Getting them past the editor

It’s tough getting new photographers past the editor on big shoots. There’s several techniques:

1. Gang up. Get the Creative Director to back you in the meeting. “Oh yeah he’s great, I worked with him at my previous magazine and he always delivered.”

2. Shiny Objects. Toss out important people or magazines they’ve shot for. “He shot a feature in Vanity Fair recently.”

3. Padded Portfolio. Print the portfolio shots that back your case. “See, she really gets what we’re trying to achieve here.”

4. Play Dumb. Assign and feign telling them about it recently. “Oh, I thought we discussed that she was shooting this earlier.”

(I should note here that we don’t always run photographers by the editor it just happens from time to time)

Chris Buck


One of the great contemporary editorial photographers.

When the shoot arrives and you open the box it’s always something you never would have thought of.


Everyone Takes Bad Photos

Yes it’s true. Everyone. All the top editorial photographers take bad photos.

They just don’t show it to me. Ever.

Thing is… I know everyone takes bad photos, it happens and it’s not a big deal… I just don’t wanted to be reminded of it when I’m looking for a photographer.

The promo, website and portfolio are all places where the possibility exists for you to remind me that shoots can sometimes turn out bland and then I suddenly get the feeling that the shoot I was about to hire you for will turn out bland.

I think I know why you do it. You don’t have enough material yet or you want to show me how you can shoot portraits, food, B&W, color, holga, photoj, etc…

I want to live in a fantasy world where every single shoot is perfect. The best photographers let me.

Personal Photos

I love seeing your personal photos.

It’s usually the last place I visit on a photographers website and I have to make it all the way through the portfolio and tears without clicking out but then… to see the photos of your wife, kids, friends, vacations, birthday parties, breakfast, house, neighborhood is so absolutely pleasing to me and confirms your love of taking pictures and your need of an assignment so you can enjoy all these things.

It makes it personal.

The Sandbag

Editor comes to me with an assignment he’s made. Feature profile on this guy who, from what I can gather in the pitch, is a complete and utter bore. Furthermore, he refuses to give more than 10 minutes to be photographed and wants the shoot to take place in his drab suburban home. The editor goes on to tell me because of the story mix in this issue and his belief that this guy is as cool as the writer claims, the portrait needs to be dynamic. “Maybe he could swing from the rafters or jump off the high dive into the pool,” he tells me excitedly (a call to the publicist confirms he will be doing no such thing) “and whatever you do make it cheap we’ve already spent way too much on the cover and fashion and that feature story in Africa.” “He’s only available the day after tomorrow,” he croaks while exiting my office.


Double shit.

Who the hell can I get to take a shot of this guy? Everyone I call is gonna see it’s impossible. He’s a complete troll. No budget for props or grooming or something extra special like a water tank or a fake cannon and no time to build anything.

What. Am. I. Going. To. Do?

I could get all Chris Buck on him but… I know the editor will kill it because he thinks this guy is cool and dynamic not weird and awkward plus… if I burn Chris he’s not going to take my calls anymore.


Wait a minute.

There was that photographer who came by the other day. Very talented. Had a great book but not much experience. Well, maybe he’ll get a nice portfolio piece out of it because who knows if it will ever run. I’ve got his number around here somewhere…


Not Available

I was checking out Thomas Broening’s blog and read something that made me laugh. Photographers pretending to be very busy shooting all the time when talking to each other. Some sort of primal chest thumping.

Well, I’ll just flat out admit that sometimes when calling a photographer or rep and I find out their schedule is wiiiiide open from here to eternity I get a bit crestfallen thinking “why isn’t this guy getting any work, what does everyone else know that I don’t?” Lame, I know but it crosses the mind.

Why not just hire someone new?

A reader asks: 1. what’s the big deal risking a shoot on someone new when you’re only paying them $350-$500? 2. What’s up with those crap rates?

1. If you include all the expenses (assistant, rental, film and process or digital fees, travel, cell phone, messenger, insurance, tips, cab fare, and misc) a one day shoot is easily over $3500. Add to that the availability of the subject and the looming deadline plus the fact that for every failed shoot the editor and creative director give you enormous stink-eye… well it turns into a little more than just $500 out of the budget.

2. The rates. I actually inherited them and while I will agree they’ve been stagnant for many, many years the expenses have gone up considerably and… this is a big and, the theory has always been that you get your clips in editorial and make your money in commercial. Uh, maybe that’s a very bad assumption on the part of photography editors.

Anyway, there should be a better pricing structure for editorial photography. The way writing works and commercial photography works is the better you are the more you get paid. I should be able to pay established photographers more and unproven photographers less.


So, I decided to activate a twitter account (on sidebar) as an experiment. As annoying as it probably is to know what someone is up to every moment of the day it might be useful as a business tool so people know when you’re at the office in a meeting or have gone home for the day.

I guess it doesn’t do anyone much good if I remain anonymous but I wanted to see how hard it was to keep up.

Photographer Agents

Thought I’d post my links to photography agents that I keep handy. It’s over there on the sidebar.

I’ve collected a pretty good list over the years, of agents I like and refer to it all the time. It’s by no means complete, I’m sure there’s a few dead links in there and I haven’t alphabetized the bottom entries but, It’s one of the first places I go to look for photographers.

The Future for Photo Editors

Yes, it’s only been two short weeks (Alec just hit a year) and I’m ready to declare blogging to be an important tool for photo editors.

It’s not working the way it should because I can’t tell you who I am or what magazine I work for but I’m very confident this is a great way for us to communicate. Truth is I don’t care if you know who I am it’s just that I don’t want to put it in the public record in case one of the business types I work for decides to google around and see what’s out there. Unfortunately, all publishing companies forbid this kind of activity… unless it’s on their crappy website following their lame rules and so I just decided to go for it.

The reason I think it’s so great for photo editors is that we spend a great deal of our time looking for photographers and you spend a great deal of time trying to reach us and now we can talk to each other. We could always talk to each other of course, but now everyone can see the questions and answers. I’m confident there will be many more photo editors (Can anyone point me to others?) embracing this in the future. There’s probably a few tweaks to the format that would make it a little more useful (portfolio posting area) but I can figure that out as we go.

The Former First Assistant

Of all the ways to get your foot in the door at a magazine this is certainly a very good one (of course that depends on what it’s like to be a first assistant but I wouldn’t know about that). I know photographers don’t like to be known as “former first assistants to so and so photographer” (especially when their styles look similar, as they inevitably do) but it certainly has an impact on me when I hear about it.

When I first started working with Martin Schoeller he was Annie’s former first and boy did he have some great stories to tell. Interestingly, Martin’s former first has given up photography to become a helicopter pilot… but I don’t think it has anything to do with his experience as an assistant. Maybe more to do with his experience trying to become a professional photographer.

I’ve recently started working with Dan Winters current first (guess there’s not a lot of work down there in Austin so he’s got two jobs) and I’ve had nothing but great results.

Gwen Stefani Photo Edits Jill Greenberg

A the end of the video you get to see Gwen play photo editor.

Getting in

You may have figured out that the editorial photography world is a bit incestuous– especially if you’re trying to break in– and there’s a pretty good reason for it called, “let someone else try out the new guy.” I’m always more than happy to poach a photographer from another leading (not rival) publication because they’ve obviously given this person an assignment and they delivered the goods.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the joys in photo editing is developing new talent, but sometimes it’s nice to just grab someone developed by another magazine.

It’s also good corroboration when a new photographer’s work catches your eye and you’ve decided to give them a shot (when the right opportunity presents itself) and they get hired by another photo editor you respect.


An up and coming young editorial photographer dropped by the office today to give me film from a small shoot he did. He got his start in action sports so when he reached into his pack to show me the new camera he’s been shooting with wasn’t I surprised to see him pull out a brand spankin new 4×5.

Sure, digital has taken over the photography world but I still love seeing film.

Only 13% Of The September Issue Of Vogue Is Content, 727/850 Pages are Ads

I wonder if people enjoy reading all those ads?

This can’t be very fun for the readers or contributors but there’s two reasons this happens.

1. There’s usually a couple issues every year that lose money because of the lack of advertising and so the big fashion issues need to make up for this lost revenue.

2. The bigger the issue the more expensive it is to print and ship and the need for more advertising. Surfer magazine has an oversized issue every year that loses money despite the fact that it’s plugged with advertising because the expense to print and ship is so high.

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Antonin Kratochvil

Antonin is one of my favorite photographers of all time. I love giving him an assignment, especially something that’s not conflict related, because you’re guaranteed two things. 1. Amazing photography. 2. A fight with the editor. There’s really no two ways about it, Antonin’s photos are not conventional and most of us work at magazines that need and want and mostly publish conventional photography so there’s gonna be a fight with the editor(s) to get the good one’s published. At least, when you’re making the assignment, the fight is a long way off and all you think about is the glorious frames you will receive and the many endless possibilities for amazing 20 page layouts.