A Practical Guide to Working with Art Producers / Buyers
(and how to avoid getting taken for a ride)

Mara Serdans Posted by Mara Serdans on Sept. 10, 2012 / Comments

Have you ever found yourself in negotiations with an art producer and felt that you might be getting the short end of the stick? You want the job with the Butter Me Up Cookie Company but don’t want to settle for crumbs.

If you’re wondering whether the job might me more trouble than it’s worth, take a step back and consider these tips before you bite into the job:


Know your limits. There’s only so much you can do to reduce a bid before you put the production in jeopardy. It’ll come across in the images and could prevent you from getting a future job.


Education is everything. Let the art producer know the reasons why a line item costs what it does – what’s involved with the retouching, why you need a producer for X days, etc. The better we understand how your side of the business works, the better we can educate our team and client. Tell us how it impacts your bottom line.


Learn to say no and explain your reason for declining. Make the decisions now that are good for you in the long run. If you really cannot meet the budget or shoot 10 different kinds of cookies in one day, please tell us.


Get it in writing. This includes everything from a shotlist and comps to purchaseorders. Make sure the usage details and start date are clearly stated on the PO. Written confirmation will ensure project parameters are documented so one cookie shot will not turn into a baked-goods buffet.


Decide what’s important. Some people will take a job if it means getting some great shots for their book. Others may want to get their foot in the door at the hottest agency. Don’t assume that this one job you do as a favor will lead to bigger and better jobs – it may never materialize. Do the job because it’s right for you.


Do your research. Nowadays companies even contact photo bloggers to request a shoot or images in exchange for what they claim is great exposure on their website. Aunt Dora’s Cookie Company in Skaneateles, NY might make the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever tasted but if the site only has a handful of followers compared to yours, weigh your options. It may not be worth your time.

The majority of art producers are not out to short change photographers. We realize you have a business to run and look to you as a valued partner. Communication, however, is an essential ingredient and only you can decide if the job is right for you. Hopefully this simple recipe for working with art producers will help make your job that much sweeter in the end.