Drop-in pictures.

This one was first published in April 2009…

We are in the middle of a recession – a pretty big one at that. Sensible professional photographers all over the world are looking at their business models, talking to their clients and trying to give themselves an edge. A few are trying to compete on price which might work in some markets but will almost certainly destroy others. The rest of us are just looking at what we do and how we do it in the hope that we can raise our collective game.

One thing that I have always done is to give picture editors what they have asked for and then give them something that they might well be able to use but hadn’t asked for. Current fashions in mainstream magazine design seem to call for a range of what we call “drop-in” pictures. Small supporting details that help to break up the copy and also tell the story.

©Neil Turner

This example of a basket of wine corks came from a commission to shoot a conference which featured a full scale banquet in the very splendid surroundings of one of the Oxford Colleges. It’s not an exciting picture but it really helps to tell the story. It can be used large or small or not at all. It took a minute to shoot, another minute to edit and forty five seconds to transmit. It helped to break up a set of images of middle aged men in black suits eating by candlelight and stands out in the clients image browsing software as “different”.

©Neil Turner

Same client, very different project. This was a story about an ecologically managed office complex where they were still making improvements. A simple shot of the builder’s muddy boots helps the story along. They didn’t use this frame but it was submitted in much the same way that the image of the corks was and almost certainly had the same effect on screen.

©Neil Turner

This final example, shot for an education magazine, had an entirely different effect. Shot as a supporting image – the designer saw it and decided to base the entire layout around it. The story was about using Makaton, a relatively simple sign language, to help teach primary school pupils a broad range of things. They ran headlines and copy over the pale background in a very imaginative way – a use for a very simple picture that I had never envisaged.

To sum up: when you shoot the kind of editorial work that I do it takes no time at all to add these simple images to an edit. They will be useful in years to come as stock images and they give designers and picture editors options that they hadn’t asked for. Some people might say that I’m giving “my edge” away here but I hope that I offer clients a package deal with at least four edges. I always tell students to whom I give talks about the job that I do that they need to think beyond simply what they have been asked for. It is a given that you give the client what they asked for but I have never heard one complain that you have given them something more.

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