I don’t know about you, but when I got into fashion photography, all I ever wanted was for my images to be featured in magazines. It remains, to this day, one of my biggest goals. I'm lucky enough to have been featured in a few magazines by now, and I've learnt a thing or two about how to get published.
Not only that, but I spent 5 years working on Atlas Magazine, which I am a co-founder of. Therefore, I've been on both ends - the photographer, and the editor.
I think this definitely gives me an advantage, because I'm able, more than most photographers, to put myself in the shoes of an editor.
So today, I'm going to share with you how to plan a photoshoot for a magazine.
1. Research the magazines you want to shoot for:
So of course, the first step is to do your research. And I mean, really do your research. You need to spend time looking up magazines, researching what's out there. You need to know if your style of photography will suit them. What kind of photographers do they feature? Are they more classic and romantic, or are they quite edgy? You need to be sure that your style will suit them.
If you're wanting to shoot for magazines which take submissions, check in advance whether they have any themes. At Atlas, we have four different themes per year. Photographers are free to interpret those themes however they like. A lot of magazines follow a similar structure, so be sure to check.
That being said, some also don't have a theme; their theme is open.
Some magazines are very seasonal (i.e. most magazines you buy on a newsstand are going to be seasonal!). And some are commission only (commission means that they need to pre-approve your idea before you go out and shoot).
Spend time making a list of magazines you'd love to shoot for. Make notes about them. I keep a Trello board with a massive list of magazines that I dream of shooting for, and whenever it comes time for me to plan a new editorial, I pull that list up and will use it to plan my shoot!
2. Create a strong moodboard
Once you know who you want to shoot for, and you have your theme, it's time to put together a moodboard. I like to start off all of my photoshoots with detailed moodboards. I tend to start on Pinterest, where I'll create a new "secret" board, and I'll begin to pin ideas. Sometimes I just pin whatever I'm drawn to. If I do that, I'll go back to the board after a few minutes, and look for a pattern or theme. I'll delete the pins which no longer suit the theme I'm moving towards, and continue pinning based on my chosen theme.
Other times, I'll start my moodboarding with an idea already in my head.
Pinterest now has the ability to split your boards into multiple categories, like "Styling" and "Lighting" and "Make Up." I LOVE this feature, because it makes it so easy for me, and for my team, to keep our ideas organised.
When you have a more solid idea for your photoshoot, I'd recommend moving your moodboard from Pinterest into Photoshop. I like to save the image to my desktop, and then create PDFs out of my moodboards so that they are easy to send to team members, model agents, etc.
To make everything very clear and easy for your team to understand, I encourage you to create moodboards for the overall mood and feel of the shoot, for hair, make up, styling, and even locations within your shoot. This will help to make it very clear to your team whoo needs to do what, and what you're hoping to achieve with your shoot.
3. Find your team
Finding a team can be really tricky, but once you've got a few people that you know you can work with, it gets easier and easier. I've worked with a lot of different people over the years (make up artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, etc) and I now have a list of people that I know I can turn to whenever I have an idea (and they can turn to me too!).
I get asked often how to find team members, and it deserves a whole blog post in itself, but to get you started, I encourage you to look within Facebook groups, on Instagram, Google searches, and look within agencies as well.
The most important thing though, is that when you do find people who are up for collaborating with you, that they understand your vision. This is why moodboards are so crucial; they need to SEE what you want them to do.
Whenever you're collaborating with someone though, keep in mind that they will want to get something out of it too. If they want to create something for themselves, I like to have discussions about it, and remain open minded. I don't like to hold too tight a grip on the shoot, because that's no fun for anyone.
But that being said, make sure that you are the one who gets the final say on whether something will work in the images or not. Remember that you're shooting for a magazine, you're the one who has done the research and planned the whole shoot... if what one of your team members is suggesting isn't going to work, be open about it.
Lastly, make sure that you show the team members the magazine that you're shooting for. Let them do their own research, and get excited about the possibility of being featured as well!
4. Cast your model
Whether you're casting a model who is signed with an agency or not, you need to keep in mind whether she will be a good fit for your editorial or not. Will she/he work within the story you have planned? Does her/his look suit the magazine? Take time over your casting, and be sure that you've got the right model. After all, they're going to be the focus of the image... so if she isn't right, you're going to fall at the first hurdle!
Styling is so tricky, and if you can, I encourage you to work with a wardrobe stylist. However, good stylists can be really, really hard to find. If you live outside of a big city, they're even harder.
If you can't find a stylist, all is not lost! You can style a shoot yourself. You just need to have done your research into the magazine, and have a solid plan for your shoot! Here are the most important things to remember when planning a shoot for a magazine with regards to styling:
Check how many looks they require. Many magazines will need you to feature at least 6 outfit changes for it to make it worth it for them to feature your editorial.
Are the clothes you're choosing going to suit the magazine? Take a look at previous issues and see what kinds of clothes the editors tend to feature.
If you're shooting for a magazine which has adverts, do you need to shoot with the brands that advertise with them? Believe it or not, a lot of magazines are restricted by the brands they can feature based on who advertises with them.
6. Email the magazines in advance
This is something I'm mentioning, because I don't feel like enough photographers do this (or think that they can). You don't have to, but sometimes it is worth sending a quick email to the magazine that you're hoping to submit to, and asking them for advice. You can show them your moodboard, show them the model you plan to shoot with, etc, and see what they say.
They may come back with a few adjustements, or they may even offer you a commissioning letter (which will then allow your stylist to "pull" clothes from PRs and designer showrooms - always worth getting if you can).
Last but not least...you need to shoot! When shooting for your editorial, whether you've been comissioned or you're submitting, just keep the magazine in mind. It's so easy to get carried away with the day, and forget your core mission (I know, because I've done it). Pin your moodboards up on the wall, or keep them close. If you're on location, have them on your phone. Reffer back to them often, and remind yourself of what you're doing.
There we go :) I hope that those tips on how to plan a shoot for a magazine was helpful! If you're interested in learning more, one of my most recent podcast episodes was with Megan Breukelman, the current editor of Atlas Magazine.You can listen to it here!