The purpose of this exercise, closing your eyes and imagining your set, is to give you a starting point for your bid. It works sort of like a brain dump; get all the obvious stuff out of the way, so you can focus on the not-so-obvious items necessary for a smart, competitive bid.
Bidding is complicated. However, if you manage it with an organized methodology, you’ll do just fine. There are two key things to remember about photography jobs:
1. Nothing ever goes according to plan. So you’re better off including more stuff than you need, so you can adapt quickly. You’re not managing a job as much as wrangling chaos. And chaos is a capricious animal.
2. Think of each of your photo shoots like Hollywood thinks of each their movies: a feature film is its own company with its own budget, employees, and expenses (if you ever get the chance to work on a movie set, you’ll notice that often your check will come from the NAME-OF-THE-MOVIE, INC.). Adopting this kind of mindset about your own productions, big or small, will help you better understand that the job has to pay for everything, even your own camera gear. Even though, it’s your gig, and it’s your camera, the job is paying you for your talent and your stuff.
When a request for a bid comes to you, the first thing you should do is imagine how you’re going to execute the shoot. Simple jobs may only require that you envision your set; more complicated jobs may require that you write a paragraph or two about how you see the photographs coming together. The latter is called a treatment. It’s sort of like a short story with a narrative quality typically found in the commercial production arena but is making its way to the commercial photography world.
Your gut reaction to the bid request, in terms of necessary production items, is critical. Which is why you need to write them down. Your brain has a remarkable capacity to vomit up useful information when it’s first confronted with a problem. It also has an inexplicable ability to cloud all the useful stuff as soon as you start focusing on how to proceed. So step one in the creation of a new bid: brain dump. If you think of it, write it down, all of it. It’s remarkably easy to cut what you don’t need after, rather than trying to conjure up things that are missing. You might not know they are missing until you’re on the set and you realize there’s no water in the cooler and it’s ninety degrees out. Yes, that happened to me.
Which brings me to step two: get a huge list of all the things that have ever been used for commercial photography production in the last decade. Scan it with your eyes. You’ll be amazed at all the stuff you forgot to think of. Don’t be concerned with this intellectual shortcoming; only a producer can keep all this stuff in her head. They have a special evolutionary anomaly that makes them better at this than the rest of us. Once you’ve scanned the big list and written down all the things that you’ve forgotten go on to the next step.
Step three, four, five and six: repeat step two. As soon as you have repeatedly scanned the huge-list-of-all-the-things-that-have-ever-been-used-for-commercial-photography-production and it no longer yields any sudden exclamatory “oh yeahs,” you can move on to the tough stuff, pricing and negotiation, which will be covered in my next article.
(Lou Lesko is also the founder of BlinkBid – Cloud based estimating, production, and invoicing software for creative professionals..)