Art Direction for a Photo Shoot

Getting good architectural photography showing our clients' products is always a challenge. Budget constraints frequently make it necessary for us to use images that were originally shot by or for the building's architect or owner; the photos may showcase the beauty of a building or room, but seldom provide the accent on our client's product.

Even when we get to hire a photographer to shoot a project, our clients can seldom afford to send someone from our project team to the jobsite. We have to try to communicate with a freelance photographer in words and sketches so he or she understands the "spirit" of the client's products and the types of details to emphasize.

On the other hand, we occasionally get to provide art direction for a photo shoot. For example, we recently
hired a talented architectural photographer, Doug Hill, to photograph an interior space for which our client had supplied finishes. The images were destined for use in advertising and new product literature, and had to capture the excitement of the space and our client's system.

After making arrangements with the building owner, a member of our design team, the client's sales representative, and the photographer went on a scouting expedition to the project. The information we got was invaluable. An understanding of the daylighting conditions, for example, helped us to determine the time of day that offered the greatest potential for what we wanted to capture. Understanding the room layout enabled the photographer to decide what equipment, lenses, and supplemental lighting to bring. Seeing the furnishings and artwork enabled us to arrange for props to better dress the set. Plus, the client's representative was able to point out important features that were important to capture (and a few to avoid).

On the day of the photo shoot, our creative director, Steve Miller, joined Doug at the shoot. Digital photography enabled Steve to preview each shot on a computer monitor so that adjustments could be made in the photo composition, lighting, and room setup to optimize the results. Steve could also indicate additional photos, not required for the initial ad, that would be useful for future marketing communication needs.

The resulting pictures became a true collaboration between art director and photographer. Doug says, "Steve was very good at keeping the shoot focused on what needed to be accomplished, and I feel the results were improved considerably as a result."

I know we will not always be afforded the luxury of this type of planning and art direction. But the added expense of the scouting trip and sending the art director to the shoot is only a small fraction of the total ad budget including purchasing media space. If it results in even a slight increase in visual impact and sales inquiries, the expense will be worth the investment.