What Do Photo Editors Want? At GQ, Your Images Must Pop

What do photo editors want from photographers? And how can you get their attention in their very crowded inboxes? These are only the tip of the never-ending iceberg of questions for getting a leg up on that next assignment; and the truth is, it often depends on the editor’s personal preferences.

To take a stab at it, I interviewed Jared Schwartz, the Assistant Photo Editor at GQ Magazine and GQ Style Magazine. See what Jared has to say about his magazine’s photography needs, common mistakes he sees photographers making, plus what he looks for in a website.

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How did you arrive at GQ? Tell us a bit about your background in photography.

I’ve always been obsessed with print. I can remember my mom yelling at me to get rid of bundles of magazines because they were taking over my room and the garage. That’s definitely how it all started.

In undergrad, I double majored in Journalism & Media Studies and Photography, but was unsure how that education would manifest into a job. I knew early on I did not want to be a photographer. I loved the conceptualizing and collaborating part of photography but not the technical part of it.

After graduation, I came to NYC and became the web photo intern at New York Magazine. Shortly after that, I joined the print staff as the art assistant in the design department. Working there was the education that I didn’t realize I actually needed. It was a real crash course in understanding how editorial works–from designing layouts to commissioning artists, etc.

I ran the gamut in some ways, even if it was just through observation. But I really missed talking about photography and kept gravitating toward exploring that world. Luckily I ended up in the photo department at GQ.

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Tell us about your current photography needs at GQ. What aesthetic are you looking for? Or does it range?

What I love about GQ is that we feature a wide range of stories, which gives us a chance to cover all genres of photography. You’ll find a documentary piece, celebrity profile, men’s fashion package, a writeup on the latest cool tech gear and more — all within the same issue.

So our goal is mainly to find high quality photography that meets the needs for each story. We look for photographers with a very clear perspective on whatever it is they’re shooting.

As photo editors at GQ, we like photography that’s exciting, new, and images that pop when you flip through the pages of each issue.

You know good work when you see it. It’s confident and it resonates.

Where do you typically look to find new photographers to hire? And if you look on Instagram, what tips can you give photographers to attract people like yourself?

I look all over! Blogs, other magazines, ads, social media… honestly, anywhere.

In today’s world, we’re constantly bombarded with images every second, so there are plenty of opportunities to stumble upon something great. When it comes to Instagram–just make sure you have a link to your portfolio site somewhere in your bio (and contact info on your portfolio site.)

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What common mistakes do you see from photographers trying to pitch photo editors for work? How do you actually like to be pitched?

Persistence is cool, but not badgering. If we haven’t responded, it doesn’t mean we didn’t see your first, second… or third emails. It just means maybe what you’re offering photographically isn’t appropriate for whatever we’re working on at that time.

What do you look for in a photographer’s website? What features do you appreciate or annoy you?

Consistency. I think it’s human nature to show off everything one can do or has done. When it comes to building a portfolio, it only makes sense to show off your strengths. You should present your best self. That’s really important, because it helps photo editors figure out where to place you and what story to use you for.

If you have amazing shots of cars, then show those in your portfolio. We don’t need to see mediocre event photography that you took for a friend, just to let us know you’ve also shot events. We’re not just looking for someone that is available to shoot x-subject but someone that can shoot x-subject exceptionally.

If your strength isn’t clear to you, then it certainly isn’t clear to us.

There’s power in a good, tight edit. Gotta keep it tight, gotta keep it right. The second thing I look for is an email address. The third? Updates. Updating is good y’all.

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What’s in store for GQ and GQ Style this year? Are there any exciting shoots or events you can share with us?

We always like to keep it exciting at GQ and GQ Style!

We’ve only published four issues of GQ Style, so we’re just getting started. Definitely keep your eyes out for more. As for GQ, we’re still finding new ways to push the envelope with exciting content and great photography and overall swag.

About the author: Deborah Block works for the photography website provider PhotoShelter. You can find more insight like this in their Breaking Into Editorial Photography guide. This post was also published here.