Steve Peck - Picture Editor, Wired Magazine
How do you approach photography for a magazine that is based upon the future?
Our futuristic leaning frees us from the constraints that some magazines may suffer from, and we are able to employ different photographic styles as we see fit, depending on the story. Obviously we want our images to be contemporary, but they also have to be bright and punchy, with plenty of crunch and intuitive lighting. Wired is a modern, ideas-based publication with high production values, and our photography has to reflect this.
How do graphics and photography work together in Wired?
The art department at Wired is a very tight ship. We work hard to integrate our photography with our page design – matching lighting gels to the CMYK values used on the page, shooting specifically to fill a certain space and such like. We have the added bonus of a fifth colour in each issue, giving certain features and sections that little extra zip. We make great use of illustrations, too, often to add information to what’s going on in a photograph, such as a step-by-step guide to a parkour move. Great care is taken to ensure that the layout and use of graphics and illustration is carried out sympathetically alongside the photography. All these factors together combine to make a fantastic looking product.
How do you see technology taking the future of photography?
Obviously digital camera technology is improving all the time. Top-end digital cameras surpassed film’s capabilities some time ago. The ever greater storage capacity of hard drives and memory cards is making handling large files easier all the time. Online storage makes client communications quicker. And the costs of these are coming down all the time, too, reducing start-up costs and increasing competition for budding photographers.Magazines are beginning to move into digital formats. Take a look at the Sports Illustrated SI Tablet concept to glimpse how things may look in the not-too-distant future – editable content, interactive design, video and stills working seamlessly together on a digital ‘page’ – very exciting indeed! Just as photographers are now expected to do their own retouching, they will soon be able – and expected – to shoot video, too. The RED One camera is a good case in point, allowing you to shoot HD video that can also be used immediately to produce high-resolution stills.
What does your job entail day to day?
We have regular meetings on Mondays and Fridays for content pitches and feature discussions. The rest of my time is devoted to conceptualising, commissioning and co-ordinating shoots for Wired’s different editorial sections. I’m also responsible for finding all the non-commissioned images required for the issue, budgeting, researching new photographers and viewing suitable books, dealing with agents, sourcing studios, props and locations, making sure Wired’s designers have all the images they need for their current layouts and art directing shoots on the day, especially for portraits on location.
What catches your eye in a photographer’s portfolio?
It’s impossible to sum up concisely. We have a large variety of styles to look out for – architectural, landscapes, portraiture, still life – and each will have a different trigger.We look for images that make you stop and look again, be that by way of lighting, subject, composition, animation, dynamism, humour, or whatever. Sometimes it’s not one shot but the general feel of the work that sticks out – a strong personal aesthetic. Some books have it, while others simply do not.
How closely do you work with photographers?
We have to work closely with them due to the nature of the magazine. Although we like to have as much input from photographers as possible, it’s not always a case of just ‘go and do your thing’; we’ll have specific requirements for each job. We like to have a member of the art department attending each shoot if we can, but that’s not always possible, so we need people who can also solve problems on the day and still give us images that are on-message.
How should photographers approach you with their work?
Emailing a link to their website is a good start – I very rarely have time to see books without first checking work out elsewhere. If we like what we see, we’ll be in touch.
What mistakes do photographers often make when they approach you?
I don’t envy anyone having to present their work, and I appreciate it isn’t easy, but you’d be amazed what some people think is acceptable. You need a simple, easy-to-navigate website. You also need a printed portfolio that really shows off the quality of your pictures. I know it varies from person to person, but I personally like to see a lot of work. It’s frustrating to hear that you didn’t bring your fashion book or your personal work. Know the publication that you’re going to see and tailor your main book towards it; a book of live music doesn’t interest me at Wired. If you’re emailing on spec, at least get the name of person who needs to see it – a ‘Dear sir or madam’ type message doesn’t impress. This kind of attention to detail will be important on any job you get commissioned for, so you need to get it right from the off. Lastly, if we like your work, we will be in contact. No one likes to be pestered by people who are not right for whatever reason.
How much can photographers expect to get paid these days?
Wired has an editorial budget that’s competitive. Budgets are tight across the industry and things are very different to how they were even 12 months ago. Wired is a magazine that has great content and subject matter, and is a great place to showcase your work.
What are your tips for photographers trying to get commissioned?
- Do your homework and know the magazine’s style.
- Know who you should be contacting.
- Be friendly – we need people who can get on easily with others.
- Be confident but not pushy – if your work is right, you’ll get the job. JR
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