Video Interview with Forbes’ Senior Photo Editor: Killer Portraiture is King

Video Interview with Forbes’ Senior Photo Editor: Killer Portraiture is King

Forbes magazine is famous for its in-depth feature stories on the world’s CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and generally just rich people. So when it comes to photography, emotive, sharp, and engaging portraits are essential to completing the story.

In this live video interview, Forbes Senior Photo Editor Michele Hadlow speaks on how the magazine has managed to continue commissioning high-profile shoots despite cutbacks common across most publications. Michele tells us about the top characteristics all killer portraits must have to get featured, and what photographers need to succeed with both their subjects and clients.

Michele also discusses how Forbes hires photographers, and what up-and-coming photographers can do to get noticed. Having been at the magazine for over 14 years, Michele speaks to over a decade of work in the industry, so check out her video interview below:

Over 1,000 photographers attended this webinar live, and asked many questions that Michele was unable to answer in the allotted time. So here are the top five questions that we received, with answers from the Senior Photo Editor herself:

Q: When looking at a photographer’s book, do you prefer a print portfolio or website?

A: When photographers visit I am OK with both printed books and iPads. Usually a photographer will have both with him/her. We get plenty of drop-off portfolios and that’s fine, but honestly I prefer looking at websites most of the time. With websites I can browse on my own timetable without worrying about getting a book back [to the photographer].

Q: Do you prefer to receive a RAW file and give it to your team to do the post-production with a “Forbes Look”, or have the photographer to do it – maybe according to some previously defined standards?

A: When time allows we are fine with having the photographer do the post-production, but we do have our own people here that can do it as well. With covers we often have our own people go over it anyway. In general though our preference is for the photographer to do it if at all possible, and it is rare that we give too much instruction. Each shoot is treated individually and it is up to us to get the consistency needed for the overall look.

Photo by Matthew Mahon/Batter Blaster inventor Sean O'Connor

Q: Seems like a lot of her regulars are male. Are you seeing a lot of female photographers with the style/work background to shoot for Forbes?

A: We do have female shooters of course. Jillian Edlestein and Tiffany Brown were two I chose to present visually for you, but yes, a lot of the regulars are male – that’s true. Really we are looking for the best person for the job…someone with the skill and visual style we need, and hopefully the personality and approach best suited for the subject we are shooting. There are definitely photographers I know who work better with more patient subjects; who can draw the subject out over time (using humor or relating to them in some other way); and others who work faster with a more commanding attitude. I take these things into consideration if I can, but that isn’t necessarily a gender thing!

Photo by Tiffany Brown/Steven Bertoni, sprints down the stairs with an orange juice mixer refill while working his final night of busser training at The Bank nightclub inside the Bellagio in Las Vegas on Sunday night, Jan. 16, 2011.

Q: How do you brief the photographer? Meaning, how do you make clear to them the image you need, the details, the background, etc.? Do you have very specific instruction or more general?

A: Most of the time we only have a very general idea of the subject, his company, and what we hope to convey with the picture before assigning the shoot, so it is our photographers who have to interpret that rather vague and sketchy information visually. Some typical examples:

1. They make furniture and have a gallery in NY we can shoot in.

2. It is a “.com” start-up that rates restaurants; we should shoot him in a restaurant.

In both of the cases above I had a bit more on the personalities involved, but not much else. Most of the time it is that basic, and with scouting and further conversations with the subject and his people the photographer will nail it down further. In some cases a company offers up nothing visual at all to work with (banks, insurance companies, etc.). Situations like that can be particularly challenging. If we are lucky the subject can hold a tighter shot or something in the offices will look visually interesting even if it isn’t visually related to the story/company. Some photographers are better at making something out of nothing and I take that into consideration when assigning the job, but either way I try and reward the photographers I assign these jobs to with more exciting jobs later down the road if I can.

Photo by Andy Goodwin/Detroit mayor Dave Bing

Q: How do you handle copyrights on the photos?

A: We have one time rights to the photos. They (usually one image actually) will run in the magazine and with the story online. If we want to expand the visuals online, for example run more images in a slideshow, we will call the photographer and work that out. We have a 90 day embargo for the images, but as I mentioned already we are fairly flexible with that. Any reprints of the article would involve an additional fee as would any foreign language edition usages.

Thanks to Michele for all her insights! To see who’s next for our special guest webinars, check out PhotoShelter’s webinar schedule.
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