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The Photographer – Art Director Relationship
How to Build Strong Ties During Ad Shoots


Chili's drink special
Chili’s restaurant specialty menu image designed by Austin-based agency GSD&M for Brinker International.
© Jason Gamble


french fry with ketchup
Sheetz in-store poster images promoting the group’s French fries designed by Nieman Group, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based agency.
© Jason Gamble


Chili's drink special
Chili’s restaurant specialty menu image designed by Austin-based agency GSD&M for Brinker International.
© Jason Gamble


Chili's sample platter image
Vertis’ ImageTap Studio in Dallas, Texas. Digital imaging by William Wardy, also of ImageTap.
© Mitch Magnuson


french fries as onion
Sheetz in-store poster images promoting the group’s French fries designed by Nieman Group, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based agency.
© Jason Gamble


guitar made with french fries
heetz in-store poster images promoting the group’s French fries designed by Nieman Group, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based agency.
© Jason Gamble


campfire with fries
Sheetz in-store poster images promoting the group’s French fries designed by Nieman Group, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based agency.
© Jason Gamble


Chili's drink images
Chili’s restaurant specialty menu image designed by Austin-based agency GSD&M for Brinker International.
© Jason Gamble



2. Know that your job is to make the art director look good and make the client happy. Since the art director's job can depend on how well you do yours, be enthusiastic and appreciative. Hastings found the photographer's great attitude on the set helped make the project move much faster and smoother, as mentioned earlier.

3. Discuss the lines of communication for shoot days. The typical protocol is the client should talk to the art director, the art director talks to you, you talk to your crew. Involving too many individuals can be disruptive, non-productive.

Ultimately, the client is paying the bill. Your job is to solve any problem that arises to please all three parties.

4. If there's more than one way to shoot something, time permitting, be prepared to shoot multiple versions. Hastings also credits much of the project's success to the flexibility of photographer Jason Gamble: "Sometimes our sketch was the ‘ideal world' version and we would have to come up with an alternative that worked in the ‘real world.' If we came up with a suggestion at the last minute, Jason was willing to change direction the same day we were scheduled to shoot."

5. Think about the experience you want the art director and the client to have in your studio. Be sure the studio is clean and try to be innovative with catering, regardless of budget. If the shoot lasts more than a day, serve different food each day.

Also, put other client work or product out of view and be ready to start on time. The art director should be there to discuss the shoot before the client arrives so you can agree on how to proceed.

Final Advice
Hopefully, your most recent shoot was successful and you've established a great relationship with the art director. Once you agree on the delivery date for the images––try to be early––follow up to be sure the client has approved the images, send a thank-you note, and deliver your invoice within two weeks after approval.

If the shoot is the first for an ongoing team, schedule a "raise the bar" meeting with your team and the art director after approval to discuss key learnings on both sides. If you or the art director have ideas you'd like to try, or if she's using another photographer for work you'd like to be doing, set up a test time. Testing gives you an opportunity to work with an art director in a more relaxed atmosphere and get to know him better.

If you work well with an art director and agency, and your work exceeds expectations, a relationship will develop and blossom. Such was the case for Nieman Group and the creative team from ImageTap, which was recently hired by the agency for three projects.

Says art director Helms, "The best relationships between art directors and photographers are those where the photographer is considered a partner, not a vendor."

Melanie Spiegel is the national director of photography and business development for Vertis Studios (www.vertisinc.com). She is responsible for talent management and business development for the studio's 25-plus photographers.


   







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