Editorial Photography

What is Editorial Photography?

Editorial Photography is a specialized branch of commercial photography which supports journalism. The photographer’s job is to illustrate and highlight the significance of a story.

Clients for editorial photography include

• newspapers,
• magazines,
• books, and
• news and educational websites.

Whereas corporate photography supports a business’s mission, and advertising photography supports a product or service, editorial photography supports text: journalistic or educational copy not comprising a commercial or corporate-branded enterprise.

Photographer Gregory Cowley has been “shooting editorial” for 20 years. “My clients are often trade and industry magazines,” says Cowley, “but I have appeared in wide-circulation magazines such as Wired and Discover. I’m drawn to the industry because of the creative freedom and the variety.”

“I like working with many different people,” Cowley says. “Some are comfortable in front of the camera, and most are not. Part of my job is create a connection with the subject. This connection is what makes the photo real and believable.”

There is much more to the business of editorial photography. It entails being able to find the core of a story and express that with visual impact. It requires the imagination to conceptualize the image which will tell the story—before you even begin to set it up.

The editorial photographer must coordinate with art directors and layout people to understand the publication’s focus, technical requirements, and editorial conventions, as well as the editor’s intentions for the article itself. There is no substitute for experience here.

Among the dozens of magazines in which Gregory Cowley’s work has appeared are:

• Wired
• Discover Magazine
• USA Today
• Architect (AIA)
• The Scientist
• Chief Learning Officer Magazine
• Black Enterprise
• Restaurant Hospitality
• Lawdragon
• London Daily Mail
• San Francisco Magazine

More considerations particular to the editorial photography specialty include:

When shooting for a cover, overlapping text must be accounted for in the camera. That means shooting wide to leave room for cropping; shooting against a uniform background or using a shallow depth of focus to blur the background. The professional photographer knows that the less the publication has to fix in post-processing and retouching, the better the finished product will be.

Models may need to be chosen astutely, to match the magazine’s readership demographic (not just young and hot). When there’s a model involved, the photographer must shoot her looking both right and left so that in the finished layout, the model is looking toward the inside of the magazine and not off the page.

As you can see, the experience and expertise required by this exciting branch of photography goes miles beyond considerations of equipment and photographic technique. It includes many, many intangibles, unique people skills, and industry-specific visual vocabulary.

Gregory Cowley Photography looks forward to putting its experience at your service.


I am a photographer based in San Francisco, California specializing in portrait, editorial, corporate and commercial projects.