The ones that didn’t make it (December 2013, part 1)

One of the more difficult things for photographers whose images are published in magazines and papers can be seeing their preferred shots miss out, replaced instead by photos we saw as the “plan B” shot. There’s a number of reasons for this – from different subjective taste of photo editors and creative directors to some images looking good by themselves but not fitting into the overall layout of the article.

I feel lucky that I am generally on the same wavelength of the magazine’s creative director when it comes to Oi Vietnam, so the first reason doesn’t often apply. In this month’s issue, the main reasons some of my favourite shots weren’t used was simply a matter of orientation (I’m not talking sexual preference here – that obviously isn’t an issue in most creative industries). I mean, say, I liked the portrait orientation but a photo in landscape orientation was needed – that kinda thing. It’s important to always provide a variety of shots with not only different angles and approaches to the shot, but also different orientations – long and tall… (damn, I after that sexual preference comment, everything I say seems to have a certain innuendo to it now, or maybe that’s just my juvenile mind).

My tip for any newbies in the industry – always shoot quite a few shots for any assignment in portrait orientation. These are the ones most likely to get used for full-page layout, or as lead pages (like a kinda title page that marks a new section/theme/article). They are the ones that may even end up as a cover. Going from having my photography displayed online or on gallery walls to working for a magazine, I’ve often had to slap myself around a little and consciously remind myself to remember to get some good portrait format shots! After a while it becomes second nature, though.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve read this month’s issue of Oi (or if you’re like me, just looked at the pictures – I admit it, but I also know I’m missing out as a result). If you haven’t, click on the link and check it out now!

Here’s some of the photos that I submitted that didn’t make the issue…

For the story on the Green Youth Collective – an organisation that aims to give disadvantaged youth hope for a better future and simultaneously create awareness of environmentally friendly living and creating a greener city (read the story) – here’s the way it ended up looking in the mag:


On the left is a full-page photo of one of the co-founders of GYC, Tanya Meftah, and the small photo in the centre on the right is two of the kids involved in the program Le Huynh Thanh Quy and Huynh Le
Kim Ngan along with another co-founder Duoc Nguyen.

When I was given the brief, I was told I should arrange to take a portrait shot of Tanya for the article, as well as shots of some of the rooftop gardens they’d created. Immediately I had the idea of taking a shot of Tanya on a rooftop somewhere with the city in the background and her holding soil in her hands with a plant growing out of it – something that showed the concept of her helping create a greener city and that also had the feel of something new springing forth from her efforts.

So I gave her a call and arranged for a time for her to come to my building, as there was a great view of the city from the rooftop. Before she arrived I rushed out and searched the plant markets for appropriate plants (it was nice to have an excuse to finally stop procrastinating and buy a few plants for my apartment). Didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but found some that would be OK. She arrived (on her bicycle – seems she really practices what she preaches when it comes to being environmentally friendly) and we went up to the top of the building. I took a few shots, some focusing on the plant, others with her in focus as well. I wanted to give the team as many options as possible to work with, but I admit that I focused more on the portrait orientation shots, as I had a feeling I’d be able to get a full page shot for the article, and it had always been that way in my mind.

In the end, I submitted three portrait shots, but I had others ready in case they needed something in landscape orientation.




In my heart I knew one of the first two would be what they went with, but I gave one more just in case (I’d asked Tanya to bring the trowel, so I figured we’d see what we could do with it anyway, although to me, the shot was a little awkward).

I talked with her about visiting one of the gardens they’d made, but it turned out they were all in early stages, and a few boxes full of dirt would not likely be used for the article, so I arranged to meet some of the other cooperative members on the farm the collective has set up that weekend just before I left for a trip to China. Unfortunately due to an outside event some of them were involved in and an abnormally high tide that threatened to flood the farm, that appointment fell through, so I was thin on shots.

Thankfully, the writer, Lolita, was meeting with another of the cofounders in the home of two youth involved in the initiative that evening. I dropped everything and rode to the outskirts of the city to join the meeting. We met with Duoc Nguyen, an astute man with well-spoken English who helped us communicate with the teens. We followed him in his wheelchair to their home and sat in the living area that also serves as a workshop for family members during the day. The room was smaller than most Australian bathrooms, but Duoc’s limited mobility made me think the best way to get a shot of the three of them was to take them as they sat there on the floor of the room. So I pushed myself right against the far wall, set up my flash remotely and took a few shots. What I came away with were simple snapshots – they showed the people involved, but there was nothing amazing about the images technically.


I felt I still wanted to give the team more to work with visually for the article, so I went to a plant market and took some random shots of potted plants just in case they wanted to put some images of greenery in the article.

GYC - Random Plants 1 GYC - Random Plants 2GYC - Random Plants 5 GYC - Random Plants 3

In the end, they weren’t used. That was fine with me, there was nothing groundbreaking there anyway!

When it comes down to it, it’s better to go over the top and submit more images than are needed than to have the editor have to send you out for more shots because they don’t have enough to work with. Sometimes it can be a challenge to create enough different shots, especially when circumstances beyond your control limit your options. Other times – as you’ll see in an upcoming post – the difficulty is not in getting enough shots, but in culling them down to a reasonable number because there’s just so much of interest to capture.