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Author Topic: Hotel Chains: Who Commissions the Photography  (Read 7082 times)
JoeKitchen
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« on: August 29, 2010, 12:48:51 PM »
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I am currently putting together a more detailed marketing plan for hotels and hospitalities and the question is with hotel chains, who hires out the photography.  The individual hotel, or the corporation?  

I would imagine that the lower to mid end chains (Days Inn and such) would just do the photography in house, but I am interested in the Hiltons and and the Ritz Carltons, etc.  Is it best to market to the main office or the specific location for any particular area?  
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2010, 02:59:02 AM »
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Hey, Joe

I think that for the super-groups, you could do worse than approach the holding company which might, in turn, tell you their policy on such matters. I doubt that there is any single system they all use - it must vary from organisation to organisation, but perhaps with Company Reports it is the big chief's office that calls the shots via its PR or Ad agencies. And don't forget the confusion with franchises which are still independent bodies in some ways...

In either case, I hope you don't let them see Mr Newman's quote!

Rob C
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2010, 08:26:10 AM »
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It could be the individual hotels or the corporation or an advertising agency or even the booking engine these days.

Depends on what type of images they are after, what they want to use the images for and what they want the images to say.
Sell the meat or Sell the sizzle... type of thing.

Question: are you wanting them to "hire you" or are you suggesting you would like to be given the opportunity to produce some images for them to use ?

Always to be given the opportunity to produce some images that they can use.  I am a stark supporter of never charging for time, only charge for a license to use.  

I really like the idea of working with the privately owned hotels, the type which all have their own unique flare.  Most of the chain brands do not excite me, but some of the higher end brands (Hilton, Ritz Carlton) I would like to go after, but just have no idea where to start with them. 

A couple months ago I started marketing myself to Ad Agencies in the Americas through Agency Access, but it's still to early in the campaign to really gage how well it is going.  But I would like to market to the actual hotels as well.  I began researching hotels in the Northeast US, making a list of places that could use better photography and plan on going after them as well.  My idea was to market to them directly, which makes sense for the privately own places (I think), but for the brand chains, not sure what to do. 
« Last Edit: August 30, 2010, 08:39:29 AM by JoeKitchen » Logged

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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2010, 10:50:48 AM »
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I've never been one to hold my breath, just thought well it couldn't hurt to ask.  Looks like it's down to good old fashion research, just like they taught me in college. 
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2010, 11:27:39 AM »
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Another segment I'd suggest checking out is the "boutique" hotels which are "in" these days in the hotel and travel business. They are generally smaller hotels outside of chains, so marketing to them would require lot of legwork so avoid them if you're going for volume. But many of them are upscale and put extra emphasis on atmosphere (read: art on walls), and due to their nature will have very different requirements for artwork than the business-oriented chain hotels.
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2010, 11:34:13 AM »
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I have no personal knowledge of this, but I have heard it said that the big hotel chains shop mainly and regularly at the annual AIPAD show in New York. The first two days are open only to dealers and big buyers, but the third day is open to ordinary mortals for a reasonable fee. I'm sure a small booth at AIPAD costs a pretty big fee.

Eric
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« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2010, 10:52:21 AM »
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Always to be given the opportunity to produce some images that they can use.  I am a stark supporter of never charging for time, only charge for a license to use. 

I really like the idea of working with the privately owned hotels, the type which all have their own unique flare.  Most of the chain brands do not excite me, but some of the higher end brands (Hilton, Ritz Carlton) I would like to go after, but just have no idea where to start with them. 

A couple months ago I started marketing myself to Ad Agencies in the Americas through Agency Access, but it's still to early in the campaign to really gage how well it is going.  But I would like to market to the actual hotels as well.  I began researching hotels in the Northeast US, making a list of places that could use better photography and plan on going after them as well.  My idea was to market to them directly, which makes sense for the privately own places (I think), but for the brand chains, not sure what to do. 



Joe,


It depends on the hotel chain. Some hotels have a more open approach like Marriot where each hotel's director of sales and marketing makes photography decisions. On the other hand there are hotel chins like Starwood (shreton, westin, etc) that require you to go through their regional head office. The best way to know more about this is to go to the hotel and try to meet with the director of sales and marketing.

As for pricing, its not always best to offer per usage rates because some hotels are not used to this system and will find it difficult to comprehend the cost based on usage rates. Such rates will initially appear too high and might scare off the client. Also, some hotel photography departments are run by overly difficult to please representatives. Such people will set you up for sever depression if you work with them under a usage rate approach because they will always disapprove your best work for no valid reason. So its best in this case to offer them what they are used to: time rates in which case both parties will be satisfied.

Its also the common way professionals are payed. You hire an employ and you pay him for the time. You hire a plumber and you pay him for the job. You hire a photographer and you run into a problem that you might not like all of his work, but he did the project, so do you get to pick and choose? I think you will quickly see this can lead to conflicts.
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2010, 10:54:52 AM »
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I prefer that approach too Joe - but I'm aware that sometimes 'they' will want to call all the shots and have full control.
So I'm just pointing out
- it's important to use the right words here - so as it's clear in your pitch, which you are referring to.

As for the rest of your questions - I wouldn't hold my breath on anyone giving you that information, especially on a worldwide open forum like this...
.. even if they know the answers.

Can you elaborate on this more please, I think I am starting to experience this? What wording to avoid and what problems one might face?   
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2010, 01:57:44 PM »
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Can you elaborate on this more please, I think I am starting to experience this? What wording to avoid and what problems one might face?  
I see your point in charging by time, but in the long run it will encourage you to degrade the quality of your work and your profitability.  

Think of it this way.  First, before I start a job, I require that the client purchase a minimal amount of licensing on the images for it to be worth my wild; they need to pay me regardless, although I do go to lengths to make sure they are satisfied (just being professional).  And that minimum amount will not give them a lot of use (for hotels, I treat architects and designers differently since they are in a lower exposure market), at most brochure/printed promotional use.  Now lets assume a client of mine can only budget for the minimum amount, now it is up to me to create images that are so good that the client will want to purchase more licensing for them after I deliver, which is always possible (or someone else involved in the project wants to use the image too like the Gen. Contractor if I am working with a designer).  How do I do this, going the extra mile, doing the extra scouting work, bringing props, renting that extra 2 head profoto 2400 w/s kit at $105 a day, because doing so will increase my chances of selling more licensing.  It becomes more than just satisfying my ego to produce great work (which you need because time will wear any down).  

If I charged for time the only way that I could make more off of the shoot is to not bring extra props and lights, not to spend extra time on the project, and eventually time will wear you down to that mentality.  

When I explain my pricing to my clients, I always tell them that the value of an image is dependent on how much exposure it receives because more exposure will bring more customers bringing you more money.  Now not every business will have the same exposure meaning my images will not be worth the same value to everyone I work with, that is way my price varies depending on use and location of the firm.  I also explain it like this.  As long as it is done right, any marketing plan (photography is marketing) should never be looked at as an expense, but always as an investment.  And when buying an investment, one should not only be concerned about price, but also the yield (or return).  If I charged for time, everyone would pay the same from an expense point of view, but from an investment point of view, the smaller firms with less needs would pay much more since their yield (off a consistent hourly rate) would be less.  So to be fair, I vary my price according to use and exposure.  

Also, although you can vary your rate for smaller less needy firms if you charge for you time, it does not make sense from a business plan point of view.  At least not for any bank you may have to get financing from in the future.  But selling a license and changing your price make perfect sense from a business plan point of view.  

In terms of wording, when working with a client the only mention of time when pricing out a job is when we talk about of the actual execution of the shoot.  How long I will have to be there in order to create the images.  There is no mention of time on my estimates; my estimates say standard licensing fee and underneath I have that broken down into three parts, photographer, assistant(s), and production costs.  Any other licensing then the standard licensing (which is my minimum) is an additional percentage of that amount.  On my website, it says that I create images that businesses will want to use and license their use.  It all comes down to being clear.  Saying you sell a license for use, not your time, and being able to explain it so they can understand.  

I once had a general contractor involved with a project call me to get copies of image that I shot 3 months prior for the architect.  I told them for the use they wanted it would cost $XXXX for the four images.  They wanted to know why I was double billing for a project that was already paid for.  I explained that I do not sell my time; I create images and sell a license for their use.  The architect purchased a license for his use, but not anyone else, which I would not expect him to do. If you would like to use these images, you need to purchase a license as well.  (Not to mention it would not be fair to original client.)  Two days later they called back and purchased a license for use.  

From my point of view, selling on price never leads to great success, unless you want to sell volume which will inevitably be low in quality. And taking on a client, who after explaining to him in a way he can understand why you charge by use, who insists on charging for your time is like selling on price.  So I concentrate on selling on what they need, explaining how I can help, selling the sizzle instead of the steak.  My price is my price, and my method of charging is my method.  
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 02:05:58 PM by JoeKitchen » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2010, 11:07:02 PM »
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Joe,


I don't want to divert your topic that is why I will state few things relating to hotels.

1. Most hotel chains require unlimited usage rights, period they don't accept anything less (Marriott expects 10 years minimum if I am not mistaken)

2. You have to check how most leading interior photographers are charging hotels. I know in other areas like top fashion, photography is typically billed based on project. However they charge, there is defiantly a reason for that.  


I don't see why you would lose edge by charging by time. There is still the challenge of creating the best quality pictures in the time frame you bill for. If you fall short competitors will take away your business. So in either case you have an incentive to work hard.  
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2010, 11:21:26 PM »
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Joe,


I don't want to divert your topic that is why I will state few things relating to hotels.

1. Most hotel chains require unlimited usage rights, period they don't accept anything less (Marriott expects 10 years minimum if I am not mistaken)

2. You have to check how most leading interior photographers are charging hotels. I know in other areas like top fashion, photography is typically billed based on project. However they charge, there is defiantly a reason for that.  


I don't see why you would lose edge by charging by time. There is still the challenge of creating the best quality pictures in the time frame you bill for. If you fall short competitors will take away your business. So in either case you have an incentive to work hard.  
It is just against everything that I have been taught.  Many of the top guys, like Ashley, charge by a license.  I feel that it is best to follow their lead and work towards their quality and business practices.  

There are many architectural/interior photographers where I am at that do royalty free photography, not even upping the price if they shoot the same project for two clients.  Most get little respect even from their clients (in different ways then from us though).  They are always refereed as produce work that is good enough.  All of the top guys, the photographers I look up to, charge by the license, and they produce amazing work; it can not just be a coincidence.  Your competition will force you to produce work that is good regardless of how you price, but you need an incentive to go that extra mile and put yourself at the top.  I do not put myself at the top, but my goal is to get there.  

I want to be the best!  I will work in a way that is proven to get you there.  If I loose jobs because of it (which I have), oh well.  

Plus, if someone wants full rights, I can defiantly quote that for them, it will be high, but that's what they want.  And even though the idea of shooting for Hilton or the Ritz sound cool, shooting for the privately owned unique hotels is what attracts me. 
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 11:23:40 PM by JoeKitchen » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2010, 03:06:19 AM »
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All of the top guys, the photographers I look up to, charge by the license, and they produce amazing work; it can not just be a coincidence.

Do you know the top hotel photographers? I have been trying hard to find some of the top photographer who create the work one sees in hotel chain photo shooting guides. I bet it would be harder to find out how they all charge, but that would be priceless information.

Quote
I want to be the best!  I will work in a way that is proven to get you there.  If I loose jobs because of it (which I have), oh well. 


Why equate "being the best" with a specific payment method? I certainly would like to see prove of this. Do all top photographer in all fields of photography work per usage rate or is there a variety among the best and differences in various fields?   



By the way when I started photography I found myself always leaning towards working in a per usage approach without even understanding this concept or knowing much about different pricing methods. It certainly felt the more natural, and perhaps noble, way to work, but as I progressed in this field I started seeing a place for hire rates. Quality seeking customers are not all the same and I would not want to miss out on some of them just to stick with one pricing method. One area, however, where I stick with usage rates is food photography, because very often if you do the job for hire the end result will look like s***!
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2010, 03:35:09 AM »
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I don't want to divert the topic either, but I think the business faces a problem here.

In my opinion, it boils down to the growing confusion between stock and commission.

I can't speak for the States nor for any other country other than the one in which I worked: Britain. Until the then new copyright principles were introduced a few years ago, it was generally understood that copyright belonged to the chap commissioning the work. You did the shoot, gave him the prints or transparencies, sent in your invoice for the job and that was it: next job, please.

With the new laws on copyright, people began to think that every commission was destined to be a dripping roast, just as was (supposedly) the work they put with the stock libraries. From a situation where everybody knew exactly what a job was going to cost, we have moved rapidly to the one you guys face here: where does the client stop feeling that photographers are rip-off merchants? And like it or not, disguise the thing as you wish, the bottom line is that charging by anything other than the simple per/job basis is specifically designed to screw out the last penny. It stinks.

All the weasle words in the world do not change the smell that comes from these smoke-and-mirror deals. Why am I thinking used cars?

You only have to put yourself in the client's shoes for a couple of minutes to see all too clearly that something ain't right; the answer is as it has always been in any almost any other walk of life you can think of: give as good as you can to every client and quote a realistic price beforehand!

I know that that brings respect, and respect brings good, repeat business.

Shylock ain't cool.

Rob C











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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2010, 03:45:34 AM »
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With the new laws on copyright, people began to think that every commission was destined to be a dripping roast, just as was (supposedly) the work they put with the stock libraries. From a situation where everybody knew exactly what a job was going to cost, we have moved rapidly to the one you guys face here: where does the client stop feeling that photographers are rip-off merchants? And like it or not, disguise the thing as you wish, the bottom line is that charging by anything other than the simple per/job basis is specifically designed to screw out the last penny. It stinks.


Rob C


Rob,


I just want to make sure I understand you. Are you saying that customers feel suspicious with usage rates versus a specific hire rate? I can see that being the case especially in my area where customers are completely unaware of this pricing method.
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2010, 11:01:24 AM »
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Ashley, I wouldn't dream of contradicting you: your sytem works for you.

From my point of view, another photographer's one, however, your argument is flawed: your comparison between hotel charging-models and current photography-pricing practice is apples and gear sticks. Hotels have had their established pricing method for decades; photographers have also had long-established ones; the problem is of now, the changing photographer expectations, with not a little greed thrown in for good measure.

You also missed my contention that if you charge properly in the first instance, by finding out what the intended use is and negotiating your contract and price for that, and that alone, then why would you imagine you might short-change your client? To me, that smacks of part of the same basic dishonesty I see all around me today.

When I was pricing calendar production I covered everything: models, travel, hotel, car-hire, print and delivery costs. It was all included and quoted like that. Sometimes the location costs came in under budget, at other times a little over; but when the overall price is right, it hardly matters squat. The end of each quotation showed the price, the VAT ammount, and even the ultimate per unit figure. It was all there to be read easily. Are you going to fight over a couple of hundred quid?

(In my defence of that position, I add that when the dear old Labour boys were running(?) the country I was also obliged to put in a line informing the client that final price depended on rate of inflation at time of invoice... probably redundant today.)

But then, I'm old and out of date; I still believe in mutual respect which is really what this is all about.

Rob C
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2010, 12:43:29 PM »
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Respect is always key, but lets not forget that it has to go both ways. I do not want to work for someone who merely looks at photography as a necessary expense, I want someone to look at it as an investment in their business.  And I do not think that Ashley would be suggesting that you short change your clients, just that when your price is fixed regardless of what the client is going to do with them, you can only go so far in your cost until it becomes unreasonable for you to do the the job.  

For instance, most of the time I use 2/3 strobe heads, but for some jobs, although I can get away with just 2/3, it would come out much better if I brought 6/8 heads.  Now between the assistants, travel, props, parking, etc, spending the extra $200/350 to rent and bring those heads may not be reasonable since it will cut into my profits.  But from a license stand point, it would be foolish not to bring them since it will increase the chances that the client will look at the images and reassess to what extent he would like to use them.  So not bringing them will lower my potential profit on the job, and there's the extra incentive.  

To me, it is important to find out what the clients wants in terms of licensing, and then quote the job based on that.  And if that is all he wants (says he wants) I would not short change the quality I can produce.  But I do explain to him that if he chooses to use them in more ways than what we agreed upon, he needs to talk to me and it will cost extra, even if he insists on not wanting anything else.  Now though it is up to me to produce images that will encourage him to reconsider, making it even more worth my wild to do a great job.  

PS: every great photographer that I have met or talked to, regardless of genre, prices by use, not time.  And all are very conservative on controlling the use of their images. 
« Last Edit: September 01, 2010, 12:47:06 PM by JoeKitchen » Logged

Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
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