How to brief a photographer for a design project

It’s rare that a design project doesn’t involve some photography. We’re huge advocates of using your brand’s unique images in design projects. Commissioning your own photographs is an investment worth making. You can brief the photographer to provide imagery that conveys the brand message and speaks directly to your ideal client. Your potential customers will connect with your images in a way that just isn’t possible with stock images.

Whether you’re embarking on a print or digital project, there are some common considerations. The biggest of which is to involve your designer right at the beginning. Discussing the photographic brief with your designer will ensure you have an excellent selection of suitable images with fewer compromises.

Writing creative briefs isn’t easy but when you know what information to include it gets a whole lot simpler. Below, you’ll find all the information you need to write photography briefs for an A4 brochure and a website, along with downloadable examples for each.

How to brief a photographer

Stock images like the one above have their place, but that’s a topic for a different article.

Photography brief for an A4 brochure

Provide your photographer with the following:

A short overview of the brand message

  • What are you aiming to convey with this project?
  • This will help the photographer keep this at the forefront of their mind during the shoot.
  • Your brand style guidelines.

The specs of the brochure

  • The size (e.g. A4) and the orientation (portrait or landscape) of the piece.
  • An estimation of the number of pages (so they can judge how many photos may be required)
  • Cover images: ideally, a selection of images to choose from (e.g. several group shots in a portrait orientation with some space above and below for text).
  • Spread images: also landscape orientation images for the inside spreads (to cover both left and right-hand sides of the spread).
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Demographics of the subjects

  • Specify ratios of male/female, ages, nationalities you need.
  • Make them aware of any sensitive topics or issues.
  • A suitable group of subjects.
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Composition guidance

  • Do you need a number of images with minimal or plain backgrounds?
  • Or designated areas of whitespace for editorial text to be overlaid on top.
    (It is difficult to have text on top of an image with varying degrees of contrast.)
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Lighting and colour guidance

  • Let them know your preference for light or dark, and if you want the contrast to be soft or hard.
  • If you have prominent colours in your brand’s visual palette, advise if you want photos with a colour theme.
  • State if you need muted or vibrant tones.
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Examples of what you’re looking for (or wanting to avoid)

  • Photographers are visual folk, help them by showing them what you like and what you don’t like. Your designer will help you with this.
  • Be as specific as possible here.
  • And any other relevant pointers specific to this piece of marketing collateral.

Photography brief for a website

Provide your photographer with the same information as above, but include the following (to replace ‘The specs of the brochure’):

Hero images

  • Hero images are often referred to as the header image and can sometimes be full screen, or only a ‘letterbox’ shape.
  • Let your photographer know if you want to include ‘hero’ images in the design.
  • Your photographer can then allow for a sufficient width in the images.
  • Or take photos further away from the subject to allow cropping to letterbox shape.

Mobile first

  • Strictly speaking, this is a consideration for your website developer, but do let the photographer know if there are any areas of the website where it’s important that images display well on mobile devices.
  • They will appreciate knowing that the main focus of those photographs can’t be too wide, otherwise elements will get cropped out on small screen sizes.

Social media accounts

  • Will the images your photographer takes for the website be repurposed on social media?
  • As with the mobile-friendly consideration, your graphic designer will be able to resize images for each social media platform, but you can also ask your photographer to bear this purpose in mind.

A few notes from a photographer

Timescale

What’s your timescale for the project? Photographers often get very busy, and while they can fit you in for a photography shoot, a lot of time is spent afterwards in post-production. Make sure you are upfront with your photographer about when you need the photos back, so they can schedule enough time to process them. And please don’t just tell them at the end of a long shoot that you need them first thing in the morning for an important deadline if this hasn’t been arranged!

Cost

It is understandable that you will want to know how long it will take and the cost of your photography project. Quote requests I receive often start with ‘we would like you for a day’s photography…’. It is likely that a client has gone to my website, seen a day rate and decided that’s how much the project should cost. Please give your photographer your brief first, then let them guide you on the process of how long it will take and how much it will cost (answer: probably longer than you think!). Quotes are most likely not based on the time the photographer is with you. You’re paying for a skill and the value that the images created will have, together with all the time spent before and after the photoshoot (for example; are there any locations that need to be scouted, models to be found, lighting or venues to be hired).

Usage

Will you have unlimited use of all the photos after the shoot, or will you have to choose individual images and buy a licence per photo? Be aware if no photos are included in the session fee, so you can set a realistic budget.

With thanks to Ian Olsson, friendly BIPP qualified photographer with 15 years’ experience, at Ian Olsson Photography, for his help with this article.

Sample briefs

For any photography booking, expect to provide details of the timings, locations, contact details of on-site personnel and alternate location arrangements if inclement weather may be a factor. Liaise with the photographer before the job and brief all relevant on-site personnel to ensure communication is joined up.

Need help in briefing a photographer for your next design project?

This advice is the result of 20 years of experience as a designer working with professional photographers on digital and print projects across different sectors. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss your project.