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Portrait Tips: Photographing a magazine cover

When you make pictures for a client, you’ve got to keep in mind what their final use will be. In fact, you’ve got to quiz them carefully about what the final uses may include. This is especially true when you work with a magazine.

Get the layout

When you work with a magazine you must ask for the layout. You need to see what the final magazine layout looks like so you can consider all the elements in the photo and ensure that they aren’t obscured when the graphics are added.

A magazine cover has lots of stuff cluttering the front. I say ‘cluttering’ because I’m a photographer who likes clean photos, but it’s necessary info for the magazine. There’s the magazine’s title, the snippets about what’s inside, the address label, a bar code, etc. You need to know what shape the title is and where they usually place text so you can plan for it in the photo.

Plan ahead, know your tools

Knowing what the final use will be, you can do a better while shooting. For this local magazine cover, I knew that the title was horizontal and at the top. While making the photo, I made sure a plain blue sky edged the top without the building obscuring it. Often, the cover photo looks poorly composed on its own, but once it’s framed with text the composition looks much better.

I knew we needed space at the top, but I also knew we needed impact and I needed to be close to the subject. As long as I left a little blue sky at the top, I knew Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill (which was brand new at the time) could help me add more sky at the top.

Because I knew what the end-use would be, and because I knew what my finishing tools could do, I made a photo that met all the needs for my clients. I made covers for this magazine for a long time because I could plan and work well with their needs.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.

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