Why Photographers Who Can Help Art Direct Are in Demand

November 8, 2016

By Holly Stuart Hughes

In a highly competitive market, commercial photographers need to do more than provide nice photos. They are increasingly called upon to act as art directors on advertising assignments—by contributing ideas for the images that should go into a campaign.

“I think the value of the photographer has shifted a bit, to where you have to be a full-fledged partner in the creative process or else, what good are you?” says Paul Costello, a veteran advertising photographer. Costello has worked with Draper James, the clothing and lifestyle company founded by actress Reese Witherspoon, since it launched its first branding efforts last year. He has since shot five seasons for the brand, and also helped conceive visual ideas for the brand. “There are too many photographers who can take a good picture if you give them the ingredients. If you help decide what the ingredients [should be], that’s where your value is. The bigger the role you play in those decisions, the more valuable you are.”

“I think we’re in a time where there are so many photographers, that you have to be someone who brings ideas to the table,” says David Walter Banks, half of the Brinson + Banks duo.

The duo was hired this year to shoot images that Garnier, the beauty and hair care company, used online and on social media. From the initial creative call through the bidding process, they suggested additional shots and setups. Their suggestions required a bigger budget, but they landed the job, and Garnier subsequently hired them to take on bigger productions.

While many ad assignments still begin with a required shot list the client has approved, photographers say there are many ways to contribute ideas to a campaign: Some do it during the creative call, or in a treatment, during preproduction meetings, or as the shoot unfolds. PDN looked into some ad assignments on which photographers contributed art direction help, and learned how they offered their input, why their ideas were welcome, and how their creative input helped them land more work:

Brinson + Banks for beauty and hair care company Garnier

Paul Costello for clothing and lifestyle brand Draper James

Romain Laurent for car maker Citrëon