Expert Advice: Treatments

May 28, 2013
Expert Advice

I consult with photographers daily about developing estimates for projects big and small. Once we put the finishing touches on an estimate and are ready to submit it to a client, we often deliver it as a two-page PDF (the estimate on one page, and the terms/conditions on the other) attached to an email containing a delivery memo. In most cases, this is what is expected, but there are occasions when you will want to go the extra mile by including more detailed information in the form of a treatment.

I’ll often recommend this approach to a photographer when the project requires a substantial financial commitment from a client. It can also be a great tool to convey a higher sense of professionalism or supply additional information that may be difficult to elaborate on within the estimate. Treatments are sometimes lengthy, but they can also be a simple, sophisticated way of delivering additional information.

Regardless of how simple or elaborate you might want to make your treatment, I’d recommend that you include a few basic elements at a minimum:

Cover Page: This should include your logo, the date of submission and a title for the proposal including the client and agency’s name when practical.

Cover Letter: This could either elaborate on your enthusiasm for the project and appreciation for the opportunity to work with a particular client or it could be more detailed and also help to explain some of the finer points of your estimate. If you feel that you have a lot to elaborate on, you can create a separate page that details your approach to the scope of the project.

Sample Images: If you are at the point where you are submitting a proposal for a project, it’s likely that the client reached out to you because they felt you were appropriate for the given campaign/project. You should remind them why you’d be a good fit by showcasing a handful of your images that relate to the project and prove that you have the experience that they are looking for.

The Estimate: This should include all of the fees relating to the project. You can read our pricing and negotiating articles for an in-depth look at the thought process behind a proper estimate.

The Terms and Conditions: In addition to the fees, you should have a document dictating your desired terms for the project. This includes items such as cancellation policies, payment terms, and turnaround times.

Contact Information: Make sure to include your email address and phone number in the treatment as well as in your delivery email. You want to make it as easy as possible for a client to get in touch with you.

Consistent Branding: Your treatment should match the branding used on your website and in any other letterhead or marketing material that you create. Consistent use of your logo, color palette, and font across multiple platforms is key in establishing your brand.

I recently worked with Seattle-based photographer Nick Hall on an estimate, and he shared his treatment with me prior to sending it along to the client. While I’ve also seen his more lengthy treatments for larger projects, this one is a really great example of a simple proposal with strong branding:



Sometimes you may be required to share much more detailed information with a client, and in those cases, you may want to expand your template to include some (or all) of the following:

-Sample locations or studio options

-Portfolio images from your hair/makeup, wardrobe and/or prop stylists, as well as samples from a professional retoucher if required.

-Bios of your crew (such as your assistants, digital tech, producer, stylists etc.) and brief descriptions of their experience.

-A detailed overview of your creative approach for the project and your qualifications.

-A detailed overview of the production approach and a proposed schedule including dates for pre-production, shooting, post-production and image delivery.

-References and contact information from previous clients

LA-based photographer Caesar Lima contacted our team to help him put together a treatment that included many of these additional elements. In that case, the client actually laid out their required format for his proposal. They wanted to understand how Caesar would accomplish the project, and also required a lengthy list of information in order to be considered for the project. With the help of our designer, copywriter, and photo editor, we helped him put together the following treatment:

You’ll notice that Caesar’s treatment is in a vertical orientation, while Nick’s layout is horizontal. There’s, of course, no right or wrong way to go about it, but horizontal formats tend to be received well since they are more appropriate for on-screen display.

Whichever format you decide to go with, you should have a template on hand that is quickly and easily customizable so you can quickly put a treatment together for fast-moving projects. We’ve found that Keynote is a fantastic software for creating treatments, as is InDesign. However, if you lack the technical experience for those programs, you could even use Microsoft Word if needed. Whichever program you use, be sure to export and deliver PDFs as almost everyone has the ability to open and print a PDF on their computer.

If you need assistance with a treatment or an estimate, please feel free to contact us through our estimating page, or give us a ring at (610) 260-0200.