The Best Photo Didn’t Win

- - Working

Sometimes, I feel satisfied knowing I assigned and then you shot the perfect image even though it’s not the one that will run in the magazine.

For whatever reason I was overruled because it didn’t fit the design or was similar in composition to other images in the issue or the overruling party didn’t feel the same way about it that I did. And so, it will never be seen by the millions of readers or enter into the permanent archive of published works.

Knowing that it exists is enough for me.

Kurt Markus told me recently over beers that satisfaction in photography comes from making the best image you can, printing it as well as you can and moving on to the next one.

When I make the final print order I sometimes include it anyway.

There Are 13 Comments On This Article.

  1. I agree with Kurt on that one.
    The satisfaction of making a great picture, outweighs it’s final usage.

    Some of my favorite’s pictures have been the unconventional one’s.

  2. Satisfaction is nailing THE SHOT with a difficult celebrity on the last frame of the entire shoot and knowing you have it before you can even hit “review” on the camera.

    And happiness is a warm puppy.

  3. It seems to me that 90% of the time my favorite is not picked. I realize that there are many factors when making the final selection. I always indicate my favorites and I have a couple magazines that I work for frequently that actually have changed their selects based on my favorites (very rare in deed).

    Of course I would love to see what I consider my best work in the magazine but its great to have the shot even if it isn’t used. My website is littered with out-takes and most of the actual selects aren’t on it.


  4. I’m really glad to hear you say that. Like Jeff, I’d say that most of the time my favorite shot of the take isn’t the one chosen. But at a certain point, many years ago – or at certain points now, when I find myself working hard to get something that I think my client wants, instead of what I think might make a good picture in and of itself – I realized that the shoot was going to be over soon (with a celebrity, say, like in five minutes. . .) and then I’d have to file all this film away some where and carry it around with me for the rest of my life. And since that’s such a tremendous pain in the ass I really owe it to myself to come up with something I like that I’d want to look at again. And if I can do that, and the client still finds something else in the take they’re happy with, well. . . That’s a successful shoot.

  5. I absolutely feel the same way. And from a photographer’s point of view, it’s a strange feeling when you aren’t bothered by the fact that not the best version went to print. You still have the same satisfied feeling just knowing you hit the nail right on the head, even if the better one is just taped to your wall at home.

  6. A former Director of Photography of mine once told me, specifically in the case of working on a weekly, that as a Photo Editor you can expect one success a week. Success as in getting an image (cover or lede) you want, to be used in the way that you want (or at all). With so many “cooks” involved in the process once the image is taken, I have found this to be true sadly…
    great site APE!

  7. My favourite pictures are on my walls. Some were published and many not. Looking at them is a great feeling for me everytime.
    Many times, when I’m printing some job, I add 1 or 2 prints for myself. Only cause I want to have them at hand for my personal pleasure.
    It seems I’m not the only one to think that way..

  8. I’ve seen some images that I originally did not select printed in the magazine and have been surprised by how well it worked in the layout on more than one occasion. Maybe that’s why I’m not the photo editor or art director. But, at least I get to run my selects in the portfolio or my blog.

  9. and then you have those days when your photos dont get the best print. the readers will never recognize it, but it hurts way more than having none of the best shots printed at all.

  10. Shooting almost all editorial, or even the commercial work that I do, I always double duty, shoot for the client, shoot for myself. I find that often the shot that I did for myself, if it doesn’t actually get used often gets me recognition. That often gets me more work. And as long as I can continue to make a living slinging a camera, I’ll take my time crunched celebrities, overtime hockey games and raining landscapes.

    It’s better then a real job.

  11. ooomph, this one really hit home. . . .send a great photographer for 8 days to a remote town in west Africa after spending a week on arrangements; they come back with incredible stuff, and your ed dept decides they’re only running one photo after all, a short full page. sigh. Sacha I feel your pain; Adam, you’re spot on.
    APE, great blog.