Arts & Entertainment, Design & Style

Art Directing Your Photos

Tyler Mitchell

Lesson time 06:42 min

Colors, props, and locations can help you express your story. Tyler breaks down the elements of art direction that infuse story, self, and symbolism into his work.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Props Are Meaningful · Meaningful Art Direction: Parkland Mass Shooting Survivors


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I would say that no location is boring. And I mean that. It's about how you look at a location. You know, a location that might seem boring to you is not boring to another person. It's about the experiences, what you put in front of that location, how you photograph that location. The most like maybe seemingly boring locations make it into my work because I like things that are-- I'm interested in the mundane. Locations can be what you have in your house. It can be a wall. It can be your backyard. It can be a park. If there's a location that you're worried about as being too boring, whether it's your living room or your backyard, think about how to relook at those locations. Think about how you're photographing them. Think about what subject matter you're putting in front of those locations. Think about how you're framing those locations for other people. And I think the best approach to being worried about a location being too boring is to, you know, think about the fact that while it might be boring to you from your vantage point, it wouldn't be boring to another person. It's really about whatever you're drawn to for the story you're trying to tell. So when you're thinking big picture, just think about what you can access and what helps you tell your story best. Whatever you can access is best. That's always the best choice in terms of location. If you can access a studio and you think that the idea you want to tell is best suited in a studio, with a set build, or if the weather's bad outside, I would choose studio. But almost nine times out of 10, I would choose location. Otherwise just because there are all these things about a location that are special and real that I like, that I'm drawn to. [MUSIC PLAYING] Props are important. Props are important for telling stories. And I think it's about finding what language works for you as a photographer in terms of props. So props should be storytelling tools. I look for props that heighten the stories that I'm telling. In my series, which is called "In My Pink Polo," that I made in 2016. It was really in response to a lot of the craziness going on in 2015 and 2016 related to police violence against Black bodies, against Black people. In those years, we experienced Michael Brown and Eric Garner. We experienced the Pulse Club shootings. We experienced a lot of, you know, hard experiences in our country. And so I was thinking about certain freedoms that I wanted for the Black men around me. Essentially I made that series thinking about how would I like to visualize a group of young Black men by using fashion to kind of depict them in a different light, by using dress, by using symbols of dress, whether that was hair and makeup or fashion, to depict them in kind of a dignified and intimate way and a beautiful way. And in the portraits of the young men, where we dressed them up in quite like, I suppose flowery or more feminine fashion, I also weaved ...

About the Instructor

A revolutionary talent, Tyler Mitchell made history as the first Black photographer to shoot an American Vogue cover, work that is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. Now he’s sharing his process with you. Discover how to create and compose striking portraits, work with natural light and shadow, and tell a compelling story through your photos—even if the only equipment you have is your phone.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Tyler Mitchell

History-making photographer Tyler Mitchell teaches you his artistic process for creating compelling images with any kind of camera.

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