Above: Jan Wright, Mae Gilliland Wright and Jonathan Wright pose for one of multiple photos stitched together to create this issue’s composite cover, February 8, 2021.
Planning a photo shoot is always challenging—even more so for a cover. Our current cover image is not what it appears to be, and I want to share the remarkable story of how it all came together.
When considering a cover image, you first need to come up with a concept that is both visually appealing and editorially significant. Then you have to explain the concept to your subject(s) and photographer, get their buy-in, and determine the ideal backdrop (considering the weather and time of day, if it’s an outdoor shoot). The photographer may need to scout the location in advance to determine the lighting required and work through any number of environmental variables. You’ll have to coordinate schedules with everyone involved. Then comes the shoot… and you just hope everyone shows up on time and nothing goes awry. Be prepared for something to go wrong; it always does. And always—always—have a backup plan.
The added dimension of COVID has complicated this process even more over the last year. How do you get the shots you need while maintaining six feet of social distance? Do the subjects wear masks, or not?
For this month’s cover, we worked through all of the above with our extraordinarily talented photographer, Jeffery Noble. Jeff suggested we not wear masks, as readers long for some semblance of post-COVID normalcy. But, to safely go maskless with seven people from three different organizations would require a composite—stitching together the final image from multiple photos to make it look like we were all in the same shot.
This comes with its own set of challenges. Once in place, the camera cannot be moved. The seven of us, wearing masks, were first posed together and our positions marked on the floor with tape; then we split into groups for the final, maskless shots.
Post-production is often as much work as the shoot itself. If one person’s smile or stance is better in one photo, but another person’s eyes are closed, for example, some face swapping might be necessary. None of this would be possible without a talented and tech-savvy artist making it all happen. To that end, we extend sincere thanks and gratitude to Jeff Noble for making the impossible possible! —Jonathan Wright, Editor in Chief