Photographer Siobhan Hennessy spent a decade as a Picture Editor for one of the world's top photographic agencies. In this guest blog series, she draws from her experience of editing some of the best images in the world, in order to help you gain a clear focus on how to best present your work.
In my previous incarnation as a Picture Editor at an independent photo agency in London, I had a ringside seat in a rapidly changing industry. As the digital age took over, many well-established brands and their employees struggled to adapt and accept the overwhelming changes taking place. A few picture editors still made time to see photographers or illustrators, but sadly, they were swimming against a swelling tide. The instantaneous demands of social media, the corporate take-overs (and inevitable staff cuts that followed), magazine closures, and many other factors, all contributed to the decline of ‘the picture editor’ as they once were. It has become a high stakes game with little or no human interaction, unthinkable deadlines, and an overload of responsibility. Nowadays, if you want to submit your work to a print (or online) media brand, it’s important to be aware of their pressures, as it will ultimately help you to understand how to achieve your own publishing goals. I’ve broken it down into four simple steps below which I hope will give you a little guidance if you need it.
1. Research, research, research
This is number one, always. A publication will only consider your work if it fits nicely within their criteria. Decide where you would like your images to be seen, then study that brand with a fine-tooth comb. How would you describe their style? How many images do they run with each feature? How are they laid out on the page or screen? Is there a large lead image that lures the reader/viewer in? Try to shoot your next suitable project with this in mind, and your chances of publication will increase dramatically.
2. Understand their needs
The most stunning yet unsuitable set of images will be glanced at (maybe even longingly…), but picture editors are tied to their own constraints and won’t waste time on something that will never work for them. They will always stick exclusively to their brand as this is what their loyal readers want. If possible, try to set up a meeting with your targeted publication. As mentioned earlier, most editors are pretty pressed for time these days, but you never know, you might get lucky, and it could be a golden opportunity to form a relationship and get some first hand tips – if nothing else.
3. Timing is everything
Never, ever underestimate the power of timing. Magazines generally work at least two months in advance. There is zero point in sending in a beautiful Christmas feature a month before Santa arrives. In fact, in an effort to get on top of things early, they would most likely have gone for one of the first festive features to land in their inbox – back in June.
Illustrators can do well if they target the right publications and preempt their needs. Horoscopes offer plenty of creative freedom and can be lucrative as they will feature in every issue that year. But get them in early. Also, there are some taboo or abstract subjects, which picture editors find hard to convey so explore those possibilities. Darker topics are generally illustrated in a very conceptual way so offer plenty of scope for artists.
4. Don't give up
By following the three rules above, you will get there… in the end. I promise.
‘To be persuasive we must be believable;
to be believable we must be credible;
to be credible we must be truthful.'
~ Edward R. Murrow
Image: Siobhan Hennessy