The Inside Scoop on Treatments – 10 Art Producers Share Their Insights

Treatments are not a new thing in the photography world.  They are however being asked for more frequently.  So much so, that in a recent conversation with some photographers at an industry event, a few chimed into a discussion sharing that they felt like they were being asked to do one no matter how big or small the project.  They felt like they were expected rather than requested.  And, because many reported that they rarely receive feedback on a treatment,  they were beginning to wonder if the treatments were being looked at closely or just checked off a list as something else to share with the client.

Anyone who has received a treatment or has submitted one knows how time consuming they are to create.  Our own photographers sometimes spend hours on them.  And,  often times, doing so while shooting or traveling on production.  Knowing this, it was troubling for me to learn that some photographers are starting to wonder if the treatments are appreciated and even being reviewed.

If treatments were being asked for more and more and being reviewed closely less and less, it made me wonder how could we make the creation of the treatment more efficient?  How could we make sure we were spending our time on the most important parts of the treatment?  And, how could we make sure what we were including was the most relevant information?

To help me find an answer, I reached out to some art producer friends to ask them this one, simple question.

What is the most valuable and relevant information for a photographer to include in a photography treatment?

I was struck by the swiftness of the answers I received, evident of how top of mind this is for art producers as well.  Here were some of the answers.

“The treatment should bring the total vision of how to bring the concept to a picture from the photographers standpoint.”  Amy Salzman, Saatchi & Saatchi. Senior Art Producer

“When the creative [concept] speaks to the photographer it shows in the treatment.  Ideally the photographer is brought to the table because they will bring out the best in the creative.  I don’t think visuals  make or break  a treatment if the portfolio is referenced,  but a thoughtful explanation as to how the photographer plans to approach the job is key.   LIGHT and how one plans to use it is always important in my opinion. Any tonal cues or hints are usually the added spices that bring out a treatment, and any references to any iconic visuals helps.  They don’t need to be famous visuals,  but just arresting enough to have made an impression that you can use them as an example and its easily understood.   Communicating through the portfolio [which is why they were chosen]  and the translation of what they can bring to the creative makes  the most successful treatment.” Anya Mills, Senior Art Producer, The Martin Agency

“The big question is: Why should the agency/client choose your photographer over someone else?  It’s important that the treatment communicates and describes with words and relevant photo examples, his/her vision and approach to the shoot; this document will be compared to other treatments received and shared with many people all weighing in.   It doesn’t have to be pages and pages long. A paragraph or two of the approach, a few relevant image samples and why the agency should choose him/her.”  Julie Rosenoff, Manager of Art Buying,  Havas Worldwide

“I like to really see their take on the comp. What are their views and what extra can they bring to the creative?  Basically how will the photographer own the work?” Carly Jane Chappell, Freelance Content Producer

“I think a good treatment is a HUGE asset.  Hearing a photographer’s creative view point on project approach is what I love most.  I also like to see some examples of work they’ve done that shows they can execute what they are speaking to (if they have something relevant).  A one page write up with a couple of sample photos is great.  It shows they have gone the extra mile and have taken the time to think things through and that they want the job.” Unattributed

“What the art director is really looking for is someone to explain to them their own vision.  Directors speak to music, and cuts and action which makes writing a treatment for them MUCH simpler in terms of real content.  Photographers need to explain how they see the image(s) in terms of how they would structure the photograph.  If its table top product I would tell the AD no treatment is coming.  However if there are people involved, where they are sets/locations, the overall tone/color of the moment, how people are interacting with each other or with the camera (facing camera, not looking at camera etc…  Basically the AD wants the photographer’s perspective and that will decide who gets the job when we present these treatments to the client, we all hope one of the viewpoints is what they were expecting.  Its no big secret, just makes the process way easier for the AD who might not have their own idea but it is time consuming for the photographer.  I think one or 2 paragraphs is appropriate unless its a huge
shoot with lots of images.  Then it can get pretty detailed.”  Jamie Applebaum, McGarry Bowen

“I am mostly wondering what is his/her vision for the project?  How are they approaching the location and the light? And, what are the ins and outs of how the shoot will work? It is also always a good idea to use the treatment as a place to show that you understood what was said on the creative call.  I always request them when the project is large, but if it is small, I don’t often need the treatment to help sell the photographer’s vision.”  Unattributed

“My experience is that they’d like to see a combination of the photographers POV and how he would accomplish that.”  Kellie Bingman, McKinney, VP Art Production Supervisor

“I have never asked a photographer for a treatment.  I still don’t understand the concept behind it.  Maybe I am being old-school about this but the director is the one who comes up with the treatment and the photographer adds flavor.”  Carolyn Dowd, Hill Holiday, Associate Director of Art Production

Thank you art producer friends!!!



13 thoughts on “The Inside Scoop on Treatments – 10 Art Producers Share Their Insights

  1. Hi Heather,

    Thanks for the rare insights to what photographer’s might expect when moved into a moving forward position of getting the account with an agency. I suppose many don’t hear of these type of requests on smaller assignments from AD’s and get bewildered on what to do when asked for a treatment.


  2. Thanks for these revealing insights. They go a long way into helping photographers understand the needs of Buyers and Art Directors. Another great post Heather!

  3. Thanks Heather! I’ve been curious for a while now on creatives thoughts regarding the treatment. This is certainly a request we see more and more of. Personally I enjoy putting together the treatment. For someone who is always putting ideas to paper anyway, there is something satisfying being able to articulate my vision and approach in a presentation.

  4. Very interesting. Most of the creative calls I’ve participated don’t discuss treatment. Most Photographers talk about finding that niche for your subjects and treatment, but most end up looking like each others work. Once you find it the correct POV and treatment then you found what can set you apart.

    Enjoying these posts. Thanks.

  5. Hi heather, This is a great post. I love treatments. They help me better understand my process as a photographer. It’s interesting to hear some photographers question the time it takes to create them.

    Often for test shoots I will put together a treatment for the crew or talent agency and everyone has expressed how helpful it was. I would imagine an agency appreciates it as well.

    It would be very interesting to see examples of treatments you think were well done.

    All the best,

  6. Thanks for this post Heather. It’s definitely one of the better ones I have seen while researching the topic. Like Matthew, I would LOVE to see some examples of treatments that were well done.

  7. Pingback: WEEK FOUR: THE IMPORTANCE OF "TREATMENTS" - Don Giannatti: Creative Mentor

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