Photography: Assignment Details

Photographers can learn a thing or two from other businesses. You go to just about any business and if you are receiving any services they are going to fill out some forms.

When you go to college they get all your information and put you into their system. Hospitals do the same thing and get information about where you live, phone numbers and most of all payment information.

When you get your car repaired the same thing happens. You will not get service before they gather information in most service providers.

Mistake Number One

When you get that first call from a new client there is a tendency to rush through your business practices. Your fear of loosing the client can cause you to miss some vital information which is done during the intake process.

You are setting the tone for the relationship going forward. The clients are generally understanding of you asking some questions to then later be able to give them a quote.

Create a form for new clients

One of the best things early in your career is to have a physical form you fill out so you can be sure you do not miss information which is critical to meeting their expectation and you getting paid.

Information you should get:

  • Contact Information
    • Name
    • Company Name
    • Mailing Address
    • Phone numbers
    • email
    • website
  • Project Details
    • Name for project
    • Deadlines
    • Usage Rights
    • How will it be used
    • What are the deliverables
      • JPEGs, RAW
      • CDs, DVDs or hard drive
      • Online Gallery
      • Prints
      • Contact Sheets
    • What is the style and approach for the project
    • Location
    • Contact names
    • Names of different people on project
      • Creative Director
      • Client contact
      • Location contact
    • Examples
      • Shot List
      • Sketches/Diagrams from Art Director
  • Information about location
    • Lighting
    • Crew (Will you provide or them)

These are just some of the things I often am asking for during my intake process. You may need to add some more or take something off, but either way having a physical list near your phone or on your computer that you can reference in the first contact will help you be successful.

The Power of Questions

For the most part each client that calls you will be getting a customized price for their needs. If you are just letting them choose from a price list you are more of a commodity and therefore not as service oriented as transaction based.

The accuracy of identifying the specific problem that the photography will help solve will give you a clear objective to meet.

When a new client calls and wants your price for doing head shots you can clarify how they will use them and how this helps their company. If the head shots are to be done of all their upper management to put on their website asking a few more questions can determine a more accurate pricing and meeting of their objective.

They may just want to show their people so when their clients call in they know who they are talking to or to expect when they come to them. This is more of an identification photo. However, lets say they are trying to help people get to know them to leverage themselves against their competition. The photos are to help them with branding and showing how personable they are as compared to the competition.

This is where maybe environmental portraits of their people not in their workspace, but rather with their hobbies may fit the bill better.

To get to the real problem being solved with photography requires some questions. Your questions maybe met with uncertainty. This is where you are helping them define their problem. You are also showing your expertise.

Mistake Number Two

Miscommunication is more common than anyone of likes, but it happens. The time to see if you were on the right track to meeting their objective is not when you are totally done.

Too many photographers forget that the best way to clarify the deliverable is with examples. If you have something you can send to them which is similar to what you plan to deliver then you are way ahead of the problem of miscommunication.

Take a moment once you have a good photo of the first thing you have and show them it. “Is this the right direction?,” is a great question. Often clients who have a lot to do will often leave once they see you are going the direction they want and let you take it from there.

If you have a number of locations on a job, take a moment and send them the first shots you can before continuing.  I had a few photographers who I gave a series of subjects to photograph and the photographers shot a few of these over a few weeks and then sent me the results. They were not what I had asked them to do.

Mistake Number Three

Too many photographers shoot for themselves and not for the client. This shows up in a few ways to the client.

The photographer will crop the photographs to the way they like them. I have seen way too many photographers not paying attention to the way the client will use the photos.

The client needs the photos to put into a video. Most videos are designed to fit a TV screen. The photographers are providing squares or verticals which means there is a lot of black that will need to be used around the photos.

The client may need to put these in a layout of a publication that the client has approved of a specific layout design. If the photographer crops too much the photos become unusable.

The photographer also needs to provide several options for the client. Clients do not enjoy having just one photo that could work to have to use. Do your best to give the client a few options for any photo they need to use. Unless their are some pretty extreme circumstances preventing this, always make the effort to provide options.


While you may have some great questions you need to clarify their answers. You need to solicit their questions. The more you peel the onion of the assignment the closer you get to the core and meeting of those objectives.

While you may loose the bid to someone else, you are still auditioning for a future assignment. It is quite common that clients will use a friend or try to give someone a break and get burned. They will remember you as the one they should have gone with to do the job.

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