Working to a Brief

In this class, who has over 25 years of experience running his own successful photography business, shares his advice to help guide you on your path to success.

This class focuses on working to a commercial brief. Karl looks at some of the briefs and mood boards that he has received from clients and explains the concept behind each. He discusses the role of the photographer and why problem solving is an important skill to have. In addition, he also details why understanding the purpose and final display format is crucial to realising your client’s vision.

Check out our Working to a Brief Assignments.

In this class:

  • Commercial briefs and mood boards
  • Why understanding a brief is important
  • How projects can evolve and change
  • Understanding your client’s vision
  • Why creating the right mood in an image is important

You might also find our blog post ‘Identifying & overcoming the challenges of a high-end product shoot‘ interesting.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


Commercial photography brief example

An example of a commercial brief received from a client and the final image.


  1. Gary Stasiuk

    Just a point of clarification. You are working with the client directly.. such as in the case of the rouge style room.. and you mentioned searching for the images. Are you implying that in a meeting, you actually did some mood board creation WITH the client, literally working together to hammer out the concept, or was it accomplished through multiple sessions where there was discussion, break away and find research, then reassemble to assess and agree on focus? I certainly can see positives to both of those work flows, but from some personal experience while at a web agency, we never did brainstorming directly with the client.. ever, but then my role was as a web developer and creative and team member.. the development team never dealt directly with clients.

    1. Hi Gary, absolutely if we’re dealing with the client directly then helping them with the brief is useful, including guiding them with mood boards and working together to figure out exactly what they want. This is usually done over a couple of sessions so that they have time to be sure that’s the direction they want to take. For the most part the brief is there so everyone knows what is expected of them and no one can turn around later and say that that’s not what they asked for. It protects both parties os it’s important both parties work together to nail it down.

  2. Hi Karl

    I would imagine that with large corporate clients and their art directors, they have onboard graphic designers who will take your finished images and add the strap lines and other ad information.

    But what do you advise in the case of small / medium local businesses who don’t have much knowledge
    of the process after the photography has been created. Do you ever add the content for them or perhaps
    suggest a local freelance graphics designer who will probably work for a much lower rate than the big agencies would charge.

    I am raising this because I see my target market as being Product Photography for small local businesses
    and to build the skill and experience to maybe one day tackle larger commissions with confidence.

    best wishes
    Allan Paul

    1. Hi Allan, for these sort of small clients I would sit down with them and show them examples and find out there needs. It’s much better to get all this worked out in the planning stage and make a brief for them that they sign off as it’s important to have some sort of agreement of what is going to be done or expected so that people don’t change there minds later.

      1. Thanks Karl and I agree that I should sit down with small clients and outline exactly what my role is and what I provide by showing examples but at the same time understand their needs and give them any advice or guidance on what extra services ( If any ) might be required to complete the brief and meet the clients expectations.

        I can only express my thanks for what is without doubt the best photography education course available that provides everything you would need to advance your knowledge and skills to a professional level.

        For the last 10 years I have been doing architectural and interior photography for the real estate markets
        and because of your course I now look forward to branching out into Product photography at a local level.

  3. Hi Karl, are you doing treatments/photographer’s interpretations when bidding a job? in case the agency selects more photographers and wants to see their view on their brief. (tv commercial directors do treatments / director’s interpretation)

    1. Hi RomanV, yes presenting a treatment is simply explaining in detail and maybe with example images how you’re going to process the job and the look and feel of the style you’re going to apply and a big written essay talking about it. The art directors I’ve worked with for many years aren’t too worried about it but some agencies like to present this to the client in such a way.

      1. Thank you for the answer. i thoght so, that sometimes you have to do treatments as a photographer well. could you show some of the treatments you do for photography pitching? (for my work as a TVC director, the treatments are always huge, 30+ pages, with tons of moods and video links – so i was hoping the photography treatments will be a bit simpler… just wanted to have a look, which photo treatments are standard today πŸ™‚

        1. Hi Roman, I’m afraid most of the treatments or pitches are confidential as they can include client information, budgets etc but Barry Makariou is working on a series of new courses with us that will be out later this year and he has some that he is willing to share that show the whole process from the first phone call to the final retouch including the pitch, treatment, changes and final campaigns. We are producing these to give our members the very best info on what it’s like to work on a high profile brief. As I mentioned in my last email once you’ve built a relationship with people you work with regularly then it isn’t always a requirement, I will have one that I’m working on that I should be able to share at some point in the future as the client isn’t worried about the confidentiality aspects.

  4. 12:44 – 12:53 had me laughing.

    Notwithstanding that, thank you for the practical details when working with a corporate client.

  5. Hi Karl! At 17:13 you talked about making a list of local business/ commerce and trade organizations for the purpose of knowing possible new clients with great procedures and technologies. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach and connect with them, supposing you were a new photographer so they can take you into account? Thank you very much in advance for your help and the great content! πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Karl, on a commercial fashion assignment who has to arrange the model, make-up artist, stylist, etc. The client or the photographer?

    1. Hi, It’s usually the client / art director that decides as they know the target audience and what sort of look they are going to respond to. Often a lot of market research has gone into this stage and mood boards and briefs have been prepared. However there have been many projects that I’ve worked on for fashion or fashion accessories where I’ve been involved in with the art director at the early stage when we’re considering a short list of models. With the hair and make up the client is often happy to take my word for it based on previous experience or they may have worked with someone before that they know.

  7. Hello Karl,
    Would like to know if its possible to download the episodes, cause are times I do not have access to the internet…??

    1. Hi Richard, no i’m afraid not our service is streaming only with mobile/cellular or home/wifi/broadband.

  8. Hi karl, in the golf photoshoot, did you just give 1 image to the client? or you have several different images and angle for they to choose?

    1. Hi Ade, on a shoot like that with a model then the client will choose one shot from several shortlisted ones and then that is the shot that will be retouched. In product photography we are only aiming for one shot as the set up and positioning is so much more precise and slow to work.

  9. Fantastic, work. love it.

  10. Just going through this now is making me feel so much better about the amount of ‘overshooting’ I have to do and tend to provide an over-supply of choices for my clients. That bit of extra confirmation just validated signing up for the program alone.

    I’m thinking I should produce a ‘client’s brief template’ to supply to my clients to help them. This would be a real value-add. Do you have such a thing?

    1. Hi Marc, no I don’t have a client brief template as most of my clients are experienced in producing briefs but that is a good idea to give to clients who are not used to giving proper briefs or mood boards.

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