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Perfect Commissioning 2 workshop 25 February 2019 – notes from the session.


The AOI and the AOP held the second in the perfect commissioning series on 25 Feb 2019.

Perfect Commissioning 1 looked at what makes a perfect commission in broad brushstrokes. You can read notes from that session HERE.

This session drilled down to develop a commissioning checklist for photographers, illustrators and agents. You can access the checklist for photographers in the Member Dashboard, HERE.

The session did not look at contracts and usage (stand by for the next in the series for that!) These notes are a summary of some of the points that were discussed.


Host and chaired by the AOP’s Seamus McGibbon, the speakers were;

Tess Redburn, Senior Agent, CIA Agency
Sarah Thomson, Head of Art production at Ogilvy
Montana Forbes, Illustrator and AOI board member, rep’d by Illustration Ltd
Nicky Hamilton, Photographer and AOP Award winner
Germaine Walker, Germaine Walker Agency,
Nick Dunmur, AOP Business and Legal Adviser
Georgia Luckman, AOI Membership Assistant

In broad terms, how do you approach a brief from a client?

Germaine: You need to go through things with a fine-tooth comb – there is a huge amount of detail in a brief. There can be people in agencies who don’t know what they are doing - if you make a mistake, even because of their shortcomings, they will hang you out to dry. It is important that you are confident with what you are doing.

Nicky: Where does the brief come from – an Art director or somewhere else? This can affect what is wanted and how to respond.

Sarah: There is the overall umbrella – but underneath there is the creative and the production brief. And those are really detailed. Use a job-details form (similar to the checklist) which the producers can then use to get the right information to quote from.

Montana: Want to understand how much creative freedom is allowed- get that up front. Often the written brief is one thing but when you discuss it, it goes off the paper and it shapes up.

Sarah agrees: having a conversation is vital to move things forward.

Tess: The most important thing is schedules. The logistics - is the artist available? For how long? Illustrators are often juggling projects, so firstly, you need to know if the dates work.

Germaine: Often signing a NDA [non-disclosure agreement] is the first step. That’s fine, so long as it is a NDA and does not have sneaky copyright assignments in it. This often happens in photography and illustration. A NDA should be just that – an agreement not to disclose information and nothing else. It should be short.

The AOI and the AOP have template NDAs which illustrators and photographers can use.

Treatments and Roughs are often the first step for either a photographer or an illustrator. But what is involved and expected?


Tess: You always need to establish what a rough is – a pencil sketch or something more? Some clients expect to have some back and forth to develop it – but that needs to be clarified. Illustrators are usually paid for any roughs – not vast sums – but CIA agency would not do roughs without payment. This is industry standard. It needs to stack up for the artist – why spend time working for free when they could be doing paid work?

Montana: Feedback is lacking in illustration – you rarely get feedback on a pitch or roughs. It would be so helpful to get feedback from the agency – even vague feedback on why you didn’t get the job would be helpful.


Sarah: Clients are very closely associated with how their money is spent now. Clients do/may not know the photographer at all so a treatment is part of the pitch.

Nicky: A treatment is like insurance – dot the ‘i’s, cross the ‘t’s to show you know exactly what is happening.

Germaine: If you are asked to do a treatment there’s still no guarantee that the job is yours, and that’s not always clear – plus it can take a significant amount of time to put together. The time it takes should be paid for.

Sarah: It comes from TV doing treatments for free. Agencies don’t get paid to pitch, so it’s just that flowing down. But agencies are salaried – there is an imbalance if the creatives are not getting paid.

Sarah: What goes into a treatment? You need to follow the brief – elaborate all the elements and how you will stamp your personality onto it. Generally best to use your own work to illustrate it. The client scrutinises it and takes it very seriously, for example, with Dove they shoot real people - and want to see an understanding of how the photographer would be sensitive to real people. Treatments are nearly always landscape format as that translates well into the client presentation. Some people will shoot speculatively – but that is not something explicitly asked for. Even if you are not successful, a good treatment reflects well on you, and there are always other opportunities.

ACTION: AOP to look at how illustrators roughs are recompensed and consider how photographer-treatments can be paid.

ACTION: AOI to encourage feedback from commissioners.

The Checklist

You can access the commissioning checklist HERE. Some points that were discussed include;

Assertiveness - It’s important to be assertive and confident in your negotiations. Clarify things up front to avoid problems later.

Address things early – e.g., if doing 6 rounds of roughs mention it at 3! If represented - should copy in agent rather than email directly. A phone conversation can be quicker than a hundred emails. And then bullet-point the discussion in an email to summarise and to get it in writing.

Consider file size and file type.

Illustration - It’s often assumed that you can deliver a vector - but that is not the case for many illustrators. Don’t assume that people in design agencies know the terminology! They may not know the limitations of what you are doing – be clear up front. The size of file is important. Even if the commissioned work is for something very small, if they have an all media licence, it’s worth clarifying if they want different sizes (e.g., a poster version of a postage stamp).

If a multi-format files are needed this needs to be priced.

Amends - Establish how many rounds of amends are to be expected and then cost appropriately. CIA have 2-3 rounds of feedback – if that does not feel realistic you need to feed that in to the cost. As additional time, either charge per round of amends, or on a day-rate. Also helpful to limit to a timescale on those amends - or someone might go quiet for 6 months before hearing back. Or say if not heard back for 1 week then consider it done.

Social media

Is social media interaction expected or required? We are seeing more requests for illustrators to post on their own feeds - if the client wants control over that then you can charge a (small-ish) fee.

Risk Assessments

For photographers there is confusion what is required from a risk assessment and it can vary a lot.

(Discussion ends but read on for points contained in the checklist…)

Commissioning Checklist - main points


This checklist has been developed by the AOI and the AOP in partnership with commissioners, agents, illustrators and photographers.

This checklist provides some guidance in the form of points to consider when starting to negotiate a commission/contract. This is not an exhaustive list nor is it to be followed to the point of excluding any other aspects that may arise on a job-by-job basis.

These points to consider are in addition to any licence which might be negotiated (and which should specify usage in the form of territory, time period, and media). It is important to be professional – be relaxed, assertive and ask for information if you do not have all that you need. Trust what you know (and don’t expect others to have the same knowledge) and feel confident to question what you don’t.

The clearer things are, the less that can go wrong.

If issues arise once the commission is underway, address them quickly. Commissioners can forget the terms of an agreement and simply reminding them may be enough to resolve the situation.


Timelines: What is wanted when, and how long do you imagine it will take?

Bidding process: How many people are bidding? Is there a cost-controller?

Budget: What is the budget? If the client does not know you could consider offering options.

Brief: Is there a brief? Who is the audience? What does the client want to achieve?

NDA: Does it need signing? If it includes more than an agreement not to disclose, it should be challenged. This is not the place to negotiate copyright, etc.

Project management: Is there a Creative/Art Director overseeing the project or a creative team? Is this in-house or sub-contracted? What is the ‘chain of command’? Who is your client and who are you responsible to?

Insurance requirements: For photographers it will be (PI, employers and shoot insurance), for illustrators Professional Indemnity is recommended. If an agency says you can be covered by their insurance - read the documents and check that you would be covered if at fault.

Risk assessment: What is expected?


Treatment: Is one needed? Is there a budget for the provision of one? (this would usually be photographers only)

Deliverables: Final supply file type and size? What is needed? Have they requested unlocked files, and if so should this influence the fee? If the artist works non-digitally can the client scan the artwork?

Trim size: If it is for a book what is the trim size?

Reworks/Retouch amends: What is the re-work allowance for the roughs / artwork? 2-3 rounds of amends is common, with further rounds either being charged at a set fee or hourly rate.

Style Guide: Will they share references, colour palette etc? Is there an art-spec? mood board? scamps?

Roughs / Scamps / Visuals: How detailed are the roughs – black and white? Line and flat colour or patterned?

Retouching: Is the final grading or retouching in house? What is the retouch schedule? (photographers only)

Animation: Does it need to move? Is the illustrator expected to do that, or will it be inhouse.

Self-promotion & social media use

Social media: Is the creator expected to post on their own social media? This has a financial benefit to the client if so, and should be paid for.

Self-promotion: Is the creator able to show the finished work once published? Can they reveal that they created it? Can it be included in their own portfolios?

Outreach: Are workshops, talks, live/life drawing sessions required? These should be separately priced.

Shoot (photographers only)

People: How many people will be involved? Will there be children? There are further legal requirements if so. What about the provision of catering?... Hospitality?... First-aid?

Casting: What sort of people – real people or models?

Location(s): What about the provision of catering?... Hospitality?... First-aid? Do you need to do a recce? Is this to be charged?

Special Requirements: Are there any allergy, dietary or accessibility requirements?

Overtime/anti-social hours: Has this been discussed? Costed?

Travel to and from the location(s): Are there transport requirements for cast and crew?

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