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Communicating creative direction with your client

Throughout the years of my career as a professional photographer working with various types of client ranging from commercial advertising all the way to editorial shoots. Consistently delivering high quality images for hotels, restaurants, architect, designers and even e-commerce clients is definitely a non negotiable, leaving no room for mistakes. Like magicians we often find ourself having no other solutions but to turn every undesirable situation into favourable ones using our knowledge when so many things are at stake. Therefore a lot of emphasis has to be put into pre-productions to ensure that we are able to predict and handle every hiccups based on our past experience. This is also where the value of an experience photographer will stands out from the others.


Pre-production stage is usually when we communicate with client on their desired creative direction. Although creative direction may seem like a massive sink hole to majority of the clients, it is our job as a photographer to accurately communicate it in a language that they understand. As both communication and creative direction are the factors that make or break a photoshoot.


We could simplify creative direction as a way of creating content based on the business brand strategy. Style of photography being one of them is usually selected to match the brand aesthetic based on market research, customer analytics, demographics and unique brand value. Our approach for clueless clients most of the time is to adapt our shooting style with the existing photographic "look" of the brand. While it may be the safest approach to a shoot, it often offers the least in terms of creative freedom to add our own touch as the foundation look of the images have already been set by the overall brand outlook itself.


As I am now working towards exclusively serving a niche group of architecture and hospitality clients. I can't help but to find myself constantly thinking about the best creative direction to produce most desirable outcome for the client. However, on the other hand with architectural photography, it seems to be somewhat irrelevant as the space itself often already dictates how the image should look or does it really?


For me, it is always a challenge to achieve client's desired look or even bringing the entire space to the next level of presentation. As much as it is a challenge, I am happy to embrace and approach it with a tailor made workflow for every project even when clients tells me "Just do your best, we trust you" or "We leave this to you, you are the expert". While having the client's trust to do whatever we want may be a cool thing, but being a responsible professional photographer that is constantly pushing boundaries regardless of project size, I find myself always involving client into the discussions and working on the project together. This way we can ensure that the most desired outcome is often achieve.


To simplify my communication approach with my clients, I often start with introducing 2 basic categories. "The light and bright" or "The dark and moody". Which is then followed with a "Do you have a reference project that you desire" question. That way I could dig deeper into the conversation to understand which direction they're leaning towards based on their design intent. From there, I will advice them accordingly from a professional standpoint.


In a way communicating with client appropriately would allow us to effectively get into our client's mind to know what they want. As the saying goes, there is nothing to deliver to if there is no direction / requirement to deliver towards. Whether you are a photographer or a client reading this, I would love to know your approach and how you effectively communicate creative direction with one another. Do you as a photographer give your client choice on the final look or do you as a client trust your photographer to deliver what they think best suits the space?




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