At a big place like Hallmark, it can feel like we all work in different worlds. Our blog squad is on one floor, greeting card teams are on another, and our photo studio is in a whole nother building. So every now and then, we have to rediscover the good—and the magic—that comes from hard-core collaboration.
A while ago, Hallmark Photo Stylist Andy N. (remember his floral arranging tips and home tour) got excited about photographing flowers. Specifically peonies. He chatted with Greetings Art Director Miriam C. and Union Hill Photo Studio Art Director Danielle M., they gathered a team, and they headed off to Oregon. Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes.
Blown away by the process
DANIELLE: We’ve done trips before, but never with this close collaboration. Usually we touch base with the greetings teams and get all their needs up front. But sometimes we would come back and feel really great about the body of work and for some reason, our partners would be like, “Oh, we can’t use this—but if it was shot this way, it would be perfect.”
MIRIAM: They’re all about fabulous photography, and we’re all about how it fits in a greeting card. We have to stop and say, “Who would you send this to?” You have to know what your audience is needing and wanting.
DANIELLE: Sometimes when they ask for things, they don’t understand what it takes to get the shots they need. When they see how it works, they’re blown away by the process.
MIRIAM: I had no idea how complicated and time consuming it is to get it right. I was unaware of the selection of props—they’re so important. Do you want pretty glass or casual baskets? You have to ship 30 bins of props and lug them around in a van.
DANIELLE: Andy brought half the prop room. [It’s a big room.]
MIRIAM: You unload them every morning and load up every night. Who knew? I came home with a sore back.
DANIELLE: We do a lot of prep work to map out what each day will look like—where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do. We wake up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and spend some time figuring out our shots. Then we wrap up the props, pack the vans, and go out to hit “golden hours” at 7 a.m.
Lots of “what if…”
DANIELLE: Our producer, Katie F., looked for diverse locations; we wanted to maximize our time. She found a property with an old mill, a chapel—very quaint and sweet—a garden that had been there for ages, and a wedding event space. We were going to be photographing flowers—so why not do a whole vignette about weddings?
MIRIAM: When we got into the chapel, we said, “All right, let’s think about if we were having a wedding…” and started to brainstorm. We’re telling the story of a little moment. There were lots of “what if” discussions. Someone said “what if we put flowers in a cone and hang them on a pew—”
DANEILLE: Miriam actually made the cones out of the take-out bags our lunch came in. We had light coming in the doors and windows…it had a really warm feeling.
MIRIAM: And now we weren’t just photographing flowers at a church. We were telling a story.
Collaborating with the artists
DANIELLE: We were shooting in Oregon, so of course it rained. Katie worries about all the stuff we don’t worry about: She’s the one with the umbrellas, ponchos, and hand-warmers.
MIRIAM: The weather never stopped us. They had a greenhouse—
DANIELLE: With this beautiful diffused light. We took a bunch of different surfaces to shoot on, and Andy rented more from antique stores. The greetings team helped us think about shots that are easy to clip and use in different designs. We did a half-day of just laying down blooms and getting simple, basic shots.
MIRIAM: Along with senior photographer, Jane K. and behind-the-scenes photographer, Pat B., we took a designer, Lauren H.. She sat there and drew, ink on paper, and we incorporated some of her drawings.
DANIELLE: Lauren had ideas for working her sketches into the imagery. She was coming with a perspective beyond the photo—holistically, how she could tie this together in a design collection? It was really exciting for us to hear her thinking.
MIRIAM: I loved the fact that we were collaborating with the artists.
That’s what you want
MIRIAM: It was four days of living together and eating and shooting. You just bond. If you have people around who push you, you don’t get stagnant. Creativity isn’t a formula. It’s breaking formulas. We had all of these dynamics coming together and it was really inspiring creatively.
DANIELLE: We were so into the process and so excited about creating in new spaces and being inspired by what’s around us. So all day long we’re just feeding off each other’s energy and intensity and passion and the most amazing work comes out.
MIRIAM: This yielded such great results and built relationships. And the emotion that comes out of it…it’s amazing. Every day.
DANIELLE: We’re getting up at four and getting to bed at 12:30, and we don’t even mind.
MIRIAM: I was exhilarated and exhausted all at once. And is that not the best? That’s what you want at the end of every day…right?
The work Danielle, Miriam, and the team did photographing flowers is showing up all over Hallmark products for wedding, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday—even sympathy cards. And the lessons they learned from working together are influencing the way we all collaborate.
What gets you excited when you create? How do you feel about working with other artists? We’d love to hear your perspective!
Photography: Jane Kortright and Pat Bush