One of the amazing things about photography is its ability to evoke emotion and tell a story—and that it’s possible to do this in so many different ways, with so many different styles of photography. The editorial photo style is one of them.
There’s just something about that classic, editorial photo look! Some words that come to mind right away when considering editorial photography are clean, timeless, elegant, dramatic, high-quality, and storytelling.
Of course, it also brings about mental images of fashion, models, magazine spreads, and publications. While it’s true that editorial photography is used for specific purposes, the editorial style can be applied to all sorts of genres, from wedding photography to family photography to lifestyle photography and more.
First, let’s talk about what editorial photography means by definition, and then we’ll dive into how you can achieve the editorial look on your own photography, no matter what it’s for.
What is Editorial Photography?
Editorial photography is typically used in magazines and other publications—both print and online. They exist to help tell a story and convey a certain mood, often alongside a written piece.
An editorial photo might showcase portraits, places, events, fashion, sports, landscapes, and more.
Fashion photography might stand alone, without a written story, as the fashion being shown is the focal point. However, this differs from commercial photography because the aim of fashion photography isn’t necessary to sell to the masses—but rather, to showcase a form of art.
What is the difference between an editorial photo and a commercial photo?
Editorial and commercial photography are easily confused. While the style may sometimes appear similar, a rule of thumb is that while editorial photography is there to help tell a story, commercial photography is there to help sell something.
There are also legal differences between commercial and editorial photos. Images might be licensed for editorial use, but not necessarily commercial use. Commercial use, which means the images are being used to help sell something (typically in some kind of advertising), requires different licensing.
What is the difference between editorial photography and photojournalism?
Another type of photography often associated with editorials is photojournalism. While both are tools used in storytelling, and both appear in publications, there are important differences regarding their style and purpose.
Photojournalism is typically used to accompany news stories by offering an accurate depiction of the event. It might be candid or somewhat posed, but it happens in the heat of the moment. Its purpose is to transport the viewer to the scene and help them understand the feeling and significance of the event and story.
An editorial photo involves a different creative approach. An editorial-style photoshoot usually starts with a plan, a chosen setting, styling, and posing. There is still a storytelling element, but the approach and purpose are different than with photojournalism.
Now, let’s talk more generally about getting an editorial look, and how that look can be applied to all types of photography.
What Makes a Good Editorial Photograph?
Of course, there isn’t one correct formula to follow for the perfect editorial photo. The look, style, and effect of editorial-style photos vary greatly, and each photographer has their own interpretations of what makes a great image.
That being said, there are some common elements to keep in mind that can help you achieve that classic, editorial photo look:
- Storytelling. You’ve probably already caught the drift on this one, but the idea behind an editorial photo is that it helps tell a story. It might even feel cinematic in nature.
- Drama. Speaking of cinematic, editorial photography can have a dramatic feel to it. Something exaggerated, grandiose, or striking. There is usually a focal point in the image.
- Lighting. Lighting can make or break an image. It can alter the vibe and mood and take the story in one direction or another.
- Styling. Something that really sets editorial photography apart is styling. Each element of the image has a purpose, from the setting to the attire to the props and the posing.
- Timelessness. Even though it might show off certain styles of the time, there is a classic and artistic element that adds a timelessness to editorial photography. Think about how cool, editorial images from the past seem to become even cooler over time.
- High quality. Of course, great editorial images should be high quality. It’s important to understand your equipment, lighting, and post-processing. Practice, practice, practice!
- Posing. There is usually posing involved. As with lighting, different posing and facial expressions can determine the impact of an image.
- Elegance. Not necessarily an essential element, but a feeling of elegance is common in editorial photography.
- Post-processing. As with most types of photography, the way you edit your image can add to its editorial feel. This is another thing that sets it apart from photojournalism, which typically uses minimal to no editing.
Editorial Photoshoot Tips
Here are some tips for getting that editorial look in your photography, whether you’re photographing weddings, families, lifestyle shoots, or just for fun!
Have a plan.
Usually, editorial photoshoots start with a plan.
What is your vision? What is the story you want to tell? What are you trying to convey? These are all great questions to ruminate on while forming your plan.
Create a mood board to help visualize your shoot. If you’re taking a series of images, create a shot list. Study different posing ideas. Consider the location of your shoot—is it in a studio, outdoors, somewhere else? Do you need any props?
While having a plan is important, there’s also something to be said for riding the wave. Have a vision, but watch for spur-of-the-moment opportunities, too. If you pass by an eye-catching spot on the way to your photoshoot location, why not stop and snap a shot? Who knows, it just might end up being your favorite.
It can be a bit harder to go into certain shoots, like weddings or family sessions, with such a plan. If you’re able to scope the venue or location out ahead of time, that definitely helps. But either way, you can arrive with certain poses and ideas for editorial shots in mind!
Find your editorial aesthetic.
What does your editorial photo vision look like, and what tools can help you achieve it?
What does the depth of field look like? The lighting? The background? The colors?
Knowing these things will help get you on the right path regarding equipment, shoot direction, and post-processing tools like presets.
Use the right equipment.
The right equipment depends on the setting and your vision for the shoot.
Some gear you might need (besides a camera and lenses, of course) includes:
- A tripod
- A photography gear bag
- Hard drives
- Artificial lighting (especially for studio and indoor photos)
- A reflector
- Backdrops (especially for studio settings)
- A computer
- Editing software (and possibly presets)
- A fan
Communicate with your subjects.
If your photoshoot involves people, make sure you communicate with them. Unlike snapping candid shots, editorial-style photography is more posed and involves some level of intent. This usually means giving instructions to your subjects.
While both candid and posed photography can tell a story and convey emotion, it’s these stylistic differences that set them apart, even during an unplanned photoshoot.
What is Editorial Wedding Photography
Outside of actual editorial photography, it’s arguable that this style is most commonly used in wedding photography.
Editorial wedding photography incorporates posing, styling, and staging. It’s kind of like acting as though the subjects are models, and instructing them as such. Style-wise, picture a bridal or wedding fashion magazine. It tells the story of the wedding in a way that is deliberate and detail-oriented.
Again, this differs from photojournalistic wedding photography, which helps tell the story of a wedding day in a more candid way.
Now, it’s Time to Put it into Practice!
We hope you find these editorial photo tips helpful! Now, the key is to keep practicing and practicing until you’re thrilled with the results.
We’d love to see what you create! If you use Mastin Labs presets for your editorial photos, don’t forget to tag us in your images and use the hashtag #MadeByMastin. We also welcome you to join our Facebook Community, where plenty of amazing photographers of all levels share their images, questions, and advice.