On the way to the ICSC show in Las Vegas, I was standing in the check-in line at the airport and as always, the clerk asked for a photo ID. I calmly handed over my driver's license expecting to get a boarding pass in return.

The clerk happily informed me she couldn't accept my license as identification because it expired six months ago on my birthday; and did I have another picture ID? — I didn't.

With malicious glee she said I wouldn't be allowed on the plane without identification. My hands were sweating and my blood pressure rising.

I pulled out the latest issue of Shopping Center World and showed her my photo. She was crestfallen and handed over my boarding pass without another word.

The impact of a photograph holds true for the cover of a magazine as well. The editors spend a great deal of time and effort searching for the perfect cover image. We want it to make a statement. It can be a long and arduous task but when the right slide comes along and screams to be used as the cover illustration, it makes it all worth it. There's a great sense of satisfaction involved.

Keeping this in mind, I'd like to ask for your help in ferreting out the best possible images to vie for the coveted cover spot. I know there are photographs out there we never get to consider. So here's your chance to send me your best images.

As a photo editor and photographer in a previous life, I've put together a few suggestions to help narrow down the search:

  • Subject matter can be any shopping center interior or exterior shot, including grocery store, free-standing center or mall.
  • Slides or transparencies always work best. Most of the time we must enlarge the image 300% to 400%. Therefore, we must have a very focused image to start with. Nothing blurry or grainy will do.
  • That doesn't mean we won't accept digital images, but they must be of the highest quality (no less than 300 dpi (dots per inch). The higher the dpi the better). These can be e-mailed.
  • Invest in a loupe (magnifier) and light table to help with the culling. Using these tools anyone can learn to see the grain or blur of an image.
  • When getting ready to take a picture, make sure there are no light posts, trees or sign posts jutting up in the center. These will spoil the image.
  • If there are people in the photo, that's OK. Sometimes that makes the store look more real.
  • Photos should be vertical in nature. Don't try to make a horizontal photo vertical, it doesn't work.
  • Study the composition of our covers. Notice we need room for the logo and the cover blurbs; something not too busy and not cropped too tight works best.
  • Lighting is critical. If the photograph is too light or too dark or both in different locations, it can't be used.
  • When possible hire a professional photographer. They are trained to compose an image and are certainly worth the investment.

Ultimately, we like to share information on the terrific centers this industry produces. What better way to do this than with a photograph?