by James

Great editorial photography is impossible to ignore. It is she who can turn a person from a “magazine leafer” into a full-fledged reader. The style of the image should be clear and the topic clear. 

In this article, photographer Christopher Bryan-Smith will immerse you in the world of editorial photography by explaining what it is and what a photographer should be thinking about. 

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So what is editorial photography? 

Editorial photography is the art of creating images for magazines. The role of the editorial photographer is to create images that express the purpose of the article. Editorial and commercial landscape photography should not be confused. Editorial photography is not selling a product. It’s about selling a story. 

Editorial photos should be clear and concise. And not only to match the story but to elevate it. The editor will provide a short description for the job. The photographer then has to create images that match the words of the journalist. Editors may know what they want, but the photographer is given the freedom to express his ideas.

There is no single style for editorial photography “Cold Shoe”. The photographer needs to interpret the story and express it in their own way. It could be documentary photography or a studio scene. 

Editorial photography styles 

No single photography style fits all editorials. Grab a copy of Vogue or Vanity Fair and you will see many different genres of photography on their pages. 

The summary will influence the style of the final editorial shots. An article about a recent political event will require a more realistic style. A snippet of an interview or biography – something closer to portrait photography. Some editorial sessions are filmed on intricately dressed studio sets. Other photographers use real-world locations for more explicit editorial images. 

Models also play a big role in editorial photo shoots. The images are stylized and the models must match the shooting style and storyline. The image should be the door to the article. The style of the editorial photography must match the content. 

Working with the brief 

The editor dictates the brief to the photographer. The photographer may not always be able to choose a subject or subject. The editor will designate the story. Sometimes a photographer creates a story that consists of both words and images. And these articles are sold in publications and are printed in full. But this is more typical for photojournalism and travel photography. 

Stick to a short description. Even if this is the photographer’s own story, the intent should be clear. Editorial images should reflect concepts in the story. 

Photographic editors are often given a lot of creative control. They are given a goal. But only they decide how to get into this target. 

A quick guide to editorial photography 

Editorial summaries are often not as straightforward as they might seem. If the main topic is tomatoes, the first step is to buy some beautiful ripe vegetables from the market. But editorial photographers need to think critically. What does the article say about tomatoes? And how can they express these ideas in their photographs? Is the tomato in this case a hero or a villain? The tomato can be a symbol of a healthy lifestyle. Or maybe it’s a pawn in the battle between store-bought and home-bought. But forget about commercial photography – this is not an advertisement! The editor-photographer needs to dig deep and uncover the true meaning of the subject. It’s not about selling products, it’s about telling a story and portraying a concept. 

Editorial photography concepts 

Editorial fashion photography is the best place to start exploring conceptual thinking. Designers don’t sell individual pieces of clothing – they represent concepts. Runway wear is not for sale. But the ideas they express are permeating street fashion. 

Since the 1990s, the fashion industry has moved away from traditional advertising. Brands now have a logo-free approach to editorial fashion photography. It’s not about clothes anymore, it’s about lifestyle. If you flip through Vogue, you’ll see that it’s not just a bunch of ads. You will not see the price tag in the editorial image. And it can be difficult for you to figure out which brand the editorial belongs to. But the imagery is powerful and striking. 

Samples in editorial photography 

Photographers use visual language to tell a compelling story. Every little thing is thought out. An editorial may only need one image, so it should say it all. 

It is important to avoid clichés and stereotypes. When it comes to Paris, using the image of the Eiffel Tower may seem a little ridiculous. Instead, it could be decorated, for example, in the style of a French beer bar. A single object can resemble a scene from a movie or book. The way the room is lit takes us to another time of the year. 

Locations also have this effect. Some scenes may evoke memories or have associations with a lifestyle or culture. 

Budget in Editorial Photography 

Editorial budgets are often low, especially when compared to ad campaigns. Publications order editorial articles, but they have no money. A limited budget will push the photographer to get creative. They have less studio time and fewer accessories. Skills and techniques must make up for the lack of finance. 

Equipment required for editorial photography 

An editorial photographer needs a clear image of the scenery in his head before he arrives. You need to prepare all the props . A tripod is required for many editorial shoots . This gives the photographer more freedom. They will have more flexibility in exposure if the lighting is an issue. 

Preparing for shooting in editorial photography 

Time in the studio will be limited, so you need to be prepared to take the shots you want. The concept should be clearly defined and everyone should know their role. 

The editorial photographer won’t be the only one on the set. It can be a whole team of people. And they all follow the directions of the photographer. There can be decorators, models, and makeup artists. As a creative director, the photographer has to be in control, making sure everyone knows what everyone needs to do. If the editorial photo session is on the road, logistical issues will arise. The staff will need transportation and you cannot guarantee that the weather will not change . 

Licensing in editorial photography 

Licensing of editorial and commercial photography is different. If an editorial photographer licenses photographs for an editorial, he cannot use them commercially. They may not use photos from a published editorial for promotional photos. Even if it’s the same publication. 


This is not commercial photography or photojournalism. Editorial photography is a separate discipline. Publishers don’t have big budgets to shoot editorial photos. But they give the photographer a lot of creative freedom. These photographers use their visual language to enhance the articles they work with. An editorial assignment must be completed, but the rules are usually vague.

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