Myray Reames


Four ways an Art Director will Improve your next photoshoot

So what is an Art Director anyway? An Art Director is a fancy term that means something different in every industry. Art Directors are an essential part of a photo shoot and guides the whole vision. Here is my breakdown of four ways an Art Director will improve you next brand shoot and what they do.

#1 - Based on the company's specific needs, an Art Director decides what the content of the shoot should be.
They get to know your brand, your guidelines, and what the deliverables will be. Then they will come up with high-level concept ideas for the shoot. Next, they will decide on what style the photography should be.

  • Tips: Close collaboration between Art Directors and companies is imperative at the early stage. After the concept is locked, it's hard to go back and change it. To communicate clearly with my clients, I use mood boards to decide on the style of the photos. Then, depending on the complexity of the shoot, I'll sketch up wireframes and make a detailed shot list to get approval.

#2 They take care of all the creative decisions.
Once mood boards are approved, the Art Director will find the right photographer.

  • Tips: I always choose to work with photographers who are collaborative and are good at listening to an Art Director. I am looking for photographers with a positive attitude who are confident and enjoyable to be around. When things get stressful on the day of the shoot, I want them to perform well and not make everyone nervous. I look for a consistent style, so I know what to expect from them. They should be excited about the concept - I want the photographer to push the idea forward and improve on it.
  • After choosing a photographer the next step is casting, location selection, selecting props, wardrobe, and makeup. The Art Director decides all these details.
  • While casting, the Art Director is looking for demographics that fit the company's values. I always look for diversity in ethnicities and looks. I am also looking for an ability to model the emotion that will dominate the shoot.
  • I select wardrobe, props, and location based on the concept of the shoot. I make my decisions based on the story, seasonality, emphasis in the frame, color palette, and trendiness.

#3 They direct on the shoot day.
On the shoot, they work with the photographer to direct the scene. The photographer will direct the talent and technically execute the lighting and set-up. The Art Director takes a step back to make sure the images meet the deliverables and that the big picture looks right.  For example, if the Art Director knows that some of the photos will live on a long and skinny banner they will remind the photographer to get enough negative space on one side of the frame. They will review and select images on-set and show them to the client to get their approval.

  • Tips: It's important to be incredibly decisive on shoot days. When there are twenty moving parts trying things out takes up valuable time. Say yes or no to an outfit, clear out props if you don't like them, speak up and direct the scene. Things will always go wrong on-set. Make sure you have extra hands around to run and grab something you missed or to help out.  

#4 Wahoo, the shoot is over. The Art Director now will make selects and oversee the editing process.
The photographer delivers their files, and the Art Director will make final selects. The Art Director will provide retouching direction to the photographer or the editor.

  • Tips: Leave time for rounds of reviews from the photographer to the Art Director and the client. I usually go through 2-4 rounds of revisions with the photographer and the client to finalize the deliverables.

Art Directors have immense value for companies that want to make sure a photo shoot solves their business needs and looks good. You wouldn’t want to pick a photographer and execute a shoot only to realize afterward that the style didn’t convey your brand message in the best way possible. The Art Director is the client’s eyes and ears throughout the shoot and saves the company lots of time and effort in making sure the shoot goes well.

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