How to commission great photography

From nailing the brief to making space for the magic to happen, CR spoke with photographer Shamil Tanna, IBM photo director Emily Keegin and East Photographic agent Kane Giblin to find out what it takes to commission great images

Knowing how to get the photography that you require for your project is a great skill in and of itself, and it begins before even looking at a photographer’s portfolio, says Emily Keegin, photo director at IBM and former deputy photo director at Bloomberg Businessweek, who explains that it’s essential to pin down the idea behind the commission and what needs to be communicated.

“Figure out those boundaries and sketch out different ways that could be communicated, or executed, and different aesthetics that might work,” she explains. “The key to commissioning great photography is finding a photographer who understands the vision, and who you think can understand your direction.”

Keegin recommends building “a really robust kind of mood board” to begin with, bringing together images that would work well in a particular layout, as well as references that can convey the scope of work. If a commissioner has a particular image-maker in mind, at this stage it can also be useful to take images from their portfolio as references, to identify where a project fits in their own body of work.

Top image: Megan Thee Stallion photographed for The Fader by Renell Medrano, with photo direction by Emily Keegin; Above: Ian Wright shot by Shamil Tanna for the Sunday Times Magazine