One of the mistakes I made as a photo editor early on was copping a “can do” attitude when it came to finding photography or making assignments. I figured I would just work as hard as I could and the end result was what it was. The problem with this is nobody factors in the limitations of the job they handed you after you’re done. A Creative Director I worked for once said “we need to manage the expectations” which basically means we need to discuss the limitations before heading off to try and solve the problem. When making assignments this means knowing beforehand what the subject looks like; what the environment in which they will be shot looks like; how much time you will have to make a picture; will there be a budget for wardrobe, hair & makeup, props; is the subject even aware thry’re to be photographed. There is nothing worse than discovering upon arrival of the shoot in the office that what was pitched doesn’t not match what exists.
When it comes to stock, a little investigation into whether there is good coverage of a subject matter is always a good strategy before a meeting. That way you can tell them “stock doesn’t exist so we need to shoot a picture and I’ve not turned up any photographers I like in the area so we need to fly someone in.”
The sooner you have these conversations in the editorial process the better it is for everyone. That way if the stock is crap and there’s no time/budget for a shoot making the decision to still run a story means they don’t care if the magazine looks horrible. At least they know they’re the one’s making that decision.