While prospecting for work I’ve read a variety of photography job postings and been taken aback by the quality of the offerings. While 20% or so have been thoughtfully worded many have not been. The large majority have offered varying degrees of too little information or too much, frequently irrelevant, information and often the detail can be contradictory. If you’re after good photography, and you do not put the effort and thought into a brief, how do you expect to attract a good photographer? Here are a few thoughts on how to write a good photo brief.
Who are you?
A short description of who you, or your company are, is a good start. Details such as company history, personalities, industry and ethos are all useful to paint a picture of who you, the client, are. Company ethos and issues such as climate change, fair wages and politics may be important as people tend to like to work for brands and companies who have the same beliefs and goals. The best relationships are the ones where such values are aligned. Also do not oversell yourself and preferably do not use the word ‘exposure’ as the idea that exposure leads to additional work is false; from experience it is rarely a privilege to work for those who claim it will be.
What photography are you after?
Be clear with the type of photography are you after and give detail. If you’re after product photography, be clear what the product is and how you’d like it presented. The less information you give, potentially the higher the chance of miscommunication as assumptions may be made. The most suitable photographers may not apply as they may not believe they’re appropriate and you also may then also spend time answering a number of photographers all asking the same questions.
Time & Rate
How long is the work expected to take and what is the rate you are offering? And are you offering a rate based on time or on number of images? Either way, it helps to be as accurate as possible and if the situation changes have the good graces to adapt accordingly. If you do not, then do not expect quality work; no one likes to accept work to then find the details of said work are not what they agreed to. If the situation changes, expect to have to re-negotiate the rate.
There is little appeal to apply to a brief which states ‘best photography for lowest rate’, there is no incentive to produce quality work for a low budget. On numerous occasions I have spent my budget on equipment, assistants and props to take top quality photography and the only certain outcome in doing so was that it lightened my take home at the end of the day. If you are after quality work, do not expect to attract quality photographers with a low budget.
As creators, copyright for photography belongs to the photographer (there are certain exceptions). As such the rate being paid a photographer is primarily for their time and experience. Licence and potential additional rate for licence is up to the discretion of the photographer. If the images are going to be used for a long time, appear in multiple locations and multiple countries, expect to be asked to pay a licence fee accordingly.
Production, other skills and expectations
A point that should be obvious, but needs to be stated as it is often overlooked. If you’re after a photographer, you’re after a photographer, not a producer, not a stylist, not a supplier, not a wholesaler; a photographer. A photographer may know how to style or produce but their primary role is as a photographer. As such if the photography you are after requires additional skills, hire people with those skills. If you rely on a photographer for these additional skills bear in mind the more they are considering these issues, the less time they are focusing on photography. And if you have not hired a stylist, then please do not reject the photographic product due to lack of, or poor, styling.
Clarity, transparency and honesty will be appreciated and will help you write a good photo brief. Language accuracy and consistency are also important. If there are elements of a photo shoot that you are not familiar with, then ask. As a photographer it is my job to advise and help my clients get the best photography they can, I do not expect them to know all the answers.