Perception Is Everything – For Photo Editors

- - Working

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.

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. Jamie Klingler

    During sketch and idea meetings, when being asked to find stock that won’t exist, we tend to joke about “dreampictures.com” so when the requests are going too far or well outside of what we will be able to find or shoot within our time frame, a reference to dreampictures.com usually brings everyone back to reality and a collective problem solving mode rather then fantasy land.

  2. To go from choosing stock, to “flying someone in” for a photo…. does that really happen still? That sounds so 2007.

    • @Dean,
      The first choice is always stock now and depending on how low they have set the bar in accordance with the CFO’s wishes you don’t commission a shoot unless a picture just doesn’t exist or is horribly out of date.

  3. It works the same way for photographers approaching a job, especially an editorial job. Many magazines these days say, “We have $______. for everything, your fee included.” Understanding where you are going to shoot and doing all the production work yourself is 95% of the job. Shooting it should be easy after that.

  4. As far as finding out what the subject and their environment look like, and gauging time and budget – is it really necessary to ‘manage the expectations?’ Isn’t working with a good photographer all about having them solve (visual) problems … thus keeping the expectations high? I think if I am unhappy with the local talent and can’t fly someone in to shoot, then that is when I need to begin to ‘manage expectations.’ I’m saying it’s more dependent on the shooter, not those other variables …

  5. As far as stock agencies, the issue of “has this subject been covered?” in creative meetings was like speaking in a foreign language. Last year when I worked at a large stock agency, their approach to the RM and RF shoots was never based on collection needs or updating dated content. The budgets were limited and the vision of the ADs tired. Whatever was cheap and easy access for the producers/photographers was what got shot regardless of how saturated the marketplace was of the same old images. At the end of the production, even if the images were subpar, if the shoot didn’t go over budget and the target # of images edited was met, then the perception was that it was a successful shoot. Which is why stock agencies have been sinking in their own muddled mess for the past 5 years.