Follow this checklist to save time, money, and energy

Leading architectural photographers know that an architectural photography assignment is a commitment of time, of resources and of money. They have pooled their immense amount of knowledge to produce this checklist to make your next project more efficient.

Creating high-quality images on location presents a complex series of challenges. Thorough planning and communication among the client, the photographer, the location owner and representatives at the site can help ensure maximum efficiency and productivity. The material in this checklist has been gathered from design firms and architectural photographers around the country. While each assignment is unique, the information will be helpful in anticipating issues that may come up during the planning and actual production of a location photography project. It is a useful reference guide for the designer, the client, others involved in the assignment and for the photographer as well.

Description of assignment and preparation of the job proposal:

The client to specify:

  1. Exact location of the site, description and documentation required if any.
  2. Walk through the project with photographer if feasible
  3. Provide maps and/or plans with accurate North arrow when available
  4. Clearly describe goals: areas to photograph, number of views, etc.
  5. Detail design materials, light sources, spaces in use, etc.
  6. Communicate problems or flaws that photographer should downplay or avoid Who is commissioning photography and for what purpose?
  7. Confirm if images are single client only or for multiple parties sharing costs.
  8. Outline permissions required for use of photography Needed by all parties
  9. Confirm delivery deadline and presentation form of the images. Prints, slides, digital media, etc

The photographer to specify:

  1. Copyright: Explain clearly that copyright is retained by the photographer unless specifically noted in writing
  2. Describe Permitted or Restricted use of images: Indicate scope of uses: archives, A/V or multi-media presentation, portfolios, press kits Brochure or collateral materials Design competitions: AIA? Product/Specialty competitions? Commercially sponsored? Restricted award announcement use? Editorial features? Advertisements: trade or consumer? Other?
  3. License for reproduction or distribution. Description of media Scope of usage Length of time for use of images
  4. Who is permitted to use the material? Single commissioning client? Multiple clients participating in cost of assignment?
  5. Architects, interior designers, associate architects Landscape architects Consultants, contractors, subcontractors Product manufacturers or suppliers Location owners Others (must be specified) Subsidiary rights Delivery of images: Indicate the form to be supplied Clearly state whether the photographer will hold all original film and digital media or whether such material is to be delivered to the client
  6. Note: Holding film, prints or images in digital form does not imply copyright ownership nor the right to license or reproduce images beyond the scope of original contract.

Negotiation and fees:

The photographer's fee is predicated on the use of the images and the costs of production. Broader usage increases the value of the images. Fees are adjusted proportionately. Client and photographer must understand if there is leeway in the budget for unexpected conditions, extra views, variables in time, materials, job costs. If the budget is fixed, the limitations should be clearly understood by all parties. If the client needs to negotiate a lower fee, what can be given up in return?

This might involve restricted usage, fewer views, less elaborate lighting or styling, longer deadlines, more prominent credit line for the photographer, among other options. Once all terms are understood and agreed upon, the client should be willing to sign a proposal or a contract and to provide a purchase order along with advance payment to confirm the assignment.

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