Before the photoshoot: What should you look for? What makes a great cover shot?

I had a great question today from a client headed off to an event where we usually get a cover shot and some editorial shots. I don’t go to the event, which lasts several days, but they hire a photographer to cover it and I make the photo selection for covers afterward. This very smart fellow was new to managing a photographer and he asked me what makes a great cover shot and what would I be looking for when I made my selection? It’s the perfect question to ask an Art Director before a shoot. The answer can be applied to most location photoshoots.

First: Look for a great representation of the product. If the product looks bad, it’s a no-go, no matter how great the shot is otherwise.

Second: Look at it through the eyes of your target audience. Will they see themselves in the shot? Is it their peeps? Will they connect to the action? Don’t forget that diversity is important, especially for younger audiences.

Third: Look for the human spirit. The primary purpose of a cover is to make people open the catalog. If you see someone you can relate to, admire, aspire to be, or someone doing something that makes you smile, you’re more likely to pick it up. The primary purpose of editorial¬†photography is to make a connection, same reasons apply.

Fourth: Look for artistic appeal. Is it a cool shot? Do you like looking at it? Is it beautiful?

Fifth: Look for space to put type and logos so the Art Director can muck up a perfectly good photograph with a giant masthead, callouts and B.U.D.s (Big, Ugly, Dots). Lots of light and dark areas can look cool for artistic reasons but will make putting type over them difficult. There are ways around that, but it always looks cleaner if you don’t have to add elements to make type readable.

I love that the question was asked before the shoot instead of afterward. Intention always improves outcome. Think about these when you’re choosing stock shots as well.

All the best,

Sarah Fletcher

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