As a seasoned fashion and portrait photographer in London, I’ve been involved in a number of shoots. I know writing a brief for the first time can be a daunting prospect, particularly if you have not commissioned photography before. This handy guide will help you navigate what you should include in your brief and why it’s essential to have your ideas in one place ahead of the shoot.

The more thought invested and developed into a brief, the better the shoot will be. If you think about your message and the focus of the shoot (pardon the pun!), it will help the day run smoothly.

What you need to know

Consider these questions to help look at the bigger picture and then drill down on the detail:

What is the purpose of the photoshoot?

Being clear at this early stage will help keep you on track later. Are you launching a new collection or product, are the shots to promote an event or launch? Consider the end-use to establish the purpose and work back from there. 

What do you want to say?

What is the story, the narrative or your message? Knowing will help give your shoot a sense of flow and meaning. Discuss ideas with your team and commit them to paper.

Who are you appealing to, which audience? 

Make sure you have your target audience in mind and aim your message towards them.

What do you need at the end of the shoot? 

For example ten complete looks, a shot for each season, a day to night lookbook, detail shots? Be specific to achieve your objectives and keep you on track.

What is your budget?

Knowing your budget is very important. Be realistic as this will have an impact on what you can achieve. Speak to your team and your photographer about what is involved and what it will cost. Cover all the details.

When is your deadline? 

Having an end time in mind is a good starting point—plan in enough time to allow everyone to achieve what you need in the time frame.

Where will the images be used?

You have to know if the images are for printing (a magazine, postcards or lookbook), Instagram or a website. Each medium has different requirements, and the photographer will need to know this ahead of the shoot, to make sure each medium is covered.

I would also suggest creating a mood board, this is an excellent visual reference for ideas and to communicate the style, look and feel and help steer the shoot. The photographer and the whole team will often refer to the mood board during the shoot to make sure it’s on brief and to make adjustments where necessary. If you are working with a graphic designer or art director, they tend to create layouts or scamps. These are page layouts designed ahead of the shoot with temporary images to give an impression of the final work. Mood boards or scamps can be a great help and useful for people who are new to thinking visually.

Final thoughts

I believe a good photographer should make the shooting process clear, useful and enjoyable. I prefer to work closely with my clients and share my expertise openly, and to challenge a brief if necessary, then discuss and make adjustments that will create the very best images. A photographer, along with the rest of the creative team, are there to build your brand. 

Don’t forget this is a just a general guide — every job and photoshoot is different so that the process may vary.

To find out more about my work and read my other articles, follow me on Instagram for a peek behind-the-scenes at my shoots, and view my portfolio to see more of my work.

I’m a fashion and portrait photographer in London