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Don’t Hold Back

My sixth-grade art teacher Ms Johnson said, “if someone copies your idea, that means you had a really good idea.”

The same goes for treatments.

Don’t hold back because the only way your idea won’t be used by others is if you never get the job.

There is a lot of apprehension from putting your secret ideas into your treatments because you may think the client may steal it and use it with someone else. That’s really not how it works. A client is going to hire a photographer based on their treatment and of other things. You might inspire them. But even if you share your idea and then they use that idea on another shoot with another photographer, what are we going to do? We can’t stop them. You have to give all of yourself to the treatment: every idea you have, the locations, the whole production, the schedule, and how you would make it all happen. If you don’t share all of your ideas you’re not really showing who you are and you probably won’t get the job.

Make the Treament Yours

Treatments are the opportunity to share a sampling of the Director you will be set in a very well designed, well written PDF. 

Reiterate what you heard on the Creative Call through a mood board of images and topics explaining your lighting, color and tone, location samples, talent, wardrobe styles, post work, etc. 

Make it yours, who you are as a director and how you envision this project with all the specific areas that create the look + feel you will be creating. 

Treatments are such a big topic. They are what will help you get the job or lose the job. The client wants to know that you understand from the mood board and their creative call what is their concern. What are some potential problems that you can solve. Listen to what the potential issues are on their side and what the challenges are and what you can bring to the table. Let them know you’re going to deliver a smooth shoot and get them what they need.

Treatments + Bids


Is it expected that I deliver a treatment when an ad agency requests a bid?


Yes, treatments are the norm now and I definitely recommend sending them in on every bid. Why not? Other than them taking a lot of time, they really sell the photographer and can help you get that job or future jobs with that client. Take it as one opportunity you should not pass up even when they don’t ask for a treatment. 

One tip: Work with a designer to get your treatment template looking like your A+ style!

Inside View: On Treatments

In an effort to demystify this topic, I asked a variety of Art Producers to get the inside scoop on treatments.

Question: What do you believe is the purpose of a treatment?

FCB Chicago Art Buyer: The purpose of a treatment from our perspective is to confirm the photographer has taken, digested, and totally understood the brief and creative call. It’s an opportunity to make the creatives feel totally comfortable and at ease with the photographer’s expertise. 

The photographer should also always feel empowered to bring their own flavor to the concept, too; we seek photographers out to be creative collaborators, so if a treatment is just going to directly mirror our concept/references and not add anything new then it’s not as strong as it could be if the photographer included some of his or her own ideas, as long as they’re in line with the concept and goal of the shoot/campaign. 

Art Producer Cameron Barnum: Treatments are a critical tool in today’s bidding process. That might sound hyperbolic but I’m finding that Art Directors & Clients are coming to expect a treatment for any sizable project. Directors have long provided as much. Photographers would be well advised to join ranks. 

Anonymous Art Producer: The treatment shows us how the photographer envisions the shoot happening, from style to locations to actual camera lensing. It gives us a look into what our project will become with that specific photographer. 

Art Production + Creative Consulting Mara Serdans: The purpose of a treatment is to give the creatives and client an idea of how the photographer plans to execute the concepts through his/her lens. I think the photographer should use this as an opportunity to share any solutions to challenges/questions that were posed on the creative call as well. The photographer should also do more than just regurgitate what was discussed on the creative call but show the team his/her unique perspective.

Question: What are some key components in putting together a successful treatment?

Art Producer Cameron Barnum: Photographers should embrace the treatment as an opportunity to show their craft & design sensibilities in the document itself. They should use it to further develop the ideas started by the initial creative briefing conversation. A treatment is also a great place to express their enthusiasm for taking on the job. 

Anonymous Art Producer: I think attention to detail and thoughtfulness of the project as a whole is essential. I’ve gotten treatments where a photographer just threw some photos together and sent them over. I can find those on their website myself! Some of the best treatments I’ve gotten have broken things down so beautifully with an intro to them as a person, look and feel (and they explained why their look and feel would translate well to out project), location inspiration, wardrobe and talent styling, technical info, and just an overall breakdown of how they work. Those types of treatments literally lay the shoot out for us with such a clear picture. 

Anonymous Art Producer: The PDF is well designed and showcases your ideas. Something that would stick out negatively is when it’s clear you didn’t understand the brief or have an idea that is totally off brand/message.

Question: What percentage of the treatment should be words, and what percentage images?

Anonymous Art Producer: I think about 60-70% images and 30-40% words. It’s nice to get a good overview of how you work and how you’d approach the job, particularly if we haven’t worked together and we only got to know you on a creative call. 

Art Production + Creative Consulting Mara Serdans: I don’t think I can quantify a specific ratio of images to words but it should clearly and concisely communicate the concepts. And the photographer should inject a bit of his/her personality into the treatment. Also, don’t forget to spell-check and make sure everything sounds grammatically correct. 

Art Producer Cameron Barnum: The content needs to match the scope of the project. A more complex project deserves a commensurate treatment. It’s hard to attach a ratio of words to pictures but given the visual art form, more of the latter would be expected. Components ought to touch upon the critical creative decisions. E.g location, casting, on-set workflow. Also, don’t be afraid to make it personal.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play

Our business can sometimes feel like a game of chess. And as they say, you can’t win if you don’t play. So be in it to win it!

Clients are needing something from us that normally in the past we didn’t have to do. Nowadays there’s a trend of giving more than what’s asked of us. If the client asks for something in the bid or the treatment or even on the creative call we go beyond, and even pay people to get the resources we need. It’s a game and you have to be in it to win it. You have to find the resources that you need and give them what they want and even more that what they think they want. Show up with more than they could even imagine.

Treatments That Get the Job


Can you recall a treatment that went above and beyond the prerequisites and landed the photographer the job?


I do remember a particular treatment ‘success story.’ My product photographer was up for a Google job, and he tested some comp images to show how he would bring the products to life. Perhaps that showed his enthusiasm or perhaps they saw the lighting they needed. They loved it and he got the job!

Create a Template For Your Treatments


Create a template for your treatments to help make it easier each time you are asked to create one. Your template would have sections like location, lighting, casting/talent, wardrobe, etc. I also suggest hiring a writer for each one and hiring a designer to create the template. 

The treatment can make or break it for you when bidding on a job. 

I personally think your portfolio should be enough to get you the job, but nowadays why not do everything you can to make that happen? Use this as a way to demonstrate your approach to this project and the type of professionalism, creativity, and enthusiasm you’ll be bringing to the job.

The Importance of Treatments


I would like to hear about the importance of treatments. What is a treatment? Do photographers create their own treatment? What needs to go into it and what should it look like?


A great treatment is one of the 3 keys to getting the photographer the job. 1. Is the portfolio of course 2. Is the creative call and 3. Is the treatment. 


A treatment is a pdf full of all the info to show the creative how the photographer will approach the job. It will include samples of images, locations, talent, wardrobe, etc. 


Yes, photographers create their own treatment and I have to say, it’s like getting their teeth pulled. They are not writers and normally their portfolio speaks for them So this takes a sales type of showing off that photographers are uncomfortable with in general.

It needs to look slick and put together because the creative will read this to know what the photographer is bringing to the “party,” how they work, how they see this job, and how well they can deliver a packaged expression of their work.