How to Use Concepts and Storyboards When Planning a Photo Shoot

In Chapter 11 of 16 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, art director Lulu Chen answers "How Do Concepting and Storyboarding Help You Direct a Shoot?"  Chen finds putting town ideas on paper facilitates more effective collaboration.  Writing down concepts and storyboards provide examples that help others understand your thinking.  This creates more effective collaboration that results in presenting photo shoot ideas to the creative director for approval.  She notes how limiting creative brainstorming can result in a game of telephone. 

Lulu Chen is a photo art director working in retail e-commerce in New York City.  Previously, Chen worked as a freelance stylist for leading fashion catalogs and magazines.  She earned a BFA in design and art history from the University of Michigan.


Erik Michielsen: How do concepting and storyboarding help you direct a shoot?

Lulu Chen: You know, what we do is so visual. And it’s very hard to convey, just something that’s in your head, you have to put down on paper. And whether it be something that you mock up that’s just purely a vision that you have or an idea or, you know, you pull inspiration or swipe and I think it’s easier to collaborate and have talking points, and to show what you’re trying to convey. It’s very hard to be like, “Oh, I want the light to look like this.” You know, you start talking and it’s also what you’re expressing verbally may be totally different in somebody else’s head, or if their perception of, you know, it’s like telephone, except that, you know, you’re there in person and then it could just become a hot mess. Yeah, I think that it’s really important to have specific examples, so that everyone can understand exactly what you’re thinking.

Erik Michielsen: And is that more of an individual task or is it a collective task?

Lulu Chen: So, it can be both. You can work on it by yourself. But ultimately, in my past experiences, you’ve had to present it and there’s checks and balances. So you talk to your creative director about it or other people on the team, just to make sure that everybody’s in sync and on the same page.

Erik Michielsen: And is there a sign off process?

Lulu Chen: Sometimes. Yes. You know, it depends on how elaborate the shoot is.

Erik Michielsen: And how does that work?

Lulu Chen: Well, you present your ideas, and they say, yes or no. Or, you know, they might say that we like this aspect, maybe we should explore this direction a bit more or, you know, this chair looks a little funny, like maybe we should get some more options or I think that’s just, you know… off top with my head but, yeah, it’s definitely a collaboration.