Category "Working"

Becoming a Photo Editor

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A friends daughter dropped by the office for a little career advice a little while back. She recently graduated from college with a degree in the arts and is interested in becoming a photo editor.

(Okay, first off I find it fascinating that someone would choose photo editing as a career path. Aren’t we all failed photographers? Ha, ha, industry joke.)

She landed an internship at a magazine’s photography department which is the obvious first step and it sounds like a good job because they’re understaffed so she will have many duties not usually given to interns… unlike the boring shit I make our interns do: sending out tears, returning art and calling PR flacks for photos (editors idea).

Anyway, my whole point here is that I came up with a few tips for any aspiring photography editors out there:

1. Develop your eye for photography. Unless you were born with the golden eye you need to edit tons of photos because wading through all the crappy images to find the gems is what develops your eye for what makes a good image. It’s also helpful to track images from your edit to the final printed product so you can see which images make the final cut… unless, your editor and/or art director suck and then all the great images never make it on the page but that’s another story.

2.Keep a list of editorial photographers. You need to begin learning the names of all the great editorial photographers and try and keep track of the various shoots they’ve done over the years. This means visiting the newsstand and writing down the names of photographers who’s work you like. If the only photographers name you know is Annie Leibovitz, who by the way is under contract with Conde Nast, you’re up shit creek because you will never land her to shoot a 1/4 in the front of the book. I’ve tried. It ain’t pretty. The list of top editorial photographers is not long and you should know who many of them are.

3. Work on your institutional knowledge of photography. Being able to recall the photographers who shot Demi Moore in the last 5 years is valuable, not only if you need to find pickup images that aren’t in circulation but also to help inform how you will photograph her for the story you’re working on. Also, as an aside, editorial story meetings generally devolve at some point into a pissing match where people try to outdo each other with their knowledge of who wrote or shot this and who’s cool and what has appeared where… etc., etc. Rapid fire name dropping is a great skill to have (just don’t be that annoying guy who does it all the time).

4. Develop relationships with photographers. In the end, you will be hired to work at a magazine based on your relationships with great photographers. Not everyone can work at a glamorous magazine with massive budgets and movie stars to take pictures of and so you will need to develop relationships with photographers, especially when they are young and hungry, so that later on you can rely on them when you’re in a bind.

There’s more but by this time I think she was completely bored out of her mind. Oh well maybe she’ll try and become a photographer first.

Getting them past the editor

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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)

The Sandbag

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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.

Shit.

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.

Sonofabitch.

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…

LinkĀ 

Not Available

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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.

Tweet

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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

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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 office

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Talking with one of the editors today we both got a laugh out of the fact that we sit around in an office in Manhattan trying to come up with brilliant ideas all the time when really we should be relying on the talented writers and photographer to come up with the ideas. If our magazine was called, Manhattan office workers, which it’s not, we’d be coming up will brilliant shit all day.

I run into this all the time, where the expectations of the photography are, that it will exactly match the idea that we came up with. I rarely tell the photograph how to shoot, unless it’s someone hired specifically to give them art direction. Sitting in and office in the middle of Manhattan in a meeting is not where your best creative work comes from.

Office Visit

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Craig Cutler came to the office today at the insistence of the editor, because Craig is shooting a very expensive project for us and well, the editor wanted to make sure that we were getting exactly what we wanted out of it. That’s always a bit of an awkward situation for me because I really don’t know what I’m trying to get out of it. I’m really just trying to match a brilliant photographer with a project that will play to their strengths. I have no frickin clue what it’s going to look like.

The meeting went well because as you can see Craig is a brilliant photographer and the project plays into his strengths (still life) but is something he’s not really photographed before (animals) and that always leads to the best work because it’s an opportunity for them to sink their teeth into something new and exciting and challenging. Should be amazing. Maybe even win an award and all I had to do is make one phone call. Perfect.

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