Trends in Editorial Photography
“I think photos are arguably the most important element of any magazine,” says Jessica Adler, photo director for Hemispheres and The National magazines. “They’re what often grabs attention—more than headlines, more than illustrations.”
“I'm seeing a real push to diversify the voices on both sides of the camera,” says Amy Silverman, former photo editor for Wired and Outside. “Publications are digging much deeper to find people who come from the communities they’re photographing: photographers of color, female photographers, queer photographers. The viewing public expects it.”
In 2017, Outside devoted an entire issue to women: all of the contributing photographers and subjects were women. Annabel Mehran shot the cover with 10 female athletes—including runner Mira Rai.
NODS TO OTHER ERAS
“I’m seeing loads of nods to the seventies, eighties, and nineties,” says agent and mentor Christina Force, “in fashion, food, and so forth—and even in some lighting approaches.”
An example is a street fashion series in the United Kingdom’s Client magazine that referenced the 1980s and 1990s, with a modern twist.
“Photographer Walter Maurice got together with a stylist and created a series inspired by the rise of street fashion,” Force explains. “The clothing, lighting, and photography approach are strongly influenced by those eras.”
BRIGHT, POPPING COLORS
Adler sees a trend toward “bright, bold, Insta-friendly imagery”—a style well suited to Hemispheres.
“The style works well to grab the attention of a reader who’s quickly flipping through the pages of the magazine or scrolling our website or Instagram feed,” says Adler. “It also offers a bit of attainable fantasy in travel, showing what you could experience by traveling to a particular place that would also make for a hit on social media.”
The growing concern over the environment is showing itself in photographic trends, too.
“This is popping up at every opportunity, as more and more brands develop an eco-conscious approach to their products and services—and it’s appearing in editorial content, too,” Force says.
New Zealander Jenny Hope’s On the Verge series shows the beauty of plants deemed “common weeds” that local councils attempt to eradicate, when in fact the plants are crucial to the health of bees and insects, are often edible, and often have medicinal uses.
“Jenny’s series appealed to Good magazine not just because of the gorgeous imagery but also because of her strong drive to demonstrate the value that wildflowers and weeds bring to our ecosystem,” Force explains.
CLEAN AND SIMPLE
“I’m seeing much less highly produced photography in editorial these days,” says Susan White, executive photography editor with the website Culture Trip. “Pictures seem simpler; I might even say they’re quieter.”
“To me, Sarah Nicomedi’s disco ball image (shown above) is about the end of the night—or perhaps a dance party,” White says. “I don’t know; I’m interpreting. There’s no explanation; it’s simply a riveting, enigmatic image with beautiful color.”
Leah Woodruff, who just left her position as senior photo editor at Outside to travel the world, sees the same trend.
“What’s working now is a very clean style—not too busy and with a soft tone,” she says. “You can see it in the overall design of magazines, too.”
NEW PORTRAIT STYLES
Wired magazine has created its own trend in response to the challenge of finding new and interesting ways to photograph entrepreneurs and scientists, who are often shot in offices and labs.
“It’s challenging to find a new approach to those locations,” Silverman says. “Now there seems to be more space for breaking rules and bringing some irreverence to the subjects.”
“Ray Ozzie has been photographed many times,” Silverman says. “We’d seen some super tight portraits on Cole Wilson’s website and thought this would be a great approach to Ozzie's intensity and larger-than-life stature.”
PHOTOGRAPHERS EXPANDING THEIR SKILL SETS
Another trend—less artistic, more mundane—is that many photographers are expanding their skill set in order to make a living.
“Editors have less money to pay photographers properly,” says Force. “It’s not easy to make a living solely on editorial photography now. Initiative and extra effort can make a difference.”
For instance, food photographer Manja Wachsmuth leveraged her obsession with salt and successfully pitched a story to Nord magazine, which ran a story including her recipes and photography (shown above).
Likewise, advertising photographer Finn O’Hara saw the opportunity to write and shoot photographs for a story at a local baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Sportsnet featured both the story and the photos.
It is hard to make a living as a photographer. Expanding your skills is one way to push the odds in your direction. Keeping an eye out for trends, and sending photo editors work that addresses the trends they’re featuring, is another.