Talking Photography with Time Out New York

Talking Photography with Time Out New York

Time Out New York, the self-described “go-to playbook” for art, music, nightlife, restaurants, shopping and even dating, has a magazine circulation of 150,000 and averages 1.1 million website visitors per month. For a photographer, that’s a whole lot of people checking out your work. So we talked with Jolie Ruben, Photo Editor at TONY  to learn more about what it takes to get noticed by a magazine that’s published everything from concert photography to apartment interiors.

How do you use photography in Time Out New York?

Something a lot of freelance photographers don’t realize is that Time Out is completely edit-based, even the website. Every photograph that the photography department sources is based on photo requests from the editors. So Time Out New York uses photography solely to compliment the text.

Are the images taken by staff or freelance photographers? 

We don’t technically have staff photographers, but everyone in the photo department, including myself, shoots for the magazine. For us, it’s a way to stay within budget, but we also all just get excited about what we feature and want to shoot certain things ourselves. Otherwise, for the most part we use freelancers.

We also use stock sites on certain occasions, for spot images and sometimes covers, and for things like paparazzi shots. If we need a nondescript silo of a bottle of wine, we’ll buy that from If we need cover options for a winter-themed issue of Central Park in the snow, we’ll go to Corbis or Getty. If we can shoot something ourselves though—in house or with a freelancer—we will.

What kind of website layouts are most attractive to photo editors?

I always respond positively to a well-organized, clean website. I like websites with white backgrounds best.

What website looks are dying?

Looks that are dying (or that should) would be anything where the site itself overpowers the images. Too much text, dark backgrounds, and oh god, when there’s music playing… Don’t do that.

Do you ever use social media to find new photographers?

Photographers have approached me through LinkedIn and Facebook, and I’ll look at their work, but I’m more apt to respond to direct e-mails, or at least community websites that are photo-centric like Dripbook or Flickr. But if your work is good, I don’t care how you get in touch with me!

What about a direct email attracts your attention?

The best outreach e-mail is simple and usually has sample work attached. It states what you shoot, who you’ve shot for, and a little bit about yourself. Here are two examples of e-mails I’ve received in the past month from photographers who I replied to almost immediately and would like to work with in the future.

Do you respond better to photos attached to the email or a website link?

I prefer a few pieces of sample work attached, a link to the website, and a link to the blog. Blog can be most important because a website can be as dated as a physical book. A blog will always have the most up-to-date, informal shots, and those are the sort of shots that are actually more Time Out’s style.

What are some red flags that a photographer is not a good choice?

When a photographer’s work doesn’t have enough range. I’m totally fine with a photographer who shoots only food-related photography, but if that’s the case, show me food on location, food in the studio, have restaurant interiors, chef portraits. Show that you can handle it all. If a photographer doesn’t have work on his site that shows variety in lighting or that he’s not going outside of his bounds, that’s a red flag that he doesn’t have much experience.

Photo by Lizz Kuehl


What’s the most annoying thing a photographer has done to get noticed?

The most annoying thing a photographer can do when they want to get noticed is to be too aggressive, calling me and trying to talk me into scheduling a meeting with you when I haven’t even seen your work yet. You want your images to do the talking.

What’s the best?

The best thing a photographer can do (I wish I could think of something more exciting than this) is simply to e-mail sample work and links and check in every few weeks with new work.

I always want to see photographers’ new work. Sometimes a photographer can get pigeon-holed in a photo editor’s head. I’ll associate one shooter just with portraits or just with nightlife because that’s what he’s shot for me in the past. So if he sends me a quick e-mail blast or link to his blog, and he’s just shot a bunch of dishes and interiors at different restaurants, I’ll think “Hey, I’ll use this guy the next time I need a restaurant shot.” So it’s good in that way, and it’s also so important to constantly be shooting and show people that you’ve been working on.

Do you still get direct mail?

I get the mail from the front desk every day, come back to the photo department and pass around each promo card we get with the photo staff. We’ll hang the ones we like at our desks and sometimes go on the photographers’ sites. And I’ve always liked getting mail. That being said, you can obviously skip a step and just e-mail me a link to your website and some sample work.

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers trying to get hired, what would it be?

To know your audience. Do your research. Send relevant photography to the publication you’re e-mailing. I want to see photos that I could picture in the magazine: street style, food, concerts, nightlife, environmental portraits. Don’t send me fine art photography, travel, or landscapes. I personally like those things, and might hang your promo card at my desk, but you didn’t give me a reason to hire you.

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There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Nicolle Clemetson at 6:54 pm

    Wow. Short, sweet, and full of no-nonsense information. A lot of this particular interview is stuff we hear all the time, but somehow it’s always reaffirming to hear it again 🙂

    Thanks PhotoShelter!


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