You've just been awarded a plum production-intensive advertising assignment with a good budget from an art director you have waited to work with. The two of you estimated the job, and you know what it's going to take to produce the work. It is time to execute the campaign and, hopefully, create a lasting relationship with an art director that could lead to additional jobs and referrals to his or her peers.
So where do you begin? The key is communication, communication, and more communication. Ask questions and carefully listen to the answers, both the obvious ones and those for which you'll need to read between the lines.
Here are some important matters to address throughout the process:
ē Understand why the art director chose you for this particular job. Was it price, portfolio, or both? Who else was considered? Does the art director want a "pair of hands" to execute his layout, a collaborative relationship, or does he want you to do 90 percent of the creative work because he loves your book?
When the Austin-based agency GSD&M designed a new Chili's restaurant specialty menu for client Brinker International, the creative team chose a combination of photography and creative imaging talent from ImageTap, a creative service of Vertis, to execute their vision for the drink, appetizer, and dessert shots.
According to the project's art director, Andy Hastings, personality and work ethic are major factors when hiring a photographer. Hastings stresses the importance of photographers showing initiative and being confident in their work: "When we sent sketches to photographer Jason Gamble, he came up with ways to make it even better."
ē Know the politics in the agency and with the particular client. Are there conflicts between key personnel? Likes or dislikes among your freelance crew? Will the client want to be treated like a king or keep it simple and not pay for it? Keep this in mind to alleviate foreseeable conflicts or issues that may arise.
ē Understand the project's scope, strategy, and timing. Who is the target audience? Where, how, and to what size will the work be reproduced? Is it a large or small project for the client? Are there other services you could provide, e.g., retouching or final file prep, which could add value and give you more control over the final image?
Hastings credits ImageTap's ability to offer photography and imaging services in the same studio with keeping the Chili's project moving quickly and smoothly.
"As soon as we were done shooting, ImageTap's creative imaging artist, William Wardy, would start compositing. We could almost see the final image before we had to tear the set down and set it up again. We didn't have to wait until the next day to know if a shot worked."
This technique also worked for the Nieman Group, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based agency that used ImageTap's creative team to develop Sheetz's in-store posters to promote the store group's French fries.
Art director James Helms enjoyed having the photographer and imaging artist work together: "Having the retoucher's input on the studio shoot, beginning with the production meeting, was very progressive."
Additional Tips and Tricks
In addition to asking the right questions, a photographer can do much to ensure a shoot's success. Following are a few tips to help make your ad shoot a winner:
1. Schedule a pre-production meeting so you and your production team will have time to produce top-quality work and stay on schedule. The meeting should be in-person whenever possible, or by conference call, so the necessary crew, client, and agency individuals can discuss their expectations for the shoot.
If the client requests changes in scope from the original assignment, even on set, discuss possible overages, submit a revised estimate for client review, and obtain client approval before incurring additional expenses. Discuss postponing the shoot, if necessary, or compromising on changes, if the schedule is inflexible. This will position you as a strategic thinker and problem solver.