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Art Direction, On the racks

In Praise of the 50 cent Cover

10.17.08 | 7 Comments

So you’ve hired a Cadillac of a photographer and there’s a celebrity or maybe some high-strung supermodel. A few photo assistants are futzing with (rented) lighting in a (rented) space. An art director and assistant have flown in for the shoot, There’s a hair stylist, a makeup stylist, a fashion stylist, maybe someone’s built a set, maybe a couple of people styled that set. And god knows how many hours went into orchestrating the event—scheduling, catering, and putting out fires. No doubt, a high-end national magazine cover shoot can put you back quite a few more Benjamins than a fancy wedding or sporty car. Oh, Jeez, did I forget about digital delivery fees, retouching and color correction? Did someone budget for any of that?

Considering how over-the-top it can all be, one has to admire a major glossy that routinely pays closer to 50 cents for its covers. Wired’s Scott Dadich is the current master of the all-type cover.

Of course, Wired’s covers must cost a bit more than 50 cents–they doubtlessly take a bit of time to pull off and Wired has a tradition of using multiple metallic and florescent inks, which all add a bit of cost, but considering that this magazine frequently goes to war on the newsstand with nothing but a a few colors, shapes and words cobbled together, it’s all still pretty impressive. Often even when there is an image, such as is the case with the Electric Car cover above, it’s still only a minor component of the package.

Wired has been taking chances with it’s cover since its inception, and looking at the magazine’s content one can see why. When you contemplate the future of on-line media or the next ice age, there isn’t much to photograph that isn’t going to look trite. Powerful, surprising imagery may sometimes be possible when you’re writng about, oh, industrial applications for 380 digit prime numbers, but it’s not a sure thing.

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