Ashley Morrison's Blog

July 29, 2010

Base Usage Rate.

In their book, Beyond the Lens, the Association of Photographers give Photographers (in the UK), guidelines as to what they should be taking into account, when negotiating the fee for the use of their images. They talk briefly about the Base Usage Rate (BUR) and then go to great lengths to give us percentage figures, so as we can calculate what the Licence fee should be, for the use of the images that we produce and/or create, for others to use.
Most Photographers know that they own the Copyright of the images that they create; however, calculating their value and/or determining what they should charge, often causes them lots of problems.

So, here is my take on the Association of Photographer’s BUR pricing system and how it works – which I hope others will find of value:

As a commercial photographer, I simply produce & provide images for others to use.

So my goal is to try and produce the best images possible so that others will want to use them… and use them a lot hopefully.
Simple.

However, putting a price on those images is not quite so simple, especially before they have actually been produced or created.
Why ?

Because there are more than 100 different ways to shoot any subject – from quick snap-shots using just a basic camera…
George V dining room at Ashford Castle
.. through to full production staged shots using larger camera systems, lights, models, stylists, etc, etc…
The George V dining room at Ashford Castle in County Mayo.
.. which means all images are not equal or the same.

So depending on which way I choose to shoot it, that will, in some way or another affect the value to me… which will ultimately affect the fee and/or the minimum amount I would need to charge to cover my costs.

However, because the images are being produced for others to use, then the value to them or what the images are worth to them, also needs to be taken into account here. The ‘Media use’, the ‘Period of use’ and the ‘Territory of use’ being the 3 main things that will determine the value to them – which is obviously a totally different thing to the value to me.

So both of these values need to be taken into account beforehand – and this is were the Association of Photographer’s BUR pricing system comes into play – to help me determine the value of the images and what the fee ‘should be’ to ensure I get it right. So as I don’t either overestimate​ or undervalue what I am being asked to provide my clients with, to meet their needs here.

The BUR figure is therefore like my starting point.

That is the amount I would normally charge to produce images that would be ‘good enough’ for standard use. (Standard use being​ either: 2 media for 1 years use or 1 media for 2 years use, in 1 country).

So I start by working-out what my basic production costs would be, to produce images that would be up to that level first, by taking the following things into account:

Pre production time:
Photography time:
Post production time:
Travel time:
Retouching time:
Crew / Assistant:
Stylist / Hair / Make-up:
DVD & back-up:
Prints / Contact sheets:
Insurance:
Location / Studio fee:
Props, Wardrobe:
Rentals:
Sets / Expendable:
Courier / P&P:
Actors / Models:
Travel / Fuel:
Miscellaneous:

(Please note: some of these things may not apply – it’s simply a check-list to help me work-out what my basic costs would be, to take some pictures here, that would be ‘good enough’ for normal standard use).

So that’s my base rate or BUR figure.

(Added note: The AOP in their book, Beyond the Lens, suggest this figure should not be less than one’s negotiated daily fee – which doesn’t really make sense to me, unless it takes you a full day to produce every image – so I normally prefer to calculate it on a ‘per image’ basis, so each image or ‘set of images’ has its own value – by including my basic production costs in that figure, so as I know where I stand before I quote a fee.)

(Also note: my ‘hourly rate’ doesn’t change here just because of the job title – so this figure is calculated out using my standard ‘hourly rate’ figure – not an ‘hourly rate’ figure which has already taken the client’s usage into account – because the client’s actual usage requirements may change once they see the final results. So this is my base rate figure for normal standard use, which is my starting point when negotiating the fee beforehand, for the use of ‘some images’ which I am about to produce… because we are still basically talking about the unknown here, as the images have not yet been created, taken or produced.)

Then using the Association of Photographer’s online​ usage calculator – which can be found on their website here: Usage Calculator – I can work out what the fee should be, for me to have the budget in place to meet their usage requirements, based on what all they have said they need to use the images for.

(Please note: when using the AOP’s usage calculator here, remember this is just for the additional use part – as your BUR figure has already taken into account the amount you would charge for the first 2 media, for 1 years use in 1 country).

So the quoted fee or Licence fee would be based on the client’s actual usage requirements – as opposed to what it would cost me, to just turn-up and take some basic pictures here.

Example:
If the client says they only want to use the images for Web use only (1 media) or for Magazine ads & Brochures (2 media), then the Licence fee would be similar to my BUR figure – as it would be based on either 1 media for 2 years use on the Internet or 2 Media for 1 years use in 1 country i.e. standard use.

If however, the client said they required more use of the images than this, then I would negotiate the fee starting with the BUR figure and add (+%) to that figure – or if they said they required less use of the images than this, then I would negotiate the fee by giving them a discount (-%).

So the Media use, Period of use & Territory of use, are the 3 key things that I would take into account, as well as the number of images they want to use, when quoting a fee for the use of my images.

(As it’s the client’s usage requirements that will usually determine the value of the images to them – which this system helps me put a figure on – so as I have the budget in place to ensure​ I get it right.)

Because there are more than 100 different ways…
Bedroom in one of the Courtyard cottages at Doonbeg Golf & Spa Resort
.. to shoot…
Bedroom in one of the Courtyard cottages at Doonbeg Golf & Spa Resort
.. any…
Bedroom in one of the Courtyard cottages at Doonbeg Golf & Spa Resort
.. subject.

So it’s actually based around this very simple formula:-

Little use = Little value.
Greater use = Greater value.
.. to them.

When Quoting a fee, I try to keep it simple for my clients to understand; as well as, make the deal as clear as possible, so as to avoid any misunderstandings down the road.

Example:
The Quote below is based on a client (Ace Company Ltd) asking me to produce & then provide them with 6 images, for them to use in 3 media, for 3 years. (As you can see, I have estimated my Base Rate for standard use to be £210.00 per image).
So to help me meet this client’s planned usage requirements, the fee – based on that information and using the AOP’s guidelines – would be calculated​ out like so:
BUR +100% for the additional media, plus for 3 years use (in those 3 media) we would add 100%, which would then equal the total amount required.

This is known as the Licence fee… which if approved, would then become my budget to meet this client’s needs:
Quote
Please note: Licence fee based on the above … meaning the information above, which is based on my understanding of the facts, which I have simply listed. Should that information change, then naturally the Licence fee would change too – so a new Quote, based on that new information, would, therefore, ​need to be submitted.

(Added note: it’s the +% amount that I use, to help me raise the bar, to meet their additional usage requirements.)

So I use the BUR figure to work out​ the Licence fee – and it’s that fee that I then use to determine what I can ultimately do – to achieve my goal.

Which is to produce & provide the best images possible, so that others will want to use them… and use them a lot..

A win, win situation for everyone, should I succeed.

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