For those of you who don't know my background, I spent 14 years working in the world of magazine publishing with professional titles ranging from Digital Systems Consultant to Studio Art Director. In that time, I picked up a thing or two that helps me as a Commercial Photographer.

As readers, we're often drawn to magazine covers that captivate our attention, spark our curiosity, or evoke a sense of intrigue. Behind most every successful cover image lies meticulous planning, creative vision, and attention to detail. And while in the real world we don't always have either the resources we need or the time to properly plan — whether you're a photographer, art director, or model, embarking on a magazine cover shoot should involve some degree of preparation if you want a successful outcome.

Here's a glimpse into the key elements and preparations necessary for crafting the perfect magazine cover:

  • Clear Vision and Concept Development: Before diving into the logistics of the shoot, it's important to have a clear vision for the cover image. By collaborating with your editorial team to understand the theme of the issue, target audience, and desired aesthetic you will increase your odds of getting it right the first time and minimizing the need for a second take or reshoot. If you have it, t the time to brainstorm ideas, create mood boards, and sketch out concepts to bring the vision to life. It may seem unnecessary, but you may be surprised how helpful it can be in bringing the creative vision together for the whole team.
  • Selection of Talent and Team: Not everyone should be on deck when planning a cover shoot. Identify the right talent, whether it's models, local celebrities, or industry leaders, whose style and persona align with the magazine's brand. Additionally, assemble a team of professionals, including commercial photographers, stylists, makeup artists, and assistants, whose expertise will contribute to the success of the shoot. Even when you are on a shoestring budget, having the right personnel is key to a successful cover.
  • Location Scouting and Logistics: Choose a location that complements the concept of the cover shoot and offers the necessary facilities and amenities for the team. Whether it's a studio, outdoor setting, or unconventional location, ensure that logistics such as permits, transportation, and equipment are meticulously planned and organized. Location is often uncontrollable when dealing with advertisers, editorial staff and politics, however, with thoughtful inspection (scouting ahead of time) you can find the perfect angle or view within the location assigned.
  • Wardrobe and Styling: Work closely with stylists to curate the perfect wardrobe and accessories that enhance the visual impact of the cover image. Pay attention to color schemes, textures, and trends that resonate with the target audience while staying true to the editorial vision.
  • Technical Preparation: Ensure that the photography equipment, lighting gear, and props are organized and in optimal condition, ready for use prior to the day of the shoot. Conduct test shots, adjust camera settings, and familiarize yourself with the technical aspects to streamline the shooting process and achieve desired results. Everyone on location has time constraints and you cannot assume you are the only one making a play for their time.
  • Creative Direction and Collaboration: Foster open communication and collaboration among team members to ensure everyone is aligned with the creative vision. Provide guidance and direction to models, stylists, and other collaborators throughout the shoot, encouraging experimentation and creative expression. Negative comments should be kept professional and accepted as constructive criticism for the good of the shoot. Pride and ego will stifle creativity every time.
  • Attention to Detail: Pay meticulous attention to every detail, from hair and makeup to composition and framing, to ensure that the final image meets the highest standards of quality and aesthetics. Continuously review and adjust elements during the shoot to capture the perfect moment. Sure you can always correct elements in post, but why not get it right the first time and save production time on the back end.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: A photographers greatest asset is the ability to pivot when challenged. Despite thorough planning, unexpected challenges will come up during any shoot. Stay flexible and adaptable, problem-solving on the fly to overcome obstacles and maintain momentum towards achieving the desired outcome. This is a game changing skill for any photographer or creative director.

By adhering to these guidelines and properly preparing, you can set the stage for a successful magazine cover shoot that not only captivates audiences but also reflects the essence and identity of the publication. Remember, behind every iconic cover image lies a collaborative effort fueled by creativity, passion, and dedication to excellence.

Location: Bubbly Hen

Client: Explore Media

Camera: Canon 5D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 24–105mm f/4L is II USM Lens

Tripod: Manfrotto 190XPRO with XPRO 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head

Lighting: Godox DP400III Studio Flash