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Top 10 Ways to Make a Photo Editor Fall In Love With You

by Grover Sanschagrin Photo by Andrew Fingerman Everyone, especially photographers, wants to be loved. But, unfortunately, not all are. Love and re...

by Grover Sanschagrin


Photo by Andrew Fingerman

Everyone, especially photographers, wants to be loved. But, unfortunately, not all are. Love and respect are earned, and it’s usually a two-way street. Yesterday’s post, “Top 13 Ways to Piss Off a Photo Editor” was a view of what actually gets a photo editor angry.

(If your reaction to yesterday’s post was to immediately start bitching, moaning and whining, please re-read point #11: “Complain.”)

So today, I gathered a different kind of information from that same panel of photo editors in an attempt to find the quickest paths to their heart.

The panel is:

    Nate Gordon, Picture Editor, Sports Illustrated
    Roberto De Luna, Photo Editor, Time Out New York
    Hali McGrath, Photo Editor, LiveDaily
    Whitney Lawson, Photo Editor, Travel + Leisure
    Leslie dela Vega, Photo Director, Essence Magazine
    Ryan Schick, Editor, Redux Pictures
    Jim Merithew, Photo Editor,
    Phaedra Singelis, Supervising Producer – Multimedia,
    Stella Kramer, Photo Editor & Consultant

Top 10 Ways to Make a Photo Editor Fall In Love With You

1) Be someone who “gets it.”
If you want to feel the photo editor love as if you were a flowerchild back in 1968, then you should demonstrate that you “get it.” This means that, without much explaining on their part, you already understand what they’re looking for, what their publication, project, or assignment is all about, and that you’re capable of making great decisions on the fly.

Once you’ve demonstrated that you “get it,” you should expect to feel the love in the form of additional assignments, emails with smiley face emoticons, and more money in your pocket.

“Vision. Know the magazine– Think about the types of pictures we’ve been running, and therefore what would be repetitive or a nice change of pace. If we just ran a tight headshot, shoot loose– etc…”  – Nate Gordon

“Send me work that’s appropriate for the title, and well researched.” – Roberto De Luna

“It’s great when photographers take the time to see what the site might need and then try to provide just that.”  – Hali McGrath

“Tailor your presentation to my magazine.” – Whitney Lawson

“Send me an email promo with the introduction photo that complements my magazine!” – Leslie dela Vega

“Bothering to learn about the subject and story (bonus: knowing my publication inside & out.)” – Ryan Schick

“Send me thoughtful story ideas that are targeted at my audience, that you can actually land within our timeframe and budget.” – Jim Merithew

“Familiarize yourself with my magazine – What are our sections?  Who is the editor-in-chief?  What was our latest issue about?” – Whitney Lawson

“I think what people like to see when they look at concert stills, beyond the ‘fix’ of getting a close-up view of a rockstar’s face, a feeling of being there. To see at least one shot of the whole stage and or the room, the atmosphere and the overall scene. I like to think of it this way – when we go to a show ideally we have the option to move around–and to look at each other. Part of the fun is to gleam happy vibes from all the smiling faces. Photographer’s who include these sorts of images win extra points with me because it makes me feel like they really get it. Not just the glamor of the rock show but the beauty of the concert experience full stop.”  – Hali McGrath

2) Be easy to work with.
Here’s a shocker – a lot of photographers are just plain difficult to work with. If you’re on your first, second, third, or even tenth “date” with a photo editor, you’ll get a lot further if you’re nice, polite, optimistic, and easy-going. Photo editors will want to plant kisses on your head if you remain cool, calm, collected, respectful and polite no matter what happens.

“Play well with others. Photogs. can often be a confrontational bunch. Be friendly. I like that.” – Nate Gordon

“Not talking over me during a personal meeting or during a telephone call.”  – Roberto De Luna

“Be nice to me when I have to cancel our meeting for the third time. I feel TERRIBLE when I have to do that.”  – Roberto De Luna

“Being consistent and professional.” – Ryan Schick

“Be prepared for rejection.” – Jim Merithew

“Be friendly and polite–believe me, attitude matters.” – Stella Kramer

3) Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.
In any courtship, it’s the little things that say the most. Paying attention to details means that you actually do care, and are willing to put in the effort. In doing your job, if you don’t create additional work for the photo editor, and you constantly strive to make life easier for them, they probably sit at their desk, periodically daydreaming of a long stroll on the beach at sunset while holding your hand.

“I love it when the shooter has their camera’s internal clocks set to the correct date. Some sites like LiveDaily have servers that feed images into slideshows based on that data(in order to make sure the most current images pop up first).”  – Hali McGrath

“Send invoices on time, don’t wait for 3 months to bill me, it causes HUGE headaches for any photo editor you work with to bill them late.”  – Roberto De Luna

“Send me a link that’s easy to navigate, doesn’t need bells and whistles.” – Leslie dela Vega

“If your website has nice big pictures, I love you!” – Leslie dela Vega

“Be professional (that means being reliable, invoicing in a timely manner, keeping communication open with the photo editor, etc.)” – Stella Kramer

“Complete caption information/accurate info embedded in the photos from your assignment.” – Ryan Schick

“Focus. I like someone who is focused on the assignment… not someone trying to do 5 other things on the same day.” – Nate Gordon

4) Bring something to the table.
Don’t always expect the photo editor to make the first move. For love to thrive, it needs to be a two-way street, where both parties are giving 51%. You are a unique, creative individual with great ideas and solutions – let that show. Don’t be a robot with a camera – robots are impossible to love.

“Ideas. Share them, let’s brainstorm together. When I tell you what the magazine is looking for, think about that, but also beyond that– what would be even cooler?”  – Nate Gordon

“Show me something I never thought I needed (a set up I never asked for, or an outtake you think is right for the mag). because it’s never just for me, it’s for the designer too, and ultimately the READER :)”  – Roberto De Luna

“Surprise me. Awe me. Take me places I didn’t know existed. Give me a photo I could have never imagined in a million years. Surprise me.” – Jim Merithew

“One of my flock of shooters always throws in a few comments into an email after a shoot. Sometimes a whole paragraph about the night, the band, the crowd or what have you – that’s always a bonus.”  – Hali McGrath

“Be a journalist. You are my eyes and ears on the ground. Be prepared to switch directions and get me all of the information I need for both of us to look good.” – Jim Merithew

“Know the stories happening in your area, so when I call, you already know what I’m calling about and where to go, who to speak to.” – Phaedra Singelis

5) Cover all the bases, and then some.
With any relationship, you should always strive to over-deliver. If you routinely exceed expectations, you will make the photo editor look really good – and they’ll love you for that. Nail exactly what you’ve been asked to shoot, and then shoot something from every angle possible, up, down, wide, close, inside and out, horizontal and vertical. Let your images be the things that show you were working the situation as hard as possible.

“Make me look good: If you’ve gotten an assignment, work it so that you give me more options than expected.” – Stella Kramer

“COVER. EVERY. ANGLE. a photographer that understands that i need verticals, horizontals, and SILO options stands a great chance of winning me over.”  – Roberto De Luna

“Do research on whatever you’re assigned to shoot.” – Stella Kramer

6) Send (appropriate) gifts (seriously).
Nothing gets someone in the mood for love like a thoughtful gift. A creative special something that’s perfect just for them, for the moment, for the situation. Nobody ever expects to receive a gift, so it’s always a nice surprise – and nobody ever expects that you’re going to put some effort into the choosing of that gift.

Be original, and appropriate, and the photo editor may swoon.

“Photo Editors are notoriously busy, and rarely get to leave the office for lunch. if you really want me to remember you, send me something EDIBLE that i can share with the staff. That way not only will i know who are, so will everyone else :)”   – Roberto De Luna

“Cupcakes, brownies…anything sweet!” – Ryan Schick


7) Let them know what makes you special.
Make sure you let them know if you have any special talents. What makes you unique and exciting? You’re more likely to get another ‘date’ if they can naturally associate you with an opportunity.

“Tell me if you speak a second language.” – Phaedra Singelis

“Tell me about your languages and your upcoming travel (dates a plus!)” – Whitney Lawson

“Tell me that you have experience doing audio, video, panos and what your editing skills and abilities are.” – Phaedra Singelis

8) Make it fun for them to work with you.
Everyone wants more fun in their life, especially at work. Don’t be a boring stick-in-the-mud – show that you have a sense of humor, and that you want to brighten up their day too. But, be careful, you must balance humor/fun with professionalism/work. If you can strike the right balance, the may very well return the favor.

“Send me a fun promo that shows your style, your sense of humor.  Humor is a huge plus.  It will help me differentiate you from the pack.” – Whitney Lawson

9) Don’t dress like a slob.
Don’t show up for your “date” unshowered, wearing clothes that look like you’ve slept in them for the past few nights. Photographer’s get a bad rap for dressing poorly. If you’re dressed like a slob, it can be perceived as disrespectful, and it will reflect poorly on the photo editor, and their publication/company. Keep in mind that, to the subject/public, you are the face of your employer. Make a good first impression, and remember that every assignment involves a first impression.

“Dressing nicely to an assignment, wearing deodorant (this seems to be an issue for some photographers.)” – Ryan Schick

10) Say “Thank You.”
A healthy and loving relationship always involves a healthy dose of appreciation. Saying “Thank You” is always appreciated. Be aware of the things that they are doing on your behalf – things that are making YOUR job easier. Say thanks when they’ve made you look good, and they’ll share the love when you do the same.

It means so much when a shooter compliments me on the job I’ve done. Whether it’s color correcting, selection, or even just getting them into a show after Will Call has told them “NO” they’re “not on the list.”  – Hali McGrath

Thank your photo editor–you’d be surprised how much it’s appreciated. – Stella Kramer

I’m sure this list only scratches the surface.  So I’d love to hear from more photo editors and photographers on how you make the relationship work.

Grover Sanschagrin is co-founder and Vice President of PhotoShelter. Follow him on Twitter at @heygrover.

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