This article and the attached Excel sheet would be my reply. Whether you are a photographer, a model or a fan of a model, I hope that this article will give you some insights into the nude modeling industry.
Before we start, a few notes.
- ALL COSTS ARE REAL. This is not a budget sheet where we put the maximum we can afford to spent, but an aggregated record of our past year of production. The costs you see is our average cost (most common) per post. Naturally, using this cost structure and knowing your projected revenue allows you to build your own budget.
- CASH PAYMENTS. All the costs stated in the sheets are non-invoice payments between individuals, so if the same project would have been done as a corporation it would have likely been 30-50% higher because of taxes.
- QUALITY COST MONEY. Some people might argue that we pay too much or too little for some work but this is our real cost based on 1 year worth of data. At DROYC we value quality before quantity and this sets us apart from many other studios. It’s hard to engage highly creative and professional people in producing junk. We’d rather publish 15 great photos than 60 not-bad ones. We’d rather publish one good set only, even if we’ve shot 5, if the other 4 are below our standards. Hence our cost structure is different than of those who publish sets of 120 pictures, we can afford to spend more on those 15 pictures, per picture.
- COST, NOT REVENUE. This is a strictly cost budget. There is no profit and revenue data in these sheets as we are not selling or making any money on our content. If you plan to sell or make money on your content add revenue and profit rows to calculate your ROI (return on investment).
- NO PRE-PRODUCTION COSTS. I’ve put Pre-production and Principle Photography into one post. Ideally, pre-production is a cost on its own. It takes time to find a model and organize everything around the shooting day. That time and effort cost money. I didn’t put that cost here as we’ve never outsourced that part and I can’t put a commercial price on it. So in this cost sheet all the pre-production work is done for free.
- IDEAL VS REAL COSTS. I present two different cost scenarios: a full commercial one (the same as in the Excel file), where we pay for everything, and an actual one where we manage to do most of the jobs ourselves. The difference between doing everything ourselves and outsourcing everything (under strict quality control) is that by doing it ourselves we can’t scale fast enough. If in a hypothetical scenario we would get a $1M donation to spend on productions we’d work ourselves to death trying to spend it on shootings. On the other hand having fixed costs for everything means we can outsource every part of the production to someone willing to work for that sum, and because we’ve already paid that sum of money for each of the services we know it can be done at that price and with the quality we require.
IDEAL COMMERCIAL COST STRUCTURE
Now let’s look at the ideal commercial cost structure for an ideal, scalable production of sets. The key here is scalability – paying more for greater speed without reducing the quality.
There are a few insights that are worth noticing immediately:
- Post-production has around the same cost as the principal photography (G22 and G46), so for every dollar you invest in organizing a shooting you need to put another dollar into post-production. That is if you want to have high quality content.
- The model booking fee is less than 20% of the total project costs (G9). This is the reason why I say that whether the model’s fee is €600 or €1,000 is not relevant. The real question is how many good sets I can get with this model and how much I have to spend on post-production.
- Cell D23 gives you an actual cost per set in principal photography. Lots of models will work on a per-set basis, charging €100-150 per set. While this might sound like a good deal (cost control), consider all the other costs which often results in doubling cost per set.
- When it comes to the photographer, unless you are a photographer yourself, you’ll have to pay for one. While it might sound easy to find someone who will shoot nude girls, it is really impossible to find a good photographer for less than an average model’s fee, maybe 75% of her fee. Naturally, different cost structure and arrangement can be made to lower down that cost or even remove it altogether. Good photographers are often an asset not a cost – they have good equipment, usually access to a studio, and have a distinct style of shooting which could be beneficial for your project. It could be the difference between wasting €600 on a model or producing great, timeless shots for an additional €600 with a good photographer.
- Usually post-production is done by a photographer and if you pay him €600 you should specify in your contract how many retouched photos you expect him to return to you. So partly, post-production cost can be offset by a good photographer. In our case however we decided to split that job. Someone else is doing the retouching and the photographer just supervises it. It allows us to move faster.
- In order for us to outsource the post-production we need to prepare the content, hence there are some costs for organizing and sorting the content as well.
- Also worth mentioning, location cost (C16) for us is usually €0 as we shoot in the same hotel room where the model stays overnight, or we shoot outside without any costs except for transportation.
REAL LIFE COST STRUCTURE: BEST CASE
Now let’s look at the real cost for shooting one well known model. This was by far our best shooting and it still remains a gold-standard in our production history.
Notice the difference from the previous (ideal) cost structure: there is no cost for the photographer and most of post-production is done by us or done by someone else pro-bono. This was one of our best productions, yet the final project cost is still €2,400 (C49) and the model’s fee is now 33% (G7) of the total project cost.
REAL LIFE COST STRUCTURE: WORST CASE
Now consider for comparison one of our worst shootings. We’ve shot 6 sets but the model acted and looked so bad that we could barely assemble 2 sets from the 2,000 shots we’ve taken. Because we didn’t send her home immediately (which we should have, to cut our loses), the choice was to pay a lot of money in post-production and produce a Photoshop doll, or to only select 2 sets with a moderate, yet still extensive Photoshop post-production. The extensive Photoshop is not our style so investing more in something that is not our style felt irrational.
In this case you can see how lowering the number of sets skyrocketed the total project cost per set (D50) and we’ve cut our losses by not investing much in post-production. If we did, the cost per set would have gone down to around €500, but the total project cost (C49) would have been around €900 more. The decision was made not to throw good money away and save €900 for a new project.
PLUG IN YOUR OWN NUMBERS
In conclusion, if there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this: know your total project cost and total project cost per set. You can’t look at one or the other, you need to see both. The key is to plug your own numbers in and see how you can optimize your own costs. Knowing your own costs helps you make better and wiser decisions. You might discover that you can afford to pay more for better models.
If you want to use my file as a base just ping me at nick(at)droyc.com and I’ll send you the latest version.