Why you should use a crib sheet with portrait and fashion photography

by james from Who shot the photographer

I’m going to tell you why using a crib sheet in fashion photography will help you:

  1. Speed up the process of setting up and organising a fashion photoshoot;
  2. Eliminate the risk of having any misunderstanding about you want the photoshoot to run;
  3. Attract and impress clients, models, and creative people to work with you;
  4. Cover all of your bases when it comes potential problems before, during, and after the shoot.

Read on…


A crib sheet is a small document that clearly outlines what will happen on a shoot, what is expected from others on a shoot, and any extra critical information.

It is also an incredible way to promote yourself, and your photography business.

I’m going to go through why sending a crib sheet to anyone I work with has saved me time and effort, and enhanced how I shoot, making the whole process easier. As a bonus at the end I’ll even show you the crib sheet that I use so you can download and amend as you see fit.



A resounding yes. On more or less all shoots people have commented on the creation of the crib sheet:

“It made things really clear, which was great to see considering I’ve never shot with you before”

“I really love your professional approach, it shows you take this seriously”

“I understood how you shoot, which made me feel a lot more comfortable”

One of the biggest impressions it leaves it that you have your ducks in order. It will make you look professional, and like you really do give a damn about photography, and the people who you shoot with.



Crib sheets have everything written down so you don’t need to explain it 50 times over.

One of the best ways you can efficiently run any business is to work out what can be automated. Photography is no different.

You’ll soon realise when you do multiple photoshoots that there is a lot of information you’ll tell everyone during the shoot, if you are anything like me. This can range from:

“We should be wrapped up in around 2 hours” to “Please make sure you put your phones on silent during shooting”.

Transparency is a great way to build trust. I’m a bit more on the chatty side but I find that this not only helps relax the model, but also lightens the mood and makes everyone a little bit less nervous. As such I end up spitting out a lot of information about the way I like to do things.

Instead of having to spend another 10 minutes for each shoot explain the same information over and over again, you can rely on this nifty document to do the hard work for you! Easy huh!

Ok, so it saves you not having to repeat everything, but what other big benefits are there?



Sending your crib sheet to potential clients and creatives is a fantastic way to showcase your portfolio and attention to detail.

People want to be sold on shooting with you, and when you send over a detailed, professionally created document, it speaks volumes over your competitors who may haphazardly explain what may happen over email or messenger, or miss out key points altogether.

I have turned ‘I’m maybe interested’ into ‘I’d love get you to do a photoshoot’ just with this prospectus.

As soon as you have someone who seems vaguely interested, offer them the crib sheet to read, and allow them some space to make their mind up. Chances are they will be impressed if you take the time and effort to create something worth reading, and really stir up that attraction to hire you.



A crib sheet will help you clearly outline how you operate photoshoots, giving clear guidelines to everyone involved.

The beauty of the crib sheet is you can organise it however you want. Want a detailed section on how you process photos? Great!

Here are some sections which I use, which you may also find useful to include:

  • Introduction about yourself;
  • What defines your shooting style?
  • What colours do you like to work with?
  • How do you decide the on location of the shoot?
  • How do you share and credit photos?
  • How do people receive photos?

Feel free to add your own and amend. You can even do a section on your favourite type of music to bring on shoot!



Transparency in the way you work, think, and operate will not only help you realise what your goals are, but will also allow people to understand you better, and the result you are trying to get.

For example one of the biggest breakthroughs I ever had was through determining a specific colour palette to use. Now this is something that applies to each and every shoot, and I specifically mention this in my crib sheet, and my reasoning for this decision.

It also gives you the chance to fully introduce yourself. Everyone has an awesome story to tell, and at the very start of the crib sheet you can put in a good blurb about yourself to give people a good idea of how you started, what your style is, and a bit more about what makes you an interesting photographer!



An important part of any shoot, in my opinion, is the comfort of the model. This is especially true for any client shoots, as they want to be reassured that this will be a fun experience for them, leaving them with great memories to take home. There is no better way to reassure someone than through assuring them that their comfort is your top priority. This may sound cheesy, but I do hope you agree with me that this is genuinely one of your biggest concerns.

Having a comfortable model will not only ensure that they stay and leave happy, but also you’ll find that photos will be much more natural and fluid, rather than someone feeling a bit awkward and uncomfortable.



The crib sheet allows you to write down your terms and conditions for the shoot. This is possibly one of the most useful purposes. Due to the nature of photoshoots, especially TFP photoshoots, there is a gigantic amount of room for miscommunication and assumptions. This can range from a MUA becoming disgruntled because they assumed that you wouldn’t watermark the photo, to a model assuming that she would be able to publish the photos without crediting the assistant on set.

The full list is attached in the crib sheet I have at the end, but here are a select few terms and conditions to give you an idea of what you can include:

  1. TFP does not mean you may request free photography to suit your needs. TFP is a reasonably exchange of services that will benefit everyone. If the proposed photo shoot is not of interest to you, please do not agree to participate as you will be unhappy in the end. If you require specific images for your portfolio, you may consider booking and paying for a shoot…


  1. If any equipment owned by WSTP is damaged because of negligence or malicious intent from behaviour of the model or other crew / creatives, equal compensation must be paid back to WSTP within an appropriate time frame…


  1. Government Issued Photographic Identification will be required on the day of the shoot so verify your identity and age.


As you can see these have been written to ensure that you are following standards that comply with legal and legislative laws, ensuring that people who do agree to do the sheet are aware of what TFP means, as well as ensuring that if any of your high quality, super costly stuff is damaged because someone on set does go rogue, then you are able to pursue legal recourse against them.



One extra element you’ll want to ensure you include with the crib sheet is any extra financial costs and conditions. For example do you require a deposit to secure your time (hint: you should!); do you have an extra cost per photo if you agree to shoot only 5 photos in a package? Questions like these will come up, and if you aren’t prepared for them they can knock you back and lead to you potentially losing out on fair earnings.

Due to the much more rigorous paid structure of a shoot as well, you need to ensure that all of your bases are covered and that it clearly outlines what the client will get on the shoot:

  • Do they get a wardrobe consultation? If not, how much extra would it be?
  • Do they get a make-up artist and hair stylist? If not, how much extra would it be, or are you even responsible for that in this package?
  • How many photos do they get? Can they pay extra to get just the RAW files completely unreleased?

Pre-empting these kinds of questions will ensure that there are no nasty surprises, and that everything is written down.



Possibly one of the hardest parts of team management when it comes to photoshoots I’ve found is trying to ensure that everyone is consistent in their understanding of how photos should be published. This isn’t anyone’s fault mind you, and at the end of the day if anyone is going to be slightly meticulous about how a photo is presented, it will be the photographer.

In the crib sheet you can clearly outline the process for how you want photos to be saved. For example, in my crib sheet, here is an extract:

This clearly sets out the process for photo sharing, and also ensures that there is an incentive for people at the end of the process. It also gives a clear reason as to why downloading the Facebook photos are not good, and the solution to it.

So you’ve seen the big advantages of doing a crib sheet. So what about design and though specifics?



As with all elements of your photography business, you want to make sure that your design stands out, is easy to read, and lays out information in a clear and concise manner.


Design considerations:

What style do you usually work with? Dark? Light? Get a background colour that matches the palette you usually work with, or represents your style overall.

Use a font in your set; this comes down to overall brand design but make sure you include a font that is typically used throughout the rest of your business.

Include photos of your work to remind people of your portfolio, and also in illustrating certain points. For example if you do have a typical style, show this off with a couple of photos, with a point to saying ‘this is the kind of style I shoot with’.


It is all very well and good having an excellent crib sheet with legal details and small print, but how can you ensure that people hold their word to this lengthy document?

You can ensure that it becomes binding by simply getting them to answer this question:

“Can you please confirm that you have read all parts of the crib sheet, and that you agree to the terms and conditions in this? Please say yes, and this will be taken as a digital signature for your comprehension of the photoshoot”.



For each different type of shoot, you should have a separate crib sheet. For example, if you are looking to do a TFP shoot, you’ll have a crib sheet engineered a bit more strongly towards making sure everyone is sharing and attributing credit properly. In contrast, a paid mini shoot will have a much lighter tone focusing on the fun experience the client will have, but also the incredible results they will get.



In my opinion nothing may be more essential for a boudoir shoot than a crib sheet. It goes without saying that boudoir shoots, especially if you are a male photographer, attach a lot more weight and room for sensitive considerations.

Relating to this issue is something close to my heart, which is consent. It is essential when doing a boudoir shoot that the terms and limits are clearly defined in a document which is subsequently signed by the client and photographer. If a photographer is told that they are able to direct an erotic or boudoir shoot, clear lines need to be established as to what is acceptable on the shoot and what isn’t. For example, lingerie may be worn, but does the client specifically say that they are prepared to pull a bra strap down for a certain shot? How about an angle being shot directly from behind whilst the model is on the bed? This may seem like minor points but it is very easy in a situation like that to make someone feel uncomfortable. Please take this into consideration and draw up a document that could be used to make sure clear boundaries are drawn.



Creating a crib sheet to use in your photography will:

  1. Mitigate or eliminate any room for misunderstanding;
  2. Increase confidence in potential creatives, clients and models of whom are interested in shooting with you;
  3. Promote you as a competent and capable photographer who takes their work professionally, and seriously;
  4. Ensure that everyone on the team knows the exact way in which you want photos published and credited;
  5. Provide you a platform to legally disclose what actions will happen if certain conditions are broken e.g. with damage to your equipment.


To help you along the way you can download my Crib sheet below which should give you a good idea of how to lay out your own. Please feel free to copy elements, just not the whole thing please!

Download Example TFP Crib Sheet

NOTE: Please note that this document has not been checked by a Lawyer, and I hold no responsibility or accountability if the below is used or copied.


About James

I’m a Fashion and Portrait Photographer originally from the UK, and now living in Canberra Australia. I believe in a strong communinty spirit, helping others grow, and creating beautiful art with incredible people. My background is in ornithology, and I have a huge passion for all feathered birds.