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The ultimate rookie guide to editorial photography in 2021

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Pictures are worth a thousand words, and this is why editorial photography is key in storytelling. This article details all that a rookie needs to pull of their first editorial photography shoot.
editorial photography

Storytelling is the way to go if you want to sell a brand. Customers and fanbases are built on the back of strong storytelling by the brands or personalities they support. But while the writer – weaving words around to make the story appeal to its target audience, the photographer has to match that energy with awesome pictures that give life to the writer’s words. This is the basic concept of editorial photography.

Editorial photography is one of the most popular niches in the photography industry, and it has its roots in journalism and fashion. Its fashion roots stem from the fact that you have to sell the subject as a stylish person or as a stylish brand/business, while its journalism roots stem from the theme of the story.

All the images you see alongside a feature in any publication, online or offline, are editorial photographs. Some publications set up a photoshoot for the feature so that their stories will align well, while others request stylized photos from the feature to buttress the story being told. In this ultimate rookie guide, you’ll be learning the ropes of editorial photography so that you can keep booking gigs.

What do Editorial Photographers do?

As stated earlier, editorial photographers take pictures that help tell stories to support the narratives creating specific moods for features.

Photographers also have to master styles, settings, moods, and niches to pull off great editorials.

If a story is about a new restaurant or business, the photographer should understand how to shoot in those kinds of settings.

Editorial photography is not commercial photography or fashion photography. Commercial photography is for selling products, and it is used in advertisements, business cards, websites, and so on.

Fashion photography is for selling a lifestyle for which the garments in the pictures are created.

How to shoot Editorial Photography

Professionalism requires that you should be early for your shoots, have the right equipment, and gather a solid team that will help you execute your creative vision as a photographer. This is true for any niche of photography you specialize in. For editorial photography, however, the following steps will help you get the best pictures from your first editorial gig.

1. Understand the target audience

Whether you’re having an editorial photoshoot to submit to a publication or you were contracted by one, you should get to know the publication and its audience.

Sometimes, the brief contains the written feature, and other times it doesn’t. If it does, you have a good lead. If it doesn’t, you need to read the publication to see how they tell their stories and how they interact with their audience so that you can create the perfect photos that will help the editor of the feature come up with the right words.

This can be done by a quick investigation of their websites and social media outlets. Make this a priority so that you don’t approach an upbeat magazine with edgy and gloomy images.

2. Follow the creative brief even when given creative freedom

Most times, editorial photographers create concepts and add them to their portfolio or submit them to publications for special features. Other times, publications contact them with rough ideas and leave it all to the photographer.

Publications come with briefs that will outline the focus of the story. They also contain specific instructions from the editor of the feature. It goes without saying that you should follow this brief as an editorial photographer.

Make sure you bounce ideas off your client (the publication) so that you won’t add your creative spin and run into problems. Make sure you fulfill the creative brief completely so that your professionalism will not be in doubt.

3. Use a mood board

Mood boards are essential for creating. Even when you’re given a creative brief, you need a mood board to put your ideas for each photo into a better perspective. This also helps your team to prepare the necessary props for each shoot. It may even be necessary to send a copy of your mood board to your clients to get their approval, so never take this step lightly.

4. Choose the right location that matches the brief

If you’re asked to shoot fashion editorial photography of a brand that makes lingerie, it goes without saying that you should use indoor locations. It’s the same for any brief or concept you come up with. There are some elements and details of the scenery that have to be included in some shoots. Prepare to include those sceneries.

5. Deliver variation in your images

Make your human subject try as many poses as possible. Use different light setups. Take pictures from different angles. Place the focus on different things – clothes and face.

If your subject isn’t human, play with angles, setups, and props. Doing this ensures that your editorial photography is not monotonous.

6. Always edit your editorial photographs

Never hand raw photography files over to a client at the end of a shoot. Clients want properly processed images for their publications and won’t be impressed if you hand them raw files.

Follow these steps, and you’re well on your way to becoming an expert editorial photographer.

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