I often get asked during photo shoots, usually after the 300th frame is shot, how we decide which image to use for a magazine article. It’s a pretty delicate process, I tell them, one that can be both enriching as well as amazingly frustrating. You see, more often than not, the best photograph isn’t always used for the article. When making an editorial photograph, it’s paramount that the image properly illustrate the article and, if the best picture doesn’t do that as well as another, than the other gets picked. However there are photo editors out there that see an image as far more than just a visual subtitle and will fight to make sure the best images gets used as often as possible. One of those people is Toronto Life Magazine photo editor Daniel Neuhaus and I’d like to use this post to highlight some of the best work we’ve done together over the years.
Daniel has managed to find that perfect balance a photo editor needs where he is actively involved in the creation of every image that goes into the magazine while still letting the photographer work their magic without being micromanaged. I had a little chat with Daniel and asked what he looks for in a photographer and how he manages to keep each assignment as a creative collaboration rather than just a technical execution.
With photographers, the main thing I look for is a personal photography practice. I prefer working with photographers who have a personal practice, as in not just a pure commercial photog. That being said, sometimes you need someone who’s portfolio shows they are impossibly consistent. I think of photographers in two ways. As creatives and as executors and some are hybrids. I’d say you’re a hybrid. You’ll both bring your own ideas and try things that are risky or something we hadn’t considered, but you’ll still do it exactly how we want.
I think the best way for me to be creative without stepping on toes is two fold. First off, my art director and I have a great relationship and because of that she trusts me and lets me take risks. When I know we differ, it’s really easy for me to anticipate her thoughts because we know each other really well. On the photographer end, its the same thing. I get to know them as well as possible, which helps especially when they have a personal practice.
For example, I’ll assign you something where what I see in my imagination is likely how you would shoot it, even if i didn’t tell you. But even if I offered some direction, like with the Ash Prakash shot (see below), I’m more interested in what you’d bring to the photo. I had never seen a shot by you lit like that but I imagined it as an Ehrenworth shot and I knew you’d be able to pull it off very easily and probably like the approach.
I try to imagine the shots in a way that makes the photographer do something they may have never considered but probably would have thought up themselves given the right inspiration. I guess I just hope to inspire them to shoot it a certain way rather than forcing them. Sometimes photographers pipe up and say “I don’t want to do that shot” then I’m like “OK NO PROBLEM” and I drop it. But sometimes I make a deal with them and say “Kay, do the shot you want, but can we just TRY this one, I’m just CURIOUS”. And sometimes, once it’s shot, they say “WOW that actually works! COOOOOL”.
Thanks for your insights Daniel. Everyone please wish Daniel safe travels this month. He’s off to Iceland and Paris.