The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

 

Lesson Info

Creating a Treatment

So, we are gonna dive into creating a treatment. And this is something that we've mentioned and touched on a little bit, but as Marion mentioned, a client would come to her about a potential job and there's lots of conversations that take place. But then, maybe there's a creative call also that happens at a certain point. And then I think at that point, you know, they're gonna say, "OK, we wanna see, we need to see an estimate. "What's it gonna cost? And a treatment." And maybe they don't always ask for the treatment, but in general, it's something that's a great thing to create because it just helps you further your voice. We offer it if they don't ask for it, often. And so, what is a treatment? To me, my perception is it's more of a film thing and it's becoming more standard in stills. As the worlds have merged, it's become the expectation on both. We have a designer create a template for us to work with for our treatment. There's no rules as to what a treatment needs to look...

like. Your treatment should reflect your style and your brand, that's something that we discussed in the Branding section. So it's important that the elements of your treatment, you know, you're intentional about whatever it is that you decide to show. There's also no right or wrong sections or sections you have to have. Again, this is just what's important to you, what is specific or important to the particular project that you're working on, and what are some of the points that you want to kind of drive home. And explain to the client what your process is. This is the cover of ours, it's just a simple-- It's like a book cover. It explains what the project is, who it's created for, and who it's created by. Do you feel like, maybe this is a better question to ask once you're done, but do you feel like the way you've approached treatments has changed in the last ... Yeah, I think that when we first started doing a treatment, I didn't fully understand what the, maybe, point of it was or the benefit of it was, and also it takes a lot of time, so I was kind of like, "Why do I have to start doing this? "I've never done it before," I think that was a little bit of my attitude, so it was more just like, "Let's just get some pictures in front," kind of thing, but now I'm realizing what a cool opportunity it is, not only because it helps me communicate more clearly to the client who I am and what they can expect from me, even just details about how organized the treatment is, how well it's put together. That gives them a feeling of whether or not you're someone who cares about the details and things like that. But the other cool thing for me is, and this is another reason why you want to put thought and time into it, is because it helps you think through what your process is, it helps you kind of identify not just rush through, but like, "No, this is how I want this element to go, "and this is how I wanna-- "What I want my wardrobe to look like." Then you can also, if you get the job, use that treatment to communicate to your crew and to your wardrobe stylist, like, "This is what I was envisioning for wardrobe, "this is what the client signed off on." So now they have a really clear visual of what they can be working from. So you just-- It's a better way to communicate, especially when you're talking about visuals. It's a visual way to communicate. So then we'll have the cover and we have a, you know, just a hello/intro section. It's just kind of expressing excitement, it's letting them know that you understand what's been told to you about the project. And then just kind of hitting on some of the points that, like I said, are important to this project. It's a little bit of a table of contents, too, where you say, "In the following pages, you will see ... " And some typical elements of a treatment are applicable imagery to this project, and, you know, maybe a slide for lighting, or a slide for grooming, or a slide for styling. So you'll see, you know, "In the deck below, "I've outlined who my crew members are, "and applicable imagery," Et cetera. One of the things that I often add to people's statements that they don't do on their own is they don't brag enough about themselves. And so, I often, you know, it'll be a job that's ... let's say, you've done a million like that and I will sometimes say, "You've got to mention "I've worked for these major brands "that are applicable or will give people confidence." So sometimes we add in some things that they might not-- "Oh, do you think that's important?" Yes! One thing I will say, for our process, typically, Marion or Marion and I will have a call with a client. She'll give me some feedback maybe that she had from a call that I wasn't on, "These are the images that they're really drawn to. "These are the images that they-- "This image is the reason they're talking to us "in the first place." Once we understand the project, Marion will say, "I think you should "put these images in your treatment." And then I am also pulling images that I have that I think will be applicable, and then Michelle is designing it and putting it all together. And so, for the writing, I have to write it, and it usually sounds terrible and Michelle will make an edit and make it sound really nice, and then Marion will get it for the third pass and she'll add in stuff that she thinks, again, will be good or that I'm missing, and things like that, so-- One other thing that I think you both do really well, is on that creative call, and maybe you already mentioned this, but you're listening to the client and sometimes they repeat several words over and over and over like, what they're wanting to get out of this campaign. And this is the perfect place to repeat those words back to them. Because not only does it let them know that you hear them, but you're now building out your vision for them that's going to create that word that they really want. So that can be a really powerful part of this treatment. So this is the ... Intro, and then the first ... The first slide. Again, I think this was something where we were working with a repeat client, so we were wanting to show work that we had already done with this client to let them know that we have brand familiarity and that there's some trust, you know. Maybe not with this particular team, but with another from that. So we're building up, we want to show that-- That relationship there. Also, one of the things-- This is just an addition-- But one of the things that, I'm not sure even John and Michelle know about themselves, is that their level of design is really good and high, and when you think about your audience, which are all our directors and creative directors in general, they're designers. So if they see something that doesn't look well-designed and consistent, if images are cropped weird, that is sloppy to them, that's, you know, that's like you seeing an image out of focus or something. It is a signifier that you don't "get" sort of tight design. They had a designer do theirs, but I would say, even if you're not at the stage where you're going to get a designer to do yours, just keeping it really simple and clean, keeping your borders consistent, and just making sure everything looks really dialed-in is important. What would have to say about, like, text? The amount of text that you want to have in a treatment. There's no rule to these things. I mean, I would just say keep it brief, 'cause people are ... I would be as concise and as brief as you can be. but every treatment that we do is totally different. I mean, sometimes treatments are an opportunity to show something that you don't have in your body of work. So we've had artists test on treatments. Test a lighting approach, or they might not have ... Like, take pictures specifically for their treatment? Yeah, like let's say John didn't have enough women in his body of work, and he had mostly men. He might do a photo shoot over the weekend with you and however many other beautiful women he knew and add that into the treatment to show that he could do both. I've had one artist do it for toys. There was this scale issue, and they said, "Well, how would you handle that?" And she, it was so great, on the call she was like, "You know what? I'm gonna play around with it "and give you some different options in the treatment." And she did and she got the job because of that. They told us later they were so happy that she was really trying to solve that problem and that she was able to show them and visualize that she was taking it seriously and could solve it. I think you probably don't want to be overly worried, though, right? I mean, we've seen some treatments from people that are like two pages of written text, and it's like, no one wants to read ... Yeah, no. I mean, I think this example is really a nice image-to-word ratio. When I used to work in magazines, we called it "nugget-torial," so I think they should be kind of nugget-sized things. Your statement might be a little longer. Your statement might be a little longer, but each slide-- it should be easy and fast for them to read. So the next slide we have our lighting approach, and again, we're just visually communicating what we see for this particular project, how we want the lighting to look. And so we explain it a little bit, and then we also show clear imagery that gets at the idea. And here in the next section, this is sets. So this particular job required some set-building. And so ... we showed images that illustrated kind of this idea of creating an environment with just a very simple set piece. And this from my last Creative Live course, the portrait course that we did, this is exactly the kind of thing that we were doing. We were building up sets that gave it a sense or a feeling of environment, but really it was in the studio with just a few pieces. Then for this particular job, atmosphere was important. So it's not just the lighting and the set, but it's also, maybe that means literally fog or smoke, or maybe it's more of a lighting kind of thing, but whereas the first lighting grid kind of talked about lighting on the subject, there's also how you're treating the atmosphere. That may not be applicable for every shoot that you're doing but for this particular one, it was something that was very specific to the concept and the creator. And then here, we were working with a set designer, Todd Davis, who's actually with Redeye, and so we wanted to show some of his work and how his work directly relates to this project, why he's the best set designer to work with us on this project. And part of what John's bringing to the table is his crew, is his team, you know? I have a certain level of professionals that I collaborate with, and by working with me you get all of this talent, and we do this a lot, and we can do this for you. And then the next one is expression and emotion. And for me, being a portrait or people photographer, or at least the type of work that I like to do, that's something that's always important on some level. But again, you take cues of what the goal is. Maybe they're looking for expression and emotion and they gotta be really happy. Maybe they're looking for expression and emotion but it's really sad. And Marion talked about that earlier, someone might say, "We love John's portraits, "but can he photograph people who are sad? "We see a lot of happy people," or vice-versa. So this is an opportunity for you to be able to show not just expression and emotion in a general sense, but specifically what it is that they're most interested in, because we know now that there's a big difference and clients will be very literal about what it is they're looking for. And then, finally, we just wrap it up. We say, "Thank you so much." It's just kind of a nice, clean container to hold it all together. And we send this off, typically, as a .PDF, I think that's probably the best format to do it. I suppose you could do ... I don't think you would want to do .JPEG, I think a .PDF's probably the best way to send something like this. But it's digital, we're not printing it out or anything like that. And it's something that we then send, or we don't, but Marion will send in with the estimate. Generally, I'll send a really nice cover letter that will say, you know, "Please find attached estimate and treatment. "This is what I've included, this is why. "John and Michelle worked really hard on their treatment, "but if you want us to make any changes "before you share it with your client, just let us know." Because, again, they're representing their client, so if they want us to work on the job, then they're gonna say, "Hey, I just got three other bids and "if you could bring your day rate down "$1,000 to match the others, "then I think we've got a fighting chance at this." Or, "Just make sure to take this one picture out "of this celebrity because that's somebody "that our competitor works with." You know, things that we might not know and that gives us a quick edge. Do you always get that feedback? No, only generally if they really want to work with the artist. It's a good sign when they ask us to make changes before sharing it with the client I think, because it means they want us to be in our best light. The worst sign is no response. We work really hard on these bid packages. We spend, you know, probably about a week all said and done between treatment and estimates. We're gathering estimates from producers and set designers and all of those people, so it's a pretty big process to put together. And getting no response is hard, 'cause it just means it's one in a pile of presentations. But it's part of it.

Whether just starting out in the commercial photography industry, or ready for a new chapter in your career, John Keatley shows you how to survive in a competitive field. Known for being innovative, creative and thinking outside the box when it comes to his photography, John applies those same skills into running his business. In this in-depth course, John shares some of the key elements that allow you to be an artist and a business owner. You’ll learn:

  • How to find your style and attract the clients you want
  • How to create a bid
  • The importance of drafting a treatment
  • Estimates and billing for your work
  • Planning and scheduling your production
  • Tips on memorable branding
  • The difference between an Art Director/Agent/Art Buyer
  • Techniques for editing your portfolio

If you’re at the start of your career or ready to expand your client list, this course will be the game changer you need to create a solid foundation for a thriving business.

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • John & Creative Live - Thank you - Best. Class. Ever.! This is a GREAT class! If you are a photographer, this is definitely a MUST GET class, but even if you work with photographers as part of a creative team - you have to take this class. (I'm a Photo Stylist) John covers it ALL in this class - it really, truly is a Survival (Success) Guide. John is so detailed, honest, and generous in his knowledge/experience/wisdom in the commercial photography industry in helping you understand the business and really succeed (& stand out). When I see that John is teaching a class on Creative Live - I'm in! (I have his other valuable courses as well)
  • I was lucky to be part of the studio audience for this course. John is an awesome teacher and did an outstanding job of making sense of a very difficult side of photography for a creative to understand. He shared his 18+ years of experience, including the good and bad he has gone through. The "special guests" alone are worth the cost of this class. John has an amazing team working beside him behind the scenes. Their perspective on his business was priceless!
  • Thanks to John for being so open his experience in the commercial photography industry and giving us so many real world examples. I especially appreciated the contributions by the non-photographers in the second day of the course - Nichelle and Maren. Nichelle gave a good perspective on the finance and business communications side. Maren is John's agent and offered her insight on how agencies worked. I've heard photographers discuss working with agents before, but it was helpful to hear an agent answer questions directly about her experience.