In my career as an art director I have worked with many photographers, and like in any business some were really great ones and some were really bad ones. When I was much younger and inexperienced I did not know how to impose my artistic vision onto them and that led me into much trouble later. I had trouble with post-production of those images because in many ways they were bad. I had trouble with my editors in chief because they were not happy with the results and all in all I learned the hard way how to deal with photographers.
Communication and relationship with the photographer
Your relationship with your photographer is vital to the outcome of the project. This is why you must establish great communication with the photographer. Since they are also creative persons and they like to give their own input. Treat them as equal as yourself, but at the end you are the one responsible for the outcome and your saying should be last.
Try to be clear in your instructions. It is easy to be missunderstood
Although sometimes this is not easy, especially with the not so great photographers. For them it is not cool when you have to tell them how to do their job, but trust me I have worked with some of them that really needed some advice from me about lighting or some other general aspects of photography.
In most cases you will work with experienced and creative professionals and since you hired him for his creative abilities his comments are vital and you should respect them. Once when you find great photographer and with whom you have great communication stick with him. It will pay off in less stress and less fuss in the post-production process.
Many times the budget for the photo shooting will dictate your choice of photographer. Better ones are always pricier so sometimes you will have to settle down with the less experienced photographers. That’s why sometimes you have to play the role of the photographer. It is good to know some things about photography and lighting.
I have shown some interest in product photography and I even had some decent gear to work with so I know a lot about product photography, and in my line of work I use product images on a monthly basis.
Of course I am not present throughout the entire shooting but I always go to the studio to give my input to the photographer. If we are shooting clothes I give my saying about should we shoot the products, such as on a doll or flat on the floor.
If we are using light table or tent I make sure that the product is well-lit so no unnecessary shadows or other flaws will occur so that the post-production does not take much time.
Have an idea how you want your products to be photographed
If you are shooting a group shot of several products you must have some idea how you want it to look like. Do not come to the studio unprepared and expect from the photographer to do miracles. Have some sketch or if you have seen something similar in another publication bring that inspirational page so that the photographer can see what are you talking about.
Your vision has to be clear and photographer will tell if this vision can be created with current studio setting or maybe you are missing some props that you intended to have in your photography. Talk to the photographer if he can deliver what you had in mind. The concept that you had in your mind can look much different in his.
If you shoot a complex scene you should be present in the studio during the photo shoot. These photo shoots can be very expensive and if you do not do it right then the process will be repeated and that will cost money which will go over your budget for that photo shoot and that’s not good. So, stick in there for as long as it takes.
Sometimes these shootings can last all day, sometimes even a few days if you are shooting several scenes. It can be tiresome but you have to stick in there and make sure the job is done right.
Some (better) publishing houses have a computer installed in their studios which you can connect to the photographer’s camera and you can see the results on the display as soon as photographer clicks on a shutter. In many cases you will have to look at the screen of the camera and ask for corrections in light or composition if needed.
If you spot something that you do not like, say so. Change the angle of the light, change the color of the background, change the composition, change the angle of the camera, anything until you get it right. Play around a bit. You will never get the right image first time.
Fashion photo shoots
If you are shooting a fashion photo shoot do not hesitate to direct the models how to stand, how to pose or what facial expression to have. When shooting fashion photography, third person comes into play, and that’s fashion editor. He is responsible for the clothes on the models. Since fashion editor is part of your team (of course if you work in a fashion magazine), you two should have prepared the storyboard for the shooting.
Together with the editor in chief, you and fashion editor should choose appropriate models and have some vision how you want the editorial to look like.
You don’t have to spend the whole day at the shooting of the fashion editorial cause fashion editor will be present through the entire process. Since the two of you agreed what you want and how you want it there is no need for you to spend your time in the studio. Fashion editor is your person of confidence. He will know what to do.
If you are working with freelance or outsourced fashion stylist with whom you never worked before than stick in there and oversee every step of the process. You are in charge. You are responsible for the outcome of the final page in the magazine and you will be responsible if things did not work out well.
Sometimes these outsourced stylists are unprofessional and they just want the job to be done. You should oversee all of their work and you should work with the photographer how to shoot the images.
When the shooting is over try to get your images as soon as possible. Sometimes the photographer will sort them for you, remove the blurry ones, overexposed ones and all others that are not so good.
The standard delivery format should be RAW, but if the photographer is delivering the images online, JPG format will be sufficient. Everything depends on the final printed size of the photo. That’s why it’s important to tell the photographer the output size of the final image. You don’t want to receive images two times smaller than your double page spread.
When you get the images you should go through them with your photo editor, or fashion editor if you are looking at the fashion editorial images.
Always choose several images after which you will decide which will be the final one.
As you can see an art director’s line of work is not only layout and design. Since photographers are the persons with which you will be in constant contact it is imperative to have great and professional communication with them. The images will be the result of that collaboration, and it better be a good one.