This piece originally appeared in our guide Breaking into Fashion…
When photographers get together, they tend to talk about two things: camera gear, and working with photo editors. But what many photographers don’t realize, is that when photo editors get together, they talk about YOU.
There are only two proven methods that you can use to ensure that your name comes up in a conversation. Do something really amazing, or do something that pisses them off. You really don’t want to find yourself part of their conversation for the latter.
What are the things that will piss off a photo editor? I decided to ask a panel of really talented photo editors. They were kind enough to share what really gets under their skin.
My trusted panel is:
Nate Gordon, Picture Editor, Sports Illustrated
Roberto De Luna, Photo Editor, Time Out New York
Hali McGrath, Photo Editor, LiveDaily
Whitney Lawson, Photo Editor, Travel + Leisure
Leslie dela Vega, Photo Director, Essence Magazine
Ryan Schick, Editor, Redux Pictures
Jim Merithew, Photo Editor, Wired.com
Phaedra Singelis, Supervising Producer – Multimedia, msnbc.com
Stella Kramer, Photo Editor & Consultant
“Remember that photo editors know other photo editors, and a good photographer will be recommended, while a photographer that blew a shoot, was a pain in the ass to work with, or was just generally unpleasant for the photo editor and the subject to deal with will find themselves without work,” said Stella Kramer. “A bad reputation is not a plus, especially in this economy.”
Top 13 Ways to Piss Off a Photo Editor
1) Don’t do your homework.
The most immediate and universal tactic you can use to piss off a photo editor is to avoid doing any of your own research. In fact, you should treat a busy photo editor as your own research assistant whenever possible. This will ensure your spot on his/her shitlist.
“Asking me to call photo editors of OTHER magazines on your behalf, to recommend that they meet with you.” - Roberto De Luna
“Sending me work that is not appropriate for my magazine.” - Whitney Lawson
“Contact me saying you love Wired and would love to shoot for the magazine. Do your homework. I am the photo editor at Wired.com. After I tell you I am not the photo editor at the magazine, then have the gall to ask me who is.” - Jim Merithew
2) Be disrespectful.
It’s totally OK to be rude and pushy just as long as you get what you want out of the assignment, right? Absolutely! If you want to piss off a photo editor and everyone else that he/she works with, you should be as disrespectful as possible to all of the people that the photo editor depends on to do their jobs.
“Don’t burn bridges– just because you’ll only be shooting someone or something once, doesn’t make it ok to piss off PR people, subjects, security… we have to work with these people all of the time. Photogs working for SI represent SI. End of story.” - Nate Gordon “Pissing on Junior Editors (ie. Not paying attention to them or giving proper respect to lower staff.)” - Ryan Schick
3) Don’t keep your word, or follow a plan.
Before the assignment, be sure to develop a plan of attack with the photo editor – and then, without warning, change that plan on your own and let the photo editor sort it out after the fact. They’ll get good and pissed off, especially when you hand them the resulting images that they (and the rest of their staff) are totally unprepared for.
“Check with me before abandoning our pre-determined plan. If you’re gonna try to get a high risk/high reward type shot, give me a heads’ up before hand.” - Nate Gordon “Follow our pre-arranged workflow. If we decide you’ll ftp, ftp. If I ask you to send your whole take, don’t edit it down.” – Nate Gordon
You could also employ a smoke-and-mirrors plan after the assignment, and hope that the photo editor doesn’t notice that you didn’t follow the plan. This could be a nice way to waste his/her time and add a bit of frustration as well.
“Sugar-coating” – If you didn’t get the shot we were going for, let me know right away, before launching into your rant about how great some completely different shot is.” - Nate Gordon
4) Make it difficult to contact you, and lack communication skills.
Here’s a great way to get a photo editor in a pissy mood – make a game out of contacting you. Hide your contact information somewhere in your website (or don’t include it at all), and make it a challenge for them. Since they don’t have any free time at all, they’ll get angry fast when you’ve effectively wasted their time.
“Do not respond in a timely matter…sometimes, DO NOT respond.” - Leslie dela Vega “Make it difficult for me to get in touch with you, like not having your contact info on the front page of your website.” - Jim Merithew “Don’t have your contact information easily accessible (not just a link to email you – I might need you right now.)” - Phaedra Singelis “Change your phone number without telling me – or move or go on vacation or on a out-of-town assignment without notification. I need to know where you are.” - Phaedra Singelis
Here’s a tip for extra help in pissing them off: Don’t use the normal, typical, boring methods of communication. Email is far too effective, and won’t piss off an editor. Instead, find new ways to send them a message.
“Using Facebook for professional email correspondence (additionally, spamming someone multiple times to join your Fan Page.)” - Ryan Schick
Why bother letting a photo editor know about something if you know that they’ll eventually find out about it later? A good way to piss off an editor is to put them in an embarrassing situation when they first learn about problems encountered during a shoot from someone other than you.
“Have a problem (miss a flight, lose your equipment, argue with the subject, etc.) and not notify the photo editor immediately.” - Stella Kramer
5) Hound and harass them with phone calls and emails.
You should do whatever it takes to make extra double sure that you’re top-of-mind with a photo editor in the most annoying way possible. Making non-stop phone calls and sending a steady stream of emails can be an effective way to get under their skin.
“Don’t hound me on the front end of a shoot when you need me to get credentials, parking passes, photo positions, assistants, equipment, etc.. and then disappear when I need something from you after the shoot… I hate it when a photographer drops a barrage of calls on me before the shoot and then goes into hiding after. Give me a recap. Don’t disappear. Don’t hound.” - Nate Gordon “Be high maintenance–I don’t want dozens of calls from you while you’re on assignment, or after I’ve met with you and reviewed your portfolio” - Stella Kramer
“DO NOT continue to call me and leave messages on my voicemail, If I don’t answer, you know why!” - Leslie dela Vega “Call too much or keep me on the phone too long – we’re all short of time, so be brief.” – Phaedra Singelis
6) Lack professionalism.
To get your relationship with the photo editor off to a most awkward start, you should immediately treat them as if you’ve been friends for years. Send them messages that contain jokes, use all lower-case letters, and typing shortcuts. (“yo! i m here 4 u 2!”)
“Addressing me as if we have met before when we haven’t (“Heeey, how are ya’?!”)” - Whitney Lawson “Trying to be ‘cute’ in an email. (Be professional, first and always!)” - Ryan Schick
You could also keep them in the loop by sending them not just portfolio images, but also personal ones. They’ll get really pissed when they waste some time looking at pictures of you on the beach in a bathing suit.
“Sending me vacation photos!” - Whitney Lawson
7) Have a bad website, or no website at all.
Everyone knows that a website is a really important tool, and photo editors have come to rely on a photographer’s site. So another quick way to piss them off is to put an ineffective website between you and a photo editor. Make sure it loads slow, is built entirely in Flash and has plenty of animations all over the place. Make sure your navigation is cryptic, and make it really difficult to find your contact information.
“Using really elaborate flash animations on your web site. I’ve never met a photo editor who likes this. Clean and simple is best. Sorry, tough love.” - Whitney Lawson “Make me watch auto-playing slideshows on your website instead of being able to click at my own pace.” - Phaedra Singelis “Have bad website navigation.” - Ryan Schick “Don’t list the city you live in on your website.” - Phaedra Singelis
Or, better yet, save a few pennies and don’t have your own website. Using a free service as your portfolio will surely put them in a pissy mood.
“Using Lightstalkers/Flickr as your portfolio.” - Ryan Schick
8) Don’t supply important information, but if you do, make sure there are plenty of errors.
Make sure you create extra work for the photo editor. Leave it up to them to get caption information and other things of importance. You are being paid to take a picture, not write a caption or gather information – right? Maintaining this attitude can be a fantastic way to piss them off to your heart’s delight!
“Don’t be a journalist. Don’t collect information. Don’t ask questions. Don’t get quotes. And please get the facts all wrong.” - Jim Merithew “No caption information, and misspelled names.” - Leslie dela Vega “No location information in intro emails or on your website. (Really, really!!)” - Ryan Schick “Make caption errors that I will later have to write corrections for (Always write down your subjects’ name, then show them what you’ve written. You’ll never get it wrong if they see what you’ve written).” - Phaedra Singelis “Metadata M.I.A.; With so many files to deal with at any given time, metadata (specifically IPTC core data) is crucial. It looks pretty unprofessional if the photographer doesn’t know how to include a “©” and copyright notice – let alone the subject ID and details.” - Hali McGrath “Simply providing a link in an email with little to no context, “Here is some recent work”… (of what!? do we really have to discuss the necessity of who/what/when/where..?)” - Ryan Schick
9) Send a non-personalized form letter or email.
All photo editors are the same, and they do the same job, so you might as well save some time and send the same email to many photo editors. It saves you time, and since this tactic is blatantly obvious, it will give them a less than favorable impression of you right away.
“Generic promos (not personalized, emails that contain text with formatting that was cut and paste from a previously forwarded email, inconsistent formatting. You are presenting yourself to represent our brand.)” - Ryan Schick
10) Miss deadlines.
Let’s face it – editors are locked away inside of an office and have no idea what it’s like out there in the real world – so deadlines are flexible, and based on YOUR schedule and circumstances. This kind of attitude will put you directly at the top of their shitlist.
“Be on time, and don’t ask for a deadline extension unless your appendix bursts.” - Roberto De Luna “Miss the deadline for filing.” - Phaedra Singelis
You should complain about everything possible, and expect the photo editor to fix everything. Be as negative as possible, and blame everyone else (including the photo editor) when things go wrong. Bring nothing to the table on your own, and never solve any problems by yourself.
“Complain about the way your photos were used in a story.” - Stella Kramer “Argue with the photo editor–it will give you a bad rep.” - Stella Kramer
12) Be a flake.
When you agree to take on an assignment, and a photo editor is depending on you – treat it as if it was “optional.” This way, if something else comes up that’s better, cooler, pays more, or is more fun, you can go in a different direction right until the last minute. Don’t worry about them – it’s their job to have a backup plan!
“Assignment Flakes; either bowing out the night before an assignment (leaving no option to reschedule) or bailing after arriving on site.” - Hali McGrath
13) Have a huge ego.
If a photo editor comes to you, and wants to hire you for a job, it is perfectly acceptable to use this as an ego boost. Photographers are creative individuals and it’s totally fine to be picky, demanding, and rude. After all, they came to YOU so they should work extra hard to make sure you’re happy.
“Be difficult to work with, uncommunicative and egomaniacal.” - Jim Merithew
If you have no experience in a specific area required for an assignment, it’s OK to pretend that you do. After all, you’re super talented, and can shoot anything.
“Lie about your abilities–this will kill your career.” - Stella Kramer
Once you’ve completed the assignment, make sure the photo editor knows just how brilliant you are, and how you saved the day with your brilliance.
“Don’t tell me how hard you worked… that’s what’s expected of you.” - Nate Gordon
If you’re not interested in pissing off a photo editor, then you should make sure to come back tomorrow when I’ll publish the the next story: Top 10 Ways to Make a Photo Editor Fall In Love With You.
Grover Sanschagrin is co-founder and Vice President of PhotoShelter. Follow him on Twitter at @heygrover.