to be on the same level, then maybe the lowest bidder might be considered.
4. Neither submit too early or too late – close to the deadline is best. Since bids are not opened in front of bidders, it is possible that other photographers would be tipped on what you are bidding.
5. If you lost a bid, do not assume that the winner submitted the lowest bid. (see tip no. 1).
6. If you lost a bid, do not get discouraged. Thank the person handling the bidding, and politely ask to be invited again. As long as you are still being invited, it means you’re still in the ballgame.
7. Again, if you asked nicely, and not insist, you may inquire as to who won the bid, and why they considered him.
@Harvey V. Chua updated August 2015.
Preparing Cost Estimates and Submitting Bids
1. Consider all points discussed during the bidding conference.
2. Estimate time, manpower, facilities, equipment and other requirements for preparation, actual shoot and post-shoot requirements. If you are the photographer’s representative, you may need to consult with the photographer about these details.
3. Will our quotation include other fees: billable directly to agency/client, or to be absorbed by the studio/photographer.
4. Try to think of similar requirements and check previous cost estimates. You may or may not follow previous quotations, but you must have your justifications.
5. Do you expect client/agency to ask for additional set ups, variations or service (bring fetched, for example) and yet expect not to be billed for these extras? Or do they allow addendum billings for additional requirements not discussed during the bidding process?
6. What is the credit card record of this agency/client? Consider cost of money over time. Clients who are prompt in paying generally get discounted cost estimates. Those who are slow may be charged more, or may be charged a higher down payment.
7. Consider the usage – for local use, or for national or international publication? For multiple insertion or for multiple usages (brochures, website, print ad, posters).
8. Consider efficiency – package discounts are possible when several set ups can be photographed during the same session. Higher discounts are given if the set ups are very similar – several shots from the same angle using the same type of lighting, or when the same background material is used for several setups, or when a succession of single items are photographed using the same background and/or angle. This is truer for objects than for people or for objects with movements, since more exposures are needed for the latter types. On the other hand, more complicated set ups or those requiring special effects should be charged more.
9. Consider the photographer and his expertise. Indicate the name of the photographer(s) who will be assigned to do the job. It is possible to present options as far as photographers are concerned – simply match the photographer with the costing for his services.
10. Consider the art director – is he decisive or is he generally slow? Does he play around with a lot of variations? Can we learn from him?
11. Indicate options, if certain requirements or treatments are tentative?
12. Indicate what the quotation includes or does not include.
13. Consider special relationships with clients. Clients who give us a lot of business and pay us promptly should get better discounts.
14. If you are new at this job, have cost estimates reviewed by someone more senior than you.
15. Indicate special equipment/services/facilities to convince clients that you are the best for this job (without saying so). For example, if the set up requires a lot of space, emphasize the spaciousness of your studio. If they are very concerned about confidentiality, describe how you can hold photo sessions privately, behind “closed doors.” If the job requires a lot of lights or the use of special equipment, indicate what you have. If they are concerned about power interruptions, mention that you have a generator (if you have one) so that you can continue to shoot in air-conditioned comfort.
16. Always seal bids, stamp the envelope “QUOTATION,” and try to submit bids are close as possible to the deadline (but do not delay). Submitting them too early, and submitting bids in open envelopes, sometimes makes it possible for your bid to leak out to competitors.
17. After a reasonable lapse of time, inquire about the cost estimate that you submitted. Find out if the job is being awarded to you, or if they need to negotiate prices, or if the job is being awarded to a competitor. If the latter is the case, try to find out who got the job, and what cinched the deal for your competitor. Do not assume or jump to the conclusion that he gave the lowest bid. It could be something else – learn what was his winning combination. Yes, you may ask discreetly and tactfully what the winning bid was. Always end on a positive note; no sour grapes. Very nicely, but without begging, solicit advice on how we can have a better chance of winning the next bid. You know you can’t win them all so don’t mope. Just move on and strive harder. Review what you did and check what you could have done better.
18. If on the other hand, you were awarded the job, ask if they would like to schedule a preproduction meeting. Say, very matter-of-factly and without fanfare, that you are sending a bill for the down payment. Congratulate yourself and proceed to ensure a good shoot.
19. Winning bids is not just or always about price. It is winning your client’s trust, confidence and friendship. It is about doing a good job of “selling” your company. It comes from serving clients well, and being enthusiastic. It is about creating a good reputation for yourself and for your company.
Prepared by Harvey Chua @2014