How To Build A Scope Of Work For A Photo Assignment
Being organized is considered the boring part. But it is this critical component that actually frees us to be more creative in the long run. Pausing at the beginning of a project in order to shape its purpose, its parameters, the direction, and the end goals always pays off big time in the end.
There are two tools that I use of the start of every project large or small, whether I'm working on a single short photo assignment or a multiyear photography project. As a freelancer with dozens of irons in the fire, I consider them absolutely vital for staying sane. The two tools are a scope of work and a work break down.
This episode is Part One of a two-part series that walks you through how to utilize these in your own photography work.
I know it might sound a little bit dry, but by the end of this episode you are going to be all about creating scope of works for your projects. Why? Because you'll see how a scope of work gives you clarity, keeps you motivated, and ultimately helps you be a smarter, more creative, and more effective conservation photographer.
And you don't have to start from scratch! I'm handing you the same exact template I use at the beginning of any project, so that you can download it and get focused on your own project starting right now.
Get Jaymi's “Scope of Work Template”
- Why a scope of work is such a powerful tool
- How to complete each section of a scope of work, including:
- Premise: why your project exists
- Goals: what you want to accomplish through your project
- Deliverables: what you create during your project
- Out of scope: how you really define those boundaries around your project
- Time frame: when you will accomplish your project
- Success: how you know you did a great job
- And how to repurpose one scope of work again and again for new projects, saving time
This little bit of structure at the start of a project goes a long way. The focus that you put into shaping your project right from the very get go allows you the freedom to make informed decisions as the work progresses, so you can stay immersed in the fun, engaging part of turning your ideas into photographs. It transforms all that paralyzing chaos of a project into fodder for the creative process.
It's powerful stuff, my friend!
Once you've finished this episode, start in on Part Two, Episode 16, which walks you through how to create a Work Breakdown (AKA the peanut butter to this jellyroll!). Waiting for you in the show notes there is the free downloadable template.
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Episode 015: How To Build A Scope Of Work For A Photo Assignment
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
Raise your hand if you have ever felt totally overwhelmed by a photography project or you felt frazzled because you're trying to juggle multiple projects or shoots all at the same time. Or you've been stressed because you feel lost in the middle of a project and you're just not sure how to move forward. My guess is you have your hand in the air because it is an all too common situation with creative minds. We get so excited by an idea by the act of bringing a concept into reality that the organizational steps that it takes to do so effectively are ignored.
Being organized is considered the boring part. But it is this critical component that actually frees us to be more creative in the long run, by pausing at the beginning of a project in order to shape its purpose, its parameters, the direction, the end goals. You have effectively paved a road, and now you get to walk or run or skipper traverse, however you want down that road, knowing that you are not going to get lost, knowing when you're going to arrive at the destination.
There are two tools that I use of the start of every project larger, small and has a freelancer with dozens of irons in the fire. Anyone time I consider them absolutely vital for staying sane, and I use thes whenever I'm working on a single short photo assignment or a multiyear photography project. Whatever it may be, the two tools are a scope of work and a work break down.
Now this episode is Part one, and in this episode I am going to walk you through what a scope of work is and how you can quickly create one in order to save your sanity and actually churn out a more creative project. Anyone with project management experience is going to recognize that these two tools are very common sense items for any project, and I've adopted and adapted them for my own purposes as a freelance photographer. So right now we're gonna dive into Part one. The scope of work and the next episode will be part to the work breakdown.
For both of these, I have a free template for you to download. So with this episode for your scope of work, you can go to JaymiH.com/15 the number 15 for this episode, and you can download a template for your scope of work. It cuts the time it takes to create one of these way down, and I promise you're gonna find out that this is a template that you use again and again and again. Now let's dig into the details about why a scope of work is such amazing tool for any conservation photographer.
Welcome to Impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch. And if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place, from conservation to creativity, from business to marketing and everything in between. This podcast is for you conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.
So let's start with what in the world of scope of work is. If you aren't familiar with this, it is simply a document that outlines a project including goals and deliver bols and expectations of work. I know it might sound a little bit dry, but I promise by the end of this episode you are going to be all about creating scope of works for your projects. Now, while I almost never need to share a scope of work with anyone else, I find it really important to outline my project or my assignment in this way so that I can see a full picture of what I'm about to work on. It allows me to feel really confident that I have thought out what I'm doing, what's needed, what I'll have when I'm done, so that I can let go of these. Worries and Aiken dive into the fun part of taking photos. When you're feeling really disorganized on a project, it can seem like tasks are flying at you or a project and just totally spiral out of control. And you can end up feeling stock or frustrated, incompetent, unproductive. You could be questioning why you are even trying to tackle this project that suddenly seems way bigger than anything that you have the time or the capacity for you might even get close to giving up.
The organizing aspect might not seem like much fun, but it is far more fun than feeling like this during a project to enjoy a project to truly get the point of creative freedom and momentum. It's critical to know what exactly it is you're working on when you know you're done with it and what success looks like. You can then stay energized about your ideas. You could build a sense of control over what you're working on, and the practice of doing this actually fosters a sense of calm. Thanks to these known boundaries, you're no longer feeling like your project is just spiraling out of control. And a scope of work is the first step toward this control and thus toward this creative freedom. Once you create a scope of work for a certain project, you can actually recycle it into similar projects, changing just the specifics as needed. So this actually gets quicker and easier to do every time you start a new project. So it is completely worth doing, and it is completely worth doing right now because it's gonna pay off again and again down the road in order to complete a scope of work.
There's six different components that you're going to be looking at, and we're going to go through these one by one. The first is the premise So the premise is why your project exists at all. What is it that exists out there that you're trying to capture in photos? For example, let's use for an example that there's a rancher who is using sustainable grazing practices and non lethal predator control to promote biodiversity on her property, and you want to document her ranching practices and the beneficial impact that those practices have on the land. So your project exists because this rancher is out there doing something really interesting. That's your premise.
The second component that you're looking at our goals. So what do you plan to accomplish with your work? Really, it's spend some time thinking about this. I mean, this is kind of why you're diving into this project at all. What do you want to get out of it? Because these air some big questions, the more clear that you can get on your goals, the easier the rest of this process is going to be because you can always look at your goal and no. Okay, well, that's where I'm heading. So all I need to do is work backwards for those steps. So for conservation photographers, the goal is usually to change minds or behaviors for the benefit of the environment. So, in our example with the rancher, you want a photograph. How, like native plant and animal species air flourishing on this working ranch, and how that in turn benefits the domestic animals that are raised on the land. And let's see your goal is you then want to use those visuals that you create documenting this to connect with the surrounding community and sparked the interests of other local ranchers about sustainable ranching practices. So your goal is to build and show a port folio of images. That powerful ley illustrates the benefits of your subject ranchers practices, and that's gonna then encourage sustainable grazing and non lethal predator control among other ranchers.
So after you know why your project exists and what you want to accomplish by working on it, which is your premise and your goals, now it's time to set your delivery bubbles. So deliver bals are the actual physical products that you create when you're working on a project. When you're thinking about your delivery, Bols, you really want to think carefully about what your deliverer bals are going to be because this is going to drive the tasks that you sat later on. So, for instance, let's say that you want to submit your rancher story to a magazine that has national distribution, and that way you can reach a large audience. But you also want to do a local gallery showing, because that's an opportunity to really meet the immediate community members, and you can then connect with them and take the first steps in changing minds. So your deliverables, then, are a portfolio of, say, 15 really high quality images to handle an editor and also a portfolio of 25 high quality images that you're gonna print and hang in a local gallery. So remember your goals and your deliverables, these are two separate things. So your goals are what you want to accomplish in kind of a more idealistic but immeasurable and achievable way and deliverables are the physical, tangible things that you create, So the goal helps to form the deliverables and the deliverables will help form the tasks, and we're going to get to those later on.
So at this point you have your premise, or why the project exists. You have your goals, which is what you want to accomplish overall, and you have your deliver balls, which are what you're going to create. And now we're going to talk about what is out of scope. I know this is a little weird. The section is all about what you are not doing in your project, and that seems really counterintuitive, like when you just say everything not included is excluded, right? Well, sort of. But here's the thing. Creative people tend to have projects that grow. It's like it's a sponge and you stick it under the faucet of creativity and the more thought and energy that you pour into your project, the more excited you become about possibilities and the bigger that project gets. So even if you manage to keep your project some boundaries in your creative scope, it's really easy to become distracted by other things that collaborators or sponsors or even your subjects ask for during the course of work.
It can be classic shiny objects syndrome, and you start to see that something very shiny and sparkly in the corner of your eye, and it's really compelling and interesting, and you think Oh, how it would be really great to bring that in the project. And suddenly your project is huge and unwieldy, right? So the out of scope is actually a critical component of your scope of work. It's writing down what you are not going to include. So let's go back to our ranch example. You know what your goals and your deliverables are, so you're out of scope. Items might list documenting any ranch work that's not related to grazing or non lethal predator control. So the reason why you are documenting that ranch, there might be activities that seem really cool. But if they're not related to your overarching goal or your premise, then you are not going to include that. Maybe you are going to write down in your out of scope that you are not documenting species that aren't directly impacted by the ranching practices that you're so interested in or you're not documenting any aspects of the ranchers life that is not directly related to these ranching practices that you're so interested in. You're out of scope by also list deliverables that you don't want to be distracted by, or even photography techniques or strategies that you decide. You don't want to dedicate time to such as camera traps or time lapse or something that might be interesting. But you know it's not gonna be very impactful for this project, and therefore you're just not gonna worry about them.
So let's go back to another example. Let's say you're working on your ranching project and you notice that there's a certain native species that you're documenting that has this really cool behavior. Or there's a symbiotic relationship between that species and another species. Or you find this really cool niche habitat that suddenly you're really interested in like these are all things that are total shiny objects syndrome. To a creative conservation photographer, you might want to say any species other than X Y Z species are out of scope. You might also be contacted, maybe by other collaborators. So let's say there's a nonprofit working nearby on non lethal predator control, and they find out about your work and they then ask, or will you create a portfolio that we can use on our website or in our marketing materials? When things like this pop up, you can say either that's going to create additional work that doesn't align with my scope. So no, I won't work on it. Or you might say, Well, that does fit into my goals. But can I really accomplish producing these additional deliverables? Do I have to adjust what these new or existing deliverables look like in order for me to do them? And thanks to a having already set parameters around your project, you can really confidently renegotiate your scope of work is things like this Pop up or you can confidently pass on requests like that, knowing what you can and can't accomplish with the time and the resource is that you have available for this project. And there's also actually a third option. And a third option is that you place that new work that pops up into a parking lot for later, and we'll discuss the strategy in our next episode in Part two. But it is kind of helpful to keep that parking lot of ideas that you can come back to later on. You can keep them kind of organized and prioritized, and they become not a no, just not a right now project, so that is your out of scope.
You have your premise, your goals, your deliverables, and you're out of scope. The fifth component is your time frame. So you've got this great project outlined, and now you need to figure out how much time you need and how much time you have to complete it. So when are you going to be working on this project? Is it something that requires fieldwork during a certain season? Or is assignment shoot? And you only have this three week turnaround time? Or is it something that you know is going to take you a year of ongoing work? This is the stuff that you really want to consider for your time frame. Now the timeframe is more than just figuring out calendar dates. It's also a reality check for your overall project. So if you know the amount of time that you have to work on a project, you can actually go back into your goals or your deliverables or even your premise. And you can question if you have the ability to accomplish what you want to accomplish in the time frame that you have, you might discover that what you want to do actually cannot be done in the time frame you have. Or you might discover that what you want to accomplish is so important to you that you need to change your timeframe. You need to find more time or readjusting due dates. Your time frame helps you keep your entire project in balance so that you can keep moving forward without hiccups. Or worse, you can keep moving forward without getting well into your project, only to find out that you're not gonna be able to finish it. So really, putting some some thought into the time frame that you have and ensuring that everything that you want to accomplish can be lined up in that timeframe super important stuff.
And the last component of your scope of work is success. What does success look like to you? How are you going to know that you are happier satisfied with your work when it's completed? Is success to you just completing your deliverables and getting them out there into the world? Or is there something more personal than that? Like maybe success to you is getting 90% of the images on your shot list like, If your goal is in part to improve your ability to get out there and get photos and complete a certain shot list, then maybe your measure of success is that you managed to actually accomplish that shot list. Maybe that's even more important to you than what you actually create in terms of a deliverable. Or maybe success is turning over your deliverables to an editor on time. That might be something that's really important for you to accomplish. Or maybe success is building a really great relationship with your subject. And that way you can go back again and again for future shoots, writing down what success looks like no matter what that looks like to you, no matter if it's a personal or professional measure of success, writing it down is a reminder to pay attention to these things as you are working, so that when you've achieved your goals and you've completed your deliverables, you can go back and say, Yeah, that was a really successful project. You can look back and you can see where you didn't quite feel successful as well, and you could make adjustments in your next project, measuring out success and what that really looks like to you is has critical as any other component of your scope of work.
So let's review those six components again. You have your premise, which is why your project exists. Your goals, which is what you want to accomplish through your project. Your deliverables, which are what you create during your project. You're out of scope work, which is how you really define those boundaries around your project. Your time frame, which is when you will accomplish your project by and your success, which is how you know you did a great job.
This little bit of structure at the start of a project goes a long way. The focus that you put into shaping your project right from the very get go. It allows you the freedom to make informed decisions as the work progresses so you can stay immersed in the fun. In the engaging part of turning your ideas into photographs, it transforms all that paralyzing chaos of a project into fodder for the creative process. I know most photographers are juggling a number of projects all at once, and you're only one person and you want to be able to work on multiple things. So how do you accomplish that? How do you prioritize and juggle projects with due dates that all fall on the same day or set reasonable time frames for shoots? If you're going to be in the field working on one project, are you going to be able to set aside other projects? Or are there certain things that you need to be doing concurrently? This scope of work for each project is going to allow you to know all of that, and then you can be inside your head in the field really focused on what you're doing in the moment. So this exercise not only helps you to balance each project individually, but also allows you to clearly see projects and how they overlap and how you need to prioritize things so that you can work on multiple things at once without feeling overwhelmed and to manage such a workload effectively.
You also need a work break down, so we're going to cover what a work breakdown is and why it is a beautiful little sibling to the scope of work in the next episode. But before we leave. Please remember, I've got that downloadable scope of work template waiting for you. You can find it at jaymih.com/15. It's a really handy template, and I highly suggest you grab it because it's gonna make creating your scope of work. Ah, lot more speedy, which I know everybody enjoys. All right, I can't wait to talk to you in the next episode, which is going to be Episode 16 all about building your perfect work breakdown to keep you organized and sane while getting through a photography project. I'll see you there
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