How to Write a Winning Brief for Your Photographer
Writing a photography brief is one of the most important steps in commissioning a photography shoot. In this article, the first installment of a two-part series explaining how to write a photography brief, we look into why writing a good photography brief is so important for the outcome of a shoot and also outline the most essential information that should be included in a general-use photography brief. Then in part two we will offer some more specific advice for the popular topic of writing an Amazon photography brief.
Why Write a Photography Brief?
Successfully commissioning photographers and other creatives to provide you with visual marketing material hinges upon developing a good working relationship based on direct communication and mutual comprehension. In practice, this means putting your requirements down in writing, so that all parties clearly understand what is expected of them.
A good professional photographer will be flexible and understanding if some small details were not stipulated before the shoot due to oversight. Indeed, time and technical considerations permitting, most photographers will be very accommodating of your needs on set. However, if you have quite specific requirements, just assuming that the photographer will be able to fulfill these without the need to mention them prior to the shoot will only lead to frustration on both sides.
To put things very simply, if you wrote a brief specifying everything you need, and when you need it, and the photographer agreed to this, then failure to meet any of the stipulated requirements is entirely the photographer’s fault. Consequently they will need to fix this, and fast.
On the other hand, if you never told the photographer about a certain requirement in the first place, clearly they can’t be expected to deliver this. In this case you only have yourself to blame if the photos don’t live up to your expectations.
In short, write a clear and comprehensive brief, and you’ll likely get exactly what you want out of the shoot. Leave important points unspecified or alluded to only vaguely, and you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.
What to Include in a Photography Brief?
What does a good photography brief look like, and what information should it include?
Start at the beginning. Take nothing for granted. It’s your business, and nobody knows it like you. It’s better to be accused of being overly precise and patronising than to end up with a bunch of useless (and perhaps expensive) photos that you can’t do anything with because they don’t meet your needs.
Who are You?
What does your brand stand for? What does it represent? What is the product? What is it used for? How is it used? Why should people be interested in it?
In some cases, you might also want to specify the inverse of some of these statements. E.g.: what does your brand stand in total opposition to?
Objective of Shoot
What do you want the photos to achieve? What is the message? For example, are the photos for a seasonal promotion, or for use all year round? To introduce a new product, or to update a familiar and well-known one?
Where, and how, will these photographs be used? In a catalogue? For e-commerce? On Amazon? For blogs or social media? As an advertising campaign? As part of a press release? All of the above?
Are you looking for a specific mood or atmosphere in the shots? Do you need extra space around the product to add text or graphics? Or perhaps just to one side? Do certain colours need to match with your company branding/style guide? Should models behave in a certain way and not in another? Should models look in a particular direction so as to draw attention to text or graphics that will be placed on the photos later?
Who are your customers? Who do the shots need to appeal to? What is the target demographic?
And, just as equally important, are there any specific kinds of people who you do not wish to target with these photos?
If you already have a clear idea of how you’d like the photos to look, consider providing a mood board of creative examples.
This might include the photographs from your chosen photographer’s portfolio that persuaded you to hire that particular photographer in the first place. Or they might be photos by several other photographers. They might not even be photos at all, but instead illustrations, colour swatches, graphics or other visual references that will help the photographer to understand what you have in mind.
Are there any hero shots? Or shots that should be given extra attention? Details of the product that must be shown or highlighted? Shots explaining what a product does? How it works? Or how it can be used?
How many? Male or female? Approximate age? Hair style and colour? Height? A specific body type? Other important considerations?
Hair, Make-Up, Styling
A natural look? Or something more distinctive/dominant? Casual or smart dress? Summer or winter clothing? Specific colours? Colours to avoid?
Delivery Method and Formats
Enormous high-resolution images for a billboard campaign? Or JPEGs for social media use? Delivery by FTP/digital transfer? Or on a USB flash-drive?
Ideal shoot dates? Delivery of first edit? Delivery of final retouched images? Deadlines for going to press?
There’s nothing we like better here at Photography Firm than starting work on a project with a well-written photography brief in hand. If you’ve gone through our list above and added information for all (or at least most) sections, then you can be pretty certain your photography brief will serve as a comprehensive guideline from which the photographer can begin working – safe in the knowledge that there will be no unpleasant surprises at a later date. Not only will the photographer thank you for this, but, most importantly, the photos you receive at the end of the job are much more likely to meet your expectations and requirements.
If you’re a seller on Amazon or other e-commerce sites, don’t forget to check out the second article in this series, how to write an Amazon photography brief for more Amazon-specific tips.