RFPs – The Incomplete Story

I can honestly say that at least 60% of the RFPs I am asked to respond to are incomplete. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to even respond to them. How can I honestly and completely respond with an accurate proposal when I don’t know all the information?  Most of the time the requester will include a statement to the effect of, “If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.” Which is fine if they respond to those requests for information; which they often do not.


For photography RFPs I need to know certain information. Things like the number of attendees and the length of the event are always included, but details are often left out. In order to capture an event and get the results the client (you) wants, I have to know what it is you want!

  • Do you want a feeling of the event as a whole?
  • Would you like the event to be capture in a journalistic fashion or do you want more of a celebratory tone?
  • Will you need to capture the speakers/presenters as they are presenting?
  • If so, what is the intended schedule? Will any of them be speaking at the same time in separate rooms?
  • What is the venue like? Do I need to access it prior to the event to set up lighting?
  • If this is a large (especially a multi-day) event, what is the overall scope so I know if I need to bring in a second photographer?
  • Is there going to be a portrait session for the presenters or the guests?
  • If so will there be a logo or banner that needs to be included in each portrait or am I to provide a backdrop for that?
  • Will I be assigned a space to do these portraits or am I doing them “on the fly”?


This is just a very short list of details that I need to know to be accurate in my proposal. If an event is in the planning process I totally understand that you may not have many of these details as of yet. That’s fine, but remember that one photographer providing a response may include all of these options with costs included while another may include none of them and provide a lower bid.


The better RFP will include something of these details but include a statement to the effect of “details of the event are subject to change. We would like to work with the service provider to plan for these contingencies and we will adjust the RFP and proposal accordingly.”


To have a provider bid on certain guidelines and then during the event ask them to add services (such as portraits for example) requires a compromise on both sides. The reason for this is that if I plan on being as efficient as possible then I will have to sacrifice some duty in order to fill this on site request. It is my job as a professional to respond to your request and to tell you the consequences as to what it will effect, whether that is services planned, cost or whatever. Some requests will have minimal impact, some major, but it is my job to tell you what they will be.


At the same time I have to ask that my clients be prepared for changes when they make such requests. However if we sit down and plan the services to be delivered in advance we can minimize those changes. The issue is that if I respond to a bid that doesn’t include XYZ, when XYZ is proposed I am going to have to change the cost of the bid.


This is where problems usually arise. Clients say things like, “well you said it would cost this!” Yes but that did not include XYZ.


I know that some photographers can be a bit dramatic and get huffy. To them I say get over it. Scopes change and they need to learn to expect that in the career they have chosen. You as the client have the power to dictate the services that I will provide. However, please be aware that in order for me to quote you properly on those services I have to know what they are. If something new arises, I will have to charge for additional services.

1 reply
  1. Dianne Heffernan
    Dianne Heffernan says:

    Hi Michael,
    I plan Meetings, Conferences and Incentive Trips all over the world. If you can – I would love it if you could send me a sample of the BEST RFP for a photographer you have ever received. I would be sure to send it to you when the need in this area arises, but I am sure your fellow photographers across the globe would appreciate it.


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