Jura Photography

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Editorial Photography: Shooting the Cover for the Blenheim Literary Festival

I recently completed a really fun and challenging editorial assignment for the Blenheim Literary Festival, held every year at Blenheim Palace. The festival team approached me with an assignment to capture two images, one for the cover and one for the back of their event brochure.

With the event being held at Blenheim Palace, an image of the Palace was essential but with the front cover needing to have logical space for text and sponsor logo etc, it was important to find not just a great image, but also an image with the right balance of negative space to augment. With just over a week of available time to complete the assignment, I thought I would have plenty of time but as always in England, the weather had different ideas...

Starting at the weekend with a quick practice run, I shot a few images for the festival team to review for suggestions and to see if they met the brief, here was the selection (I added the festival logo to generate an impression of how it might look).

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The initial feedback was positive, with the fourth image from the left in the series above being the most promising. The challenge was that I needed to select the right time of day to complete the assignment, finding the right time where the light would help to create a more engaging image. The brochure, after all, would be seen by hundreds of people attending the festival, I really wanted to get this right, and this was when my battle with the weather started!

Using my The Photographers Emperhis (TPE), which is a phone app which tells you the sun pattern for any given point on the planet, including sunset, sunrise and other information, I was able to determine that a time later in the day would create the best light on the Palace tower. Unfortunately, for the next few days the weather later in the day was either full cloud and raining or simply lots of clouds, all not ideal to get the best image with the best light. Finally, on pretty much the last day, the weather broke and I was able to get some good light at the right time of day to get the shot I wanted. Here is the image below and how it was used on the cover.

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I also shot a couple of different pictures of the Feathers Hotel in Woodstock, which provided a central point in Woodstock to run the event, as well as provided key sponsorship of the event. Here were the options I had for the Feathers, with the image on the left being used on the back cover of the brochure.

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So, another assignment out of the way and a great project completed. I did learn a few things from this assignment

1) When shooting for magazine/brochure covers, think about how to create negative space for text.

It was interesting to think about the pictures as brochure covers when I was taking them; where would I place the festival logo? Where could I place text? Paying attention to the graphic design needs made me think differently about how I composed the pictures, such as the out of focus grass in the images above or the blue sky in the final image. Paying attention to how text and logos might be added gave me a new perspective.

2) Think carefully about the timing, light and weather you need ahead of time to avoid unnecessary work

An exercise like this, where a specific image is required, is essentially a waiting game, which can either make or break the commercials for the shoot. Every time you pack your back, get to the venue, set up, shoot, process, etc. is an investment of time that you can't get back. Every visit eats into your effective hourly rate, so the more you can do make sure that when you do go and shoot, you are getting the best shot at a useable image, the better off you will be. I used the TPE app extensively to help visualise when the sun would be at the right angle and a weather application called WeatherPro to give me the best shot at getting good weather and light conditions.

3) Shoot wider than you would normally

Unless you know the specific size of the cover image, it is really important to make sure you leave the client enough image to play with, so they can edit to the size they need. It's always good, especially if you have the camera pixels to play with, to leave a virtual border around your images.

4) Print your images to proof them

I found it a great exercise to print the images, not only did this give me validation of my colour profiles, it also helped me to notice any flaws in the image and correct them. Break out the magnifying glass, have a good look, the last thing you need is an image making it to print only to find an error!