How Do You Make Cover-Worthy Portraits?

Have you ever wondered how pictures are chosen for magazine covers? I know I did. What makes images magazine-quality or worthy of being on the cover? In my experience, creating cover-worthy portraits starts with an intentional plan. There are objective and subjective criteria to consider in the creation of cover-worthy photography. However, once you know what to look for in your photography, you can raise to the bar to make every shot a cover-worthy image.

Defining Cover-Worthy Photography

Before you get all in your feelings about your photography, it’s helpful to consider each image objectively. There are some technical details can’t simply be ignored. Frankly, your objectivity will benefit you beyond choosing better cover-worthy images. It will help you be more discipline in your social feeds, online portfolios, and total brand identity. Once you master objective measures, the subjective measures are much easier to appreciate. Below are my criterion for evaluating the cover-worthiness of each image.

Objective

  • Sharp Focus Images
  • Proper Exposure
  • Color and Tonality
  • Composition
  • Creative Direction and Posing

Subjective

  • Feeling
  • Message or Story
  • Cultural Moments
  • Innovation & Originality
  • je ne sais quoi!

Culling for Cover-Worthy Portraits

The 80/20 Rule

I encourage you to aggressively cull your photography collection. Be relentless. Put the Pareto Principle to work in your portrait culling. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule dictates that 80% of the impact comes from 20% of the input. In culling, consider that only 20% of your portraits are truly cover worthy. That doesn’t mean that remaining 80% are trash. However, the greatest effect or value will come from a small percentage of standout images. As you cull your portraits, use objective criteria to pick images that are remarkable and reject the rest.

All the Star Ratings

Most software tools for photography catalog management have a star rating system. In fact, Windows and MacOS both have a star rating system built into the operating system if you don’t use a photo management tool. Give a weight and meaning to each star you use. Be consistent across all of your images so that you can leverage that metadata later. Typically five-stars is enough.

Color Coding Your Cover-Worthy Portraits

I color code my shots. The more varied your photography clientele, the more useful color coding will be for you. For example, you can use colors to represent the status or state an image is currently in development. Moreover, color can represent how the image will be distributed for publications. Finally, you may choose to use color to represent usage (e.g. stock, web, video, slides, etc.) The key is to be consistent in your use of colors so that you can make the most of your cataloguing.

Plan Your Cover-Worthy Photography Before the Shoot

Creating cover-worthy portrait isn’t a random event. I recommend you start planning your shots and team building before the actual creative happens.

The Shot Plan

The shot plan seems like overkill for some. However, I approach photography from a product design perspective. I consider how each image will be ultimately used and design my shots to tell that story or fulfill that usage. A cover-worthy-by-design approach to photography starts with the end in mind. Working backwards, you will be able to build out all of the resources you need to execute a flawless shot.

Building Rapport with Your Team

It doesn’t matter if you are working a client or a test shoot with a new model, team rapport is mission critical. Make a great impression and keep reinforcing that impression with every action and communication. The goal is create an atmosphere where people feel welcome and able to contribute their best self for the creative. This chemistry will appear in your portraits—good or bad. So why not make your experience a cover-worthy production from beginning to end.

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Cam

Cam

Photographer | Branding Maven | Educator | Storyteller

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