Architectural Photography Awards 2021
Ask APA: The Perpetual Access Problem, Giving Away the Raws, Assistant Fees

Ask APA: The Perpetual Access Problem, Giving Away the Raws, Assistant Fees


D Asks: How does one find out exactly who owns / manages a building? Ask your client if they know, or know someone who knows. Failing that, walk inside and speak to whoever is at the front desk. Make up a good story, or tell the truth, depending on the neighborhood you’re in, and get a business card of someone you can contact. Google the address. Look on Google maps – they usually have some info in the map overlay. There are hundreds of ways. This is usually the easy part. The hard part is actually getting them to agree to let you on the roof.

It goes without saying that you can’t march in with an attitude, be polite, crack some jokes, generally be normal and affable.

Last resort: Slip them a $100 bill. I have done this. Not ideal, but it’s got me on more than one rooftop. Just don’t do it like a knob.

P asks: I know you’ve talked about fees before but I have a specific question about assistants’ fees. Do you quote like a fixed day rate regardless of the size of the project? Or is it more of a percentage based on the photographer’s fee? Or something else altogether haha?

I pay my assistants however they would like to be paid – either hourly or a day rate. In the past I have set the rates but these days I am asking for them to supply the rate that they want to get paid for the day, hour, etc on their terms. This is something you need to ask your assistants.

I would never pay based on the percentage based on my photographer’s fee – they aren’t realtors!

S Asks: I am having hard time since it’s not easy at all to do the first step in. When I contact the companies for “TFP” (I take the pics and they’d get them for free), they seem to be interested in the beginning but then or they stop replying or keep postponing..

I’d need to see the actual email chain or hear the phone call to know what’s really going wrong, but maybe are you not moving quickly enough. Courtesy is a function of time – as soon as you start boring people with long-winded emails they’re going to stop replying. Get the ‘yes’, and then move swiftly to get yourself access. Finishing on the phone is probably a better technique than email as well, since you can plan everything in just a couple of minutes rather than wasting time on a back and forth.

P Asks: Do you ever provide the RAW files to your clients? If not, or yes, why? I just got this request from a new client and found it hard to clearly explain why I wasn’t giving him my raw files..

I think I’ve given out the actual raw files once in my entire career. And I was paid over $30,000 USD to do it, for eight pictures, shot for an ad agency. They did the post in-house. For architectural photography? Also probably not, unless the money was there. There are so many risks involved – from not having control over your own brand, to them not understanding how to process files, to the unfinished files leaking out and potentially damaging your reputation, etc. Avoid at all costs – unless you can vet who you’re giving the files to and they are willing to pay for it.

Also make sure that the client isn’t confusing ‘raw’ with ‘uncompressed, full size.’ There have been a few times when I’ve had to explain the difference. I find that ‘raw’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot by clients who mean well but in reality don’t know what a raw file really is. It may help to explain that they will receive the full, uncompressed TIFF or JPEG but that they will not be receiving an unprocessed raw file.

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About Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley is an architecture and interiors photographer who has photographed projects all over the world. He is a self proclaimed airplane food enthusiast and the founder of the Architectural Photography Almanac.
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