Working to a Brief: Assignment 1 REVIEW

We received a fantastic number of entries for our ‘Working to a photography brief – challenge’, which Karl reviewed in this live show.

Working through the submissions, Karl gave his overall feedback on the images and announced the winner of the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fibre tripod.

Throughout the show Karl explained what he expected, according to the brief, and how this could have been improved on for many of the submissions. He also offered advice on some of the common challenges members may have faced.

This task was designed to test how members interpret and execute a pre-visualised objective – a vital skill for photographers. Karl’s feedback on each of the images offered guidance on what was expected and made even more clear how the image could have been executed to deliver the desired result.


  1. DougHowell

    Episodes and tutorials, like this, is why I’m a subscriber!
    Just like the Victor’s series on editing, (which is now my method). These “shooting to briefs,” lessons will make us much better photographers!

    Bravo Karl!

    P.S. Excellent tip on the Color Meter.

  2. Hi Karl,
    This was superb learning tool I have learned a lot when trying to solve the problems – it was great fun. I overdo with “Highlight the fresh crispness of the apples” and added extra pips on the wood board. Should have asked Art Director first. Lesson learnt 🙂

    I have a question regarding removal of specular highlights from apples. I know one solution would be to polarize light source and use polarizing filter on the camera. What is the best method to polarize the soft light source? Should I cover whole front of the softbox with polarizing gel, somehow cover only bulb in the softbox with gel or use barn doors with polarizing gel behind the scrim? The last one seems easiest and most budget friendly, but are there any obstacles/challenges when using scrim with polarized light?

    Thank you for all the knowledge you are sharing with us.
    Best regards,

    1. Hi Boguz, glad you enjoyed it. Well the first thing regarding specular highlights would have been to treat the apple so you didn’t have any. The next most sensible option would be to simply put a polariser on the camera lens. I’ve got a live show coming up showing how to polarise lights, why and when etc. If you check the live shows schedule you will see it listed. I look forward to answering any questions you have during the show!

  3. Thanks for the critique! I now know more to create better images and this was a great learning experience. After going back and looking at my submission right after Karl reviewed it, yes…way too bright on the front apple. The unedited RAW image actually may have been better. I also realised that I should have not done any extra tuning outside of Capture One. I am sure there were other issues Karl had with my image, but making it to the “bad lighting” folder is more than I expected so will work harder on the next brief challenge.

    1. Ha Ha good stuff, it’s a great learning curve and there are lots more challenges coming for you to try!

  4. First of all…..thank you the comments. Sorry things were frustrating……but you were making me laugh. You are not being rude..! Glad I was on point a lot except my half apple. When I looked at your brief multiple times…… i did photoshop my half apple. Why….well you said we can insert another stem and seeds. So is did that. But…your drawing didn’t show the funky center of the apple so….I photoshopped that out. And then your drawing didn’t show the indentation of the butt of the apple if you will. It was rounded. So, I had to photoshop that also. I really thought I was following your drawing. BUT….maybe I took it to far. Had you wanted the core actually showing… would have drawn it or the indentation of the button of the core….. That is why I did that. But I can see no one else thought like that. I agree my half apple is too bright… it! I am not complaining at all…. just explaining what I saw and why. So, the apple was photoshopped. 😀. This was fun…. I look forward to the next one… I do ultimately understand you have to follow instructions. Thank you again. This was educational and entertaining.

  5. nattsteer

    This was my first entry to you, I gritted my teeth a little bit but think I got off lightly! Thank you for the feedback – I am going to continue to work on the photo.

    I’ve learned so much from you and come such a long way in the last 18 month since I started taking photography seriously. I’m currently shielding away from home but was lucky to have an old cropped sensor camera I was lending my friend here and the use of a laptop. Looking forward to more of these challenges – thanks Karl.

  6. HI Karl
    I enjoyed your presentation, explanations and no-nonsense replies to questions posed.
    Looking forward to the next one.

  7. Hi Karl,

    I tell you this: I haven’t laughed so much in either one of you shows as this one. Loved the rant!!! Loved it. You do it in a way that is funny but you deliver the point.

    Top of the show: “What the hell….nuclear explosion?” LMAO!!!!!!!

    Other than that, a very nice experience which I hope can continue. I learnt a lot.



    1. Jorge, I laughed too. Omg.. it was funny. We all want to do well. This wasn’t brain surgery. I am serious about product photography. But, I want to have fun and learn and make money. But today’s world events, rioting and my aunt passed away today…,,I needed the laugh. Thank you!

      1. Indeed, it was incredibly funny. Not only learnt to look into things that I would probably miss but also, but I had a serious laugh more than once. Maybe Karl would like to incorporate “The rant of a week”. I am thinking of a show using light meters and staying as far away from the brief as possible. LOL!!!!!!!

  8. That was enjoyable, Karl and a good learning experience.

    I pondered at length about a “warm, relatively dark to neutral background” and chose one that did both, but was too busy.

    Please can we have more of these exercises, as this one got me seeking out props etc., and having to make decisions on how to execute the shapes and arrangements as closely as I could. All very helpful. Shame I did not have the art director on site to discuss my interpretation of the required background! I assume in a real brief, the photographer would have the chance to check this type of detail? Or is this not always the case? In which case shooting with alternative backgrounds would be my plan, I suppose.

    Thanks again.

    Many congratulations to the worthy winner.

    1. Hi Barry, definitely more of these to come and thanks for taking part. In a real brief the photographer would generally have an art director on site but there are many cases where a detailed brief is given and there is not.

      1. Thanks for your quick reply. It’s so helpful to have your ed. resource available as I make my way, tentatively, from retail to small-time commercial, photography.

        As an aside, in case it’s useful: I recall coming across your site and joining about 18 months ago when Googling product photography. Since then, I’ve noticed your ads in photo magazines and elsewhere, but I just hadn’t noticed (=ignored) them before that targeted Goggle search. It shows the power of Google results when looking for specific sources. Very pleased Google threw it my way. I’ve learned a lot, with lots more to come, hopefully …

      2. If you have an art director on site, presumably the shot, as you believe it should be, is all set out and lit in the way your think best before the art director arrives, and then he/she gives input, makes changes, otherwise the AD would have to be there for hours, and they probably don’t have that time. Would I be correct?

        1. Alan, in reality, unless we’re at Karl’s level, then I suspect the idea of an AD being involved is unlikely. This Brief exercise is more like my reality. A client has an idea, we discuss it, either in person or remotely, before a “brief” is agreed. But the brief will be open to a little interpretation as the idea is executed in the studio. Without an AD on site, problems might then occur – I’m thinking small businesses, not corporations, which is my reality. This brief idea, will be useful training as I interpreted the background incorrectly – I hope I got the rest correct or I’ll have been fired before I’ve properly got going 🙂

          1. I have no limits on my ambitions, Barry, but understand that it will take a lot of work to get to the point where there’s an art director in the room.

        2. Hi Alan, quite often the art director will be doing very little (usually other work on their laptop) for the first few hours while we prepare the shot and lighting, then when I think I’m getting close with the lighting or I have a question the art director will come over and take a look. A good art director will only offer advice when they know you are ready as they know your work and trust you are going to get it there. Then at thats stage the art director will look at what you have and may suggest some final minor tweaks are made to the lighting, or possibly minor adjustments to the composition (which if happen may require further adjustment to the lighting). Generally speaking though they are there to make sure the train stays on the tracks but they know it’s probably going to stay on the tracks anyway if they’ve worked with you before.

          1. I’d better speed up my process then, Karl; I’m spending days on a single practice shoot sometimes.

  9. hi karl..
    really enjoyed the live show even if a little scared at times.
    You quickly covered my shot and had it in the cut apple scale category ….which cant argue (only had a select amount of apples to choose from unfortunately due to being in isolation) you quickly mentioned the apples but nothing about the rest of the image, I appreciate you had a lot to get threw so thought id wait till I could post on here to ask the question.
    Could you give some insight to the rest of the image, mainly lighting as this is really new to me and would be good to know where im going wrong (or right 🙂 )

    really enjoyed the idea of working to a brief

    many thanks and look forward to the next one


    1. Hi Lee, glad you enjoyed it. The lighting wasn’t bad but overall it was too dark and sombre, we were after a more wholesome look like in Mood 1 image on the blog post.

      1. thanks for that karl…I think I may have the same issues as discussed by other member regarding monitor….mine always seem to come out darker when posted too. will have to look into getting it calibrated I think

        1. Hi Lee, if your monitor can be calibrated, you can purchase X-rite calibrators to help you. If your monitor doesn’t have a wide gamut like 98% of the Adobe RGB gamut then it will be harder to calibrate. Some monitors like Imacs are hard to calibrate because they were built with gaming and entertainment in mind and they are just too glossy and contrasty.

Leave a Comment