Both work visually, but approaches can be different. And there are a lot of questions: How much direction is too much? Where can creativity come into play? How will the visuals really be used?
In my career, I’ve focused on a few key points to help make visual collaborations successful, creative and fun.
1.) Share inspiration. One of the most important things you should do before a project even begins is to figure out if the creative director/designer and a photographer are a good fit and can collaborate successfully. One of the most effective ways to determine that is by sharing inspiration. Words can mean different things to different people, so if you’re working on a visual collaboration, it’s helpful to share what inspires you, what publications you like or what catches your eye. That can help ensure everyone is on the same page and can work toward a common vision.
2.) Have a strong outline. Every project has its must-haves, but it isn’t fun to just be a technician clicking buttons. When you have a strong project outline, you know what the boundaries are, but also where you can play and bring your creativity to bear. In a recent project, a new cookbook from model and chef Chrissy Teigen, the stakes were high. It was important to capture the author’s personality while also getting foundational shots to put together a beautiful and useful cookbook. We had a month of in-depth conversations, shared Pinterest boards and discussed mood sheets to define what was absolutely needed and where we could experiment. One dish could be a beauty shot, but another might be difficult to make, so we needed to show the preparation steps. And we had to capture the fun and spontaneity of the author, both for the book and for marketing. Because we had a strong outline, I knew what the publisher needed, knew the tone and approach, but on set had the freedom to be flexible and mobile and creative. And that’s important – there needs to be that willingness to make mistakes or try things that aren’t completely applicable so that creative can naturally unfold. You can find within constraints the freedom to let the serendipitous things happen that really bring a project to life.
3.) What’s the brand? As much as visual collaborators want to have a creative voice, the client needs to have a product that matches their brand. It’s important to understand what’s going to work best for them, what their goals are and how we can best support their brand. That understanding provides a solid base when you’re on set so you can be flexible to capture something that feels authentic rather than contrived but still meets the client’s needs. I try to have a a conversation with clients about what their brand is and see my work as an extension of that – a chance to compliment it and also be able to augment it.
4.) What are the outlets? It’s important to fully understand where the images are going and how they’ll be used. There are so many outlets for a project’s images – print, marketing collateral, social media – so you really need wide coverage. You also need to know what will play well where – can we use outtakes, do we need to leave room for text, does the image need a square frame for social? By knowing all the possible uses, a photographer can ensure the images will be successful.