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  #1  
Old 02-03-2005, 11:26 AM
Adam_Piscitelli Adam_Piscitelli is offline
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School Photography Bid

I've been asked by two school districts in my area to submit a bid for all of the school's photography. This would include sports, events, prom, yearbook and portraits for everyone from K through 12.

I've done small private schools before but nothing on this scale: 2000 students.

I want to give a competitive bid without getting hosed. Does anyone out there have experience bidding these jobs?

Any input would be appreciated.




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Old 02-03-2005, 11:55 AM
Eric_llasenko Eric_llasenko is offline
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Re: School Photography Bid

Worked with a truly great studio in the 90's who specialized in big schools only. They made a lot of money but in the end it was mostly from underclass (elementary and jr high) schools and they eventually dropped all the public high schools traditional portrait biz because the public high schools just got too darn greedy. (I recently returned to school pics after several years out of it and found that thanks mostly to the huge mega-corporate studios, even elementary schools are starting to push harder than in the past for more and more freebies and services.)

Here in Flordia, the standard "commission" for a public school is 50 PERCENT (!) and on top of that the high schools would insist upon an ever longer list of "freebies" such as film/processing for the yearbook staff, ID cards, layout software, and lots of other little things that added up and ate away the bottom line. Private and Parochial schools usually got 20-25%, so they were still profitable.

They did still keep the PROM (cash cow!) business and some sports business from many of the public high schools they dropped as those were things not in the typical portrait contract agreement here as coaches and the junior class or prom sponsors could choose their own photogs if so desired.

This was a major studio with a wonderful reputation and they employed uo to 8 full time school shooters in season, so overhead was high. They could pull off multiple big school shoots daily without any trouble because they had 8 full sets of gear and the experienced photographers running it. Each photographer was expected to shoot up to 400 kids daily if needed but 300 was the usual "norm". If a school had 1100 kids, we would have 3 or 4 full studio set-ups at the school on picture day so all photography was completed quickly on the same day, making for happier school administrators and teachers who usually view picture day as an intrusion into their class time and somewhere just below root canals on their list of favorite things.

If you are sure you can handle the volume and time requirements needed for servicing them, perhaps try to buddy up with the school secretary and find out details about what they had been getting in the past, in the interest of "research". Also, the PSPA Pro School Photogs Assn. convention is held this month in Orlando a few days right before the big PMA show and would be a great place to go learn from the leaders in the field. Best of luck in you venture! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

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Old 02-03-2005, 09:41 PM
JohnGrow JohnGrow is offline
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Re: School Photography Bid

How is it possible to make a living if you have to return 50% to the customer? More over, why would anyone agree to those terms? Can anyone point out another industry where a professional is asked to refund 50% of his income for the "privilege" of performing a service?

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Old 02-04-2005, 10:47 AM
Adam_Piscitelli Adam_Piscitelli is offline
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Re: School Photography Bid

Eric: Thanks for the feedback. I know that there will be a 'commission' involved, I just have to find out how much. I agree with John that 50% is outrageous. I refuse to work for pennies on the dollar. I should be getting the bid specs soon and I'll be able to make a decision from there.

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Old 02-04-2005, 12:29 PM
JohnGrow JohnGrow is offline
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Re: School Photography Bid

Adam would you consider sharing the information you receive? I would be interested in seeing what they tell you. We are also in the process of trying to “capture” a school district. The last word we heard was that the individual schools specify or recommend which company they will use for photos. We are still trying to determine if that is for all school activities or simply student photos.

John

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Old 02-04-2005, 02:31 PM
Eric_llasenko Eric_llasenko is offline
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Re: School Photography Bid

I truly agree that 50 percent is absolute highway robbery and when I first moved here from Detroit in '90, I was in a state of shock to hear that figure!

Sadly, it is the "norm" for Florida public schools and although it happened long before I got here, it no doubt came to be because of the heavy competition among not only individual photographers but I would bet more likely culprits would be the "big" studios who can be soooooooo cut-throat when it comes to trying to roll over the little guys in their zeal to gobble up all the business for themselves that they would lose money on pics to get their feet into a school if yearbook sales, rings, or one of their other "divisions" could make enough profits from the school to make up for it in the big corporate accounting picture. (hmmm, sounds like W**-Mart a bit too, eh?)

Photogs DO earn profits here, even at the 50% rate, just not as much! However, they must raise the prices way up to compensate for it and that leads to parents holding negative opinions of school photography as most all of them have no idea the SCHOOL is the reason prices are so high, and that the SCHOOL is making thousands of dollars for itself on picture days! What's sad too is the fact that Florida is a pretty darn low income state for the most part and most people really cant afford the higher inflated prices, so it really affects both us and the schools as sales averages go lower and lower due to the high prices charged. Compared to "up north", the average non-urban worker here makes well under 8 bucks an hour in jobs that pay twice that elsewhere - and the cost of living is not that much less. Locals call it the hidden "sunshine tax" or "the price to live in paradise"... OY!

Like I said in my earlier post, my former employer pretty much "fired" the high schools they shot for because the demands to service them and give more and more freebies got out of hand when combined with that 50%, so he let the "big" guys deal with them and concentrated on more profitable underclass and proms biz and was VERY successful afterwards. (So much so that when he retired, his business actually got bought up by one of the evil "big" chains!) [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif[/img]

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Old 02-04-2005, 05:13 PM
Adam_Piscitelli Adam_Piscitelli is offline
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Re: School Photography Bid

John: I'll be happy to share that info when I get it. The job goes out to bid in April so I'm expecting the specs next month.

I just got off the phone with my lab rep and he also said that 50% is not unheard of especially in the south. He also told me that most photographers do what Eric suggested: Pass the cost on to the parents. Ouch! I didn't realize that school districts were so strapped for cash that they have to shake down photographers for extra money.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I'll keep you posted.

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