Lulu Chen on Directing Models and Crew on a Fashion Photo Shoot

In Chapter 14 of 16 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, art director Lulu Chen answers "What Do You Do to Bring Out the Best in the Fashion Models and Crew You Direct on Set?"   As a photo art director, Chen tries to let the models and crew do their jobs and verbalize encouragement and feedback during the shoot.  She bridges the constructive criticism by being sure to communicate what she is trying to accomplish and to try to be helpful in the direction she gives. 

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: What do you do to bring out the best in the fashion models and crew you direct on set?

Lulu Chen: Well, I really try to let them do their own thing. I try and let them do their jobs, and I really—I try to encourage them. And so if things are going—if there’s a certain—if there’s a certain shot or a certain position or a certain thing that’s working, I definitely verbalize that and just, you know, I just keep giving encouragement, like, “Oh, that looks great.” And, you know, sometimes I’ll point out little things but, you know, ultimately I trust in the people that are working with me.

Erik Michielsen: How do you kind of bridge that, you know, constructive criticism and make sure that you’re providing the input you need to as a director without overstepping your grounds?

Lulu Chen: Well, I also—I’d like to add that I think it’s really important depending on what kind of project you’re working on to really let the team and the model know what it is that you’re doing, you know? Like to know the layout or if it’s a full page or what you’re trying to establish. Because they can’t do it unless they know. It’s like help me help you type of thing, so I definitely try and give them information without over saturating them with it.

And also, I’ll try and point out little things that they probably know but they’re not cognizant of, like some people have quirks, you know, so an example is, one of my models sometimes they do this with their hands, and the problem is, you know, if I don’t have enough frames without it, then I have this in a shot. And I know it’s not—I mean I couldn’t do it, you know, I probably have these strange quirks of my own, so I just try and watch out for it, I try not to point out anything too negative, you know, but I also try to be more constructive, so if there’s a couple of frames, I’ll just—that I really need like a safe shot or something really, really simple and straightforward, I’ll just say, “Oh, you know, can you just keep your hands like really straight,” or something. Just to cover it, you know, but I try not to make them feel self-conscious ‘cause I would never want to, and it’s something that you don’t even realize, I think, that you’re doing.

And also it’s a collaboration so sometimes people point out certain things to me and, you know, it’s also my job to point out, like, “Oh, you know, maybe that should change,” or, maybe we should fix something that they might not have seen right away.