a lot of people send messages asking about the process of a shoot, or specifically the creative director/art director role. it’s actually kinda fun for me to think about and i’m going through a little depression right now so hey, distractions!


once you get the job, the research starts. let’s say it’s a clothing company. i think about who wears it, how do they feel when they wear it, what’s the vibe, which one of my friends would wear it? what’s the head of the company like, what does the about section on their website say? what kind of instagram imagery are they drawn to already? it’s important to understand the company really well before you get started.


then ideas! and this is the part you really gotta push yourself because it feels like everything has been done. for me, my best ideas come from sitting down and doing a little train of thought exercise. recently i was thinking about a shoot with circles. i sat down and wrote down all the things that come to mind when i think of circles…crop circles, the tops of glasses, animal spots, the stone ball from indiana jones (let your mind get weird and random!) pick one or two you like and expand on it. how would it look if you did a shoot with a bunch of huge stones coming at the camera? sometimes your mind takes an out there idea and then simplifies it and boom! maybe those stones just become bubbles or something different? take your mind on a ride! (or actually take a real ride, cars or plane rides usually give me good ideas too)


i usually try to come up with at least 2-3 solid concepts to present to a client. making them very different from each other and giving them a variety to choose from. it’s also fun to do this with a friend. order dinner in, have some wine or whatever it is you like to do to get ideas going, and just start talking about it. don’t be afraid to sound silly. really, there is no bad ideas. well, stolen ideas are bad ideas, but that’s about it. bounce your random thoughts off of someone and see how they interpret it.


occasionally i will make pdf formats with ideas, building them out in photoshop. but a lot of times i will just organize my ideas with go moodboard (love that site for quick easy sharing with others.) click on “blank board.” i feel like pinterest secret boards are cool but my invitations always get lost and it’s just not as straight forward as a bunch of images that i can move around on a blank page. just my personal preference, i am sure there are tons of ways to do this! i hit “share” when i am done and just send the link with an explanation of the idea. again, i make 2 or 3 of these at least. then the client chooses their favorite or you have to come up with more and eventually you get to a place where you can go deeper into the shot list.


once your idea becomes more solid, you have to start looking for references. i usually like to start my idea process OFF the computer. because it’s far too tempting to sit on pinterest or intagram and think oooooo that’s cool, i could do something like THAT. that’s why we have so many things that all look the same. the best feeling you can get is when you try to google or pinterest your idea and nothing comes up! or the only thing that comes up is some weird photo from the 60’s. gold!

sometimes key words help in the search your are on pinterest. i try “editorial” at the end of the phrases to narrow it down a little more. usually you can find some kind of reference from your search on pinterest  and i find that once you click on that image and then scroll down to the “more like this” section you can usually find more. or it might even give you even more random ideas!

for instance, for my recent loom shoot for little tienda i was inspired by the weavers in mexico since that’s where some of her dresses are made. i loved looking through tons of photos of weavers and getting angles and poses and ideas from scrolling through. click another photo, see more like that one, and so on…

i was drawn to images with the strings exiting the frame in a cool way. obviously ours would be done in a different style, and a different vibe but it gives me a good starting point for my shot list to give to jesse. (and luckily she and i have a good understanding of each other’s brains so she usually gets what i want to acheive)

so that idea turned into something like this on my “shot 1” in a pdf. giving her specific angles and ideas. and then she can kinda play around from there with her camera.

and then she gets this…

or this…

the amount of shots i want to achieve is always based on the product, how many looks we have, how many locations we have…that part will usually unfold naturally. a lot of times i have too many but i am okay parting with a few of them on set if there isn’t time in the day. always better to have more ideas!

i always just make sure to get close up, far away, different angles…when presenting the final story it should weave in and out and almost feel like you are there.

and i am such a collaborator at heart, that in order for me to feel prepared i really like to try to go over everything with the team beforehand. a lot of times things get done last minute, but it’s so helpful to all communicate and even over communicate your exact vision. listen to your gut if something isn’t feeling right and talk through it. your gut is usually always on point! i sometimes have a hard time with this one because i feel guilty telling an artist i want to change something, but ultimately you just have to do it. kindly and clearly. i am always disappointed in myself when i don’t listen to my instincts and the setup doesn’t come out right.


lately i’ve been working with a producer on some of our shoots which is actually a game changer and makes things go smoothly. but only up to this point did i have that, and almost every detail was organized by our small team. finding artists, picking a photographer, scouting a location, reaching out to models (or many times, friends), figuring out props like flowers and paper, hair and makeup, food to eat on set, extra hands…a lot goes into even a very small shoot. but you can always make it work with determination and creative, nice friends. sometimes the easiest shoot can be very gorgeous (like this one shot in the driveway)


i am not sure who actually made it this far, and i am worried this actually might be boring, but i gotta finish!

the day of a shoot, i always try to just be prepared. get enough sleep, eat breakfast, think positive, print out my shot lists so i have something tangible that makes me feel ready. get to set early. being in a good mood is so important, so whatever you gotta do to make that happen. i’ve seen what negativity can do on set and it’s pretty powerful. if something isn’t working it can be frustrating or even embarrassing. take a walk, take a deep breath and just try something new. things aren’t always going to go as planned but there is always a way to make something beautiful. keep the energy light, fun, playful, encouraging…that is when i’ve always seen the best results.

oh and timing. it always ends up longer than you expected. start earlier. no one will ever be mad if they get outta there in time for happy hour. but when you lose the light, it’s a bummer when you didn’t get everything you need. pad your time! and speaking of timing…the beginning is always a little slow. models are getting adjusted, people’s energy needs to be woken up, everything needs to sort of calibrate. but it will, so don’t worry.


you gotta just go for it. i still, all the time, go after clients i think would be a good fit for me. get turned down. people don’t have budgets or maybe never even write me back. maybe you are working for free but it’s fun and worth it. and sometimes you get a job that has a great budget but a difficult client. you just keep going. and keep trying to feel inspired. and be better. and learn from your mistakes. the only way to build confidence is to keep trying and gain more experience. if no one says yes then figure out a way to make a personal project that you care about and makes you happy. just don’t accept NO. there’s always a way.

ok, enough rambling. let me know if i missed anything or if you want to know something else? hope this helps someone!! xx bri

photos by jesse chamberlin


Add your own

    amaxing. you continue to blow me away. love you, girl! xx

    is AMAXING a word? 😉

    (you know me). 😉

    Masha says:

    I love that you posted this and went into so much detail! I really wanted to ask you about your process for shoots like this but was too shy. I’m trying to do more little shoots like this myself and it can be so frustrating when things don’t go as planned, so I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately… Thanks so much for your advice, it felt like you were speaking right to me. <3

    Jesse Dawson says:

    This is a really great piece. I can’t stand how much I LOVE those images. Nice work!!

    Jane says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, insights and process, Bri! I think it’s fascinating to trace a project from research/inspiration to final results, and knowing the backstory adds an extra dimension to the beautiful shots you and your team created.

    Kiah says:

    Loved reading this, it definitely wasn’t boring! I have always wondered what goes into your creative shoots, so this was super interesting. Your creativity and passion literally blows my mind – I love to see what you come up with and love that you share the whole thing from start to finish and behind the scenes too. Thanks for being you! x

    Marion says:

    Thanks for that I’ll definitely share it on my photography page. That’s super interesting for me as im6a photographer but also handle art direction most of the time and ultimately that’s o my what I would want to do, how to you manage to put a price on a project? This is what I really struggle doing, give a price for a picture and the editing, but how do you price ideas etc.. (you have my e-mail I you prefer not to answer here ^_^) I reeaaally love your work and find you so inspiring, especially as a fellow anxious over here 😉 be assured you’re doing an amazing work!

    Marion says:

    Also if you have books to recommend I’m all ears!!

    bri says:

    i think you have to come up with a number that you feel okay doing it for (and sometimes that number is free, or even paying out because you want to do it!) and then adding up all the costs to make the idea happen. if you think you can make it all happen, ask for favors, bring in friends etc…pitch that. or ask the client what their max budget is and see if you can work within those restraints. a lot of my clients come to me with a budget in mind and then i tailor the ideas to that. so it’s always different! definitely doesn’t get much easier as you do more, because people always want really elaborate stuff for basically free 🙂

    This was the farthest thing from boring and so interesting hearing your personal process. Especially the part about brain storming OFF of the computer because you’re so right, it can actually derail you. Thanks for sharing this!!! We loved it! And one of our biggest goals is to work with you one day and be a part of the creative process!

    Janice says:

    Thank you for this – this was really great! loved this post so much, and this was probably my favourite shoot from you as well.

    Cassie says:

    This was AMAZING to read and has definitely left me inspired to approach my next project differently! Thank you so much for sharing!

    OKAY. this was absolutely perfect for me. as a photographer, i’ve been subcontracted doing weddings and family portraits for over five years now. this year, i am trying to gain more clients on my own, and definitely doing A LOT of the work on my own right now – photographing, styling, coordinating. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED!

    it’s been fun, that’s why i’m persistent on doing this, but your last paragraph is my lifeeee right now. i’m reaching out to clients, sometimes hearing back, sometimes not. i live in Maui, Hawaii, so it’s even smaller all the way out here, and definitely feels like it at times.

    almost three months in, no new income, a handful of responses out of the (almost) hundreds of people i’ve reached out to, i am starting to get discouraged… maybe i should just go back to being subcontracted: almost guaranteed income, less stress, but less freedom and less happiness and pride in my work!

    i am definitely excited again and motivated to keep going! i’ve made it this far, maybe i just need to persevere and i will reap the rewards. wish me luck. thank you so much for this.

    Hanna says:

    This was so thought-provoking and interesting! I don’t see myself as very creative, but I loved this peak into your brain. Though you’re onviously unique and among the most creative people on earth, this written-out process made me feel like it’s a totally achievable/learnable thing. Thank you for doing this! Your work is breathtaking.

    Lindsey says:

    This is awesome! Thank you for sharing this with us. Do you ever feel discouraged when you spot the idea you had somewhere on instagram or Pinterest? I guess that’s a red flag that it’s not the best idea to keep working with (as you kind of mentioned). Sometimes I get shut down in the creative process feeling like I can’t generate one original idea. Do you ever feel that pressure of thinking you need to reinvent the wheel??? If not, how do you talk yourself down from self doubt?

    bri says:

    yes! that feeling is no fun. you think it was original only to find out it wasn’t. BUT you can always make it original to you. switch it up somehow. there is an art to that. sometimes it’s also important to stay on trend but put your own spin on it.

    Anonymous says:

    I’d love more posts like this! Very inspiring and motivating too me, thanks!

    So creative and so talented love your work!



    Eva says:

    This is so interesting and inspiring! Thanks for sharing your process and getting my creative juices flowing

    Karabanserai says:

    Really thank you for this post, it makes see your work more real and understandable. Thank you for sharing even though how you feel

    Cheryl Egger says:

    Amazing post, thanks for sharing!!

    Wren says:

    Such a great post! Process posts are never boring, and you are never boring! Keep doing you.

    Lucie says:

    I loved reading this! I’ve followed you for years and this is my absolute favorite shoot! So beautiful!

    catherine says:

    I loved this, Bri. I’ve admired your creative direction work and this peek into your process totally resonates. That said, sending you love to uplift as you find relief from the depression you’ve been experiencing. Life can be damn tricky, but you’ve got the vision to move through it with light.I just know it.♥

    Sarah says:

    I too would love to know how you figure out a pricing structure. I am an interior decorator and it’s tricky to price my services because part of me is like, “well, people are paying me for my ideas, which only I have access to, so don’t undersell yourself.” And the other part of me is like, “well it doesn’t really cost me anything to come up with ideas, so how can I charge someone for that?”. I’d also love to know what you include in your emails when you reach out to potential clients. Do you include any ideas you have to get them interested in working with you? Do you include pricing? That’s always the hardest part for me!

    bri says:

    i have two main scenarios:
    1. the jobs that come to me with a set budget in mind, and i negotiate from there.
    2. the jobs i go after, where i will pitch the idea of working together, pitch mood boards, figure out which idea they want and then budget from there. keeping in mind their max budget.
    i try to keep in mind the size of their company and not undervalue myself. your time is worth it! but sometimes you just want to build your book or work on a passion project and you just make it work for pennies.

    Sara says:

    I love following you on instagram (just beautiful and inspiring and down-to-earth) and this was really fun to read. Not boring (not for me!)

    catherine says:

    this was so interesting to hear about the creative process behind your gorgeous shoots!! love it x

    Laurie Anne says:

    Loved getting a peek into your process!!! So so so interesting and cool. Thanks for the advice. Just go for it! Yes!! Amen amen amen.

    Nicole says:

    This was the actual best thing to read right now – checking in with you and your Instagram story’s and things like this while going through and anxious uninspiring rut kinda like your anxiety recently has been the biggest mood lifter. Thank you thank you thank you , you beautiful soul. All the love x ✨

    Maddie says:

    Just what I needed. Saving this stylin pep talk for later! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Kailey says:

    This might just be my new favorite DesignLoveFest post ever! Thank you so much for sharing and also thank you for being so vocal about your mental health – it’s so appreciated. Sending lots of love!

    Beth Carson says:

    This applies to so much more in life than a photo shoot!!! Really good advice for life in general…thanks😊
    Beautiful, amazing, creative work!

    Ashley says:

    Thank you for this! I’m just transitioning into some creative directing and styling photoshoots with children (way different from product, which is what I’m used to), and this is way helpful. I’d be interested in more in the future too 🙂

    Elaine says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, really enjoyed hearing about your process. x

    Joseph says:

    You have captured good photographs in amazing way.

    Nicki Wolfe says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Bri! This is so helpful to those of us who are just starting out and are trying to figure out just how to make sense of it all. Your work inspires me so much!

    Katia Engell says:

    Great process outline – thank you so much for sharing. Sometimes you see these things and have some ideas of how it might unfold, but it’s rare that you actually get real insight into it without being in that world. Can’t wait to see more of your work with creative direction!

    Brodey says:

    Thanks so much for the shots! shows there is so much more out there, you have a real tallent!

    Em says:

    Far from being boring, this kind of brilliant behind-scenes/thought-process reflection is the whole reason I’ve read your blog all these years! (Also love your stream of consciousness “inspiration” posts with tons of images all at once, and your inspiring openness about mental health, which I’m working on too.) LOVED this post! Thanks so much for sharing, Bri 🙂

    Alaina says:

    So great! Thanks so much for taking the time to write about it and share with us all!

    Sierra Zaner says:

    Thank you for this! I know it’s been said in previous post but it’s always insightful to see other creatives perspective (and just to see how others do thing). It’s always easy and quick to just imitate something that someone else has done but it takes true heart to make it your own and really come out of your shell through your work. These photos are amazing!

    amera says:

    simple properties, but awesome result

    Seri says:

    so interesting!

    Ksenia says:

    Thanks a lot fot all this words!
    I`ve got my own brand of clothes and budget is always not enough? so I organise almost all shoots by myself. And it`s not very easy sometimes.
    You gave me a lot of motivation to keep going)
    Thank you!
    Love your blog and insta

    Heather says:

    Thank you for sharing. You are such an inspiration and I look forward to your blog posts. Keep on keeping on. You are awesome. Maybe try some yoga or meditation to get you out of your funk. Hugs.

    Kendra says:

    I’m so inspired! Thank you for giving us a peek into your creative process. I fell in love with your blog because I’m a designer too so I’d absolutely love to read more content like this.

    Joha Garcia says:

    I love everything you do Bri and I think that everyone who follows you and reads everything you do feels the same.

    I think all this information you share is extremely valuable

    You should consider creating an online workshop about this, just like you did with blogshop or how you do with your social media class. By the way, I took your online social media class and I loved it.

    You are unique and admirable, all of you are, Jesse, Joanie, you and all your team.

    Never stop!

    Abbey says:

    I love this! Thanks so much for sharing. Other people’s processes, especially for creative endeavors, are always so interesting to me. And for the several shoots you’ve shared recently I just LOVE the photos- you and your team are so talented!

    Susy says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing. As a person who was discouraged by a very bad art teacher because I did things differently (I found out years later she was stealing art work!), I want to follow my passion and go all in to become a creative director. I’m a mom now, but do hope to go back to school. In the meantime, I’ll just have fun, experiment, create and hone my skills. This was an important read for me not only for my brain, but for my spirit as well. Thanks luv!
    Feel better soon ♥️

    So inspiring, Bri. I LOVED learning about the process.

    run 3 says:

    I like this. It’s so beautiful and special.

    Anonymous says:

    <3 thank you Bri.

    Mollie says:

    I’ve had this saved in my feedly and just now had time to read it… and it was so worth it! Definitely not boring. I think the prep stage is an awesome creative exercise in itself. That part could/should be a college project for design students. Anyway, thank you for sharing your knowledge. Now I want to come up with some concepts!

    Love reading this!!! I was hoping you’d share your creative process. Any tips on finding cool locations?

    Katie Fraga says:

    Thank you, Bri! This was so fun to read and this whole shoot turned out so magical and original – I LOVE it! xoxo

    happy wheels says:

    I do have a user and group apache, and apache runs as apache. Any ideas?

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