BMP Greatest Hits – How to Write a Photography Proposal

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I will be traveling this week, heading back to my childhood home because of an illness in the family. In the meantime, I will be posting three of the most-visited articles on our site. Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week!


By Tiffany Joyce, originally posted 9/23/2010

Are you interested in going pro with your photography? One of the first things that you’ll need to learn is how to write a comprehensive proposal. Having a proposal for any photography work to be conducted protects both the photographer and the client from miscommunication, scope creep, copyright issues, and legal mishap.

So what sort of things should the proposal include?

Introduction – The proposal needs to begin with a brief description of the work to be performed, and the person who will be expected to perform the work. It should include the anticipated start date as well as the date by which the proposal should be accepted.

Example: “Proposal from [photographer's name] for [client's name] for the provision of photographic services enumerated below. Anticipated project date is [date] – proposal must be accepted no later than [date] in order to hold the quoted fees and reserve the schedule.

Detailed Project Description – Here the proposal should go into quite specific detail about the photography services being provided. This should include the amount of time it is anticipated that the project will take to complete, the equipment to be used, what the photographer is expected to provide, and what the client is expected to provide.

Example: “One-day, in-home photography session with multiple subjects/multiple outfits/multiple poses. Session will last up to three hours with an in-person or telephone consultation scheduled one week prior to session. Session will use natural lighting (external light sources/off-camera flash not provided by the photographer); various photographic equipment provided by the photographer and used at the photographer’s discretion; backdrops and/or staging to be provided by homeowners.”

Project Outcome – This section describes what the output of the project will be. This can include how many prints at different sizes, a minimum and/or maximum amount of digital pictures, and any post-processing expectations. This should also include the timeframe in which the photographer has to provide the expected product.

Example: “At least twenty, and up to fifty, digital photographs (JPEG format) will be provided to the client on a CD/DVD within one week after the photo session. All images will be retouched, if necessary, in order to achieve the quality desired, but will otherwise be free of effects. Client can choose up to five images for post-processing effects (black and white, vintage, etc.). Delivery of effect-applied images is within one week of client providing list of desired images to photographer.”

Estimated Charges and Fees – A schedule of fees should include hourly rates, per-image rates, post-processing fees, creative fees, fees for assistants, travel/mileage fees, model fees, special equipment fees, fulfillment charges, taxes, usage fees, contingency fees, and the like. It should total up the final cost for the project, and also include payment terms. If you are providing certain services for free, it often helps to list what those services are to further attract the client to your work.

- 3-hour photography session $150.00, payment due on day of session (cash or personal check)
- Post processing fee WAIVED
- Additional image fee ($2.00 for each image over 20) WAIVED

Project Modifications – Spell out in specific terms how any proposed modifications to the project will be handled. This will definitely assist in controlling “scope creep”, in which you find the scope of the project increasing in an uncontrolled manner. These modifications can cover those that the client suggests, those that the photographer suggests, and how both will handle unforeseeable circumstances should they occur.

Example: “Project modifications will be addressed in the following manner:
a. Client requested modifications that increase costs will be negotiated, and payment terms finalized, before any work is performed.
b. Client requested modifications that decrease costs will be reimbursed to the client within ten days of the work performed.
c. Photographer requested modifications that increase costs and associated payment terms will be discussed and approved or disapproved by the client prior to any work performed.
d. Photographer requested modifications that decrease costs will be discussed and approved or disapproved by the client prior to any work performed, and discounted from the project price and final payment total.
e. Unforeseen occurrences that affect the project (weather, sickness, client location that is not ready or as described, etc.) will be discussed and negotiated as they occur. Photographer will be held harmless from any inconvenience caused by unforeseen circumstances.”

Rights to Images/Work – You must state within the proposal the ownership of the images that you will be shooting. Make sure you also clearly state that you are performing the project as an Independent Contractor, and that work is NOT being performed as Work For Hire. This effects the legalities of copyright ownership should the work ever come into question.

Example: “All photographs are the copyright of [photographer], and will be released to the client for their personal use. No commercial reuse of the images is permitted without express written permission by [photographer]. Client agrees to allow images for use at the discretion of [photographer] (portfolio, advertisement, etc.). This project is being undertaken as an Independent Contractor and is not being performed as Work For Hire.”

Conclusion – Wrap up the proposal by thanking the client for their interest in your services, and provide contact information should they have any questions about the proposal.

Example: “Thank you very much for your interest in [photographer], and for the opportunity to submit this proposal for your review. Please feel free to contact me for any additional information, at [phone number] or [e-mail address]. Upon approval of this scope of work, please sign below and indicate your agreement for services based upon the contents of this proposal.”

Other things to consider – Be sure to use a professional layout for the proposal, with a dated title page. Place the proposal in a report binder or cover to add to the overall presentation and impression of professionalism. Also, be sure to follow up with the prospective client in a timely manner – perhaps about a week after providing the proposal. This demonstrates your continued interest in working on the project they have in mind. Once the proposal has been accepted, the work performed, and the final output provided, be sure to contact them again to thank them for the opportunity to work with them.

Do you have any suggestions for a quality photography proposal, or do you have any experiences to share regarding writing and/or receiving a proposal? Please tell us about them in the comments!

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce.

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  • Nathan Petty

    Thanks for reposting this!