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The Perfect Brief – Concentrate on the 'Where'

We are sent a wide variety of shoot briefs from one liners to pages and pages of information we really don't need. Hiding somewhere in between is the ideal brief.

At its simplest, the information we need is summed up by the old reporters' adage of who, what, where, when and why. We need one other vital piece of information: the story the pictures need to illustrate. As I endlessly say, the pictures should tell the story and they can only do that if we know what the story is. Often we are asked to 'take some headshots of … for a press release we are sending out.' And that's it. No explanation of what the release is about. We don't need pages of detail and on most occasions the headline will give us enough information.

On the subject of 'headshots', they are necessary but should be considered the bare minimum. Now we know the subject of the release, and in addition to the headshots, we can try and take pictures that tell the story or at least give a flavour of it. To enable us to do that, we need a suitable location and props so it's the 'where' that is probably most important to us as photographers.

For example, let's say the release is about the appointment of a new CEO for a tyre manufacturer. Ideally we want to shoot him (or her) in the factory, surrounded by tyres, looking through tyres, the camera framing him through tyres on the production line with him looking off camera. In this scenario we would have many opportunities to produce a strong newsworthy image that will get published on the business pages.

The location works for a few reasons. We as photographers get to go into an environment we don't see every day and because it's different, it sparks off our imagination. The final picture also is more likely to get used for the same reason. It gives the reader an insight into a world they wouldn't often get to see. And because you are able to supply the picture editor with something different, the picture is likely to get published far larger than a headshot would ever be.

However, the location we often get is an office or boardroom nowhere near the factory and so all these great ideas are unachievable. Whatever the environment we are presented with, we will of course do our best to get great shots and will aim to get some feature type photos as well as the briefed headshots. But think carefully about the 'where'.

Coming up with great picture ideas is where we excel, so as soon as you know what the 'news' is, contact us and we will be very happy to guide you in the right direction.