Ask Anything – Should I Hire A Photo Editor?

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.

QUESTION:

I am a Photographer trying to branch out to a new market, Travel and Leisure. Do you think its important to have a photo editor edit my website and portfolios. I have been getting the comment of I like your work I wish it had a tighter edit and little more focused. I have been mixing high end commercial jobs with some of my photo journalism travel work. Any advice on this would be appreciated.

ANSWERS:

PHOTO EDITOR:
My first choice is to hire a photography consultant. This person has been an expert in the industry for both Advertising and Editorial. They specialize in tightening up both your portfolio, website and marketing plan. I am not so sure that a Photo Editor at a magazine would have time to sit and edit a photographers website and portfolio. Unless you are really good friends with them!

If your budget is tight then a DIY approach is possible. Visually research the current issues of the magazine you want to shoot for and their back issues by a year. Make sure to check out who is working there on the masthead, and check the back issues masthead to see if the cast of characters working there is the same! The style of the people hiring photographers is well represented.  Study the magazine visually. What type of photo should lead a travel story. Is it a landscape shots that are common then throw in a bunch of those. If there are portraits of people in the travel environments, put those together, and if there are signage and local flavor shots of restaurants, tourist places, shopping and details shots put them in there as well.

PHOTO EDITOR:
I don’t think commercial and editorial photography mix very well. Most magazines have well over half the pages filled with commercial photography in the form of advertising and so I feel like it’s our job to not only make sure there’s clear separation between the two but also give the readers some variety and pacing in what they’re looking at.

Additionally, I look at advertising books and think: this person needs tons of cash, lots of retouching and plenty of direction to make something happen and all of this is in short supply on the editorial side.

With regard to focus, while I believe it’s possible that photographers can shoot many different genres well, I’ve found this to be then exception. They shoot something very well and everything else is mostly mediocre. Placing them together in the same book or website only emphasizes this fact.

Finally on editing, when looking at portfolios you can easily tell within a couple images if this is someone you want to work with. After that it’s all about finding reasons why you don’t want to work with them. Editing out the crap is essential because everyone takes bad pictures. Not letting anyone see them is your job and mine.

To Summarize:
Focus is the main theme here.  Get your style tight, show consistent work that speaks the language of your client (the magazines you hope to work with) and tell the story of the place you are capturing (the landscape, the people, the food, the local activities and those vignette moments).

Call To Action:
If you need to develop your work, and travel is your focus, start taking local trips to document where you live.  Read magazines to get ideas and creative directions.  Once your budget allows, take a vacation and shoot like you were on assignment, make people want to come to that location.  Keep shooting and your body of work will grow and strengthen.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

  1. Mike Davis, formerly of National Geographic, is a fantastic freelance photo editor. He helped me edit my Getty Images grant work into a book format and I feel my work is stronger for his selections and sequencing. He’s one thoughtful dude and can offer incisive advice to anyone putting together a collection of photographs. Here’s his web site: http://www.michaelddavis.com

  2. I agree, working with a good photo consultant or photo editor can make a huge difference. It worked very well for me. When I wanted to revise my website, I consulted with Stella Kramer: http://www.stellakramer.com/about.html
    and she was wonderful. I met her initially through Media Bistro, and I worked with her both in a group class and individually. Her suggestions made my website so much more effective than I could have done, working on my own.

  3. Thank you for this post. I am standing at this point in the road right now and have been scratching my head. I am trying to go on my own, but feel I will need to get the help of a consultant or editor.

    Again, thanks for the timing of this post and it’s info.

  4. “Finally on editing, when looking at portfolios you can easily tell within a couple images if this is someone you want to work with. After that it’s all about finding reasons why you don’t want to work with them.”

    That’s the most compelling argument for savagery in editing that I have ever heard.

  5. I have to agree with using a consultant like Salina Maitreya, Susan Baraz, or as mentioned Stella Kramer. They have spent enough time in the industry to really narrow the portfolio edit. They will definitely make it harder for the PE to find reasons not to hire you. The money spent to have a great portfolio edit with pay for itself in short order.

  6. I had Amanda Sosa-Stone edit my book as a part of a consultation about a year ago. I didn’t ascribe a ton of value to it as a part of the whole package at the time… But after getting the new book together I started getting tons of great feedback. In the end, I feel like it was a huge component of stepping things up a notch for me.

    So yeah, totally worth it.