No photographer is an island. We own our creativity but everything else—our technology, our access, our assignments—are enabled by others. Even our creativity is enhanced by our collaboration with the art producers, editors and designers with whom we work most closely. These are the folks that take the work we create and publish it, display it, print it and turn it into amazing displays, stories and campaigns.
Without them, we’re just shooting cool photos and sharing them on Facebook.
I try to approach each assignment as if I were back at the newspaper. Even if the assignment was to make a single simple portrait, I went into each job thinking about what else I might photograph. Back then, I challenged myself to come back with a three-picture package that told the story and might give the page designers more options. I always looked for storytelling details to include, too. That approach gave the designers the ability to use images as teasers on the front page, for example. Sometimes designers used none of it. Months down the road, looking for a timeless detail image to illustrate a different story, they’d see my image and find it a perfect fit. This storytelling approach challenged me creatively, led to better visual play and better designer/editor kharma that I’m hoping will benefit me in my next life. It’s something I still do today, reflexively.
The editorial assignment photographer needs to always look for telling details. Sometimes these visual metaphors are more compelling, more storytelling than the ‘main’ image itself. In commercial photography, these types of details are just as important. In an era when companies have greater ability to publish content on their sites, there’s an even greater need for storytelling details that can be used as evergreen content, on company blogs and in ad campaigns.
Details also come in handy for designers who need a key visual element, or require ‘filler’ content, etc. These details solve a lot of visual problems. Having a photographer who actively looks for them is a big win because it gives the designer options.
The thinking photographer who goes the extra mile for their editor or designer will be the go-to photographer for those people. Realize that the assignment isn’t just about the image being requested, just as your job is not solely about you.