Tips on briefing your commercial photographer

Taking a little time to brief your photographer is the very best way of making sure you get precisely what you need from the time and money you are putting into hiring them. You might be tempted to think: “Oh, they will just turn up and take photos on the day and we’ll decide as we go along what’s required”. Unfortunately, that’s not a great recipe for getting the strongest possible imagery for your business.For my part, I aim to provide photography to you that is a genuine strategic asset for your business and so taking time to formulate a brief with me is very worthwhile.

Providing a brief needn’t be difficult; it just requires a little thought around some of the key aspects of the shoot.

What’s the subject of the shoot?

What is/are the subject(s) of this shoot? What exactly do you want photographed? Are these new products, an interior, food, or people photos? Try to give your photographer as much background information here as possible.

What’s the purpose of the shoot?

What type of photos are you looking for? Are they specifically photos that will be used to sell products, or will you be using them to position your brand against the competition? Or maybe they are more about the spirit of what you do and your values as a business, for example showing a fun and collaborative atmosphere between colleagues in your workplace? Possibly you want viewers to be inspired to take certain actions, or do you want to direct the thoughts of your audience about particular issues, for example your environmental credentials? Having a clear idea of the answers to some of these questions will help enormously in terms of deciding how the shoot is best structured. And if you can supply reference photos of what you’re aiming for, or even a mood board, all the better because this will ensure you and your photographer are visually aligned right from the start.

Who is your target audience?

Here, you will be considering who you want to view and be influenced by the images. Think about the emotions you want your audience to feel when they see the photos. Do your competitors reach an audience that you currently do not? Are you commencing a new marketing campaign? Maybe you want to replace some images in a promotional brochure? It can help to pick some key words, themes, colours, or styles to encapsulate what you want from the shoot. These can work very well in framing the shoot and encouraging creativity. If your photographer is aware of the sort of people you would like to attract and the broader aspirations you have as a business for the photos, they can come up with creative ideas which should suit your objectives.


What are your deliverables?

It would be good for you to list the shots you require, and to think roughly about how many photos you might be aiming for. Your photographer should be developing a shot list for the day, so this information is vital. You should also consider whether there any specific “do not miss” shots that you need to achieve. In this context, don’t forget that different departments or areas of your business may need different types of images to suit their purposes. Other details which it would be good for your photographer to know are how the images are intended to be used (print, online, social media?), and the turnaround time you have in mind for the project. This information helps your photographer produce the required formats and prepare the ‘license to use’ which you will be provided with alongside the images.


Will people feature in the shoot?

Sometimes, people are the primary subject of the shoot (eg staff profile photos) but sometimes you may want people to feature secondarily in the shoot (eg demonstrating products, at work in the background etc). If the latter is the case, we should discuss whether professional models are required or whether any of your own staff will be photographed. Either way, we would need to review the requirements for model release forms to be completed prior to the shoot. Your photographer should advise on that.


Where will the shoot take place?

Your photographer will need to make sure that they bring the correct equipment for the shoot so it’s essential they understand how you envisage the shoot working from a practical perspective. A key piece of information here is knowing where the shoot will take place (and ideally encouraging your photographer to view the premises or site with you beforehand). If there is an outside element to the shoot, it will be key to know the time of day you have in mind for the shoot, and if there is an alternative location should the weather be unsuitable?


What is your budget?

The budget that you are able to allocate to your photography is obviously important. It’s worth thinking carefully about what you can afford and coming up with a budget for the project. You can then discuss with your photographer ahead of time what that will allow you to achieve. The time that needs to be taken is obviously a key aspect of the shoot and whilst this will largely be determined by your budget, your photographer should advise on how to make the best use of time on the day. It’s good to agree times up front and, if necessary, a running order for the day.

If you would like to get in touch for a free consultation about how I can help you, please give me a shout, or if you’d like to read more about how to move forward with professional commercial photography, take a look at my articles on why professional commercial photography might be right for you, and how to invest in it wisely