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Understanding the Bidding Process

Lesson 14 from: Commercial Photography: From Start to Finish

Joel Grimes

Understanding the Bidding Process

Lesson 14 from: Commercial Photography: From Start to Finish

Joel Grimes

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Lesson Info

14. Understanding the Bidding Process


Class Trailer

Day 1


Ten Things That Spell Disaster for a Photographer Part 1


Ten Things That Spell Disaster for a Photographer Part 2


Ten Things You Need to Know about Branding


Shoot: One Side Light Beauty Shot Part 1


Shoot: One Side Light Beauty Shot Part 2


Shoot: One Overhead Light Headshot


Shoot: Edgy Three Light Setup Part 1


Lesson Info

Understanding the Bidding Process

When I first started teaching I would listen teo instructors and a lot of them structure instructors that I heard concentrate a lot on technical info which I love I love how to I love techniques if you know who doesn't right but I kind of felt like there was this gap that need to be filled and that was number one talking about the creative process really emphasizing the creative process and the other is to talk about sort of the business side of things and the last work chef I did for creative life I covered a lot on business marketing um and so this time around I still wanted to kind of expand on some of those business side of things and so I get emails probably you know every day at least asking questions and a lot of them are business related I think people were sort of you know no that I do that a lot so they're asking questions and so a lot has my sort of talking points are based on e mails people asking me also to my boys they're doing photography now so they'll call me up and sa...

y dad, I'm putting in a bid how do we do this you know and so I walked through the best I know so I've probably put on you know think about thirty years of putting bids and thirty years of negotiating thirty years of mickey lots of really bad mistakes and I made them all and I think I've made a mall a couple times that's just the way we are a human's right? It takes us a while to learn so I'm gonna go through and we're gonna talk about some, uh, sort of pitfalls of, you know, bidding and uh taking a look at the business side and then the art side how do we mix those two when I was in college, it was almost like if you you mentioned the word commercial or making money you've sold out right? And so I have a little bit of that in me and you'll hear I don't want to discourage people that this is a great arena to make a living and I hope that's the case for everyone I want people to create an income with what they love, but we want to put in perspective on how the marketplace works so understanding the bidding process I think that if when you you sort of have this preconceived idea about anything even and I talk about even like marriage I didn't have a clue what marriage is about I had this preconceived idea right once you get married you level this is what it's all about right it's different than what you think and when you go into the real world and you start to, uh, try to create income, you look at, um sort of from a a perspective that is really skewed and then you get out there and you realize whoa I'm you know above my pain or under my pay scale whatever I'm not I don't understand what's going on here on so what I like to do is I like to talk about how do we make sense of this whole process that yes I've got to survive I gotta put bids in I've got a um compete and um way talked about yesterday about getting in debt by too much equipment things like that which are pitfalls getting this big studio I can't afford all those things so um let's talk about the real world there are some things that just got completely perceptions that got shattered when I got the real world and here's one ultimately everyone works off of budget now we think that there's a company like you know a big company that's you know an unlimited budget right they got they got deep pockets right so when you put a bid in you know if you're really good you can charge whatever you want um think about it this way if I goto by a car and I look at my resource is and I say okay I could buy ah honda accord that's my budget and you go on to the car lot and you start walking past the porsche career with the fin on the back and you go that's the car I want but I can't afford it now I might push my budget a little bit and we tend to do that we kind of like maybe over by a little bit but there's still a limit on what I could do no matter what I want something but I can't a forest I buy with the best that I can afford so every client I don't care if it's a wedding that you're doing a senior portrait ad campaign you're dealing with someone who has a budget now when I a lot of times I asked in art buyer or a director I said what's your budget and about thirty percent of the time they'll give me we had this x amount of dollars but still what does that mean because I got o figure out let's say someone says well they're the budget's thirty grand well I might if I put my numbers together I might have fifty grand of expenses right? So it doesn't make any sense that I would do work in that scenario I can't make any money money, right? So but there's a budget everyone's working off a budget so once I understand that the person that I'm dealing with has a limit and so they're going to work off that those permit so that's the number one everyone has a budget the second thing is um price when we look at price it's hard to accept this as an artist that price is a single greatest determining factor who gets hired see what by this misconception the best photographer gets hired so I've used this story and this is a true story I was about a year into my business I was so excited about this call from this ad agency and I've been pitching them and they said you'll come on and we got a project I want to look at and so I was just stoked I was like ready to you know I thought this is great I had my portfolio and as I'm walking into the ad agency the number one photographer in denver I was in denver that time is walking out and I'm looking at this photographer going he's here for the same job I'm being brought in for and you know fear struck my heart right in that panic and my knees kind of buckle a little bit and I was like and he didn't know who I was and so I mean I'm thinking ok, why am I here? I cannot compete against the number one photographer in town and so I went into the meeting anyways and I'm sitting there kind of like here's my portfolio let's get this over with and so there was an account person there with the art director and they're looking at my portfolio and they said to me we got this this this will what what would it cost and I've learned not to throw out a bid that quick but back in those days I said, oh, that'll be five thousand dollars and I they're talking and they said, oh, congratulations you got the job and I was like and so the first thing I said was but someone so was here right um why don't you hire him and they said we would love to hire him he was howard we'd love to howard high air howard but we can't afford him he put a bit at ten grand we don't have a budget for five you nailed it, you got the job so what they're doing is they're hiring the best that they can afford I fit the slot that makes sense they would like to hire someone like howard, but it ends up they can't afford howard so I got the job so ultimately prices the ultimate determining factor who gets hired so a client wants to hire the best that they can't afford. So this is very important because as you go into the marketplace you realize that you have a slot to fill does that make sense? So we get nervous because we think, well, I'm not as good a so and so well in some ways you could say this ah photographer starting out has a potential of getting more work than a photographer that's been around for ten, fifteen years right, because they've priced himself up in a certain range that there's not a lot of jobs being offered at their price point their slot so in some ways if you're starting out there's a lot of slots folks I loe in photography so people that complaints I have no work well, well why is that let's talk about it? Why don't you have any work? It could be that they're photography is so bad that did nobody even wants to put him in, you know their slot there's no slot to fill right but that's not true I mean, I've seen some pretty bad photographer is getting word right? So so there's but there's always a slot to fill and so therefore if you understand where you can fit, you could be busy all the time and that's the good news is once you start getting busy, then you just kind of go up a slot, right? Because now you're saying I'm full right? And I've done this I've had clients that at one point in my career was a really good pay scale and then all of a sudden I go it's not worth working for this client anymore I move up a slot that opens the door for someone else to come into this lot run anethe me, they've moved up a notch let make sense so the client wants to hire the best that they can afford all right so let's look at some some ways of b'more competitive so this is very important because I want to compete in the marketplace so let's look at the first one four ways to be more competitive number one lower your overhead right that's one way to do it so let's talk about howard he had a studio with I think five employees big studio I had a little studio a state sharing with a friend I hired my assistance as I needed him he had a full time staff so when he bid he had the bid twice as much as me to make a profit so I became immediately even though I probably was not near as good of a photographer but just the fact that my overhead was les I became more competitive so here's the big pit bull we talked about in the very beginning of the session yesterday big eagle big studio right well if you have a big ego it's going to cost you a lot of money to survive in the marketplace just lawyer ego a little bit share a studio lower your overhead you become more competitive and so it even comes down to the basics of buying a car. When I was starting out in my career I drove pieces of junk I'd have mohr mike my you know my camera bag is one camera bag cost more than the whole car but I didn't go spend my money on a car I spent it on my business and getting my business off the ground but most of photographers I knew growing up all have brand new cars pain payments on a car what did that do that chokes them and they have to raise their rates to survive and they become less competitive that makes sense is basic stuff right? It sounds common sense but why do probably eighty percent of the people that I've worked with fall in the trap? They become less competitive because they have too big of overhead okay number to increase your skill set that makes sense to write we just get better and better that we do so that's why I practice all the time I spent a huge amount of energy and increasing my skill set that's why you're here that's why people are listening we goto workshops we get any information we can on increasing our skill set ultimately we talked about the best way to increase your skill is what practice get out and do it. So um that's one way to become more competitive right what's another one here producer product nobody else has that's part of brandy and so that's the beautiful thing about trends in the marketplace is trends come and go that I built a huge uh brand and career on black and white portraiture I did have type fifty five um pull arrayed siri's for seven eight years and I shot seven thousand sheets of that film all four by five portrait I branded myself with that look and guess what? It came to an end it's run its course but guess what? Black and white's going to come back again the trends come and go I've seen it thirty years of doing this and so but you can say that if everyone's doing splashy color and you have a vision for black and white start shooting because eventually it's going to come back and already see it coming back now fun love black and white but create a look that again maybe separating you from the masses the crowd and obviously that fits your vision is on artist that's that's the number one thing don't do black and white because that's you think that's the future of the trend do it because that's your passion and you go have a love for it and then we hope that the trend comes and it matches your vision but you can think through and you say you know what? I love black and white I love color but you know what? I'm going to separate myself and I remember when years ago when everyone was shooting weddings and color and then also the photographers shooting black and white was a big huge movement shooting weddings in black and white and so um but increase your skill set and then separate yourself with a look that is unique enough and that separates you from the masses produce a product nobody else has alright what's number four be fair, honest and deliver on time all right so here's another thing that you got to think about in the marketplace if you're sending your car over to the mechanic to get repaired right what's the worst feeling that you have you're gonna get ripped off they're going to say um you need a new carb aerator and really it was just a little teeny screw that fell off right well I worked in a dealership when I was in eighteen, nineteen years old and I know what happens in the service island they see an old lady coming and ago changing here's the money we could make a lot of money on this person right and not being fair so we as a consumer I don't want to be ripped off I don't want to get a sense that someone is getting more money out of me than that what I'm getting my services for so here's the thing that I've done for thirty years when I deal with a client I want that client to say joel grinds is fair he's given me mohr than what I'm paying for and so that's going to serve you in the long run and so on being honest I'll give an example I was hired to go to austria to photograph for a company and they paid my airfare over there and back and hotels and all that and um I had to submit obviously that receives for that, but in the process of doing this, I thought, you know, I've never been to italy and I wanted to go to venice, and so what I did was, um I flew from austria to, uh, venice and spent three days, then flew back and then on their ticket came home, so I added a couple days and I don't normally do that normally I don't have time well in the process that I took a bunch of pictures and I this before really the internet, but I ended up somehow the client solved my pictures from venice, and I think what they thought was is that I on their dime went to venice, so all of a sudden I get this phone call, we need all your receipts, everything instead of just line on him, I had to have everything spelled out on some companies do that automatically, but first they didn't do this, but I was already submitted my invoice and everything and send everything over and then I get a phone call from the account county person way just want to know how you're this venice thing came in there, I'm like what and so then I realized what was happening there trying to figure out if they paid for my venice trip and so I called up I said, well, this is the honest truth I paid my own dime here's my I sent over my receipts showing that I paid for all that hotels and everything and then I called up my client and I just said just I want to arrest assure that I did not do anything here that wasn't honest, I paid for it all and I'm sorry if there was this confusion and but had I tried to sneak it in and make me like although they will never know I would never work for that company again and so what happened was I worked for that company for a number of years later and build a lot of money but had I ruined my relationship by not being honest, I've lost that account and I know spit our furs that's pole things all the time on their clients and eventually they get caught that's the end of it so be honest and delivering on time so here's another one I've learned this and we all get trapped because you say, hey, I'm gonna drive across town will be there an hour and something happens right? And you're late luckily with foot cell phones weaken am stuck in traffic but here's what I do, I leave early I know it takes me say an hour to get someplace I leave an hour early and then what I do is I pull into someplace I sit down, have a little cup of coffee, relax two blocks from the client then I walk in the door on time and I would say this my wife knows this I go at all cost I'm there on time I never want someone waiting on me and this serves me well because when I work with clients I've had friends of mine that had huge accounts with cos that lost the account because they were ten minutes late it was more of a like a thing they're always ten minutes late, right? And eventually clients is I'm done and when it comes to delivering your final images you say it's gonna take me three days to re touched and you say ok, the client I'd deliver this in three days you deliver it in three days and you know you say well, I'm gonna go surfing today and then also you get caught up on your behind and then you call the client say, um you know, uh, it's gonna be another day because you were goofing off for some reason you couldn't deliver on time that's going not going to serve you well folks you say even deliver at a certain time delivered a certain time and your word is worth everything and so I have done this for thirty years and um doesn't mean I've never I had problems I've had I've had things crash on me and love of loss stuff or the lab ruin my film that happened once or twice my career and things happen and you gotta just you know, pick up the pieces but as a general rule be fair, honest and deliver on time any questions makes sense there's a basic stuff right? But why do we all struggle with this? Okay, I understand your particular industry and where you fit in the marketplace you've got to do some research on your industry so people come to me all the time what should I charge? Well, let's see, I'm not really an expert in that decided part of industry but I would say do a research and you can find out what the market value is of your services so you gotta do your research and find out if you look given example if you work directly for company so let's say hewlett packard hires you from there there one of their headquarters or plan uh locations they're all over and they have a marketing person and communications and graphics team there or whatever people that puts stuff together and they hire you for something I call that corporate direct now corporate direct there's sort of a a limit on what you can charge so I would say in the general marketplace today, corporate direct, you get around fifteen hundred to twenty, five hundred daybreak if you really have a good relationship and get more, but I'm just saying roughly that's about what the marketplace value is if you do work so that hewlett packard hires an ad agency to do something, and now we're in the ad world, you're going to be two, three, four times that rate, you have to know that you have to understand the market, how it works. You also have to understand that when you get hired directly from a company, and when you negotiate well, talk about rights here in a minute, but when you could negotiate the rights, they can't take those images and say, we're going to use them in the ad world, you make it very clear that you can't cross over here's why I've had clients do this, they hire me in the corporate route room, and then they had campaigns doing something right, so they just immediately take my images over there, and they got me up to two thousand a day, right? All said, now they're using my pictures and an arena that I should've gotten six thousand or more a day, so you would be very clear about this when you got to understand the market and where you fit and what arena that you're working in so so it takes little research and it doesn't hurt to ask a photographer or someone who's been around hey I had a corporate shoot here is what it's all about what do you think? Ah lot of photographers I used to know when I started this in the eighties and nineties they didn't share much of information like we do today so today it's a little bit better you can get get someone to kind of give you some guidelines but um understand the marketplace and where you fit into it don't under sell your services will talk about some more of that later okay way already mentioned this but you need to find out the slot okay? And um there's there's actually there's a way to kind of test the slot right so let's say I'm doing weddings I'm wedding photographer and my best friend's a wedding photographer he's been around and let's say that he's charging ten thousand wedding and so I'm all excited I'm you know want to be a business and I say well I want to be a ten thousand dollar wedding photographer so you say you put your shingle up and you say I'm a photographer and you say I'm ten thousand dollars a wedding you know, work so we'll tell you you're in the wrong slot you gotta find your slot so it's a lot of times it's just trial and error and you start working down and finally get down to where two thousand dollar wedding is where you fit people yeah, how are you your work's? Good enough about two thousand dollars? I'll do it, and so you have to find that slot, and sometimes it takes a little bit of time. And like I said, if you got your slot and you're booked solid, you say maybe two thousand dollars is not I'm under charging, so you start raising your rates, but you have to find that slot. If you don't find that slot, you're gonna be really frustrated because you're going to be sitting there spinning your wheels and not get any work. And so here's, one way to do that, ask yourself a question, how much money do I need to make in a year to survive? Pay my bills, family, kids, college, whatever you're doing and then you just break it down. How many weddings a year can ideo how many weekends are there? You figure out kind of, okay, I need to be in this slot. I need to do thirty thirty wedding and so a year and maybe I can make enough money and weddings, maybe have to do some senior portrait. And I got to do one hundred senior reporters here at this price point to be in a new arena that I could make a living at it so you could break it down. Um, I didn't do that when I first started out well, because I was living in a warehouse on living on a phone, matt with a sleeping bag pretty cheap, right wasn't married then then have kids, then in fact, if I look back, I think that if had I been married and kids in early days, I could have done it because I live in so cheap and there was one time when I just had oatmeal three days in a row, three meals a day that's all I had no money times are tough, but I was able to get through all that and learn to survive, but, um, but I had to find my slot so you find your slot and then you start, we're working, you start making a business out of it, and my son keeps coming to me and he'll say, and we'll talk about this in a minute, but he'll say I got this job it's x amount of dollars you feel happy and I'm thinking, okay, changing, changing all your expenses, we put all together and I go guess what, you're not making any money what so you gotta put it all together, figure it out because it is a hard thing to do and because it sounds exciting thirty thousand dollars job, well, they want a helicopter, they want a motor home they want, you know, makeup, hair stylist. Every start added all that up. Pretty student, you don't have any, you know, anybody left over, so it is a really tough thing. That's. Why I want to cover this that's, why I want to talk about it, because I think a lot of times we don't, we want to know what, how to take a picture, right. F stop, shutter speeds, strobes, lights, that's, all good, but you need thio survive in this whole thing.

Ratings and Reviews


Joel Grimes reflects the true meaning of a passionate modern artist. Seamlessly blending his old school film techniques in todays ever-changing digital world with such amazing realistic results. Not only in his own body of work, but achieving the same outcome while teaching LIVE, even when things don’t always run smoothly, much like the real world. Thank you Joel for sharing your hard work and talents, your struggles, most importantly, your honest open teaching style with such detail in every segment. Much appreciate CREATIVE LIVE for keeping it real with good talent, on and off screen showcasing common humanity in us all. Indeed, a revolutionary company. Manny DaCunha.

a Creativelive Student

As an editorial and photographic professional it's refreshing to find new cerebral information that goes beyond simple instruction. It was motivating to see Joel, a highly respected professional who is successful in "real-life", display his thought process, points to be successful, and insights into his art. When you have been in the industry, working full time, you need those moments to relax, visualize and re-energize so you can look at projects with a renewed vision and passion. Joel and his Commercial Photography course did that and more for me. If my schedule allowed, I would certainly join Joel at one of his workshops. Only thing better than this CreativeLive would be attending live. Thank you Joel.

Student Work