Art Direction

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Art Direction in Photography

Most of the time, photographers fulfill the role of an art director in their own photo shoots. They plan ahead with regards to the concept that their clients want in their images, and try their very best to deliver what is needed. If you’re just starting in the photography business, of course, you’d want to impress your first clients to get a name for yourself in the industry. But, how do you do that?

So, you’ve mastered how to manipulate light, set up equipments to get exactly what you want in an image, and compose images properly. The next thing you need to do is to be your own art director – this is when you need to be creative, delivering even better concepts that your clients will love. To become both, a photographer and an art director in photography, here are some of the things that you should remember.

  • Feed Your Mind

Read books, magazines, and blogs that will help you work on different concepts and ideas that your clients would want you to translate into something “visual”. If you always end up creating the same visual style, you probably have to broaden your horizons – get to know new trends, styles, and techniques in overcoming the challenges that most photographers experience in photo shoots.

  • Think “Visual”

As a photographer, most of your work has a lot to do with visual concepts. Allow yourself to “see” concepts as you discuss them with you clients. Doing this will help you a lot in making better decisions – like choosing the best location or the perfect models for the shoot. It will also help you explain the effect of any photographic element that your clients might want to change.

  • Create Something New

Copying or imitating is often times, what most beginners do into becoming great photographers. Art directors on the other hand, have one thing in common – they want to create something that no one has ever seen before. If you’re going to art direct your own shoot, imitating someone else’s work is the worst thing you can do. Don’t be a copycat!

  • Simplicity is Key

“A picture paints a thousand words” – this is a famous quote that inspired a lot of painters, photographers, and other individuals in the creative world. Well, it’s definitely true, and you might want to ease up on using unnecessary props in the shoot, or those “extra” filters you use in post-production. Always remember – simplicity is key.

  • Anything can be a Work of Art

Your clients have different needs – some of them would want to get fashion photos, and others want might want you to take product photos. While many of them wouldn’t want to get “artsy” photos most of the time, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make one in the most subtle way. As you get better in becoming your own art director in photography, you will be able to somehow, turn simple images into a work of art. Try it, and reap the rewards of doing so.

  • Create Something that Stops People

Art direction stops people – you might have found yourself in awe of an ad image on your way to work, only to find out that you’ve completely stopped walking for a few seconds. This is what art directors do – something that you should do too. Create something that makes people curious – an image that people will have to figure out for a few seconds, or minutes.

  • Be a Master of Composition

There are a thousand of ways to compose an image, and it’s best to know what works for a concept that you’re going to work with. Are you going to shoot portraits, buildings or products? Are you going to work outdoors, or inside a studio? Being able to use the composition that “works” in an image is a must for both photographers and art directors.

  • Small Projects are Big Opportunities

Projects may be huge or small; all of them are big opportunities that allow you to show the world what you can do. Think about this – one of your clients might find success in their small business, just because of something you have created. As they become more successful, they’re going to love working with you again.

  • Know When to Break the Rules

Rules in photography are often used as a guide for beginners in creating good-looking images. Experienced ones however, know the right time to break the rules. This can also be applied in art direction – although, it’s always risky to use crowded layouts, “too obvious” branding, and confused CTAs.

  • Keep Your Creativity Fresh

Want to know a secret to never run out of fresh ideas? If you’re always creating art using photos, there will be a time when it becomes harder for you to think outside the box. You can always have new ideas, aside from reading books or magazines in photography, by having another creative outlet. Do you like to paint? Do you have a passion for woodworking? You’ll be surprised that some of the elements you use in these things can also be applied in photography.

  • Avoid Doing What Most Photographers do

There are tons of photography clichés these days, and honestly, it would take more than 10 pages to feature them in our blog. The use of “sun flares”, sunset images, the inappropriate use of HDR, and long exposure, are just some of the most overused concepts in photography. If you want to stand out, being a photographer and an art director in photography, avoid visual these visual clichés.

We already mentioned this, but your love and passion for photography will help you a lot in fulfilling both roles of being a photographer and an art director in photography. If you ever have a grand concept for a photo shoot but weren’t quite sure about its execution, these things will help you a lot along the way. If you need another individual for creating concepts or executing them, don’t hesitate to hire one if you can.

Being Your Own Art Director

So, how do you become both a photographer and an art director in photography? Well, it all starts in the planning phase – the art director’s role always starts from the inception of creative ideas until they get applied visually. Unless you’re bound with the rules set by your client, the sky is the limit in determining the concept for your shoot. Ask yourself this question – What story do I want to tell? If you’re shooting for a client, it’s important to know the kind of story they want to tell in an image.

Working with Clients

  • Have a conversation and talk about what they envision for their photo shoot. You can ask them about visual styles, and other photographic concepts that you need to know. If you want, you can also ask them the reason why they chose you as their photographer.
  • Creating a survey of questions is pretty useful to know what kind of client you are dealing with. Before you meet, you can send this survey through email – getting to know your client in advance will allow you to connect better when you meet in person.
  • Try to create an inspiration board where you, and your client, can collect images that somehow, visually represent the ideas that you want to have in the shoot. It’s also great to know why your client likes an image, so you can apply the same concept to the image that you’re about to create.
  • Once you’ve decided for the concept of the shoot, you’ll need to come up with the perfect location. Is it best done outdoors, or in a studio where you have access to all of your photography equipments?
  • If you will need models in the shoot, you can try contacting talent or modeling agencies. Try to connect with them through email or social media, so you can give updates about the upcoming photo shoot.
  • It’s advisable to hire stylists if your client is going for a fashion, or glamour photo shoot. If you don’t have a budget for this kind of creative professional, you can always go for beauty schools where students are in need of “real-world” project experiences.

As always, gather all the gear you need before the shoot – if possible, rent an vehicle that you can use to transport all your equipments. When the photo shoot ends, make sure to back up all your images – you don’t want to waste great shots with failing memory cards. If you want to know more about being an art director in photography, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog. For questions and suggestions for our next feature articles, you can reach us in our contact page here.