In general pitching stories, that aren’t photo essays, to the Photo Editor is not a bad idea. Everyone on staff at a magazine can contribute to the line-up so the Photo Editor can get something made if they’re in the mood to take it to the right people and make sure something gets done about it.
Here’s a little hint though: The absolute fastest way for photographers to get a story made is to approach a writer that the magazine uses on a regular basis (don’t ask front of book writers if you’re pitching a feature story for chrissake’s) and if they’re interested in your idea ask them to pitch their editor. You’d be surprised how many good writers are looking for good ideas. I’m assuming your idea doesn’t suck, not always the easiest for people to determine on their own.
Let me just repeat something that’s very important here, find a writer that the magazine already uses or would be interested in using. There is no better way to kill a good story idea you may have than to attach a writer nobody wants in the magazine. You’d also be surprised how often this happens.
Now, if you want to go through the Photo Editor there are three ways this can shake out, in order of effectiveness:
1. The Photo Editor passes along your email to the appropriate department head and lets them respond if they want to.
2. The PE will follow up with the section or features editor to see if there’s interest and act as a go between with the photographer.
3. The PE will help craft the pitch and take it directly to the Editor or pitch meeting and try to get a green light for the idea. Depending on the magazine, if there’s interest in the story it will usually get sent back for clarification on certain points the Editor is concerned with or a writer who the magazine likes working with will be sought before a green light is given. This is the deadly yellow light and can cause stories to hang in limbo for months or even years.
It can really add to your workload as a Photo Editor to start pitching story ideas but it’s also extremely gratifying to see something go from a pitch to printed pages and I’ve alway found it to be some of my most memorable work.