the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

January 12, 2010

It’s all about the page count.

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: — danmilner @ 6:50 pm

WMB 104 cover and original shot: even fog can become blue sky on a cover.

The January 010 issue of the UK’s What Mountain Bike magazine landed in my postbox with a hefty plonk. I’ve been quite keen to see it as it is a bit of a Milner issue this one.

With a cover, my Back to Blighty feature on returning to ride in the UK after ten years living away, a DPS gallery shot and the whole all-mountain bike test feature we shot in Chamonix in September all wrapped up in one issue, I felt pretty chuffed when I finally got it in my mitts. My work added up to a wholesome 22 pages of work… not bad for a “freelance contributor”. 

Freelancing, in case you’re wondering, requires constant effort, especially in the field of editorial. You’ve got to keep “in” with editors, keep track when they come and go,  make sure your name is on their list, constantly conjure up original features and pitch them in the right way and show them you are actually up to the job.

And then nag them about raising a commission.

It’s times like this though, that I feel that relocating to the Alps was a worthwhile move…. having all that glorious terrain and scenery (oh, and riding) on your doorstep and finding ways to make it pay.

Another shot from the cover shoot session.. the one I thought would be staring down from the newsagents' shelves. It actually got used in the bike test feature instead. Canon EOS 1Dmk2N, Nikon 14-24/2.8


Of course the scenery only works if you can persuade an editor/art editor/marketing manager to send a bunch of product your way to shoot for them, and that isn’t always easy. Product samples have a habit of becoming elusive just when a shoot needs doing, bikes don’t turn up in time (one only arrived just in time for the last day) and weather, well it does what it wants. It involves time and organisation.

The WMB 4-dayer in September took Rob and Justin a day to drive 14 hours here in a large van with 8 bikes inside, and then a day to drive back afterwards. We ended up with perhaps the worst 4 days of weather in the whole summer, with fog and even snow. But I think with the WMB page count already hefty and lots more from the shoots still to be published in future issues I think the editor, or rather the WMB accounts dept will find that it paid off after all.

So if you missed WMB 104, here’s a sneak at some of its Milner content:

The cover. Cover shoots for product-focussed magazines like WMB go something like this: Find a good location (something that already caused you a week of sleepless nights) with good trail foreground and stunning backdrop and get the riders to ride, re-ride and ride again the same bit of trail until you’re happy with the result. ‘Happy’ means you get the flashes balanced, you compose the shot so the designer has ample space of a million coverlines and boxes, you can see the product well (in this case one of the grouptest bikes) and the rider has a smidgen of style and isnt gurning. Then you move onto the next spot. Repeat.

The Feature. Features are split into 2 types: The stock commission and the day-rate commission. Stock features are what comes from the photographer/writer’s creative mindset, in this issue the Back To Blighty feature. You come up with a good excuse to go and ride somewhere interesting, make it sound to the editor like the magazine needs to run it

Just an excuse for a two week romp around british trails really.


, and secure a commission for it. You get paid a package for the words and pics, which isn’t as solid as a nice day rate, but you get to ride some damn good trails in the process, and you had the freedom to shoot them how you felt. The day-rate commission, such as the all-mountain bike test,  is something the magazine’s editor has in mind and commissions you as photographer to shoot for them. This runs something like this: they have a certain set of images in mind and you fill in the blanks, usually by setting up flashes and shooting the same bits of trail several times and not actually riding at all, or if you do, it’s with a 15Kg back pack laden with lightstands… and that doesnt count.

Right, where did  I put my list of story ideas…?


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