Art Direction: Our Crash Course Tips

We’ve always taken a leadership role in deciding our clients’ visual aesthetic and physical brand. In doing so we venture into the world of unifying the vision for a specific project or shoot, especially with fashion and lifestyle products. Being an art director means rallying the troops, having an overall concept in mind and delegating appropriately for the best artistic outcome.

Coming from a photoshoot this weekend (and still hyped from all the Red Bull consumed) here are our main takeaways from behind-the-scenes that might help the next time you find yourself in the (Art) Director’s chair.

  • Let Your Creative Thrive. There’s something truly beautiful in finishing on-time and, who knows, maybe even (gasp!) early. It’s human nature to try and make sure everyone sticks to the Call Sheet but don’t let that little paper schedule stifle your Creative Director or Stylist. If a shot feels not-quite-there, instead of giving up and moving on, take the time to pause and really look at what’s being presented. Too many times we’ve rushed the process only to realize in the editing moments there were things missed because our creative team wasn’t given the time or space to dig in.

  • References! References! References! Do not be afraid of sharing visual references and style or mood inspirations with your team. Work alongside the stylist first to determine the purpose and tone of each look, then relay the shot concept for each to the photographer. During the shoot, tell the models their story. Where are they? What’s their mood? Painting the picture for them will secure a powerful photo for the outcome you want.
  • Assistance, Please. Especially with clothing or accessories, most clients want their garments, jewelry, handbags and shoes to be re-packaged just as they were. Which means wrapping back up the products after they’ve been lightly worn. Not only do you need the hands to do this as the shoot goes on, but the prep beforehand; steaming, taping shoe bottoms, stuffing purses with tissue, and lint rolling — which can all be done by a helpful assistant. Find a trusted helper to keep the chaos relatively in order.
  • Clients Need Not Attend. Depending upon the level of trust you develop with a specific client, having them on set can have more consequences than benefits. As long as they have given their input and understand the look (as well as other specific components like models, backdrop, etc), there really isn’t a need for their presence on the day-of shooting. In fact, it’s typically a long and crazy day, so they should thank you for taking the reins and leaving them out of the fray.

  • Pinterest is Your Friend. See the “references” bullet (above). Visual cues and inspiration are crucial for photographers to determine lighting, background and angle, and help the models get a feel for the “look” they need to give. Find other shoots you love and Pin to an overall inspiration Board to have on-hand if anyone needs examples of hair, makeup, and overall styling. Plus, in advance, you can have others add their own Pins for ultimate team work. Bringing a iPad or tablet with the Pinterest Board pre-loaded on set is a clutch reminder of what you’re ultimately looking for.
  • Music, Always! Is there anything more awkward than a quiet photoshoot? Probably not. Set the mood and loosen up your subjects with music that fits the purpose. If you’re going for catalogue-happy or sexy-dance moves, then fill a playlist with your favorite jams. Something more moody? Find the perfect artist station and let it play. In the case that you’re familiar with the models or photographer, you can always have them add to an ongoing playlist beforehand — just to make sure everyone is getting down & having fun.
  • Finally, Stay Strong. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want is just as imperative as knowing what you want. When the shoot feels like it’s slipping from your grasp, step in and get it back on track. That might mean shutting down someone’s idea, but so long as you treat their opinion with respect, you can steer the day back towards its’ purpose. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or to switch gears when it feels off brand.

Let us know your must-dos and should-haves for controlling a photoshoot or product shoot. We can’t wait for the next one… there’s so much to learn.