Art Direction

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Art Direction in Photography

Most of the time, photographers function as an art director in their own photo shoots. Forward planning is required to conceptualize what their clients want in their images. Photographers try their very best to deliver what is necessary. For someone starting out in the business of photography, you would want to impress your clients and make a name for yourself in this challenging industry. But how would you go about doing this?

Crucial steps include mastering how to manipulate lights, how to set up equipment to get exactly what you want in an image, and how to compose images properly. The next step is becoming your own art director– this is when you need to be creative, delivering even better concepts to impress your clients. To become both a photographer and an art director in photography, there are some things that you should remember.

Feed Your Mind

Read books, magazines, and blogs that will help you work on different concepts and ideas. This will help you when your clients want you to translate abstract ideas into something visual. If you always create images with the same visual style, you might want to try broadening 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 your clients. Doing this will help you a lot in making better decisions. For example, choosing the best location or the perfect models for a shoot. This will also help you to explain the effect of photographic elements to your clients, should they want to change these elements.

Create Something New

Most amateur photographers copy and imitate the styles of others in their journey to become 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 are going to direct your own shoot, imitating someone else’s work is the least advisable thing to do. Don’t be a copycat!


Simplicity is Key

“A picture paints a thousand words”. This is a famous quote that continues to  inspire painters, photographers, and other individuals in the creative world. It is definitely true. 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 might want you to take product photos. While many of them would not want to get “artsy” photos most of the time, it doesn’t mean that you can’t integrate some “artsy” elements in a “professional” or more “serious” photos. As you get better in becoming your own art director in photography, you will somehow be able to turn simple images into works of art. Try it, and reap the rewards.


Create Something that Stops People

An awe inspiring piece of artwork stops people. You might have found yourself in awe of an advertisement 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 and something that you should do too. Create something that makes people curious. An image that takes people a few seconds, or even minutes, to stop whatever they are doing just to appreciate.

Be a Master of Composition

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


Small Projects are Big Opportunities

Though projects may be big or small, all of them are opportunities that allow you to show the world what you can do. Every piece of artwork opens up doors of possibilities! You never know when someone will take a look of your artwork and contact you to collaborate or handle a project for them. And don’t eliminate the possibilities of one of your clients finding success in their business just from 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. As you become more experienced, you can try to experiment out of these rules and see how it affects your images! Remember, there are no “fixed” rules in photography!


Keep Your Creativity Fresh

Want to know the secret of never running out of fresh ideas? If you’re always creating art using photos, there may come a time when it becomes harder for you to think outside the box. Aside from reading books or magazines on photography, you can always have new ideas 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. The use of “sun flares” and sunset images, the inappropriate use of HDR, and the use of long exposure are just some of the most overused concepts in photography. If you want to stand out as a photographer and an art director in photography, avoid these visual clichés.

We’ve 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 had a grand concept for a photo shoot but aren’t quite sure about the execution, these things will help you greatly along the way. If you need other individuals for creating or executing concepts, 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’s the limit in determining the concept for your shoot. Ask yourself this, “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. If you want, you can also ask them why they chose you as their photographer. Perhaps they like certain styles in your photography.

Creating a survey of questions is pretty useful to know what kind of client you’re 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 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 the concept for your 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 equipment?

If you 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 these kinds of creative professionals, you can always go to beauty schools where students are in need of “real-world” project experiences.


As usual, gather all the gear you need before the shoot. If possible, rent a vehicle that you can use to transport all your equipment. When the photoshoot ends, make sure to back up all your images. You don’t want to waste great shots with failing memory cards.


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