Brand guidelines

Commissioning Promotional Toolkit cut-outs

If you are using the Promotional Toolkit for your marketing materials you may wish to commission new portrait images or ‘cut-outs’ that are used as the primary image on this collateral. Before commissioning a photographer please contact the Brand Team for advice. Cut-out images other than those available on the Asset Bank exist but may need to be prepared, so please do ask.

If you do decide to commission new photography please follow the guidance on this page to ensure commissioned cut-outs follow the British Council Promotional Toolkit visual style.

Toolkit cover

Commissioner’s brief

  • Please print off and read the section ‘Photographer’s brief’ then give it to your chosen photographer together with a completed contract.
  • Ensure that your photographer is able to organise professional models for the shoot – alternatively be prepared to organise your own subjects.
  • Allow sufficient time – take your photographer’s guidance on the number of subjects that can be photographed during the course of a single day. Do not underestimate the amount of time needed to allow for set-up and for test shots to be taken.
  • Your photographer can shoot either digitally or with film but either way must be able to provide the files in the format detailed in the ‘Photographer’s brief’. If your photographer wants to depart from these standards – this may be acceptable but please check with the Brand Team first.
  • If using professional models ask to see model-sheets (sample printed photos and CV) of the models which the model agency should provide in order to make an informed choice of suitable subjects. These should include brief details such as age range and ethnicity.
  • Please ensure models are briefed to bring along to the shoot a suitable range of clothing, to reflect the subjects they are depicting. Instruct them to wear bright colours or patterned clothes and not clothes showing prominent brand logos (T-shirts etc). Models should also avoid wearing anything white or black as this will not show up well against a plain backdrop.
  • Where appropriate models should be asked to bring traditional clothing as well as smart or more casual everyday clothes.
  • Model agencies should confirm they have completed model release forms for the models employed on their books. Keep a copy of these forms on file for data protection purposes.
  • Art direction – please ensure that you attend the shoot and give direction to the subjects to ensure they are dressed appropriately. Pay particular attention to the folds and creases in clothing – a good photographer’s studio should have a steam iron and board available. It would also be wise to have a few non-branded plain coloured T-shirts available as spares for models who do not bring appropriate clothing.
  • A hair and make-up artist should be present to look after the models’ dress and make-up. Ensure that any make-up is natural (usually only the use of powder is necessary). Please show them these instructions.
  • If using ‘real subjects’ such as actual students etc. – please ensure they sign the British Council DP1 (Data Protection form). Please send one or two complimentary photographs to each subject from the shoot as a ‘thank you’ for their time. Some offices offer book tokens or similar as an alternative payment in kind.
  • Ensure a balanced and diverse ethnic range is selected from within your local community (to supplement and enhance the image bank provided with the toolkit) – bearing in mind the British Council’s policy on equal opportunity and diversity.
  • The use of props to indicate activity areas is not recommended as they can quickly become over-laboured. For example; an over-use of white coats, glass flasks and test-tubes for science will quickly become tiresome. Avoid clichés such as someone talking on a mobile, sucking spectacles etc. The main indication of the British Council activity area will come from the title of the publication.

Photographer’s contract

A template for the photographer’s contract can be downloaded from here. This is a sample contract and is expected to be amended according to your specific commission and the photographer’s agreed terms. The most important aspect for the organisation is establishing the rights for usage which should be a total global buy out for all uses.

Photographer’s brief

Please note, the following brief only apply to Promotional Toolkit cut-outs.

Types of subject

  • Agree with the British Council commissioner how suitable models will be selected. You may be required to organise model agencies to provide subjects to be photographed.
  • If using ‘real subjects’ such as actual students etc – please budget to provide one or two complimentary photographs of each subject from the shoot. These will be used by the British Council commissioning office as a ‘thank-you’ for their time.
  • Ensure each subject is photographed a number of times with different facial expressions. Subjects should look directly at the camera. Please show the photographer and models cut-out images from existing image bank for further reference.
  • Ensure that the guidance for the angle of the shot is followed to ensure that they can work with the templates (figures two and three below).
  • Ensure a broad range of models that reflect your audiences are selected. Try to ensure you have diversity in ethnicity, disabilities, age and gender.


  • These should be restricted to spectacles and appropriate headwear (avoid the cliché of spectacles on female models to make them look like ‘business women’).

Recommended lighting and camera specifications
(recommendations are a minimum requirement as all equipment identified has been updated since the publication of this guidance)

Camera Canon EOS 1Ds Mk 2 (Digital SLR) or equivalent

Lens Canon 28-70mm or equivalent

Main Light Broncolor Hazy 32K or equivalent

Backlights Broncolor Pulso 32K or equivalent

Background Plain White Scoop

Lighting Description
The main light is a Hazy 1m x 1m square soft box, the corners have been rounded to produce a softer highlight in the models eyes.

Figure 1

The main light is at approx 45° to the model, 2m away, and slightly higher than the models eye level (see Figure 2 and Figure 3).

Figure 2

Figure 3

The two backlights have card flags to stop any hard light hitting the model (see Figure 4 and Figure 5).

Figure 4

Figure 5

The camera height is slightly lower than the models eye line (see Figure 2 and Figure 3).

The shots were taken in an all white studio, so there was an amount of shadow fill (approximately 2 stops lower than the main light).
Specific technical details used for the photographs supplied
The camera was set to 1/160th of a second at F8

The backlights were set at 1 stop more than the main light.

The lens focal length was set at around 32-38mm.

ISO 100, white balance 5350°k.

Shot as RAW files, processed as high resolution Jpegs (uncompressed size = 72 megabytes).

General technical standards for photography and post production

Digital photography

  • Images should be shot on high resolution professional digital-SLR cameras of at least 6 megapixels (but preferably 10, 12 or 16). Images should be provided on DVD-ROM or hard disk as RGB colour fine quality JPG files colour balanced to match the existing photos provided in the toolkit.
  • Minimal sharpening should be applied to the images in-camera – it is expected that additional unsharp-mask will be applied to the photograph at the reprographic stage. The degree of unsharp-mask will vary depending on the size the image is to be scaled to and reproduced at. Advice should be sought from the printer or reprographic house.
  • The choice between shooting in RAW, TIF or JPG is a matter for your own workflow. Shoot in RAW for maximum control in post-processing. If shooting in JPG, always use the ‘Fine’ (least compressed) setting. Modern professional DSLRs produce excellent JPGs, which are visually indistinguishable from Raw or tiff.
  • Capture images at as low an ISO setting as practicable.
  • Before working on fine JPGs, they should first be resaved as TIFs or another non-lossy format, e.g. PSD. Never resave JPGs in JPG format – this will result in permanent loss of data and degraded image quality.
  • RAW files should be checked for correct exposure, colour cast, etc, and any adjustments should be made at this stage.
  • Do not over-crop in camera – a bleed allowance is needed for cover printing.

Film-based photography

  • Images should be shot on 35mm colour transparency film which should then be scanned and adjusted to match the digitally captured files above.
  • Images need to be of the highest possible technical quality. In general, shoot on the finest grain film, and with high quality lenses. Please note, however, that fine grain film is inherently high in contrast. Most desktop scanners cannot record the wide dynamic range of modern transparency film. As these transparencies are going to be scanned, try to keep the contrast down. However, do not go to the other extreme and shoot images with a ‘flat’ contrast.
  • Choose a scanner with high quality optics, and a dynamic range (Dmin-Dmax) of at least 3.0.
  • Do not scan above the maximum optical resolution of your scanner. Most scanners offer scanning settings way above their optical maximum. This is achieved by interpolation and results are usually unsatisfactory. Scan at the true optical resolution required to give a file size of at least 48MB at 8 bit. For 35mm, scanning a mounted transparency at 4000ppi will give a file size of around 50-55MB.
  • Scan at the highest bit depth available, but convert to 8 bit before submission
  • If using Digital ICE, we recommend the ‘Normal’ setting. The ‘Fine’ setting slightly softens the image.

File preparation

The images will need to be cut out (the model is isolated from the background) by a professional designer or reprographics house. Ensure that the models’ hair is isolated properly using professional masking software.