Ask a Photo Editor: Raydene Salinas of New York Magazine’s The Cut
Raydene Salinas is the Photo Editor of New York Magazine’s fashion and lifestyle vertical The Cut. As a former editor and photographer with the likes of Babble, Time Out New York, The Huffington Post, and more, she has developed a keen eye for what she seeks in photography contributors to the site.
We talked to Raydene about her beginnings in photography, how she learned to be a photo editor, what she finds most compelling about an image, and much more. Read on to learn about her work and view some of her favorite projects from The Cut.
How did you get started in photography? When did you decide you wanted to be a photo editor?
Like a lot of people in photography, it was something I had done when I was young. My mom and my grandpa both really loved photographing things. Not in any sort of professional capacity, but I was around cameras a lot. I remember one of my earliest photography memories is when I forced my baby sister to dress up like a model. I grew up around very rural Wisconsin so we just went around our property and took fashion shots. It was always an interest to me and then I studied at the Art Institute in Colorado to make it a career, be a photographer. While I was there, I realized that as much as I love photography, I’m not the best and I don’t need to be the best. I’m very good I think at what I do, but the thing I found most exciting was finding that person who was the best. At one point I was like, ‘But I know who could do this thing I want to execute…’ so I was thinking in the way of a photo editor, of a producer, so that was what I started really seeking out.
How did you learn to be a good photo editor?
Emily Shornick, former photo editor at The Cut] was just really vocal which is something I haven’t seen in a lot of other places. [Previously] It was a lot of, ‘I need this specific image, please get it for me’ kind of photo editing. She was really able to show that a photo editor can have a vision for the photoshoot or just something that needs images for online, like a stock piece. So that was something I really enjoyed and also little things, like the organizational side of things, like seeing what her workflow was like. Also just the team work of The Cut. It was something in the few meetings that I was a part of being a freelancer in the very social media focused space, it was cool to see all of the editors come together and create ideas and then concept and then produce and have this final product. That wasn’t something at that point I had seen a lot of.
How are the aesthetics of The Cut different than your own, and how do you reconcile them?
I think they match up relatively well, which is why I was so excited about this role. I think that The Cut will sometimes skew a little bit more towards that quirky, weird side of things which is super awesome, but to me I’m like, ‘I’m a little bit grossed out by this but I still want to keep looking at it!’ That’s that line I think The Cut and then New York Magazine cross. It’s cool to see that and recognize I can still enjoy those images when it’s not something I would specifically pick out for myself or my own branding, if you would, and definitely not something I would shoot. I don’t know if there’s necessarily a lot of reconciling, but there is that point of ‘This is what going outside your comfort zone feels like’ in a visual way.
What makes a good, compelling photograph for you?
I think in terms of specific images, if I’m looking at one image, I typically want to see something that has moments of chaos but then somewhere for your eye to rest as well. I’m not necessarily looking for an image that’s very quiet all the time. I also don’t want something I can’t pause with, like if it’s too chaotic, I specifically can feel overwhelmed, like, ‘Where am I looking?!?’ It’s like an anxiety that lives inside of me that can really come out when I’m looking at some images. I’m a visual person so that will happen. I like to have that balance. It’s always nice to have the perfect balance but then push it one way or the other. So maybe it’s a little bit more chaotic but then there’s that bit of calm, whether it’s the color or just a negative space in the image, maybe an expression is what the calm is. And then on the other side, maybe it’s a more quiet image but there’s that one thing that keeps grabbing you toward it, so playing with that balance then skewing one way or the other is what I look for in individual images.
How do you decide if you want someone to shoot for you?
I really love meeting with photographers. I’m very much a vibe person. I feel like my life has really pulled me in the ways that I enjoy taking in the world. So being able to use that almost yogic sensibility is very cool because you can sense when someone is just chill, relaxed, ‘Oh, we’re gonna get along really well.’ And other times, when it’s like, okay, well, this is gonna need a little bit more coaching, and we need to help you calm and let do your thing. Just having that vibe is something that tends to draw me to photographers once I actually meet them. Then the body of work: I like seeing great lighting and great color and if it’s black and white I tend toward a contrasty look and feel. But again, that balance.
What does it take for you to actually want to meet with a photographer?
I love referrals because I know someone has known this person physically, so they have that vibe I don’t have yet. I kind of like cold emails. It’s something I can work on when I have a minute. I don’t feel bombarded by it, so I’m open to those. Sometimes I will have 10 or 12 come into my inbox in a day, and I’m like okay well, these are gonna go in the folder of ‘Look at these when you have a minute.’ No, I can’t see them right away, but I will eventually look at them. So I appreciate that because it feels respectful in that you’re not calling me and interrupting whatever I happen to be working on. If I know you and we’re expecting to chat, then yes, of course, I will be on the phone with you, but cold calls are…no. Possibly I won’t look at your work if you cold call me. It feels so rude to say it, but I’ll call you! Let me come to you.
What’s the best way for an aspiring fashion photographer to get their work on The Cut?
I also really like things in the mail. Not a lot of things, and don’t just send a postcard, but I like photographing pretty things on my desk, so if you see my Instagram, I’ll post some sometimes. So if it’s a cute package, I’m like, ‘Oh, I can’t not post this!’ In terms of just getting work on, I really like ideas to come my way as well. We really cover so much at The Cut that there isn’t a wrong pitch. There’s a way that it, whatever it is, can be covered. And when I meet with photographers I ask them to bring their work and be prepared to talk about their process and how they like to work and also to come with ideas. What do you want to do for us? What of yours do you think would be a good fit for us? Because I don’t know you, I don’t know what your strengths are yet and so for a photographer to come and offer suggestions, like ‘Hey, I shoot a lot of fashion but also when I travel I just take photos, like would you be interested in a photo diary from my last month of travel?’ And it’s like, wait a second, maybe! So it’s things like that where I’m like, oh, I didn’t know, I wouldn’t know that you do that unless you tell me. I think especially for The Cut, staying more on the quirky/interesting/not run of the mill work is another way to get noticed and yes, send me pitches, send me emails: firstname.lastname@example.org.