Print. Reputable print. This is the holy grail for so many photographers, beginners and seasoned vets included. I’ll say from experience that no matter what the side hassles are, there’s simply no better feeling than walking into a bookstore and seeing a magazine with YOUR work in it. The fact that others can simply walk in randomly and be pleasantly surprised and/or inspired by your work is a gratification like no other. Having said that, it won’t come easy, and damn sure won’t come cheap.
We’ve all gone and spent hours on end cruising through behind-the-scenes videos on Vimeo, as well as different editorials on FashionGoneRogue.com, FashionEditorials.com, and other sites. We see these beautifully executed photo shoots and just say, “Damn, magazines clearly aren’t suffering, how else could they have produced this?” Well, things aren’t always what they seem. It’s no secret that less and less people are actually spending money on magazines, with every shoot being posted online literally minutes after the actual print magazine hits newsstands (I still buy, again, because there’s nothing like a print magazine). Naturally, then, magazines are less frivolous with their spending on what they produce. They’re even at an impasse on how they produce their shoots.
You have the big magazines, especially the higher titles under Condé Nast, who will choose to produce everything in-house. That allows them to control everything from A-Z, including the location, as well as to leverage their relationships to get discounts for different things related to their productions. Other magazines, though, will be more open to having photographers that they already have a relationship with to produce shoots in different parts of the world. Sometimes, this happens when they want to have a different feel or theme for a certain issue. Other times, they simply may not have the models in town necessary to pull off a beautiful story (cities like Cape Town, Athens, Rio and others have top girls in town only short periods of the year, most of their board is based elsewhere like Paris, New York or London).
These magazines will ask photographers to produce a story for the magazine after giving them a specific theme for whichever issue the shoot would appear in. Most photographers jump at this, naturally. What they don’t think about, however, is the cost. Many magazines will tell a photographer that there’s no budget (this may or may not be true…), and so it’s up to the photographer to produce it all. I always have an issue with this, as I feel that even if sales are down globally, there should still be enough of a margin to pay those who are contributing.
Then there are other magazines who will ask you to produce but will give you a budget. Generally today, the magazines will tell you between 800€ – 1200€, depending on the magazine, if it’s a cover shoot, how many images are used, etc. This isn’t a ton of money, especially considering paying a team, location, retouching, etc; you’re pretty much left with nothing. Many still get excited on this budget, but…You won’t receive that budget immediately. It’s normally paid out between 30-45 days after the magazine is released. I try to tell photographers to forget about the money because you’ll drive yourself crazy worrying about it. For example, in July of 2016, I did a shoot for L’Officiel using the Couture collection from Paris Fashion Week. I was given a decent budget, especially for a non-cover shoot. However, the budget wouldn’t be paid until the shoot was released. Since it’s Couture, it’s not an every-season type of collection – so the magazine could release the photos from July to December or January with no problem…and that’s exactly what happened. Our shoot didn’t come out until the December/January issue! So, the money I spent in January wasn’t paid back for months, and this can prove to be a problem for many to let go of that type of money with the uncertainty of a return timeframe.
What I generally try to do is set aside about 1800€ in a separate account for editorial expenses, that way I’m not dipping into my regular account for this, and it’s money that I don’t necessarily look at every day. I produced two stories in the last couple days, for Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, respectively, and while that reserve is currently empty awaiting return, they both were shot without issue. Sometimes, you simply won’t be able to pay the team, as all the budget will go to retouching, gear/vehicle rentals, etc. And that’s ok because the end result is still that you and they are getting a stage for your work. You just want to be sure that you have enough where you can produce the most beautiful work, not just make do with what you have.
Early on, I had to dip into my checking account a few times because I had no experience on the spending and return on a budget. Don’t be me. Seriously. It’s hard in this economy, but if you’re planning on keeping editorial work in a regular rotation, make sure you keep a little nest to the side that’ll keep you comfortable producing your shoot. Cars won’t pay for themselves, neither will the studio or permit to shoot in a National Park, or the food for the entire team; make sure you’re covered so you can shoot in comfort, and in confidence that your ideas will be accurately executed!