Uryaen Productions Client Workflow

For those of you who would like a step by step walk through of my process, here it is! If you emailed me out of the blue, I likely sent you here. Don't worry, it's a fairly involved but straightforward process. 

So what does this page cover?

We're going to talk about the two halves of a client/provider interaction. Your needs and requirements, and mine. This process will walk you through step by step how to obtain a quote, hire me for a commercial project, and avoid problems along the way. 

Step 1 - Need

You've decided or realized that you have a need, and seek a solution. 

That's the most important step of this process. 

Step 2 - Identify Your Requirements

This process works best if you spend some time really identifying what you need to accomplish. I need to know a LOT LOT LOT of details, and I have forms to help us get through that, but you need to have a strong idea of the following major issues before contacting me: 

1 - What is the project scope? Are you creating an advertising campaign and need several very high detail images of products, models, and certain locations all together, in something that will require a crew of 12, four days to shoot, and several weeks to produce? Or do you just need one image of one product on a white background? Scope means the overall level of production that your project will require, and you don't have to determine this, I will inform you what is required after I have all of the details, but you do need to have an idea of what to expect because this will greatly affect the overall budget and timeline. 

Note on "Should only take 30 mins" types of inquiries - I see this in A LOT of ads online. Prospects describe their project as something that will "only take 30 mins" or maybe "will only take an hour". There is no such thing. 

With product photography, I can't see doing a PROPER project in less than about 8 hours, and that's with at least that many hours into communication, planning and booking the shoot, and another equal chunk for post processing, and that's average. Larger projects can take WEEKS of production. If your project truly IS a half hour deal, it's probably not something that will benefit from the use of a professional anyway. It takes 60-90 minutes just to get all my gear unloaded and set up. Anyone who does little more than take a camera out of a bag, ready to go, and snap a few pictures of a product already just sitting there is just a documentary photographer, and not a commercial product photographer. 

For a recent example, I produced this 100 image collection of Monster High dolls. From planning, purchasing supplies, testing, ( especially the water tank ), shooting, and organizing and post processing, this project took about 350-380 hours over about 2.5 months. If you are looking for a project THAT massive, and need images THAT high of quality, it's going to take that long, and my fees at that level start at $250 per image. This means that my fees alone for a project of that level would be $25k at least. Add another several grand in costs. But just take a look! Wouldn't you find this level of quality worth it? 

( The following is just a tiny sample of the complete 100 image set )

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I say this in multiple places in this process, but I don't charge by the hour, and even if I did, you're not going to save money trying to convince me to work for only 30 minutes, even if the reality of physics allowed such things. 

Special note on "White Background Product" Photography - I get a lot of inquiries for this, and there is a lot of misconception. There are a few people who look at white background images and believe this simply involves placing an object on a white sheet or table and taking a picture. While you CAN do that, nothing could be further from the truth, and properly executed commercial product photos with white background are some of the most involved and expensive type we can do, and this will be reflected in the final fee. 

2 - What is the overall level of "production VALUE" that your project will require? This is how "high quality" the final product is, and is mostly a function of BUDGET. Many prospects email around to providers and just ask for rates.

THIS IS THE WRONG APPROACH. 

This dangerous thinking is how you get clients burned by providers who can't perform to the level of expectation, and how you get providers quitting jobs because the client mislead ( even unintentionally ) the provider on what they expected for the price. 

I have a very thorough process that assures that we both understand what is being produced. 

For now, what you need to think about is whether YOUR audience requires or cares about very high production value. If you're selling products on Amazon and just need basic images this won't affect you much, but if you are needing photography for a full page ad in a national, glossy magazine, or to use as the main product image on your primary public facing site, these are going to be very different levels of production. 

Step 3 - Contact me 

I know it sounds simple, but this is actually a very complex part of the process. If you're just sending form emails to every amateur provider in town, I probably won't be responding. I do not "bid" for projects, when the prospect clearly shows no interest in my work, and is just "price shopping" for the lowest bid. 

I will always quote a FAIR price, and one that is in line with what professionals charge, but is never going to be the LOWEST bid in town. I do not strive for, nor care to be the lowest bid.

You don't go into an Infiniti dealership and ask them to bid a Q70 against the price of a Saturn S. You will note that Saturn went out of business. If you're looking for photos for a dollar each, you're in the wrong place. My pricing is fair, but definitely does not go below $50 per image even for regional usage. 

I have many qualifications, meaning that my work is worth a certain level, and a lot of overhead that amateur providers do not. This is part of the "safety" of hiring a professional, and we'll get into that in a moment. For now, the next step of the process is to fill out the form on my site pertaining to your required project type. The main form is for fashion, product and architectural projects, which are most commercial projects, and that is located here.

Please do not send me a one line email asking for my rates, as I will likely ignore you, and at best I will direct you to the form. Even my smallest projects take dozens of hours, and the biggest project I did recently took about 380 hours to produce 100 beautiful product images. 

So first you go here

Step 3a - THE CLIENT INTAKE FORM

This is the master form I use to start all projects. To avoid confusion it is required. I do not book projects unless the prospect has filled out this form. It goes over a bit more about my process, and gathers the required information. Again, if you're just looking for the lowest bid, and are not looking to hire me due to my reputation and work, then don't bother. I don't "bid", and I never "compete for bids". Any photographer who does has no respect for their own work, and also isn't producing unique work. I do, therefore, I can afford to be picky about clients. 

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Just part of the "Client Intake Form" above. 

A Note on Deadlines - Please understand that commercial photography requires a significant amount of time to plan, gather materials and crew or talent, execute the shoot, and post process. The sooner your deadline, the higher the cost for the project. Realistically, plan for the shoot date to be at least two or three weeks from the day you submit your quote request, and this depends on a massive variety of factors, but larger commercial campaigns can take MONTHS. Please plan accordingly and the sooner you send me the above information, the better. I virtually never accept projects with deadlines in less than a week, and that's for only the most basic possible shoots. Since I require about half payment upfront AND have a waiting period for projects to start, this means you need to get right on this if you have a very tight deadline. 

Step 4 - Provider Evaluation and Additional Information

For someone used to just asking for prices and looking at "bids" this is going to look like a lot, but it's all required information before I can even BEGIN to craft a quote. 

You see, there are literally DOZENS of individual parameters, issues, variables and items that make up a quote, and the scope and production value of a project can greatly affect the pricing of things like locations, studio costs, rentals, crew, my "creative fee", usage licenses, and other expenses. 

It's a major undertaking to look at your needs and craft a MEANINGFUL quote, not just spit out a number and hope you say yes. Just crafting a proper quote takes at least two hours, and if I spent all my time doing this for prospects that never book, I'd be out of business in a hurry, so you have to understand that the quote process starts with you giving me the info I need so that I can help you make an informed decision. 

At this point, I carefully review your answers, and here is when I start to put together a skeleton quote or two, just to give myself an idea of what your project entails. 

To give you an idea of all of the MAJOR categories of items I have to account for in a basic quote, this is a list of the checkboxes I have to work with for a Photography quote. I have another entire list to add to this for Cinematography:

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Once I create a basic quote, I don't send it yet. First, I gather more information through the process of client interview. I will ask additional questions, and depending upon the scope of the project, this process can be anything from one more email to two weeks worth of emails and meetings. 

Step 5 - The Quote and Agreement

Finally, after what will feel like an EXHAUSTIVE process, you get your quote. Your quote is based on a massive number of items that I have likely spent HOURS thinking through and researching, and is not taken lightly. 

Any photographer who simply throws out a "I charge $XXX.XX an hour" first of all isn't operating professionally or even ethically, and absolutely isn't doing so with ANY thought at all into your needs or problems. 

At this point, I have created one or more quotes to choose from. These quotes are based on both my real expenses, and my standard fees, and are not simply invented out of thin air. The Usage Fee is often the biggest variable, as is the level of production value. 

I will enter all of this information into the system, and I will see the following screen:

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This screen has five components: 

The Client - Your name and email address are tied to this. Once I have finished my work here, you are sent the entire package to review via the system itself to your email address. 

The Quotes - Usually there's only one, but I MAY sometimes submit more than one. Please note that the additional quotes are for varying levels of production value, not "price" and are different quotes. I have an actual "price sheet" that shows the actual dollar amount that all of the above either costs me, or that I charge, but I do not publish this as it does not reflect a "menu" of items to choose from, and is simply how I build a quote. I'm happy to share this list if you wish to review it. 

The Payment Schedules - Almost all projects are set to a Retainer 50, Net ROD, which means that the remainder is due at ( technically right before ) final delivery. The vast majority of projects work like this, and it's pretty industry standard. If you're used to working with photographers who are such big flakes that you have to withhold the entire payment until you receive the final images, you won't have to worry about that from me, plus I absolutely do not work that way. 

My contract has a lot of details about this, but I require not less than a 50% retainer, and for smaller jobs, it's usually 100%. I SPEND more to complete most jobs than lower end providers charge, so I can't allow prospects to book jobs without some security. 

I also do not deliver final images before final invoice is paid. There's more information about this as we go along, but that's the rule. 

The Attached Questionnaires - I usually don't use them at this point, as by the time I'm quoting, I feel that I know everything I need to know. 

The Contract - My contract is extensive. I won't sugar coat, it's going to take you a while to read through it. I will provide a PDF of the latest version if you wish to review it before getting this far into the process, but every single item is there because of long experience, and none are optional. I also DO NOT use contracts provided by clients. I will add any items that you require that I feel are not "unfair" ( such as demanding worldwide perpetual copyright without paying a fair fee for it ) but I ONLY book projects with my system and my contract. 

The contract covers a VERY wide gamut of situations, and it's very unlikely that all of them will apply to you. Ignore sections that do not apply to you but please do not send me hate mail about it. 

When you get your email, you will see a link, and it will send you to a page that has either three or four tabs and looks like this:

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Scroll down to see the actual embedded quote itself, or quotes if applicable. You will select this button if you approve this quote. 

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Before you do, scroll to the bottom of the quote window and review the variables, and make sure that they line up with what you agreed to. If you have questions, don't click anything, just email and ask me. 

This is it. The moment you've been waiting for. If this all looks like what you agreed to, and you wish to book the project, go back up and hit that "SELECT QUOTE" button to be taken to the PAYMENT SCHEDULE tab. 

Here you will either select or acknowledge the payment terms. I always offer a choice of half down, or all down. If you pay ALL down, you get lots of nice bonuses, usually extra images, faster project time, anything else I feel I can throw in. It's worth it. With POA I also submit proofs without large watermarks, which makes the delivery process easier for you. Ultimately you will be required to pay the final invoice before the final images are released to you, so it's an option I offer. 

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Once you select your PAYMENT SCHEDULE, you are taken to the CONTRACT:

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You will see a message informing you to sign your contract, and you will see the QUOTE embedded here as well. The ENTIRE quote becomes part of the permanent record of the contract, and is considered an attachment. As per that contract, if you require additional work or deliverables NOT mentioned or covered by the contract, that will most likely be considered an addon, and will be charged as such.

Once you have carefully reviewed the entire agreement and contract, scroll to the bottom and electronically sign it. Just enter your name. You will see later that the contract is stored with extensive metadata that is permanently stored in a cloud service, and constitutes a legally binding agreement. 

NOTE on Email Communication - At this point a special BCC address is created for the project. I require that ALL official communications for the project are done through email and include this address. The contract has extensive details about this. 

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Finally you are shown the actual payment screen. In my original form I send you, I ask you what form of payment you intend to use, and by this point, you will have been shown the parts of the contract that deal with this. I prefer certain forms of payment, and there absolutely IS a waiting period for most of them. This is all covered in those documents, or just ask me for those details. 

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If you are paying via check or wire transfer, you will want to do that immediately, as I have a strict rule about when production begins on a project, and that rule is that it begins FIVE business days after receiving the cleared funds for the retainer.  I DO NOT accept PayPal, at all. Finally, CC is a great option, and one that most clients take. There are fees, and I do not cover the fees. I will add 3% to the total in the final invoice if you pay via CC. CC payments are processed through Square, and are available to me one or two business days after payment, which means that you need to pay the retainer at least 7 days prior to the desired project start date.

In any case, I encourage you to click on the "view sales order" link and bookmark that page. It shows you everything, and allows you to deal with invoices directly:

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Let's look at what happens if you decide to pay via Wire Transfer, which I encourage. 

First you go to this screen:

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Actual wire transfer instructions are included in the above page, but removed from this example. 

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You enter your estimated date ( I HIGHLY encourage you to get to it that day, as Wire Transfers CAN be delayed ), and you can enter a message, but it's not required. I have seen international wires go through in three HOURS, so it CAN be a fast way to get going, and the fees are reasonable. 

In any of the above cases, payment fees are the responsibility of the client, and I encourage full payment up front as it tends to slightly reduce the payment fees.

At this stage, you are essentially DONE. 

Note - Please remember that the project is not considered booked until I have the retainer payment in hand and clear. I also do not sign the contract at my end UNTIL the retainer payment is clear. If you need the project to start immediately upon signing of contract, you need to use paper cash, as all other forms of payment take time. 

Wow, that was a big stage, and we're just getting warmed up!

Step 6 - Pre-Production

After the mandatory five day waiting period for the retainer, I will begin the process of pre-production. If you require production to begin sooner than this, I CAN accommodate this, but you will have to meet certain requirements: 

Short Notice and Same Day Pre-Production or Production Requirements

Short notice is any project that must commence photographic activity within five business days of booking. 

Payment must be made IN FULL for entire project.

Payment must be FULLY cleared and available. This means you're most likely going to have to do a wire transfer, or paper cash. Checks cannot be used as they are not considered CLEARED for at least ten business days. Cash is considered accepted when accepted by my bank.

The requirements of the job must not include equipment rental or ANY third party crew, as I do not book crew on such short notice. Exception can be made but crew will likely require a SIGNIFICANT extra payment. 

Studio shoots require booking the studio, and current policy is that I do not even INQUIRE about availabilty at the studio until payment is made. This is to protect the integrity of my relationship with local studios from prospects who are just "window shopping". Once you commit, we'll get it done. 

If you have a project requiring work to begin in less than five days, but not same day, use a CC, pay the entire quote plus 3% for CC fee, and add an additional 7% for a "rush" fee. This will add 10% total to the base quote, and I will waive the five day waiting period and begin production 2 ( TWO ) days after payment. Short notice projects are not eligible for any discounts.

For literal SAME day service, I will probably not go through the entire quote process, as that process eats up hours of time, and simply book the production and head out. You will have to have cash on hand, and the amount will reflect a 100% upcharge to the CCUF and my expenses for same day service. This helps to compensate for the lowered scope of a same day production. 

In most cases, the initial quote does not cover the entire scope of the production, and as I say in many places, please plan to set aside 25-35% or more of the quote amount for the final invoice. This is usually the case if the client requests additional scope of service that cannot easily be absorbed by the original quote. This is less likely to be an issue with VERY short notice projects, but you will need to be prepared to render the final invoice before the final images are released. 

Plan accordingly. 

What does pre-production entail?

We need to address many things at this stage:

First, if the project required the purchase of any equipment this is taken care of first. If any needs to be rented, this is booked once we know the shoot days. 

On Equipment Rentals - For most productions, I highly recommend rental of backup camera bodies and lenses. In some cases, we rent lenses or specialized lighting that we don't carry. In all cases, I book at least one extra day at each end of a rental, to help absorb any scheduling issues. The larger and more involved the project, the MORE days I will book the rental gear. 

Equipment Usage Fees - For all projects, I charge a reasonable equipment fee as well for the wear and tear of my owned gear. This is industry standard, and the rate is below the rental rate of a rental company. My fee for use of primary camera body and up to three lenses is $200 per shoot day. This is below market for rental equipment. As of this writing, Lensrentals pricing for this set of equipment is $300 per day. This is not a fee or profit center, this is to cover the wear and tear on my equipment to allow for replacement every year or two. If shooting at my home studio, I stlll charge the fee, but I don't charge it PER day. Most of the time, I will charge it flat. For massive projects such as the example Monster High 100 image, 350+ hour project, my equipment usage fee might be closer to ten rental days worth. Plan accordingly. 

Crew Fees - If any third party crew are required, and for all but the smallest jobs they are, they are booked and paid a retainer out of the budget. The retainers paid to third party crew and providers are NEVER refundable if the project is cancelled, regardless of reason. This is to protect my reputation with local crews and providers. They are not privvy to the details of a job, and will have to reconfigure their schedule. Therefore, once they are paid, that money is gone, no matter what happens. Please plan accordingly. 

Product Handling - If this is a product shoot, I will request the product be either shipped to, or brought to me. In most cases, I will request that you bring more than one copy of each product, for various reasons. If it is a prototype or one off, I will request that you make available a close analogue for test shooting. 

Remaining Details - I will narrow down the details of the project, including the content of images or videos, and dates for different stages of the production ( which are NOT booked until the retainer is cleared and step 6 is started ). 

If the project will require location permits, shooting permits, security officers, or other third party items, this needs to be set up at this point. 

For most projects, pre-production is about a one week deal. For much larger projects, it can last for several weeks. For very small scope projects it is only a day or so, but it's a very important step to assure that actual production goes smoothly. 

Once I determine that I have everything I need to enter production, we'll book the actual shooting days. This is a hugely involved process, and this is why I cannot simply book a "shoot day" right off the bat. 

Step 7 - Production

This is the largest step of the process, and the details of it are too variable for this tutorial, but you can read through the contract for a lot of information about how I operate. 

I try to under promise and over deliver. Circumstances do not always allow this, and the more people involved in a project the less control I have over it and thus the more likely there is to be problems, but normally, you will get more than I quote initially. 

If you require that yourself or your employee be present at a shoot EVENT, please make sure that you are free to schedule it on the agreed upon day. I have several rules for this. See contract. 

There is no need to bring memory cards, hard drives, or removable media to my productions, as I have a very strict rule. I do not capture to client owned media, and I do not allow client owned media to attach to my computers or cameras. There are NO exceptions to this policy. For projects where an EXCEPTIONAL amount of storage is required, such as multi-day cinema shoots where I shoot .raw files, I will build the cost of the media into the production. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are Uryaen Productions used media EVER released to anyone. NO exceptions. 

This is absolutely NOT a place for you to save money because you already have a memory card. This is a security issue. I do not bend on this one bit. 

"Production Days" are defined as 6 hours production time, with a 1 hour break, and 1 hour set up and striking. Shoots may be quoted as more or less.

For shoots where time is a factor, I WILL require the rental of backup camera bodies, lenses, and media. If you waive this, you are waiving the right to invoke reshoots or refunds should an equipment failure cause the shoot to not occur for the day. It's a minor cost for larger jobs. 

I may require third party security depending on the location and details of the shoot. For outdoor shoots with rented gear, or shoots with female models outdoors, I will require it. It's also a reasonably small additional fee. 

I encourage you to be familiar with my harassment and conduct policies, as they do affect the fulfillment of the contract. 

Once all of the production required for the project is captured, it is reviewed, and post-production can begin. 

Step 8 - Post-Production

Post consists of several steps itself, and depends on what types of activities production involved. We'll use photography as an example, as it's the most common job type. 

Once I have safely secured my equipment and all rental equipment, and assured the safe return of all crew and talent, I will allow for image review. In VERY rare cases, I will do this same day, but most productions I will shoot wireless tethered anyway, so you will have the chance to see images as they are created. If you are not represented at the shoot, I will determine if the shoot yielded acceptable results. 

I will injest all files into my post production workflow, which is a separate process also involving many steps. ( As you can see, I am all about "best practices" and workflows that are consistent and sustainable )

For most projects, I wll make a first round of "PICKS", and do very basic color and sharpness processing, and then upload these to my studio management system, which creates a beautiful gallery for you to review. 

This gallery will say "CLIENT NAME - PRODUCTION - DATE - PROOF" and is password protected. You will receive an email with those instructions but this is what the gallery looks like. Neat huh?

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You will use the info in the email to login and make your picks. You don't even have to send me an email to tell me which images you chose, because I can see a list generated via the system. Copy the password provided in the email. 

Once you click on the button in the email, you are sent here:

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Paste the password here. 

You are presented with a full screen, large format gallery of the proofs for your project. 

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Beautiful huh? The layout's not bad either. 

If you mouseover each picture, you will see a heart icon. You may also see other icons, but we'll cover those in DELIVERY. For now carefully review and choose the number of images that the contract states you are entitled. Please select carefully, as I will only finish the number of images that the contract states, unless I make other arrangements. The first time you do this, you are prompted for your email address. By entering it, you are creating a saved "cart" of images I can then look up and know which ones to finish. Note that your actual proofing gallery will be heavily watermarked. 

It's all very elegant, and leaps and bounds faster and more reliable than the old ways. 

Once you have clicked on your PICKS, you are done. You will see a heart icon at the top of the screen now showing a red number. If you click on that, it will reduce the gallery to only your picks. Verify that your choices are correct and the correct number. The system does not notify me that you DID click some picks, as it allows you to finalize your choices first. Just send me a quick note to say you're done, and I'll take it from there. 

step 9 - Copyright

The final step of post production pre-delivery is the copyrighting of all of the deliverable images. This step doesn't take very long, but it is required before I can deliver the final images. All images are copyrighted Uryaen Productions. You will not be allowed to use the images in any capacity outside of the scope of the agreement. You will also not be allowed to attempt to copyright the images yourself, or display them with a copyright notice that is anything other than "Uryaen Productions". 

If you paid for full buyout, or copyright, you will be given the images directly. I can walk you through copyright, or for a small fee, I can handle the filing for you. 

Step 10 - Delivery

Here it is, the last stage. 

Delivery works mostly the same way that the last stage works. I will create the FINAL deliverable images, and upload them to a new delivery gallery. The finals are uploaded and watermarked assuming the final invoice has not been paid. If you have paid, it won't be.

You will need to review and sign off on the final images, and then remit the final payment. Once you do I will send you the PIN to download the full resolution images without watermark. If you need to review the final, non watermarked images before you can approve them for use, you will need to remit final payment. There are no exceptions. Releasing the final, non watermarked images removes the ability to control the images. The actual resolution of the released images depends on the usage agreement as well. Full resolution images are only released when PRINT is part of the CCUF. 

You have 48 hours from the time you receive the email to approve the final images. If you do not, I will assume that the images are approved, and the project will be closed out. The project folder on my computer will be .rared and archived. This will forfeit the one round of minor edit clause, and there will be a small fee to unarchive files and make additional changes.

The contract covers what happens at this point as well, and assuming all went smoothly, we are essentially done. 

The final step is that I will send you a final ( SHORT, I promise ) form to allow you a chance to leave me a review. This review is published only on my own site, and not anywhere else, therefore there are no "star ratings" or incentives or other abusive silliness, just an honest, normal review. 

Further production or support is subject to the contract and proposal terms, and I'm always up for another, so let's head back to the top and do it again!

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