Tuesday, September 4, 2012

8 Ways for an Art Director to Get More from a Photographer

Your client has a product or service that needs some really great art to sell it. The first job of that art is to get the attention of your client’s potential customers. As they are clicking on web pages or turning pages in a magazine, the photograph has to make the customer stop clicking or turning pages and go “wow” long enough to think they might want the product or service. It is your job to come up with great ideas for that artwork.

However, in the case of photography, it is not enough that the idea is in your head. You have to pick the correct photographer that has the skill set to execute the photography. They have to have the style, skill, vision and taste to make the photography work for you, your client, and ultimately, your client’s customers. Then you have to get your ideas out of your head, and get them into the photographer’s head. Not an easy task.
1. Draw your idea. You took enough drawing classes in design school to at least draw stick figures. So if you want the male model to be opening the car door while standing on the left, and the female model to be taking his hand , draw it that way. The biggest thing that you and your photographer have in common is that you both think visually. Words are great, but drawings communicate faster. Take the time to show camera angle and height, wide angle distortion, cropping and composition. Then use the drawings to talk through the shoot with your photographer. If they are in another city, scan the drawings and talk about them over the phone.

2. Give them a shot list. Often for the sake of economy, several shots have to be done in one day. Prioritize. Tell your photographer which shots should take the most of their time and attention. Point out anything unusual or difficult. Make sure you have drawings for the most critical shots, and review the shot list and drawings together with your photographer.

3. Quote me. After you get your shot list and drawings complete, you will normally ask several photographers to give you an estimate of what the shoot will cost. Photographers hate this step, as they are totally guessing what your budget is, and what competing photographers will quote.  In addition to the fee for the photographer’s time, this will often include costs such as stylists, hair and makeup artists, models, locations, props, studio rentals, lighting rentals and so forth.
Dennis Davis Photography
The shot list needs to have enough detail so that the photographer can quickly determine what is needed for the shoot so that they can make an accurate quote.

Some art directors will have photographers spend hours or even days preparing a quote, only to tell them “we decided to go with our regular photographer, we just wanted to make sure they were giving us a good price.” Don’t expect to do this more than once to a photographer, using people like that hurts you in the long run. If you want a quote you can take to a client, give your photographer a budget range if you can. It will save time for everyone.
Dennis Davis Photography
4. Show me the money. An art director needs to help the photographer understand everything that’s needed to make the shot work, including locations, models, stylists, props, clothing, cars, and so forth. The photographer has to figure out how to get everything needed, and still stay within the budget the client requires. You photographer will need help from you in two areas regarding finances; first to understand how the money needs to be spent, and second, to get the deposits and final payments in a timely fashion as you promised them. Often art directors make financial promises to photographers without first checking with their accounting department to confirm that they can deliver on those promises. The photographer suffers as a result, and in some cases, the photo shoot doesn’t deliver good pictures because the money didn’t arrive in time.
5. Inspiration. Creativity comes through the best when a photographer gets excited about the idea behind a photograph. Make the shoot fun, but help them understand the concept, feeling, mood, and thought the photograph has to communicate. A photographer is under a huge amount of pressure to produce great art in a limited amount of time. Help them work past the limitations to reach the goal.

Dennis Davis Photography
6. Protection. Everybody has an opinion, and it seems that everyone thinks they should share their opinion with the photographer while they are trying to focus on getting the ultimate shot. The client company’s marketing director; vice president, vice president’s girlfriend, and sales manager all want to put their two cents in. Your job is to protect the photographer from these people and their opinions. Before the shoot starts, make it clear to everyone watching the shoot that all photo direction has to come through you. If someone has an opinion, they need to talk to you about it, and you have to decide if it is worth passing on to the photographer, or if it conflicts with the “big idea” of the picture. Photographers getting conflicting directions from various people at the shoot will get frustrated, and the final artwork will suffer if they cannot stay on track.

7. Watch the details, but don’t micro-manage. Your photographer has a thousand things to think about during a shoot. Lighting, exposure, composition, reflections, colors, angles – so many details. You can watch for details that the photographer might miss. A model’s dress is wrinkled, the product needs a fresh spray of water, or the product is crooked in the shot. During the shoot, it is the photographer’s job to produce the final image, so leave them alone and let them do their job. However, if there is something they clearly missed, point it out. Just not every 3 minutes.
8. Look early, and look often. Before the day of the shoot, discuss with your photographer how you will be reviewing the images as they shoot. You do not want to make final decisions about a high budget shoot by looking at the back of the camera. A few minutes after the first few test shots have been taken, download the images to a computer and review the first shots with the photographer, and perhaps the client if you think it will help. Now is the time to make major changes. A camera tethered to a TV monitor during a shoot viewing easier, however often the shots don’t stay on the screen long enough to be truly critical of them. Stop shooting and discuss the shot, and don’t move on to the next shot until you see a large version of the current shot that you can live with.

Most photographers are hoping with each shoot to work with an art director who will be their friend, guide, mentor, inspiration during the shoot, and then help them get paid quickly. They are hoping for someone who can help them shoot their finest work, and will not settle for second best. All good photographers are hoping for a final photograph that they would be proud to put in their portfolio, to help them get more work. If you do your job correctly, you will have a superb piece of art for your own portfolio as well. 

1 comment:

  1. Really helpful and concise, quite realistic goals. Cheers.