Conducting a Photography RFP: Keep the competition fair and respectful.
I appreciate the talent of a good photographer. It’s a profession that deserves a lot of respect because to make a livelihood out of it requires a lot of talent, business savvy, and hard work. Technology drives the industry and that particular field is constantly evolving. It’s an art form that I personally once toyed with making my career, but it was not in the master plan for me. Instead, I found myself working in the advertising industry where I regularly hire photographers to create images for our clients.
When we have a project that requires photography, it’s common to issue an RFP (Request For Proposal) to a select group of photographers in order to retrieve competitive bids. More importantly, this demonstrates to our clients that we are being fiscally responsible with their marketing dollars/budget.
My approach to conducting an RFP for photography is as follows:
1. Determine how many photographers to contact
On a sizable photoshoot, I usually issue the RFP to about 3 to 4 photographers. On smaller shoots, I usually just select a photographer for a job based on their specialties and my past experience shooting with them.
2. Decide who to send the RFP to
To start, I qualify each photographer who will be issued the RFP by looking at their websites and talking to them over the phone or in a meeting. I want everybody issued the RFP to have the talent/capability to deliver on the job.
3. Create a thorough shot list
The variables in photography that affect production costs are plentiful. So it’s important to start with a detailed shot list/agenda that includes as much information as possible for the photographers to use while creating their cost proposal. Nobody likes surprises. Most importantly, it levels the playing field for each of the photographers. With a thorough shot list, the photographers are bidding on the same information, letting you compare apples to apples. Be sure to communicate your position on usage rights for the images as that is a big point of contention with different photographers. Some shoot for a fee and include the rights to the images while others shoot for a specific use and any use beyond that is an additional fee.
4. Wait for bids to be returned
Give each of the participants a fair amount of time to prepare their pricing submission. But do give them a deadline.
5. Review the submissions
Once all of the RFP submissions are in take the time to read them thoroughly. Contact the photographers if you have any questions or if you need clarification of something in their response. Be sure they followed your RFP and included everything you asked for.
6. Make your decision
When you have all of their information together then it’s time to review and make a decision.
7. Inform the winner
Once you’ve made a decision, contact the winner and let them know that they won the business first. Then call the other photographers and let them know that you’ve decided to go with another photographer and that you appreciate their participation. It is important to show them the respect they deserve because they put a lot of time and effort into their submission, and you want them to be available the next time you have a shoot coming up. Pro-tip: I always contact the winner first because if for some reason they have a conflict with your schedule you can move to another photographer.
8. Don't haggle on price
It is my professional style to not bicker with the winning photographer over their price. In business, everybody needs to make money. My belief is that through an RFP each photographer has submitted their best “competitive” price and the winner is the winner. By not negotiating the winning photographer down to a lower price, you may find that the photographer will be more inclined to work with you if something unexpected occurs on the photoshoot and you need something that may be out of scope. By squeezing them on price upfront, they may decide to hold a harder line when you need that something extra. It also makes me feel better about the business relationship in general. After all, they won the bidding competition and everybody is making money.
9. Follow up with everyone who participated
When I conduct an RFP for a photoshoot, once again out of respect for their time, I’ve found that all of the losing photographers really appreciate knowing where their pricing fell in comparison to the other participating photographers. I prepare a list of the bottom line pricing from each photographer and share it with them anonymously. I do this by listing the photographers A, B, C, D and listing their individual pricing accordingly. I send the list to them and let each one know that they are Photographer A, B, C or D. They have always responded favorably to receiving this information.
Now you’re ready to contact the winning photographer and talk about the schedule.
Do you have any RFP tips that you can share with the class? Let us know in the comments below.