Samantha Scott-Jeffries - Deputy Editor, The English Home Magazine
The right advice and inside track on how to get commissioned
Have you always worked in magazines?
No, I’ve spent a large proportion of my career working in television. Yet throughout those 8 or so years, I always wrote on a freelance basis for interiors magazines as well as writing several books. Despite the different media, homes, interiors, design and related subjects, have always been the main focus of my work.
Your'e now involved in commissioning both interiors and portrait photographers, how do you feel that your experience on television shoots helps you with this?
They are obviously very different, but the requirements are similar. The need to, prioritise on the day and troubleshoot to ensure that the best possible images are taken in the time and situation allocated. That the right set ups are found to maximise the potential of the shoot and tell the story and to deal with any people or subjects involved in an appropriate way to best represent the magazine and get the best results.
What are you looking for in a photographer?
Someone with an inspiring portfolio who is passionate about what they do, experienced in their field and who will bring a great energy and a listening ear to a shoot.
How important is it that they understand the magazine their shooting for?
It’s vital. The English Home has a distinctive identity and many of our shoots have to work for both our UK and US readers. Our focus is quintessential English style, beautiful interiors and ideas with longevity. We wouldn’t therefore, be pleased to receive a disc from a portrait or interiors shoot containing images that are edgy or challenging, however exciting they might be, they just wouldn’t be right for our title or our readers.
Can you explain your role on the shoot and what your expectation of the photographer is?
Like many titles at the moment, we’re a small team. As a result, I am usually the only person from the magazine who will be on location, so I will style the shoot, art direct it and when the photographs are complete, also interview the homeowner or subject.
My expectations of the photographer are that they know the best order in which to shoot the different rooms or elements in the house to maximise daylight, that they will take images that show the interior as a consistent story and show the interior looking as beautiful as possible (some of which is aided by the styling – so the photographer also needs to be happy to work as a team to achieve that goal. That they are professional, friendly and polite to the homeowners or subject and are able to capture natural, relaxed lifestyle shots of the owners at home or a great portrait).
They have to be willing and able to listen to what we need from the shoot for the magazine, which is sometimes quite specific and be willing to work with that. Sometimes they may have to compromise their personal vision to deliver something that works for the title. Finally, that they deliver the finished set of images to an agreed deadline.
What do you think that most photographers get wrong when approaching you?
Submitting ideas without having seen the magazine or not taking enough time to make a story make sense.
Are you interested in receiving suggestions from photographers of houses to shoot?
Definitely. We currently feature 4 homes per issue and are always looking for the most beautiful stories out there for these slots. Having been freelance myself, I also try to get back to photographers and journalists with yes or no answers as quickly as possible, so that if a story doesn’t work for us for whatever reason, they can pitch it elsewhere. I also try to be constructive about why a story might not work, so that the photographer has a better steer of what we’re looking for, next time. We also invite submissions from photographer/journalist teams.
What would your advice be to someone hoping to be commissioned by ‘The English Home’ or wanting to pitch a story to you ?
Firstly, I would always advise them to take a careful look at one or two recent issues (we recently re-designed the magazine) and see if we feature work similar to theirs.
If they are thinking about suggesting a house feature I would also suggest that they think about where a home would fit within our broad categories of house types, indicated by the straplines. If it fits with the style of the magazine and if there are enough really great rooms to put together a cohesive story that will work over 7-8 pages (I will also need to see good recce shots of all the rooms as well as the outside) and the homeowner is happy to be interviewed and photographed, they have a chance.
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