by Skip Cohen
Over in the Webinar Center there's a terrific webinar thanks to Manfrotto with Adam Barker, From Capture to Cover. In this webinar, Adam shares a lot of ideas on how to land a cover shot.
Having been on the magazine side of this industry for many years I want to expand on some of Adam's ideas and give you another perspective.
A few months ago I was with a group of photographers who were talking about some of the cover shots on their favorite magazines. Somebody made the comment, "I could have done that!" Okay, it's true, there are very few covers that most of you couldn't have done, but the reality is you didn't! It's that plain and simple - somebody else made the effort.
Cover shots, at least for the professional photo magazines are rarely, if ever, planned in advance. Typically the images come from editorial pieces within the magazine. So the first step to getting a cover shot - make the effort to get yourself "out there".
Let's talk about what it takes to get your work published:
1) Patience - It starts with submitting your work to the editorial staff of the various magazines. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket!
2) Networking - It obviously helps if you work to get your work and yourself known by the editors and manufacturers of the products you use. Just sending in some images and a story idea cold to a magazine isn't going to accomplish very much.
3) Be involved - You've got to get your work out there. Enter contests. Look for calls to action where a manufacturer might be looking for images. A subliminal call to action is any mfg introducing a new product. Images taken with that product or application are going to be in short supply initially. Do your own testing of the product and submit images to the manufacturer and magazines.
Here's a prime example. Scott Bourne and I go back about 15 years. He sent me images taken with the new Hasselblad X-pan when I was president of Hasselblad. The images were stunning, but we didn't have any use for them at the time. Studio Photography and Design was doing a story on the X-pan and looking for fresh images. I sent them Scott's work and they wound up doing a profile story on Scott and the X-pan, but the story gets better. One of their readers loved Scott's work and hired him for a five year project overseas!
4) Build relationships - It's not just about the editorial staff, but the manufacturers whose products you use. I know we'd all like to believe editorial is objective, but it's not all the time and having the support of a manufacturer, who is an advertiser, will sometimes be the link to finally getting your work published.
5) Never compromise - Every image you submit has to be spectacular. Never compromise on the quality of the images you submit.
6) Follow the editorial calendars - Every magazine has a published editorial calendar for the year. Make it a point to follow the themes of the calendar. For example, you'll never get published if you're submitting work that's all landscape when the theme for the month is children's portraiture! Your work needs to have relevance.
7) Format - most photographers forget to look at the format of the cover. Images used for cover shots can't just be beautiful, they have to fit the cover with the magazine title, tag lines and even where the address label is positioned. They also have to be verticals, at least most of the time. I'm always surprised at photographers who think an image would make a beautiful cover, but for example, forget the magazine title is going to run right through their image. If you want to practice with a few images yourself, mock up a cover of your favorite magazine and then drop in your photograph..
Here's a fun exercise to do. Look through the last issue of a magazine like Professional Photographer. Look at all the images in the magazine. I don't know about PPA, but I know at Rangefinder we used to take just about all the images in the magazine and mock them up as covers before making our final choice. If you want to see just how hard it is to pick a cover shot, go through the magazine and envision your favorites as covers. It's a daunting task.
8) Patience - no it's not a typo. It's first and last on the list for getting your work published. Getting yourself featured in editorial boils down to a combination of everything above, combined with a little luck and timing. You'll never get published if you don't participate in the process, but just like cooking a great steak, rush the process by cranking up the heat and you'll burn it; over season it and you'll ruin it and take it off the grill too early and it'll still be raw.
Take your time. Be goal oriented and don't lose sight of your ultimate prize, being published. Keep building your business and your brand. Things will come together, but it takes time.
Hard to believe that Benjamin Franklin had the idea a few hundred years ago:
"He that can have patience can have what he will."
But I love this quote from Buddhist thinker, author and educator, Daisaku Ikeda even more:
"With love and patience nothing is impossible!"
Illustration Credit: © asiln - Fotolia.com
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.