How to Art Direct a Photo Shoot


Art directing a photo shoot gives an artist a chance to exercise both his creative and corporate sides while garnering the responsibility of both mediator and decision-maker on set. Responsibilities vary, depending on the product, but the art director reigns as one of the most important members of the team that, while not seen in the final product, remain essential to the client, model, photographer and crew.

  • Familiarize yourself with how a photo shoot happens. An art director needs to have good organizational skills, people skills and experience on a working set. Experience as a photo team member, such as a model, stylist, hair and makeup artist or photographer, can be helpful. Understanding the flow and dynamic of the set are crucial, and experience may be more beneficial than a traditional education.

  • Understand the photo shoot subject and expectations. Do this when dealing with the client before the photo shoot. Learn about the product being sold and understand the feeling the client wants generated by the advertisement. Once those are established, you'll have a better knowledge of how to proceed if it falls under your responsibility to select the rest of the crew, location and any props, wardrobe and talent.

  • Handle pre-production. Hire the crew, secure the photo shoot location and deal with other assigned tasks.

  • Take charge at the photo shoot. An art director is present for the photo shoot's duration. Relay the client's vision to the photographer while not stifling his creative capacity. Consult with and give the photographer the final go on angles and lighting. Oversee the creative process while ensuring the product is presented in the manner in which the client wants. The art director usually works with a storyboard and mock-up of what the end product should look like. Photo shoots can be for magazines, catalogs, brochures, in-store posters, billboards, Internet use and packaging as well as other targeted means of promotion. Depending on the end product, the goals of a shoot vary. For a campaign, only one shot may occur in the entire day. For a catalog, more than 100 shots may be taken.

  • Wrap production. The words "it's a wrap" and the ensuing applause does not mean it's a wrap for you. Art direction continues long after the models, and often the photographer, leave. Post-production is among the most important work you'll oversee; this work will be sent to the client, and it takes a skilled and objective eye to ascertain the most suitable photo images. Analyze the digital images or film contact sheets to determine which images to process further and send to the client. Compare the photos against the mock-up, and decide whether any images need to be re-shot or if the shoot is indeed "wrapped."

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  • Photo Credit dreaming a model image by Alfonso d"Agostino from
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