Should You Hire a Creative Director or an Art Director for Your Commercial Photography?

May 4, 2023

Should you hire a Creative Director, an Art Director, neither, or both? This is a common question, especially from brands and businesses who are preparing for a commercial photoshoot.

Commercial photography and videography have unique needs that don’t always apply to other forms of photography and videography.

A cut lime sits on a table as a prop during an advertising photoshoot, chosen by the creative director and art director.

There are so many things to consider when creating great visual assets, and these are questions that are at the forefront of a Creative Director or Art Director’s mind:

  • Are your visual assets cohesive with your brand?
  • Do they appeal to your target audience?
  • Do they properly showcase your products and/or services?
  • What kind of vibe are you creating? What story are you trying to convey?
  • Will they work well on your social media feeds, website, print materials, and anywhere else you might want to use them?
  • Do your brand images help accomplish your business goals?
  • How do you execute the type of visuals that you want?

Should You Hire a Creative Director or an Art Director for your Branding Photoshoot?

Creative direction and art direction will help ensure not only that your commercial photoshoot goes as smoothly as possible, but that your brand images are on-point and contribute to your business goals, values, and vision. But is an Art Director the same as a Creative Director? While the roles can be easily confused and there are similarities, there are also some important differences.

Creative Director vs. Art Director

So, what’s the difference between creative and artistic directors? Let’s dive in!

What Does a Creative Director Do?

When thinking about creative direction for an advertising agency, visions of Don Draper sipping rye in Mad Men might come to mind. But what does a Creative Director really do in a day? The day-to-day tasks vary since they have roles in many different industries, but in general, they oversee the entire creative process behind a photoshoot, advertising campaign, or whatever type of project is at play. They will typically lead a team of other creatives such as photographers, videographers, designers, writers, and more, depending on the scope of the project.

A hand holds a mobile phone with the Qatch app open in front of a blue background along with nail polish, jewelry, and flowers; helping to answer the question should you hire a creative director.

A Creative Director in photography—and, specifically, commercial photography—would utilize a combined knowledge of data, marketing savvy, human behavior, and current trends to create a vision and strategy catered to the brand’s unique needs. They might have education or experience in psychology, sociology, marketing and advertising, a wide variety of creative endeavors, and more. Their portfolio might include successful marketing campaigns that show off a vision and strategy. What makes this role unique is its ability to be decisive, analytical, and convincing while also leading others and having a strong grasp on creativity and what consumers are looking for. The Creative Director is the “big ideas” person.

What is an Art Director?

The role of an Art Director (sometimes referred to as an Artistic Director) has some similarities. However, an Art Director is more focused on the specific creative aspects—the practical aspects— of the project or photoshoot. The Art Director works closely with any other creatives on the team to execute the vision outlined by the Creative Director.

The Art Director will lead the team in its day-to-day tasks and make sure the project is rolling along as planned. Or, if there isn’t a larger team, they may be the one executing it on their own. They’re also responsible for handling all the little artistic details and ensuring the quality of the project is up to standard. In photography, an Art Director might double as the photographer, or they might be there to direct the photographer, as well as make decisions regarding hiring models, choosing outfits, posing, product placement, using props, lighting, editing, and so on. An Artistic Director should have strong skills in design, art, organization, and (if working with a team) leading people. Their portfolio would likely include specific artistic elements like photos and designs that show off their artistic ability and eye for style. The Art Director is the artsy one who gets stuff done.

Do Art Directors Report to Creative Directors?

In a sense, yes. The Creative Director is typically the one who decides on the larger vision for the project or shoot and works closely with the client to make sure they’re happy. However, often, the two will work together to come up with the vision for a commercial photoshoot, combining their different specialties to create something that is both visually appealing and highly marketable. In the end, the Creative Director is more focused on the overall vision and strategy and the Art Director is more focused on the aesthetics and execution of the project at hand.

So, Who Should I Hire for My Brand Photography?

In the end, creative direction and art direction will greatly enhance your brand photoshoot. So, we say you should definitely hire at least one! But should you hire a Creative Director and an Art Director? Whether you need both really depends on the scope of your business and project. If you are a smaller company with a smaller budget, simply hiring an Art Director of Photography or a photographer with experience in artistic direction could be a great asset. It’s so much better than just going in blind and hoping for great results, and will give you renewed confidence in your brand! If you are a larger company creating a full-fledged marketing campaign, you should really consider hiring both to ensure that your project is as effective as possible and that your efforts aren’t wasted. Some creative agencies (like Marika Creative) offer both, so you can hire everything you need (including photographers) all at once!

Having commercial images, stop-motion, videos, and other visual assets that serve a greater vision will help your brand stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of your target audience—especially in a time when attention spans are limited, clutter is everywhere, and visual content is queen.  And that’s the whole point, right?! So why waste valuable resources on something that might not accomplish your goals? When it comes to a great brand photoshoot, strategy, vision, and proper skills are everything.

Hiring a Creative Director and/or Art Director

So you’ve answered the question of should you hire a Creative Director or Art Director—now, what’s the next step?

Tips for Hiring Creative Directors and Art Directors

When looking for someone to add to your creative team, look for the following:

  • Portfolio: Examine the quality of their recent work and see if it strikes a chord with you.
  • Experience and education: Just because someone is newer to the role doesn’t mean they won’t do an amazing job, but it’s still helpful to get an idea of their past experience and education. Plus, there are certain hard skills you’ll want to make sure they have depending on your project, such as photography and videography.
  • Communication skills and style: Reach out to them and see how well they communicate with you. Do they get back to you right away? How do they typically like to communicate, and does that work for you (email, phone calls, text, etc.)? Ask how available they will be to you throughout the project.
  • Process: Ask them about their process to see if it suits what you’re looking for.
  • Referrals: If you’re still unsure, you might want to ask for referrals from others they’ve worked with.
  • Budget: Of course, it’s important to make sure that the hire is within your budget. But remember—creatives deserve to be paid what they're worth! If you’re looking at someone with more experience, they’re likely to have higher rates. While some might be open to negotiating, you should never expect someone to lower their rates for you.
  • Gut instinct: Never underestimate the power of your gut instinct! What vibe do you get from the person? If there’s something holding you back, listen to it.

Art Direction and Creative Direction in LA and Beyond

Marika Creative is a challenger agency that offers more than just photography, videography, and stop-motion for businesses; we also offer creative direction and art direction to take your brand projects to the next level.

We specialize in creating strategic and bold visual experiences for businesses that are ready to stand out. We are based near Los Angeles but work with brands worldwide. So whether you’re looking for commercial photography in LA, Boston, New York, or somewhere farther away, let’s chat!

Learn more about our services, view some of our past work, and contact us if you’re interested in working together. We look forward to meeting you and taking your business to new heights!


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