Cover Shoot a Success

“Can you do a shoot for us tomorrow?” “Sorry it’s last minute notice.” “It’s the Cover story.”…

Not the first time I’ve heard these words in the many many years I’ve provided photographs to editorial clients. It’s the nature of the biz.

Cover stories are a BIG deal, because the success of the cover dictates potential success of the issue. If it’s a newsstand mainstream magazine it competes with hundreds of other magazines. Just look at the barrage of images screaming for your attention next time you’re at your favorite bookstore or at the newsstand. They’re all vying for your attention and your money.

A cover story automatically means that my “storytelling with a camera” is essential because additional photographs will be needed to run inside the publication with the story.

Covers are vertical and they always have text on them: including the magazine’s logo across the top, a headline or two, and various other words and graphics. I always insist on getting previous samples of the client’s publication to see how I need to shoot the cover – even with less than 1 days notice. Cover photographs that run “full-bleed” or to the edges on all sides will have this text on the photograph itself and I’ve got to leave room for that.  If the photograph will be inset within the cover and won’t have distracting elements on top I shoot differently.

This one for American School was the former so I concentrated on vertical images with out-of-focus backgrounds at the top. This cover was shot with a Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS L zoom lens to isolate the young boy and book he’s reading. The boy stands out, catches your eye, fits in with the headline.

Additionally this magazine used 11 other photographs to illustrate the story. Storytelling at it’s best, yes?

As I took the photographs I liked the one above with the young lady with hand raised, thinking it might be the cover. Their choice does work better because the boy is intently reading. It was also important to capture the teacher, scene setting wide angles of the entire room, and other learning activities during the morning session. It’s important to shoot both vertical and horizontal, giving the art director options for the layout – especially with a tight deadline.

To successfully photograph kids one needs to get down to their level and have a bit of patience. It didn’t take long for this scene to go from a snapshot to a successful photograph – as evidenced by the boys spontaneous reaction to the game being played.As the class period ends this doorway photograph further set the scene identifying Mrs. Jenks’ room. By using a slower shutter speed I achieved motion blur on some students, giving this image more life.

In addition to the classroom photographs I was also asked to “get a shot of the principal, the head of the school board too”. Fortunately, both were available on this short notice. Instead of taking a boring portrait of the principal in her office, I asked if she planned to visit classrooms that day. Of course she did, and again, the low angle, patience, and a long lens helped get this shot as she congratulates a student for doing a good job.

The detail shot along the brick wall shows the way the school keeps track of student progress. Each student has a yellow card that’s updated as they complete work. It wasn’t on the shot list, but I noticed it when entering the building, grabbed a chair from the office and took the photograph during a passing period – certainly more interesting with students in background than without.

  • Did I Inhale? - […] use, shooting images that can become covers is one of my specialities. Check out a previous post at about another successful cover story for more info, but in a nutshell I shoot some images that can […]

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