Monthly Archives: April 2017

Commercial Photography – Shooting For Magazines

Digital photography has caused a massive surge in the popularity of this once mysterious art. Secrets of the darkroom, once accessible only through years of study and practice, are now widely available in digital photo editing suites. Film which would cost a professional photographer hundreds of dollars over time has been replaced by memory cards with infinite re-shoot possibilities, and the low cost of entry for digital has allowed thousands of new users to jump into the fray with minimal financial risk. With so many new photographers in the profession, it has helped expand the market for both publications and photography opportunities and created new sources of images and places to sell them. But as a new photographer it may seem challenging to get started so let’s take a look at the world of magazine photography.

What Do Magazines Want?

Sure, there are plenty of magazines out there that deal primarily in celebrity gossip or trendy news. Since its not likely you will be booking Brad Pitt into your studio (or sneaking around outside his house), its important to remember that there are thousands of magazines out there that are all dedicated to pretty much everything else. There are magazines on cars, dogs, computers, fitness, home decor, cooking and so many others. These magazines are always on the market for relevant and useful images that fit their niche.

One way to think about it is that these magazines will always need images of their topics and are happy to pay for them. For example, dog magazines, will never stop needing dog photos so why not focus on a specific niche?

How Do I Get Started?

First, you should look for a niche that you find interesting. Whatever topic you love, chances are good that there is a magazine focused on that particular subject. Once you’ve decided on a market, swing by your local bookstore and grab a few magazines off the rack. Take a look at the kinds of photos they are using, and ask yourself if these are the kinds of photographs that you will enjoy taking. Its also important to be honest with yourself at this step  can you deliver photographs that are at or above the quality of the photos they’re using? If not, work on your photography until you can.

Once you’re ready, look through each magazine and find the photo editor or information on how to submit photos. You want to make sure that you understand the magazine’s guidelines before you start otherwise your pictures will likely not be accepted. Once you know where and how to send your photo, send it in. Its always good to accompany the photo with a brief note  this is a good place to link your portfolio.

The Waiting Game

Anytime you submit a photo to a magazine, plan to wait several weeks for a response. Magazines are a print media, and even if accepted your photographs will not show up for a few months. Additionally, its always best to only submit each photo to one publication at a time, this way you don’t run the risk of having to decline an offer because another editor has chosen to use your image.

Many times, magazine will note their usual response time to be between 2-8 weeks. If you haven’t heard anything after this time has expired its okay to send a follow-up note reminding the editor of your submission. Just keep it polite!

What’s so surprising about selling pictures to magazines is that the process is so easy. It can be summed up in its entirety by find it, shoot it, mail it. Selling your photographs to a magazine may sound like a crazy idea, but once you get started making submissions, you’ll wish you would have started doing it sooner!

Clipping Paths In Pack Shot And Product Photography

In my 14 years of photographing professional photography I’m always being asked to shoot a clients product in front of a simple white Colorama. Typically this is because the client wants to place the object on a white printed brochure page or web page and also because products often contrast well against a white background, showing off their colour, intricacy and contrast.

For some subject matters the task of retaining a superbly lit, well exposed and crisp product whilst creating a flat true white backdrop from corner to corner is indeed manageable, notably when the product is much darker than the whiteness of Colorama.

Although, 9 times out of 10 reasonable results can infrequently be achieved. This is for one very simple reason:

When shooting most items I always shoot in a way that brings out the best features of the product itself which doesn’t necessarily create a truly white background. Correct lighting of the object will thus often result in underexposure of the background so that it appears an unpleasant and patchy shade of grey. Think of a pair of white shoes as an example. If the professional photographer was to endeavor to light the background so it appeared as a even white then they would very likely neglect the shoes making them appear overexposed, bleached out, lacking in detail and as flat and 2-D as the backdrop itself.

Needless to say these problems can generally be overcome with extensive and time consuming photographic lighting solutions such as flagging the item. A ‘flag’ practically creates a physical obstacle between the studio light and the object, as a result shading the item so that it gets less light whilst subsequently raising the intensity of light to the backdrop. This is good if the client has the means for what I call ‘bespoke’ product photography, but more often than not they have many hundreds of products they simply need cataloging so budgets and time scales are understandably limited.

In these instances the quickest, most inexpensive and often most practical solution is in the creation of a post production clipping path. A clipping path is where the image is imported into image manipulation software, mostly Photoshop, and then the object or product is essentially drawn around by hand via the pen tool to create a vector based path. This clipping path can then later be employed to the image file to effectively ‘cut-out’ or isolate the object from the background, such as when wishing to print. Consider this action as basically drawing round an object in a magazine with a pen then cutting round this drawn line with scissors to remove the object from the rest of the magazine.

The good point about clipping paths is the fact that not only can you precisely modify the exposure, colour caste, sharpness and contrast of the object separately without effecting the background, you can then place that object onto any background of your choice, as many times as you want. One day you may very well decide to paste it onto a white website the next week ask your designer to print up a mailshot with a whole range of products, all appearing as if they were shot at the same time. In order to give your cut out product a more ‘real’ feeling you might also ask your designer or photographer to attach a soft drop shadow, both to give it weight on the page and create a delicate transition between the products edges and the page.

In conclusion clipping paths offer the customer a cost effective and long term solution when confronted with the task of shooting bulk product shots, allowing the photographer to fully exploit the aesthetic attributes of the product without fretting about the final appearance of the background.