How Photo Editors Find and Hire Photographers

February 3, 2016


John Trotter followed a Brooklyn family facing cuts to their food stamps in a story for

“Show me stories.” That’s how Sabine Meyer, Audubon Magazine’s director of photography, recommends photographers present their work if they want to land assignments from the nature and wildlife magazine. It’s advice we’ve heard from many photo editors we’ve interviewed in recent years. Before they trust photographers with assignments, photo editors want to see that they can cover a topic from many angles and develop a narrative through a sequence of images. To find photographers with storytelling skills, they rely on many sources. Instagram, photo blogs, portfolio reviews and photo contests are a few favorites they’ve named. PDN subscribers can access all the interviews with editorial clients excerpted here at

Yvonne Stender, Sunset Magazine

Sunset, the lifestyle magazine (owned by Time Inc.) for the Western states, seeks a variety of imagery, and director of photography Yvonne Stender says she looks at multiple blogs, galleries and Instagram to find photographers. “I’ve told photographers: Putting your location on your Instagram feed is key,” says Stender. She doesn’t like the phone, however. “I like a creative mailer with your place of residence on there. It can be a link to your blog: Just let me know where I’ll find the work you think is most relevant to us.” She adds, “Portfolio reviews are key for me as much as for photographers. There are people I’ve known about but never met who I get to see, and I get to see their whole body of work.”

See “Sunset Magazine’s Yvonne Stender on Magazine Photo Editing.”

Sabine Meyer, Audubon Magazine

“Show me stories. Unless you’re a portrait photographer, I’m not interested in individual images,” says Sabine Meyer, director of photography for Audubon. “Show me stories that have a long narrative arc. Show me some personal projects. Show me things that touch on environment, conservation, wildlife, social issues—domestic or international. It’s perfectly acceptable to show the work on an iPad or a laptop as a slideshow.”

See “How to Land Photo Assignments from Audubon Magazine.”

Jacqueline Bates, The California Sunday Magazine

Director of photography Jacqueline Bates says she looks for photographers by paying attention to gallery shows, photo blogs and arts journals as well as Instagram. The magazine also features stories on Latin America and Asia, so her needs go beyond the region. She also relies on word of mouth from friends and photographers. She notes, “I’ve been seeing a new wave of photographers who are less competitive with each other and eager to share their friends’ talents with me. The sense of community is really wonderful to see.’”

See “The Cinematic Photography of The California Sunday Magazine.”

Helen Rosner, Eater

“What I’m particularly looking for is a narrative,” says Helen Rosner, the features editor at Eater, a food-centric site under the Vox Media umbrella.

“You look at the portfolio, but I’ve asked photographers before, ‘I totally love these three selects that you showed me from this one story that you shot, do you have the full film?’ It’s helpful for me to understand how much is this a photographer who isn’t just great at Photoshop and benefitted from great photo editors at great publications, but is a photographer who does his research ahead of time, really thinks about the shots ahead of time. I try not to be too micro-managey, but I also don’t want to be surprised when I see the film, and I don’t want the photographer to be surprised when they get my reaction to it.”

See “ Finds Unique Ways to Tell Food Stories with Photography.”

Amy Pereira,

“We spend a lot of time researching and watching what people are doing. We look at agencies, of course, photographer’s websites, Instagram and other social platforms, award and grant winners,” director of photography Amy Pereira says of her photo team, which includes three associate photo editors and a senior photo editor, who fill photo requests and conduct research, and also assign features and photo essays on news and social issues. “We are looking not only for great photographers, those who can compose an engaging and interesting photograph, but they should also be solid journalists who can report a story with depth and intelligence. That includes complete, accurate captions, [and] multiple aspects and perspectives on a story.”

She adds, “I have a particular love of photo essays, which are so much more than just a series of photos in a slide show.”

See “ A Place for Serious Photography.”

Related: Creative Pitches That Land Advertising Clients

Instagram Takeovers, and How They Work

ESPN’s Tim Rasmussen on the Story Pitches that Land Assignments

Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?