What is photography treatment?
As a photographer you’ve probably heard the word photography treatment being discussed, and you’ve not been sure what on earth was talked about. Photography treatments are being asked more frequently, but they’re not a new thing to the industry.
The treatment is really just a well-designed mood board with sufficient amount of information about an upcoming photoshoot. In this article we will go through what to include in your treatment and the steps how to make one.
Photographers apply every once in a while for a larger production or a project, which they have had an invitation to sent to them by the client. There might be multiple photographers who they’ve reached to, and after everyone has submitted their photography treatments, one will be chosen to the project.
Convincing the creatives that it is you who can deliver what they need and what meets the client’s needs is what the treatment’s suppose to provide.
So imagine what it is the client truly needs to know about your ideas and how to assure them that your expertise is what they’re looking for.
Making a great impression during the creative call, and by building a treatment afterwards that can be presented in writing and visuals – an intriguing way to produce and execute the assignment provided.
Indeed even if clients don’t ask for them, many photographers still take time to make them and submit treatments. This is thought to be the best way to illustrate a personal view on the assignment, all while understanding the challenges of the requirements.
After the creative call the photographer usually puts together eight to 10 pages long treatment, where they explain the concept of lighting, wardrobe, casting and styling.
It’s essentially a detailed plan to put the whole thing together. It’s the photographers opportunity to show the understanding of what it is the client wants.
Photography is not only to take great images; you also need to communicate your ideas and how you’re going to meet those goals.
1. Receiving an invitation from the agency
Usually an agency sends three photographers an invitation to showcase their treatments for their desired concept. This is followed by a call with each photographer, where the photographer inquires more about the specifics and what is expected of them.
Imagine this being a sort of an interview where you listen carefully and ask follow-up questions about the project. In the end you should explain why it should be you that would be the right person to execute what they are looking for.
You can prepare questions to ask – ie. what is the overall feeling we are looking for for the photoshoot? What kind of models are to be used – regular people or models?
Also knowing the clients brand well enough to know what they are looking to accomplish with this campaign / ad – what is the message they want to send.
When you fully understand their needs, you can start providing your ideas to the client – maybe suggest something you’ve thought and see how they react to it.
Instead of making huge changes to the initial idea, the photographer could make small shifts to the direction they feel would be more suitable for their skills. All suggestions should still be within the clients frame.
2. Discussing the commission
If you are a photographer under an agency, it will usually be your representative who will discuss the commission of the project. If you’re an entrepreneur you will have to discuss this on your own.
This will either be brought up in the first stages before providing the actual treatment, or later on when you are selected. You can contact them by saying you want to discuss numbers now that the overall plan is confirmed.
If you do not feel their commission is to meet your rates, you can always refuse to continue with it, even if you have already been chosen to do it.
Pro Tip: If your creative call is on zoom, make sure you look professional but do your personality shine through too. Even if you’re not meeting in person, it is equally important what you communicate through the screen.
3. Building your treatment
Reflect on what you discussed during the call and truly visualise what it is you will offer and how it will be done – go through the details in your head. It’s not a quick task to write and build your photography treatment letter.
Some treatments have similar elements to them, so you can take parts of your old treatments, but be aware that most of them are still so unique that they require specific letter to be made.
Any type of document a creative needs to make, should also elaborate on the skillset the photographer has. Even the most simplest PDF’s should be done with the same effort as one would with a larger assignment.
After seeing the clients mood board, you can mimic their colors and style and implement them to your treatment letter, this can be easily done in InDesign.
This way you communicate that you have understood their needs and are aware of how to add them to your creative process.
You can start the treatment with a thank-you page, where you address your gratitude for being one of the chosen photographers. The letter usually ends with your bio, where you add it as the finalising step of the treatment.
Put emphasis on the details you know the client views important; if it is a specific location they’re after, make sure you can provide them with extensive list of amazing locations you have searched for this particular project.
When using imagery in the treatment visuals, try to use your own pictures – this way you let the client know you have experience in being a part of similar projects.
What you should add to your treatment letter
- Casting – a variety of models you think are appropriate for the project – consider always looking deeper into the broad spectrum of gender, ethnicity and disabilities you present for the client. Representation is key in changing the world around us.
- Location – will this be an indoor shoot or is it possible to do in a studio? If the shoot is going to be in a location, make sure models, make-up artists and stylists have enough space to work with even if the weather changes.
- Make-up and hair – Search for specific skilled artists who are able to provide what the client needs.
- Styling – You want to distinguish the stylists who have a good record of similar projects in their CV, this way you know they are able to style according to what is expected.
Some might add their costs to the treatment like casting and make-up – this way no cost will come out as surprise to the client. However, usually it is done in a separate document.
The treatment will also work as an inspiration for you as a photographer, seeing more clearly every step of the shooting days and understanding in which order it goes forward. If you have a team of people you work with, sharing the treatment with them will elaborate what’s ahead for them.
Indeed, spending hours on writing and building your treatment will not guarantee success in being picked for the job. It is still a great learning tool and will help you to understand the process of being hired but also the process of larger production and costs.
However, fine-tuning your treatments until you are selected for a job will pay back in the end.
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