PPE 2012: What Photo Editors Want
At the PhotoPlus panel “Your Picture Here: How to Get Published in The New York Times, Time, GQ and Wired” photo editors from all four publications spoke candidly about what photographers can do to get their attention. There were, of course, things specific to each publication. Carrie Levy of Wired, for example, noted that it’s difficult for her to hire photographers who shoot exclusively in natural light because the magazine has a look that demands poppy and highly produced images. Meanwhile, Krista Prestek said GQ likes photographers who have a fine-art sensibility and a strong body of work that demonstrates their ability to successfully fulfill assignments.
But on a number of topics, they all seemed to agree. One was promos. Almost all of the panelists preferred printed promos to mass e-mails or cold calling. Paul Moakley of Time compared the promo process to courting: Only after a few introductory mailers is it OK to call or e-mail him to request a meeting. Prestek noted that since her first priority is the magazine, hard copy promos are better because they let her see what the work looks like on the printed page. She also suggested photographers pick an image that is in line with the magazine to use on their promo. Levy doesn’t mind e-mails, but noted a few things photographers shouldn’t do: send e-mails first thing in the morning (when she has the most e-mails in her inbox); compose mass e-mails instead of personalized ones; and embed images in the body of the e-mails because they don’t show up. Finally, The New York Times Magazine’s Clinton Cargill noted that sometimes years go by between the first time he first sees a photographer’s work and when he gives the photographer an assignment, so it’s always good to keep the photo editor up to date via mail or e-mail in terms of what you’ve been working on.
Personal work was also something that the photo editors like to see. All four pretty much agreed that a personal project is more interesting to look at and speaks to the photographer’s originality and personality better than assignment work. But when you do include assignment work in your portfolio, Prestek and Levy preferred seeing the actual image to the tearsheet. Other portfolio tips: Moakley noted that the images in your portfolio should relate to the magazine; Levy said some people aren’t interested in seeing the work on an iPad or laptop, so be sure to bring prints as well (preferably a box of prints rather than in a portfolio case); Prestek said a portfolio should demonstrate that your images will look good in print; and Cargill added that if you’re doing the work you want to be doing, then that’s the work that should be in your portfolio.
During the seminar, all four panelists answered questions from audience members. The following were mentioned as places where they found new photographers: The Wall Street Journal, Connections by Le Book, galleries, Paris Photo, The New York Times, The New Yorker, self-published books, agency e-mails, competition annuals, through colleagues and other photo editors, portfolio reviews, drop-offs, Eddie Adams Workshop, Review Santa Fe, Les Rencontres d’Arles, PhotoNOLA, Aperture, Photolucida’s Critical Mass, Foam magazine and W. Eugene Smith Awards.
Their parting advice: Apply for everything.