Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anatomy of a New York Times Magazine Cover Photo

The following is a rough timeline of events leading up to the photoshoot for a cover story for The New York Times Magazine. They are just random notes on events that took place that led up to the publication.


• August 16, Wednesday: First Contact: Photo editor leaves me a message, phone tag ensues, e-mails back and forth between editor and myself.

What? You want me to shoot the cover? Well...OK...Are you kidding me?!?...

• August 17, Thursday: Phone tag with the photo editor, many e-mails back and forth.

• August 18, Friday: Set up first shoot with the photo editor for the next day. Many e-mails regarding the details of the shoot.

• August 19, Saturday: First Photoshoot: Left residency to drive to a NW suburb of the Cities to photograph for 5 hours at a BBQ get together. Made many photos and earned the trust of the families involved. Drove back to the residency, downloaded, and evaluated images.

• August 20, Sunday: E-mailed the photo editor and the writer.

• August 24, Thursday: Photo editor wants a CD of the images sent tomorrow. Prepared a CD of images and web photo gallery with a note. Sent the photo editor an e-mail.

• August 25, Friday: Sent a CD through Fed-Ex to the photo editor, sent an e-mail.

• August 29, Tuesday: Received an e-mail from the photo editor requesting an EDITED CD, not simply all the images. Spent 4 hours editing images down to a select few, and then prepared another CD with images and web photo gallery.

• August 30, Wednesday: Sent the new CD through Fed-Ex to the photo editor.

• September 4, Monday: Prepared JPEGs to send to the writer so he could have a few visuals to write about.

• September 5, Tuesday: Sent a handful of JPEGs to the writer via e-mail.

• September 19, Tuesday: Spoke on the phone with the photo editor for a long time. She will be flying in for the shoot being the turn-around time is going to be so quick. Received many e-mails from the photo editor of previous cover images from the Times Magazine that had multiple people on them. Wrote her back later in the day.

• September 21, Thursday: Made many phone calls to the members of the family involved in the shoot to try to line up the date for the shoot and a quick scouting shoot. No luck; no calls returned.

• September 22, Friday: Many e-mails between the photo editor and myself regarding contacting everyone. Talked to one person regarding the upcoming shoot that he will be part of.

• September 27, Wednesday: Spoke with the photo editor on the phone to discuss details of the photoshoot. Made contact with everyone by phone involved in the shoot and set up times to scout their homes.

• September 28, Thursday: Scouting Photos: E-mailed the photo editor to keep her up to date. Met at 2 of the homes in the afternoon to take test shots for potential locations for the cover shoot.

• September 29, Friday: More Scouting: Scouted and photographed at the last home in the morning. Made test photos of more possible locations. Edited all test photos and resized them to send via e-mail. Started to look at equipment that is needed to rent for the shoot.

• September 30, Saturday: E-mailed many test shots to the photo editor of the different possible locations. Wrote much about my input and what I thought would and wouldn’t work.

• October 2, Monday: Received a long e-mail from the photo editor with her input on what to shoot and when. Wrote her a long e-mail back with my response and many of my own questions. Lined up a photo assistant for the upcoming shoot. Looked at equipment to rent.

• October 3, Tuesday: Stopped at West Photo to reserve equipment needed for the shoot. E-mailed rough timeline of the upcoming photoshoot to the photo editor.

• October 4, Wednesday: Called everyone involved in the shoot to give them details. Left messages and asked them to get back to me. Talked with everyone by the end of the day. Talked more with the photo assistant.

• October 5, Thursday: Cleaned out car to prepare for photoshoot (I’ll be driving the photo editor to the shoot, and my car is a sty). Shot 2 rolls of film, had them processed, and picked them up - as a test for my camera backs. Played phone tag with the photo editor. Finally talked with her for a few minutes about photoshoot details (what the families should wear, where to eat, what time to pick her up, etc). Complied large list of items needed for the shoot. Met with the photo assistant for an hour and a half to talk about details for the shoot.

• October 6, Friday: The Day the Sh*t Hit the Fan: Lined up Sunday morning snacks for the family. Wrote directions for the photo assistant. Received a frantic phone call from the photo editor because one member of the family that we are making photos of needs to leave the shoot WAY too early. Picked up extra photo-related equipment at the College of Visual Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Bought some items at the Art Cellar art store. Picked up rental equipment at West Photo and purchased everything else that I needed there as well. Stressed over if the shoot is going to happen or not. Talked twice more with the photo editor. Called my photo assistant to inform him of a possible early start for the photoshoot in order to accommodate the person who has to leave early. Whatever happens, he’s on board - thank God! The photo editor called again with final details: we’ll be starting an hour and a half earlier than planned, but all is OK. Everyone will be there. Worked out details to pick up the photo editor from her hotel on Sunday morning. Called the photo assistant to let him know of the change. All systems go!

Holy shit, time for some sleep.

• October 7, Saturday: Played with the strobes to familiarize myself with them (they’re Dynalites - super easy), and tested my cameras with the strobes. Inspected all the rental equipment to make sure everything works. Set almost everything up and took everything down. Called to confirm everything with the photo editor and my photo assistant. Double-checked what time the bakery and coffee shop open in the morning in order to get goodies for the family in the shoot. Made goodies list. Loaded my car with everything, saving room for the photo editor. Slept (not well).

• October 8, Sunday: The Cover Shoot: Alarm at 5:45 am. Finished packing the car. Picked up rolls, scones, muffins, juice (apple and orange), bottled water, and napkins at Kowalski’s. Got a large “thing” of coffee at Caribou for everyone. Picked up the photo editor from her hotel around 7:40 am. Drove to the first location. Pulled up to the house, and the photo assistant pulled in right behind us. Got settled and made photos. Fought with the sun, but I won. Moved on to the second location. Set up lights, etc. Made more photos. Packed everything up. Total time on location: 4 hours, 45 minutes - not too shabby. Took the photo editor to the airport. Talked about what she needed me to have on the invoice. Returned some equipment to MCAD. Dropped off film at ProColor. Wrote up invoice to send to the Times.

• October 9, Monday: Returned the C-Stands to CVA. Returned the rental equipment to West. Picked up the processed film at ProColor. Cut and sleeved the negatives. Printed 2 sets of contact sheets (one for me, one for the photo editor). Went to Fed-Ex Kinkos to Fed Ex the contact sheets overnight to New York. E-mailed "thank you’s" to the photo editor and the photo assistant.

• October 10, Tuesday: Finalized invoice for the Times (or so I thought). E-mailed photo assistant again. Received 2 urgent phone calls from the photo editor. She needs high-res scans FTPed to her in the next day. Received instructions via e-mail for what images to scan and how to log in to their server. Found time to start making scans for the photo editor (although not feeling well). Scanned and fixed up 4 files and sent them along. E-mailed and called the photo editor to let her know. She e-mailed me back; everything looks fine. Scanned 7 more files, fixed them up, and FTPed them. E-mailed the photo editor the list of file names and a couple of questions.

• October 11, Wednesday: E-mailed the photo editor a few questions.

• October 12, Thursday: Called the photo editor to talk about when to send the match prints. Copied scanned files to portable hard drive. Received match print order and amounts for invoice. Printed 7 match print at the CVA digital lab. Altered 2 of the files, saved them in order to FTP them again. Got the prints packaged and ready to Fed Ex tomorrow morning.

• October 13, Friday: Fed Ex-ed the prints early in the morning. FTPed the 2 files that I altered for printing. E-mailed the photo editor.

Over the hill - coast down the other side.

• October 19, Thursday: E-mailed a few random questions to the photo editor. Received a reply and was given the final amounts for a few things on the invoice.

• October 21, Saturday: Finished up the invoice. Made copies of receipts and got everything in a mailer to send to the Times.

• October 23, Monday: Mailed the invoice and receipts to the photo editor.

• October 24, Tuesday: E-mailed the photo editor to let her know to expect the invoice.

• October 29, Sunday: Magazine In Print: The cover should be on newsstands (I say “should” because this is in the future, and I won’t believe it until I see it).

I may update this with actual events once it’s printed. We’ll see what will happen now...



I think all "creatives" should create these lists as tangible proof of the degree of difficulty our professions are. I can't wait to see the final product Steve, I'm sure it will be more than well worth the effort. Congrats again, that's super cool.

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