November 14, 2022

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it many times more: high-quality, on-brand photos are the *most* important branding element to have before you design any kind of website. 

A picture speaks a thousand words, yadda yadda yadda, you get it. 

But for many clients, doing a professional photoshoot is an overwhelming concept. Besides nailing down the photographer, location, brand vibe, and props, clients are often also wondering: “how do I communicate my vision?” And even better still, “what is my vision?” 

That’s where photoshoot art direction comes in.

What is art direction?

Art direction is the synapse between strategy, vision, and design. Where many website designers might simply be executing a vision already prescribed to them, working with a designer who *also* offers art and/or creative direction means you’re also getting a high-level, overall vision for your brand that takes into account the many intersecting brand elements and brings them together to tell a cohesive story.

Think of it this way—a brand & web designer’s job is to take your pre-existing photos and copy and translate it into a functional, searchable, high-converting website. But an art director is responsible for taking the core of your brand story & mission and constructing an entire creative vision for it aesthetically, photoshoot included.

Why does it matter?

You’d be surprised how much your brand & website are dictated by your brand photography.

My number one goal when working with clients is for them to leave me with a website that makes them more money. So, when I work with clients who have pre-existing photography, most of my time is spent crafting a brand vision and website that goes with their pre-existing photos. (After all, when it comes to the visuals, cohesion is what builds trust and makes sales!)

But imagine a world where your brand vision could be based off of your target audience, core values, & mission instead? Where we could choose whatever colors made the most sense based on your messaging and customer psychology, not whatever outfits you wore to the photoshoot you already had? And where every element of your brand is strategized from the get-go, from photography to video to type and beyond.

That’s what photoshoot art direction gives you.

But do I really neeeeed it?

I’m not the type of person to say you really *need* anything. I’ve worked with countless entrepreneurs who already have pre-existing photography and make a killing on their websites. But for those of you who are nervous about having a photoshoot, or don’t know where to start, or are overwhelmed with the planning stage, art direction was created for you.

What does photoshoot art direction include?

There’s a lot that goes into photoshoot art direction. Here’s what it includes when you work with Kleist Creative on art direction before your brand & website.

Strategy & Creative Direction, AKA Moodboards

To kick things off, we’ll hop on a zoom call to chat about your brand vision, values, core messaging and brand personality. I’ll also ask a ton of questions about aesthetic styles you’re drawn to, colors that feel like home, important imagery, etc. From there, I’ll put together a few creative moodboard options based on our chat, and we’ll refine them into one final moodboard. This will serve as our overall vision.


After the moodboard phase, I’ll dive deep to find photographers and locations in your area that will serve our vision well. When I’m looking for photographers, I’m keeping color tones, budget, and their editing style in mind to make sure we land on someone who can really execute the vision we established. When I’m looking for locations, I am looking for versatility, lighting, and of course, making sure our location is on-brand.

Prop & Shot Lists

One of the most important aspects of a brand photoshoot is planning props and shot lists ahead of time. (And if you’ve ever run around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to find props around your house the morning of a brand photoshoot, then you know why I say that.) Unlike headshot photoshoots or normal portraits, brand photoshoots require a lot of differently-styled detail shots, and depending on the brand, you can really make these unique. This is where a well-planned prop and shot list can come in handy.

Communication with the Photographer

As art director, it’s my job to make sure the photographer understands everything we’re going for. However, the best brand photoshoots are always the ones with a mutual understanding of collaboration. I’ll be in communication with your photographer before your shoot to explain the vision and plan, but also lay the groundwork to welcome their creative input as well. (Photographers are genius, and should be treated as such!)

Add-On: Styling

You might be thinking, “this all sounds amazing, but I have the worst fashion sense in the history of fashion!”. (That’s totally fair, because picking outfits is my least favorite part of a brand shoot.) Luckily, I work with an amazing stylist who has you covered. Reach out and we can chat further about this option!

Add-On: Makeup Artist Research

Similar to photographer research, I can also conduct research to find a makeup artist in your area. Regardless of whether or not I help you find this person, I do recommend getting professional makeup done; most clients end up loving so many more of their photos, which gives them a better bang for their buck financially (and gives us more to play with on your site)!

Curious to learn more?

If you’re considering photoshoot art direction for your next brand overhaul but are curious how this looks in an actual project, check out this recent case study of how we went from creative direction, to art direction, to brand, to website!

If you’re like “hell yes, I need this”, you know where to find me!
And if you’re like, “okay okay okay, I see the value, but I need to DIY”— here’s the perfect resource for you.

Hi, I'm Sarah Kleist.

Brand & web designer, personal brand strategist, and marketing educator obsessed with the power of connecting with audiences.



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