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How to Plan the Perfect Cover Shoot

Jun 21st, 2017 by Issuu Ops

By Giselle MelendresEditor in Chief, Mad Sounds Magazine

You often hear the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but this piece of advice is not always applicable, especially in the way we view magazines. Magazines, unlike books, are often publications heavily centered around their visual content, and their covers tend to be one of the most important selling points. As the editor of Mad Sounds Magazine, I’ve found that our issues with the “best” covers receive the highest amount of reads and engagement. After all, a great cover should be able to connect to the reader, be a visual portrayal of what your magazine represents as a brand and give a clear vision as to what the issue or magazine is about.

There are a few steps I always consider when planning a shoot that may help your cover shoot go off without a hitch.

Stay True to Your Brand/Theme

Covers are often reflections of the magazine, and your cover should be a photo that reflects the content and style of the magazine itself. Start the process of planning your cover shoot by jotting down ideas or concepts that you want to come through in your cover photo. Make sure that your ideas are evocative of your publication and your personal brand, and be mindful of what ideas may be considered “off-brand.” If your publication has themed issues like Mad Sounds, use your theme to your advantage by brainstorming ideas that could be integrated into a cohesive theme.

Assemble the Right Team

Before getting started on planning the cover shoot, assess what team members you’ll need for the actual production of the shoot. Consider whether or not you will need a stylist, makeup artist, or hairstylist, and be sure to choose a photographer whose work will align with the vision of your brand. Be sure to contact photographers, stylists and other necessary team members by sending over a media kit of your magazine’s statistics, audience demographics and other pertinent information.

Make a Moodboard

Moodboards are another important step in planning your cover shoot. Not only does a moodboard help you to visualize your ideas, but it can also help to articulate your ideas to the photographer, stylist, makeup artist and any other team members involved in the creative process. Make a Pinterest board or collage of inspiration, including photos, colors, locations and any themes or ideas you plan on incorporating into your shoot. After you’ve finished making a moodboard for your designated cover shoot, be sure to share your ideas with your photographer and stylists. Below is an example of a moodboard that we used to help guide a recent Mad Sounds cover shoot.

Find Your Location (and Be Aware of Variables)

Finding the perfect location for a cover shoot may sound easy, but there are many factors that must be considered. If the location is outdoors, consider the weather, population of the area and time of day in which you would like to shoot. Shooting midday on a busy city street might make for harsh lighting with crowds of people in your shot, and shooting on a beach in overcast weather might run the risk of having rain or dirt on your client and their clothing. Websites like are also helpful in finding the perfect cover shoot location and have a variety of lofts, studios and other cool spaces available to rent on an hourly basis. Recently, we used Peerspace to rent a cool downtown Los Angeles loft to complete hair and makeup for our cover shoot with Megan Batoon.

Communication is Key

When you’re working with a team it’s important to stay organized and keep in contact. Try to have the details of the day planned out to the minute. Then make a call sheet accounting for which team members will be at the shoot, their contact information, the project concept, the address of the location, parking instructions and any other details that will aid your team in ensuring the shoot goes smoothly.

Create Your Perfect Cover

The process of planning your cover shoot might be the most daunting part of the shoot itself, but there is no better feeling than seeing your creative vision come to life on an awesome cover. If you follow these steps, you’re bound to create some amazing images, think of new and innovative ideas for your magazine and hopefully have a great experience working with a team on a creative shoot.

You can follow Giselle on Twitter and Instagram @gisellelisabeth. Follow Mad Sounds Magazine on issuu.