Quite frequently I get asked what the process is for getting one’s car featured in the magazine. In the nearly 20 years that I’ve been performing that particular “process”, the rudimentary rules haven’t really changed—we like your car, we photograph it, you fill out a form and sign a release, we write and prepare the feature, and the rest is up to the printer. Simple enough, right?
Back in the day when computers were nothing more than word processors (at least you got to choose your favorite monitor display color: green or orange!), having your car featured in a magazine meant a lot more. Plus, there were more magazines to choose from—or in this case, to be chosen by. Not unheard of was seeing the same car featured in multiple magazines. It wasn’t something editors were particularly fond of—that is, unless they were the first to get it—but it was tolerated, especially with the bigger name builders or the more standout cars. Back then, the way I saw it, there was always another angle to a story or an opportunity to out-photograph the others. Sometimes both!
Well, as time went on, the competition thinned out, and most notably, the cyber world changed all the rules of the game, so it became more of an issue when cars popped up in more than one printed issue. That’s where the between-the-lines criteria was unofficially drawn up and added to the feature vehicle requirements … or shall I say “commandments”? In some perspectives it’s sort of silly, but ultimately, in order to keep the content of each magazine as fresh and unique as we possibly can, being micro-selective is necessary. It’s not the same as it used to be, that’s for sure. But while I may be semi-OK with the one-shot philosophy (even though I’m known to the break rules often), many people on the other side of the camera lens are not, if they’re even aware of it to begin with.
Recently, I was at car show just doing my thing—walking the ’grounds, taking in all the landscape while trying to scout potential feature vehicles. During my canvassing, I happened upon the owner of a particular car that had caught my eye earlier in the day. Accompanying the gentleman were his father and the actual builder, each wearing some form of attire signifying the shop responsible for the build (which was how I even knew to approach them in the first place). Upon my inquiring about the car in question, the builder was quick to admit that it’d already been shot by another magazine. Game over on my side of the court—but it wasn’t quite finished on theirs. The owner then chimed in by asking what difference that made, also adding that he thought cars were featured in multiple magazines all the time. Luckily, before I could counter his statements, in came the builder explaining precisely what was just about to roll off the tip of my tongue. “They don’t do that anymore … it’s just an unwritten rule of theirs.” Thinking that was that and we’d all be on our merry ways, the owner still persisted, wanting further explanation and reasoning, which I did my best to convey as convincingly as possible … I have a feeling he’s still a little ruffled in the feather department to this day.
Ideally, that’s the way it should always go down—“do ask, do tell” as I like to put it. But it doesn’t always happen that way, and as a more recent situation will show, it can actually go much worse—and much farther than the initial conversations. Without going into all the details, let’s just say that in this case, the owner neglected to inform neither myself nor the freelance photographer assigned to shoot his car that just two months prior, the same (direct-competition) magazine that had photographed the car noted above had also shot his. Ultimately, everyone lost out on that one.
Then we have the other feature scenario—the one where we shoot first, but don’t run it right away. To me, that’s as bad on the owners as the above-mentioned is on me. You go to all the trouble of having it shot (be it at an event or on special location), your anticipation builds exponentially, and then, the wait. After a certain length of time, I’m sure a good percentage of “patients” get tired of opening issue after issue hoping to finally see their car on the pages within … but don’t. Each month I go flipping through the files choosing features for the next issue, I feel like I’m at a pet store picking out a puppy from a giant litter—how do I take just one without feeling guilty about leaving the rest behind? Except in this case, at least I get to go back to that litter of features on a monthly basis, which means ultimately, every dog will eventually have its day—I promise. And despite what you may think, it doesn’t hurt to bark a little louder every now and then, if you know what I mean?
Back then, the way I saw it, there was always another angle to a story or an opportunity to out-photograph the others. Sometimes both!