I moderated a panel on stock photography last Sunday and met some very talented young photo editors and learned a few things too. We had Leslie dela Vega the Photo Editor at TIME Magazine, Whitney Lawson, Photo Editor at Travel+Leisure, Michael Wichita, Photo Editor from AARP Bulletin and Ryan Schick the Photo Editor at Conde Nast Portfolio.com.
Here’s what I discovered:
Travel + Leisure, loves film. All their regular contributors shoot film so if you’d like to shoot stories for T+L you’d better go buy a film camera (or fake it somehow). Whitney was careful to point out several times that the deep rich blacks achieved in film are very important to the pictures they run. Additionally what separates a good travel photo from a brochure photo is the amount of information that’s in the frame. A brochure photo will take great pains to show the view and the bed in a hotel room, the flower on the nightstand and all the little details that are all perfect plus it’s lit like the land of a thousand suns, so you can’t tell what time of day it is. That’s four different pictures in a travel story.
Tha AARP Bulletin is different then the magazine, they’re more focussed on the issues and not as lifestyle or a slick as the magazine. Michael said that he never gets enough stories pitched from photographers and they pay good money, so that should be incentive for photographers to send him a pitch or two. He also said finding pictures of seniors with different ethnicities is nearly impossible.
Portfolio.com seems to be headed in the right direction. They have a photo editor, they’re buying stock and assigning stories. Ryan told us about how a photographer who’s work he enjoyed pitched a story on high end bone fishing and was given a 5 day assignment. Also, he showed a few of the recent stock purchases they had made and all felt fresh compared to your usual business metaphors.
Time magazine is an industry icon and heavy user of stock in the front a back of book sections of the magazine. It was interesting to hear Leslie talk about how photos get approved at the magazine. She will meet with her section designer and go over the line-up to see what stories they want to find photography for then she’ll go get a handful of images for each one from which the designer will mock up 4-5 approaches. They then take that to discuss and pick the final selection with the Editor. Also, I asked her about stories that were difficult to find stock for that they always encounter. Major issues facing youths like drugs, pregnancy and drinking we’re always hard to find pictures of because all the underage people depicted and the releases they would need from parents. In fact she recently used craigslist.org to find kids with party photos for an underage drinking story and found the perfect frame where someone was passed out face down and surrounded by beer bottles.
Everyone said they had purchased photos from Flickr or amateur photographers from time to time but they kept their standard usage rates because it was not an issue of finding something cheap just finding an image the stock sites didn’t have. Most are using micro stock for those tiny throwaway shots (worst design trend ever) in the front of the book except Whitney who had no idea what micro stock was. Also, everyone seemed very excited about Photoshelter’s stock offering and I know the feeling because if you’ve searched the big stock houses enough you become very familiar with the limitations of their collections so a new player who’s actively adding imagery and photographers to the system is a very welcome addition.