Breakfast briefing

How To Write A Photography Brief

Should you write a photography brief? Yes, if you want to avoid getting into a pickle with your photos.

At the offices of a private bank in Mayfair, a marketing manager receives an email with the photos from the portrait photography session he organised for the senior management team. It wasn’t easy getting time in their busy diaries, and the cost of flying one of them in from Frankfurt was eye watering, but the effort was worth it because he knows they will all be happy with the photos and the fresh new look they give to the website.

Eagerly he opens the email from the photographer and looks at the images. They all look great because each director looks approachable and credible which is exactly what he wanted, so he forwards them on to the web development team. An email shoots straight back saying “Thanks, nice photos. Can you send the landscape orientation versions so they fit with the rest of the website?”

The marketing manager checks the current website, and yes, the existing photos are all wider than they are tall to fit with the design. He emails the photographer to ask if he has any wider crops. She says no. She was never asked to shoot them in landscape orientation…

How to write a photography brief
How to write a photography brief

This could all have been prevented by spending 10 minutes writing a photography brief.

Why Write A Brief For A Photographer?

Spending a little time to write a photography brief could save you time, money and reputation. By ensuring that the photographer knows the exact requirements for the images you need means they will produce images which exactly meet your needs.

What Should You Include In The Brief?

In light of the fact that you and the photographer are busy people, the brief doesn’t have to be War and Peace. It could be written in an email or a one page document, but you should include the following items:

What Is The Background To The Shoot?

Begin by briefly stating why you need these photos. For an event photography brief you might give some background to the event including number of attendees, subject matter and target market. Alternatively for a portrait photography job you could say that you have 10 new staff and a new website.

Are There Any Visual And Brand Guidelines?

The look of your photos is obvisouly of paramount importance and you may have existing brand guidelines and images that you can share. If this is the case, include some examples of existing photos so that the photographer can try to match them.

If you want a completely new look, collect some examples that you like or that you think would work. Most photographers will be happy to collaborate on this.

Lots of elements can influence that look of your images, for example:

  • Light vs dark background, and plain vs office background
  • Dress code
  • Colour vs black and white
  • Posed vs candid portraits
  • Where the photos are taken

Where Will The Images Be Used?

It is very useful for the photographer to know where the photos will be used so make a list. This could include your website, social media sites, printed media and presentations.

What Are The Logistics?

To make sure everything runs smoothly during the shoot include details of the following:

  • Contact details
  • Shoot location (including room if applicable)
  • Date and time

Are There Any Deadlines?

If there are any deadlines that you are working with, let the photographer know so that the final photos are with you in good time.

What Image Formats and Sizes Are Required?

Your design team may have requirements for the format, size, orientation and resolution of the photos. It is better for the photographer to know this beforehand so that he can shoot for specific crops and orientation, and then supply the photos in the correct format.

What Shots Do You Need?

To make sure you get all of the photos you need create a list so that nothing gets forgotten.

Is There A Dress Code

If the photographer should dress in a certain way let them know. Turning up to a black tie event in jeans is embarrassing for everyone.

When Do You Need The Images To Be Delivered?

State how you would like the image files to be delivered if you have specific requirements within your organisation.

What Are The Invoice Details?

Let the photographer know where they should send their invoice to, and if they should include a PO number.


Including all of the above items when you write a photography brief will make sure you get the images you need, and it will help the photographer too.

In fact it’s useful to write the brief before you approach photographers for quotes because it will enable them to thoroughly understand your requirements so that the work can be priced correctly.

If you need any help writing a brief, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

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