When you are commissioned to shoot an editorial assignment, regardless of whether it is for a magazine or commercial purposes, a decision has to be made as to what is to be conveyed by the finished compilations of photographs. There will usually be a meeting between the photographer and the editorial client to decide what situation best fits the magazines well as how much input the photographer has in determining the final product.
Some clients present the photographer with very specific ideas. An art director for an advertising company, for example, may have a layout of the ad or a list of requirements for the photographer to follow. Other clients may present a more general idea. An editorial magazine editor may request a photograph for a feature story and specify only which person to portray and whether to use color or black-and-white. In the first instance, the photographer is given a detailed concept and must find a way to fulfill the specific requirements. In the second instance, the photographer must interpret the general requirements and contribute the specific ideas. Both cases require planning and decision making.
One of the first things to be decided is the background scheme and fashion selections for the editorial assignment. Will you use a special location or nature as a background environment, or will you use your studio with fiats or sets? Other visual elements to be decided include lighting technique, framing, and camera angle. Technical and psychological elements must also be considered. What film type, f/stop, and shutter speed will you use? Will clothing and make-up be a factor in portraying the individual? How will you draw the most appropriate pose and expression from the models? Every element in the photograph should contribute to illuminate the clothing and models.
Planning is essential to a successful editorial photo session. Part of this planning is your ability to pre visualize, to picture in your mind, what the final product is to look like. All situations, if they are to be successful, should be pre visualized. You must have your concepts straight so that your actual shooting time can be used for taking pictures, not thinking out a solution. Besides the intellectual reasons for entering a situation with the knowledge of what is going to conic out of it, there is also a time factor involved. Most editorial photo sessions do not allow you time to plan and shoot; they allow you only the time to shoot, usually about ten minutes per outfit for a commercial client. So your time is valuable and you must know ahead of time how you will execute.
In many cases, you can meet the models and art directors before the actual photo session. Here, you must take the opportunity to observe all you can about the art directors ambitions. Accurate, insightful observation will allow you to prepare a successful concept. Seeing is the essential tool of every artist, and the photographer is no exception. You learn to see by opening your eyes a little more than usual, by noticing more, by looking harder. Do not take things for granted; examine the situation and make mental notes.