Congrats! You have been asked to bid on a shoot that is right up your alley! You get to work, trying to account for all the details of the shoot to provide an accurate, competitive estimate. Many photographers may stop there, but the truth is that the estimate is only one part of the client’s decision process. Remember — you have been selected because your style of photography is appropriate for the job. So how do you reinforce this to give you the edge over other photographers bidding on the same gig? This is where developing a treatment comes into play.
An estimate reveals how a photographer will approach a shoot from a production standpoint. A treatment, conversely, is a more personal, in-depth explanation of the photographer’s creative approach. Think of it as a tool to relay to the client that you understand their vision and that you are the best person to bring that vision to life.
In my experience, a successful treatment is composed of two parts — one part creatively descriptive and one part technically descriptive. By using pictures and words, a photographer can convey the mood, attitude, feeling and energy that they will aim to achieve with their imagery. They can also detail the technical tools they will employ, such as lighting, perspective, crop and hues which will assist them in achieving that imagery.
There is nothing more reassuring to a creative and client than seeing a photographer who “gets it.” It’s critical that whoever they hire for the shoot understands their vision and goals. Moreover, they are looking for someone who can bring their own visual “spice” to the project. More often than not, a project has been in the works for some time before hitting your desk. You now have the opportunity to get everyone on the project recharged with your enthusiasm and insight. A treatment can do just that.
While building your treatment, you need to show images from your portfolio that demonstrate how your work is the right fit and that you are, indeed, a capable and creative business partner. You can also take it a step further and create a “mood board” — a selection of random images used to illustrate your creative and technical vision. Describe briefly the way you will approach the project. Keep it short and sweet, so it is a quick overview of your thoughts. Trust me, concise brevity is greatly appreciated (and often rewarded).
Above all, have fun with the treatment! If you enjoy the process, it will show. So next time you’re asked to bid on an exciting project, go the extra mile and give yourself an edge by presenting an awesome treatment.
Lynn Kyle brings a unique combination of agency and production experience to her role as creative consultant for Agency Access. She's become intimately familiar with the business end of commercial photography and illustration over the last two decades, working with high profile artists including Nadav Kander and Irving Penn as an art buyer, producer, and artists rep at top firms including Leo Burnett Chicago.
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