The Brief / Toby Carvery / JWT / Sam Stowell

And now, the second of our new series ‘The Brief’, an insightful behind the scenes look at what goes into a photoshoot. This month, Sam Stowell’s recent campaign for Toby Carvery through leading London advertising agency JWT. The Brief

The brief was to create a Press, instore and digital advertising campaign named ‘Sarge Says’ including images of head training chef at Toby Carvery, Sarge, preparing food. The press ads were to be accompanied by ‘Toby Tips’ such as how to cook the perfect roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, plus tips on carving your roast beef and crunching up your crumble topping.

Eight final images were needed in total, four more set up shots focusing on the food to accompany the tips, and four looser, more reportage shots of Sarge preparing the food. We decided the best approach would be to shoot the more set up food shots over one day and the remaining shots on day two.

Throughout the estimating and production process we liaised with with lovely art buyer Kate Congreve at JWT who passed on all the creative requirements from Richard (Chunky) Gorton – Lee, Creative Head at JWT.

Day One Brief:

 ‘These shots will show Sarge creating and getting involved with the perfect roast dinner ingredients. The main focus is on the lovely crisp, fluffy, crumbly cooked foods, showing Sarge in the background in slightly softer focus attending to each of the ingredients. Beyond Sarge the rest of the kitchen drops right out of focus.  ‘

Some of the scamps





The other four shots were to be more reportage and action in feel.

Day Two Brief:

‘These shots are all about Sarge, unlike the other shoot where food was king, in this shoot we make Sarge the hero and the food’s the supporting act.  

This is where we really see Sarge at work in the kitchen. Getting the feel that he’s getting amongst it and preparing some great food. We’ll see him whisking, ruffling, chopping, peeling, sharpening carving knifes, putting stuff in and taking things out of the oven…etc. I want to get a real feel of the movement, energy and the excitement that goes into making great food. ‘

JWT provided us with an extremely detailed shot list, which was great so everyone knew the requirements and expectations. We also agreed the best approach for the second day was to shoot particular set ups but from different angles in a  looser fashion capturing as much as possible.   

You can see why Sam was chosen for this shoot, he is as comfortable and experienced shooting close ups of food as he is reportage shots of people with food and happy to be versatile with art directed shots plus a more spontaneous approach.

Here are some examples of shots from Sam's portfolio...


© Sam Stowell


© Sam Stowell


© Sam Stowell


© Sam Stowell

The Location:

The idea for the whole shoot was to shoot in a kitchen as the backdrop so it looks like a development kitchen rather than a Toby kitchen. So Sam’s own studios were ideal as he has two adjacent studios both with kitchens ; so one could be used to feature in the actual shoot whilst food was being prepared in the other.

We sent images of Sam’s kitchens over for client approval as we would when featuring any location on a shoot. The usual process when featuring a location in a shoot however would involve a location scout and recce but Sam’s studios were perfect.



The Styling:

In terms of styling, we needed to source additional chefs hat and whites, just incase we needed them as a supplement to Sarge’s own, plus general kitchenware and utensils, (Sarge was taking his own carving knive and fork) table cloths and table tops, and an oven without a back so we could shoot from behind. We briefed props stylist Rebecca Newport who kept us in the loop and provided images of the props she was getting for the PPM document

‘’Lovely to speak to you just now. Please find attached some snaps taken on my phone of some of the props. I've also got 5 wooden tabletops and a marble surface so we have a bit of choice. As I said on the phone I've gone for a fairly 'Jamie Oliver' look so there are a few vintagey bits mixed in with some more chefy test kitchen props. I've put in some reds and blues on the kitchen clutter for a bit of interest. Everything is being delivered to Sam's tomorrow and I will be there on Friday morning to unpack, Rebecca.’



The Crew:

We needed a home economist for each day and our props stylist (as above)

Sam also worked with his usual first assistant plus a second assistant.

The Estimate:

After receiving the brief we got straight onto putting the costs together, so we could agree a budget and get costs signed off.

First thing we work out when estimating is the photographers fees. So we included two days for Sam’s time and his fee also reflected the end usage. Then we consider what other photographic expenses needed to be included, in this case there would be digital capture fees, postproduction and hires files, equipment, lighting and the studio costs for two studios.

Next we include the crew and their expenses. So on this occasion we needed:

• First assistant and second assistant for Sam.

• A props stylist. They would often be on the shoot but on this occasion we just required our stylist to source lots of props plus the chefs whites based on the brief and then on the day Sam would work with the home economist in selecting what they think would work. So we also included expenses for the props and wardrobe.

• We booked two home economists , Cara Hobday and Lizzie Harris, one for each day of the shoot and they both required an assistant on the day. The stylists would be overseeing things and making sure the food looked amazing on set whilst the assistant would be prepping the food for the next shot. The home economist also needed a prep day to source the food and budget for ingredients.

Aside from that, we just needed to include some costs for transport, parking and catering for the crew plus a contingency for miscellaneous e.g shoot insurance, couriers.

The Preproduction:

And so with costs approved, a detailed brief and timing plan we could go about the preproduction. Our ‘to do’ list looked something like this:

1)      Get purchase order and shoot expenses advanced.

2)     Confirm dates with Sam and his studios.

3)     Confirm and brief crew.

4)     Get prop images from stylist and send to JWT

5)     Send Sarge’s size to Stylist for chef whites

6)     Attend Preproduction meeting.

7)     Book catering

8)     Prepare call sheets and send to everyone.

Fairly straightforward but it’s important to be realistic about how long things will take, There was a fairly tight turnaround on this with the first shoot day taking place only one week from costs sign off.

The Shoot:

And so to the day of the shoot… as so much detailed briefing and planning having gone into the shoot and selecting the right team , all went smoothly and Sam produced some great results.




“ A really fun crowd, we had a great time making Toby food look delicious and mouthwatering. And Sarge, what a fab role model for all those home cooks!!’’

Lizzie Harris, Home Economist

‘’I just wanted to get the most out of a great brief, a Chunky special! Really exciting ideas – real food, real people and action, just up my street.

I worked closely with the home economist and props stylist in the lead up to the shoot and did a test day for lighting and ideas, so everything was ready for the day.  Most challenging thing?  The oven shoot was a bit of a challenge, shooting it from the back, but I as really happy with the results. Memory from the day? Sarge's smile when he arrived by taxi bike was great and set the tone for the day. He's a lovely guy and great to work with.’’

Sam Stowell, Photographer.

Photoshoot Glossary

Press: Press Advertising as in paid for advertising space

In Store: Images at point of purchase, also know as Point of Sale (POS), e.g at Toby Carvery restaurants.

Digital: Anything online or that can be seen on a digital device, e.g websites, social media etc.

Art Buyer: A person at an advertising agency whose job is to commission and oversee photography.

Creative Head: Head of the creative department at an advertising agency.

Scamps: Sometimes known as layouts, drawings to illustrate the final ads.

Client approval: This refers to the client, Toby Carvery,approving Sam’s kitchen as a location to feature on their ads. It’s important to get client approval in writing before you go head and book anything on a shoot.  

Location Scout: A person who finds locations for shoots

Recce: This is when the photographer visits shortlisted locations to choose which they think will work best for the shoot.

Preproduction Document: A document used in the preproduction meeting including all the keys things to present to the client for the shoot, such as location, styling etc.

Home Economist: They make the food and drink on set look appetising

Props Stylist: They buy props and style the props on a shoot.

First Assistant: The photographers right hand man, looks after the digital downloading, and lighting so the photographer is free to focus on taking the images.

Second Assistant: Also assists the photographer but sometimes doesn't have as much responsibility as the first assistant.

Signed off: This is similar to client approval in that it refers to the client 100% agreeing to shoot elements in writing.

Prep day: A day to get things ready for the shoot.

Catering: Food and drink for the shoot.

Preproduction Meeting: A meeting where the ad agency and photographer run through everything happening on the shoot with the client. This is usually after emails approvals of all the elements so there are no surprises and more of a formality.  

Call Sheet: A document that the agent or shoot producer would usually prepare ahead of the shoot. This includes all the important contact details, what time everyone needs to get there and the schedule for the day. Scamps by kind courtesy of JWT