The Digital Journalist
Commentary: Getting Past the Editor's Door
February 2004

by Eliane Laffont

I do believe that the photographers who achieve recognition with photo Editors and Directors are the one that follow these suggestions.

First you have to ask yourself he following questions:

  • Why do I want to be a photographer?
  • What kind of photography do I want to do?
  • Which photographers do I admire the most and why?
  • What client do I want to work with?

In answering these questions, you are ready to go and pass every Editor's door. This is what you should remember:


This is a list of things NOT TO DO:

Do not show a Portfolio or do not send a CD with photos you do not care about but you think the client will need. In reality, clients do not need to see anything but your own personal vision.

Do not show a Portfolio that does not look fresh, with good prints, fresh mats, new plastic sleeves.

Do not send your portfolio unless you are prepared to leave it behind if the client wants to keep it a few days and sometimes a few weeks.

Do not send a portfolio or CD that have nothing to do with the client you are seeing.

If you are going to see "Sport Illustrated" the portfolio must reflect some activities related to sports.

If you are going to see "ELLE" magazine, the Portfolio must show your flair for fashion or people in fashion.

Do not go and see news magazines like Time et Newsweek unless you have the equipment to deliver your photos on time for their deadline. You need to have digital cameras and know how to transmit. The photographer not only make the photographs but edit the work, write the captions and transmit them to the client. You must know how to do it all.

Do not send a Portfolio or CD without your card and address. It is a small detail, but so many portfolios remain in magazine mailrooms, or are lost because the address is wrong, old or incomplete.

Do not send a Portfolio or CD unless a prior arrangement or discussion has been made with the person you want to send it to. Do not send unsolicited work.

Do not get offended when you are asked to drop it off at certain days, and hours. Leave a note inside your portfolio asking for a meeting at a later time.

Meeting the Editors is essential because it is not just about your work but about your personality as well.

Do not be offensive if the client criticize your work but learn from it.

Do not show a Portfolio with only singles photographs. Show a complete story and do not hesitate to leave your contact sheets with a mark on the photo you have edited and explain why. This it a great way to develop a discussion and show the client your concern, involvement and motivation.

Do not show a "SAFE" portfolio with generic photos. Be "BOLD" show you are unique. Do not forget it is all about you, your goals, your eye, your talent, your uniqueness, your personality. And most importantly what you have in your heart.

So, make your visit unforgettable.


Do not get impatient when your meeting is interrupted by several phone calls. Wait patiently and restart your discussion.

Do not be late for your appointment. You are the one that should be waiting for the editor not the other way around.

Do not cancel any appointment unless you have a major problem. It is difficult to get to see the busy Editors once and twice is even more difficult.

Do not overreact when the Editor cancel. This is current practice specially if you want to see editors at the News Magazines.

Do not try to change your personality. Be yourself. Let the editor look at the photos you do not need to explain each photo, and most importantly talk about your commitment you have for certain issues.

Do not engage in private discussion, keep the friendship for another time. Make sure your visit is for business reasons.

If you do not ear from the editors, do not get discouraged. Keep in touch through email or cards at least once a month to let them know what you are doing.

And finally and MOST IMPORTANT do not ask them if they have work for you. COME UP instead with your own proposals, suggest stories, explain what you want to do and why. Remember if they have an assignment to give, they will probably think 1st of their own contract photographers. This is your chance to show you are as good, as committed, as passionate and that they should trust you and give you a chance.

Do not leave the meeting without leaving behind a card or a photo with your phone number and your email address.

In the following days after the visit, send a thank you note in the back of one of your photos and promotion cards, and remind them of the photo stories you would like to do for them.

Again make your visit unforgettable by the stories you bring to the editors, the portfolio that shows you can deliver and a positive attitude that makes the editors want to work with you.

I wish you all good luck.

© Eliane Laffont
Editorial Director, Hachette Filipacchi Media