Click! Creative Collaboration with a Pro Photographer

November 17, 2015

One of the most important collaborative partners an art director — or a corporate marketer — can have is a talented and experienced photographer.

Long before I was sure of myself I was counting on the creativity of the photographers with whom I work on clients’ marketing and branding projects. Their vision into my concepts and ideas helps make the marketing projects I lead more successful. Basically, they make me look good and help to make my clients happy.

Recently, when I needed a trusted collaborator for an important Sherwin-Williams advertising project, I turned to Jake Armour of Armour Photography. I needed a photographer who could capture explosive energy and contain it in an image. This campaign needed to break through the ordinary staged room shots in magazines and engage the professional designer audience.

We had to paint a full cove (wall and floor) and repaint it for each ad. Jake and I collaborated on talent scouting and selection, reviewing dozens of actors and models and holding a casting call to find just the right combination of energy and personality. As we shot the photography, we also had a team of two from Hanley Wood Marketing shooting video around us to document the creation of these iconic images. That video will give you a sense for the teamwork that goes into making a great ad.

When the photo shoot wrapped and the ads were finished, it wound up being a great collaboration. Which got me thinking: What goes into making the collaboration between art director and photographer not only work, but work extremely well. I asked Jake to weigh in on what he believes makes for successful collaboration with a photographer.

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HWM: Some clients might wonder why original photography requires an art director and a photographer working together. What’s your perspective on the different roles we each play, and how both are important to an effective collaboration?

JA: My experience has taught me that art direction is a vital piece in the creative process, The art director (AD) brings the big idea to the table. It’s my job to translate that into visuals that embrace and amplify the concept. I have created my best work with the partnership of an AD. We feed off each other’s ideas and instincts to create images that go beyond expectations of the creative we started with. It is a dance between staying on message and being willing to take risks that take us places that elevate the brand we are representing. That is when the magic shines through. You can feel it in the air when the shots rolling into the computer tell the story better than planned.

HWM: When an art director or client is communicating their ideas and vision to you, what sort of input and information do you find most useful in getting both of you on the same wavelength?

JA: I climb inside the concept and find the vibe and essence of the creative brief via layouts, scrap and dialogue. All of that helps to illustrate the desired goals and messaging, and the emotional connection we’re looking to make with the audience. I look to understand the viewer’s perspective in society and in the context of the goals of the client’s project. I become an active member of the team, working up best ways to create images with power. Brainstorming is a wonderful joust!

HWM: Sometimes you work directly with a client and there’s no agency art director involved. What do you find tends to be missing in those sorts of collaborations?

JA: I do a lot of business direct with my clients. Often they have in-house creative department and will hire me as a creative partner. I call that the “added value “ at Armour Photo. When I work with an ad agency or design firm there is often a more refined vision already established through research and many creative layers. I embrace both relationships and supply my creative input to support the different and unique needs of each creative mission.

HWM: When I am reviewing a portfolio through an artist’s rep, I also want to meet the photographer to see if we have a connection or synergy of thinking. How do you approach portfolio showings and working with a rep?

JA: I have been in charge of my marketing from the beginning, over 25 years. I have had two reps in the middle of my career; both were employees and trained by me. That was a good thing. But today I do all my marketing face to face and there is no substitute for personal contact. My photography speaks for itself, but the ability to communicate and partner with the art director or the client is king.

Hanley Wood Marketing
430 First Avenue North
Suite 550
Minneapolis, MN 55401


Mary Jo Haugan Lindholm


Vince Giorgi


Front Desk