PhotoPlus Expo 2015: The State of Editorial Photography

Posted by on Wednesday October 28, 2015 | Business

The directors of photography at Women’s Health, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Garden & Gun, People and GQ shared stories behind shoots and offered insights into how they work with the photographers they hire in a panel discussion hosted by veteran editorial photographer Art Streiber at PhotoPlus Expo this past week. In “The State of Editorial Photography,” panelists spoke about budgets, cover shoots, how video is factoring into their work and how photographers should market to them.


People’s Catriona Ni Aolain noted that TIME, Inc. is positioning itself as a video-first company and said that the People staff discuss whether or not to create video for each story the magazine does, but she also said much of the video produced during shoots with celebrities is created not by photographers but by a separate video team. GQ’s Krista Prestek said the same was true at her magazine, and Streiber noted that he’s being asked for video on only 25 percent of his editorial assignments. When magazines first introduced iPad apps, he was asked to shoot video more frequently, he said.

On shooting covers

Women’s Health’s Sarah Rozen said that her photographers usually get eight hours with their cover models and need to shoot four to five setups. GQ’s Prestek said she saw a trend of getting less and less time with celebrities because “magazines are less essential to celebrities” for getting exposure. Often celebrities will book a string of media appointments in a single day, which leaves editors “jockeying for priority so you don’t get them at the end of the day.” GQ will spend anywhere from $30,000–$100,000 on cover shoots, Prestek said.


Streiber asked his panel how frequently they were calling photographers and saying, “We don’t have a big budget for this,” and all agreed that it was happening more frequently than they would like. Garden & Gun’s Maggie Kennedy said the bi-monthly publication has one to two big photo stories to assign each issue. (She also said the magazine was named after a Charleston, South Carolina disco, The Garden & Gun Club, in case anyone is wondering.) Rozen discussed a big shoot Women’s Health did in Hawaii on which they spent roughly $50,000–$60,000. “We can do that maybe twice a year,” she said.

How to approach photo editors

Streiber asked each of the panelists how they prefer to be approached by photographers. Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Clinton Cargill noted that he looks at photo contests and Tumblr, and that he likes to do portfolio reviews. He and his photo editors meet people frequently, he said, and personalized emails tend to make a good impression. If a photographer just takes the time to address him quickly at the top of an email, he’s “likely to feel guilty” and click a link to a website, he said half-jokingly. Bloomberg BusinessWeek publishes a variety of work, so photographers who imagine it as a dry business publication should look at the magazine. Cargill noted that photographers should “market the stuff you care about,” which often means personal work. He also said earlier in the talk that he is looking for existing projects. “Please pitch us,” he said.

Prestek said she doesn’t take meetings unless she’s familiar with a photographer’s work, and email promos are a good way to help familiarize her, even if she doesn’t always respond. She said websites that are quick and easy to navigate and fast to load were important.

Kennedy said she likes to get print promos, but said that email promos are fine as long as there are no large attachments (under 5MB was a suggested limit). She also mentioned that Garden & Gun story ideas can come from photographers’ personal projects, and earlier in the talk she noted that she likes to use local photographers. (She also said that she’ll often receive calls from photo editors looking for recommendations for photographers in the south.)

“We meet people [regularly],” said People’s Catriona Ni Aolain. Earlier in the talk, she spoke about People’s range of needs, from high-end celebrity photography to local news, and she noted that the People audience “loves access,” like shoots that show celebrities at home with their children. One of the reasons they’re able to get that access, she noted, is because they do not publish paparazzi photographs, unlike some of their competitors.

Rozen said that Instagram was one of the places she looked to see what photographers are doing, and said she, too, likes to meet photographers.


An audience member asked if the panelists liked their photographers to shoot film. Kennedy said she loves film, and others agreed that they still like to see photographers shoot film on a case-by-case basis if budgets and deadlines allow for it.

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