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Image Source Art Director Christina Dittmar on shooting in LA – on why she’s drawn to the photographers, the variety of locations and a pool of quality models to tap into

In the first of our series exploring the creative decision-making process of the Art Director, Christina Dittmar talks us through the thinking, the inspiration and the photographers behind her recent shoots in Los Angeles

1. What makes LA an appealing shoot location?

I have had photo shoots in various places in the United States, South America and overseas and Los Angeles is my favorite place to shoot. The photographers, weather, talent, crew, locations and inspiration that L.A. offers is a perfect fit for me and the way that I work.

David Jakle / Skin Food Beauty / Image Source
David Jakle / Skin Food Beauty / Image Source

The weather is pretty much something you can always count on. If it does rain – it will not be all day and it will not be pouring. I have shot in the rain in LA a few times and have still come out of it with great images …and it is never freezing cold there either!

I produce a bunch of shoots in a small amount of time. The variety of shoots that I can get accomplished in L.A. is awesome and crucial to what I do. I can shoot in the mountains, at a beach, in a desert, in a suburban or urban setting – all within 1-2 hours of driving. The talent in L.A. is amazing and abundant. There is a plethora of seasoned actors and good-looking talent. It is helpful to have an actor in our photos instead of a model so the interaction amongst the talent will feel real and believable.

Art Director Christina Dittmar on the set with David Jakle
Art Director Christina Dittmar on the set with David Jakle

I’m also drawn to L.A. photographers. Not that they are all the same, but in general there is an ease they have without sacrificing hardwork, talent and creativity. They do not get hung up on the details and just make it happen. These attributes tend to reflect in their work. There is a lightness and energy in their well-crafted images that make it look effortless. I also have always been impressed with how close Los Angeles photographers are with each other. They’re supportive toward each other and are more than happy to help one another out. It seems to be an amazing and rare community and I am grateful to experience it.

2. How did you choose what to shoot?

A lot of the time we have guidelines of what themes we need to concentrate on each quarter, and I work with the photographers to reach that goal. It is good for them to diversify their portfolios and have images that have an array of subjects and can be distributed in the various collections. The first quarter of 2013 we concentrated on Business, this quarter we’re focusing on Family. I also propose additional commercial concepts to photographers that make sense for them and they also propose ideas to me. We develop them together and it becomes a collaborative effort.

Nathalie Young / Start Up Business / Image Source
Natalie Young / Start Up Business / Image Source

3. Which photographers did you work with and why?

I worked with Sean Murphy, Raphye Alexius, Natalie Young, Robyn Breen Shinn, David Jakle and Christin Rose. I work with them because they are all so talented, fun, a bit crazy, hardworking and I adore them all. They kind of feel like family to me.

Nathalie Young on the set of her Start-Up Business shoot
Natalie Young on the set of her Start-Up Business shoot

4. What kind of research and inspiration did you look to for these shoots?

I look at their portfolios and try to develop something for them that they can be successful with and that will add value to their portfolio with us and for them. Something that is relevant and commercial and fits with the style they are building on. Then we talk about it and I do my research. I mostly find inspiration from the location that we will be shooting at. It is the most helpful tool for me because then I can imagine what can happen in that space. I also find tearsheets in magazines, on websites and start a shot list that is relevant to the shoot. At first my research is a bit all over the place because many things inspire me but then I narrow down to the specifics and what can be accomplished.

Behind the scenes of Natalie Young's Start Up Business shoot
Behind the scenes of Natalie Young’s Start Up Business shoot

5. Which image was the most challenging?

Sean Murphy/ Image Source
Sean Murphy/ Image Source

It would be this one of the older couple from the Sean Murphy shoot. It was a challenging day. We were shooting at El Matador Beach – which is a major hike up and down with equipment, clothing & props, etc. It was raining and cold and just before the sun was about the set. We wanted an image of the couple dancing together in the water but ocean was freezing. The photographer had been in and out of the water with his wetsuit on and had an underwater housing on his camera. I was afraid to ask them to go into the water with bare feet, but they were troopers! After the whole production; hiking up and down the cliffs, the rain, the cold, the freezing water….we had a model go rogue and their model release was incomplete. All the efforts of that photo shoot seemed moot for weeks while we tried to locate them. Then the photographer gave one last push and it was signed! Thank goodness.

Sean Murphy / Image Source
Sean Murphy / Image Source

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