Art directing people at a photo shoot

Tips on photographing subjects for hospital marketing campaigns

Photographing people for healthcare marketing and advertising is not easy. We don’t usually use professional models. You never know how good someone is going to be until you get them in front of the camera. The trick is to get them comfortable, have one person giving them direction and try not to take too much time. So who should be giving the ‘models’ direction?


There can be a lot of people on set. Sometimes it’s just the photographer and art director, but the group can include a stylist, an account manager, and the marketing director of the organization, to name a few. Like the saying goes, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth,’ – too many people giving direction can spoil the shoot.

To coordinate a successful photo shoot, it is important for the art director to know what they want and to chose a photographer they work well with. Every art director has their favorite photographers, but be sure to choose the one who is really good with people. And not just good at photographing people, but good at being able to make the subject relax and be comfortable. Not all photographers can do that.

So here is the protocol that works for me:

  • As the art director, if I want something I tell the photographer. The photographer directs the model. If there is a problem with wardrobe or make-up, I speak to the stylist and then to the photographer.
  • If the stylist notices something needs adjusting, he/she speaks to the photographer. The photographer stops the shoot and tells the model what is going to happen and then the stylist steps in.
  • If the client is on set, they speak with me if there is something they would like to see shot. We then speak with the photographer and he/she directs the model.
  • A single person giving direction keeps the model focused and unconfused. Everyone gets what they are looking for and the shoot goes pretty quickly. This doesn’t mean no one is allowed to speak to the subject, it just means they don’t direct the subject.

Of course, words of encouragement from the team, such as ‘you look great,’ ‘you’re doing a great job,’ etc., are always appreciated.