Tricks of the Trade: P is for Process and Photography

By Alicja Colon

The summer of 2014 will go down in Focus Lab’s history books: A photographer is on staff. And I’m the lucky girl.

From better Insta- shots to full-out photo shoots for websites and brands, this lady will be serving up fresh imagery on the regs.

Having someone devoted solely to photography is a new feature at Focus Lab. In addition to dreaming up all the ways I can help, I’m also trying to create a process to seamlessly apply to our established design process.

I figured you might be meagerly interested.

Fitting In

Thus far, we’ve pinpointed that I will add value by:

  • Developing branding clients’ photography style
  • Finding or capturing custom stock imagery for brand presentations and website designs
  • Styling, planning, and shooting images that showcase our brands/websites for portfolio purposes
  • Capturing Focus Lab’s culture to share socially

The Process: Objective

The process at this juncture starts with understanding the objective: should I focus more on industry, story, or branded products? I generally like to be able to ascribe a ratio, for example: this shoot needs to be 80% about the story, and 20% on the brand. Quantifying this creates a filter that helps me make decisions during planning and shooting.

Mood

This is a moodboard for an upcoming shoot for a recent branding client.

From there, I dive into the Creative Brief caressed into being by Ms. Summer, our Brand Strategist, and then review the brand’s development. Planning for the photo shoot starts before the brand is done.

I start digging in Getty Images, Design Inspiration, 500px to find images that I feel evoke the emotion, personality, even compositions that I feel tell the brand/story effectively.

In the moodboard I’ll pinpoint:

  • textures (sometimes going as far as primary and secondary)
  • warmth, or lack there of
  • lighting
  • composition
  • color palettes
  • props (that I believe are crucial to the success of the shoot)

I bullet point those key items, to ensure nothing is lost in review. I want to make sure the designers know exactly what I’m trying to communicate with the board and individual images.

Concept

This shoot focused on the story of the client in her studio conceptualizing her next season’s clothing line.

As mentioned earlier, some shoots focus more on story. This needs to be detailed and generally only a couple of sentences are needed. What really sets us up for a win is a shot list that accompanies the story. This sometimes helps clarify necessary items/props, as well as ensures we can thoroughly communicate the story in a series of stills. (Hence why shot planning alongside a brand-in-progress is awesomesauce.)

Other instances, story isn’t key. But don’t think that concepting those images isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s more so. And harder! It’s tougher for me to plan a shoot where only aesthetic is king. I don’t have the story to lean on to help guide the scene, mood, etc. Difficulty is partially compounded by the need to craft visually contrasting, yet cohesive, images in the same shoot. Gotta keep the post spicy!

It’s important to mention here that sometimes I have to test my concepts.

Support

Since we plan shoots during the branding process it’s easy to add needed props to the design list, like the pillow above.

Between the moodboard, concepts, and shot list, I have a solid idea as to what items are needed to support the shoot. When I draft this list, I also include background, location options, models, etc. From there, I have a better sense of the cost and shoot-date.

There’s a whole other process for day-of shooting, and post-processing. I’m sure those will be revealed, eventually. :)