NOTE: Many of my magazine related posts have been moved over to my other blog, MagazineDesignShop.com. If you would like to read more posts on how to start your first magazine, please head over to that site.
Last week when I wrote about the 5 People You Need to Make a Magazine, I took a pretty hardline stance on some of my points of view, and I knew I was going to fluster a few people. I thought my post on Publishers would be the one to get me in hot water, but it turned out to be the post on Photographers which drew the most attention, both online and off.
My friend Rebecca of Atomic Cowlick had a lot to say, but instead of posting it as a comment in that blog post, I asked if she’d be ok with me sharing it here as a rebuttal to my point of view. Just to recap, I essentially called photographers a bunch of egomaniacs, but before I clarify, this is what Rebecca had to say.
After reading this post, I had a brief conversation with some friends and a business partner about this because, while you are pretty adamant about the how most [I said "many", not most - DC] photographers have egos big enough to house a small village, you also mention how great photos can take your magazine to a whole new level (coupled with quality content, of course). I admit, “wait, what?” was our first response, but when you touched on how difficult and expensive it can be to work with a photographer, we were able to understand why you would not want them a part of your “team”. However, in my world, photography is a key component to help bring your best foot forward. Having crappy pictures of your product can leave some to question quality & professionalism. So, my partner and I refreshed our photography skills quickly (as you suggested for the budget conscious folks), but this is way easier said than done! Proper equipment, software, learning proper lighting techniques, and editing skills takes A LOT of time, money and devotion which is well worth it if you love it, but if not…
While I provide artistic & creative direction, my partner is the photographer and it can easily create a full plate for him depending on shoot frequency. Granted, I have been very lucky working with photographers, I have learned a very important thing along the way – it is absolutely essential to work with a photographer who is extremely technical. This is especially true if you already have others providing the content and art direction. From my experience, the more technical a photographer is, the more value they will bring to any project (just like the skills of the Editor, Printer, Art Director, etc.). Like you touched on above, leave the artistic photographers out completely and find yourself an engineer geek with a camera. Yes, it’s extremely hard to find a good photographer, but then again, does everyone have what it takes to properly learn photography to create those rock star images to sell your magazine? Most do not.
Ok, so before I retort, I want to state for the record that I stand by my original statement that, many photographers think they are the rockstars of the publishing world. That said, I agree with what Rebecca is saying 100%. However, I have literally worked with many dozens of photographers over my career and the statements I made were based on a generality of those individuals. Photographers do have egos; art directors have egos and so do writers, but the photographers tend to be a bit more “rock star” in their attitude. Allow me to give a recent example.
Not long ago, I did an interview with a two person team about their magazine project. One was the a editor/art director and the other was the photographer. Prior the interview, in the initial correspondence, the editor was gracious and willing. The photographer was also willing, but the tone seemed a bit more aloof. When I did the interview, the editor’s answers were in depth and answered the questions directly. When the photographer answered, some of her comments were a tad defensive, and when I made a casual assumption about her work, she was very quick to correct me, in an almost sharp response. That, to me, is a typical photographer attitude.
Of course, not all photographer are like this, and every one I’ve worked with had pluses and minuses. Many are both amazing at their job and great to work along side, but they can be quirky. My point of the article, to clarify more, was to imply on a first time magazine project, you may run across photographers of this nature, and depending on your particular photography skill level, may choose to forego using anyone else.
As Rebecca states, good photography can make you look 100x better than bad photography, but let’s say for a moment you’re an OK photographer, but a fantastic art director and know how to turn a bad image into something cool with a little photo adjustment and creative cropping. You hand me a shit photo and I will make it look stellar. I don’t necessarily want to work that hard on every photo I use, but I can, and the book is going to look pretty damn good still.
The work Rebecca speaks of is mostly in product branding, namely fashion oriented goods, where the level of expectation for producing quality photography is very high. If you’re shooting product shots, you need professional photography; there’s just no two ways about it.
In contrast, we’re talking about a low-budget magazine project that will have very rigid schedule. You need to take your budget, your timeline and your photography skill level into consideration, and then weigh all that against what you’re willing to accept as quality photo work in your magazine. Nobody can tell you what works best for you. I can only shed some light on the path, but you must walk it.
Lastly, I fully welcome Rebecca or anyone else to refute what I’m saying at any time. I don’t ever expect people to agree with me 100%. I have some pretty direct points of view on things, and I’m actually hoping some of you will speak up when you feel the need. Keep in mind, I’m trying to garner more eyeballs, and I get a little outlandish at times in order to stir the pot, but I stand behind what I say unless someone can convince me otherwise. That said, what do you think? Did I overstep in my point of view of photographers, or am I only the money. Let me know what you think in the comments below.