BPP 241: James Patrick: Photographing 500 Magazine Covers

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James Patrick is a Phoenix AZ-based commercial and fitness photographer. He has shot more than 500 magazine covers and today we break down what makes a cover photo unique and how to capture the concept.

Episode Timeline:

  • James narrates how he began his photography career.

  • What was the main source of your photography education?

  • How do you handle the concern that someone may take your photography style and compete with you after teaching them?

  • What is the job description of a Fitness Photographer and how did you get into it?

  • From a technical standpoint, what are you looking out for, that's going to make a photo stand out above the rest to be a cover shot?

  • How do you come up with ideas for the photos that you need to capture?

  • Starting out, was there a point where you had to just make do with your equipment because you didn't have the things you have today?

Key Takeaways:

  • Starting as a journalist, James had some misapprehension about photography as it did not seem very sustainable as a career choice, he was however open to different options while trying to figure out his passion.

  • James describes how he learned by testing constantly and working as an assistant photographer, even though he already had his own jobs. Key principles gained as an assistant included photography techniques, project bidding, client communication, the general business process, and most especially how to work with subjects onset.

  • There are two extremes of types of photographers, the overly technical ones who focus on measurements and precision when shooting, and the ones who rather feel their way creatively through their imagery. The latter appealed to him more, shifting his focus from taking great pictures which can easily be learned and done, to making images that work, and this became his brand

  • Ask for help, the more you ask, eventually, people will start to give you help.

  • A popular misconception James shared earlier on was that he had to be involved in many niches in photography to have enough jobs, ironically during the recession, he started to lose jobs because many clients would rather hire a niche specialist than a Jack of all trades. This nearly made him give up.

  • Following the decision to be intentional about photography, questions that started to arise include: what work do I need to create? Who do I need to be working with? What images do I need to be in my portfolio? Who do I need to be working for? James describes the importance of overcoming his fears so he could call companies to find people that would be interested in his work.

  • Addressing a common mindset that you need to recreate your portfolio before contacting companies about your photography, it is critical to understand that there is no perfect portfolio. You get better only when you show your work to someone and get feedback, without which you're just in your head and consumer behavior determines everything.

  • Shooting a cover is a construct. What I do with a cover is a commercially viable image. This is an image that is going to help sell the magazine, more often than not it is focusing on all the distracting things that you're removing from the photo, to create a post that's going to jump off the page without being too distracting from the message.

  • We get through the stuff that doesn't work so we can get the one thing that does work.

  • It is important to get a sense of what the client is looking for in the kick-off meeting.

  • Most times the gear doesn’t matter, when I look at upgrading gear, it's more so what can I do that I couldn't do before? In other cases, it may be client-focused, trying to meet a certain demand of the client that your current gear cannot meet.

Resources:

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