Free Samples

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American Style Photo Guidelines


Scouting Photo Guidelines



Picture Perfect

You get better results when you tell photographers what you want

How often do you compromise because you choose the best of the bunch the photographer shot, instead of getting the picture you really wanted? It’s not that the photo shoot was bungled, it’s just that a little preparation could have gone a long way toward ensuring that the compositions you need are made in the view finder and not through extensive Photoshop manipulation.

Be Specific

The idea of a shot list to prep your photographer is hardly a novel idea, but the results can be improved through some pre-designing and better communication with your shooter.

Photographers are visual people — obviously! — and respond well to a presentation of your layout ideas showing the shapes and subjects of the images you want to use. Some simple thumbnails of your pages that are keyed to your shot list will help direct the shoot even if you can’t be there. If you think they’ll feel constrained from being creative, think again. This is actually exactly the kind of information they need to do their job.

There’s no reason that the communication has to end even on a location project. It is easy to look at thumbnails from a day’s shoot and make fresh plans even as the event is happening. Between cell phones, Wi-Fi transmission of images and email, there is no reason for your photographer to fly by the seat of his or her pants.

Provide Guidance

Beyond the shot list, there is another approach that can not only improve the results that you get from the photographers you commission, but can keep your magazine’s design distinctive. Develop a set of guidelines that help photographers understand your expectations and get the results you want.

Basic Technical data, in this digital age, is a key component. Guide­lines should include the size and format of the digital files and how they are to be delivered.

From a design standpoint, artistic details about how the magazine uses photography, what kind of shooting techniques are preferred and signature shots that are part of the editorial branding of the magazine are important information.

If you like to use silhouetted near-life-size objects in your layouts, detailing that in the photo guidelines prompts the photographer to look for appropriate subject matter, shoot it flat and in its entirety, and with enough depth of field to insure sharp edges all the way around the object.

Specific feature types can demand their own set of photo styles. A travel feature might need panoramic photographs, wide-angle images with a near-field object, or sequence shots of an event.

An added benefit of producing a set of photo guidelines is the exercise of defining the visual personality of your publication. Editorial branding is not just navigation, typography and clever names of departments. The visual style of the magazine — the rhythm, size, composition and — for lack of a better word — edginess of the photography can help define a publication.

The photo guidelines you create aren’t just for the people you commission, it can be an internal guide helping you choose who to hire.


This article originally ran in Issue 6 of FPO.