Whether it’s happened once or 100 times, nothing compares to the rush of seeing your photos in print. However, as most photographers will tell you, getting to that point isn’t easy. Use these tips to improve your chances of making a successful submission.
For many photographers, getting their photos published in their favourite magazines is like finding the holy grail after an arduous quest. Apart from publication being an endorsement of your work and talent, it can open the door to new clients and opportunities. But how do you get your work into those magazines?
These tips can help.
1. Clarify Your Intention
Do you want your photographs in a magazine just so you can say that your work has been published? Or do you want to move into a new genre of photography, and you see publication as a chance to transition into it?
You may even want to use publication as a way of drawing attention to a series of photographic prints in the hope of finding buyers. Whatever images you submit should be in line with your reasons for trying to get your work published.
“Keep the magazine’s target readership in mind.”
2. Consider Your Choice Of Magazines
This article’s all about ways to get your photos published in your favourite magazines. However, if your style and the genre in which you work don’t fit with a magazine’s look and feel, there’s a good chance your submission will be a case of barking up the wrong tree. You have a better chance of seeing your work appear in those magazines if it complements their style.
Before making a submission to a publication, check whether it prefers portraits, moments and events, street photography, black and white or colour images. Ask yourself whether the magazine prefers photos that crackle with drama and intensity, or those that are light and bright. Keep the magazine’s target readership in mind when selecting the photos you want to submit.
3. Choose Your Submissions Carefully
When choosing photos to submit, you may be tempted to select vastly different images showcasing your talents in a range of subjects. However, this stops you from telling a cohesive story. Instead, take the same approach as creating a photobook; focus on images that work well together, and have a solid narrative.
Another reason to make a careful choice is that some magazines want exclusivity. If you’re making a submission to a magazine that has an exclusivity clause, you can’t submit the same selection of photos to another publication.
4. Choose Photos That Show What You Want To Shoot
Your submission should include photos that put you on the road to achieving some of your other goals as a photographer. Choose the images that best show what you want to shoot. For example, if you want to focus on avant-garde fashion or food styling, then select images that show your talents in your preferred genre and style.
“If a publication’s editor or art director is impressed by your submission, there is a good chance that they will look at your other work.”
5. Build Your Portfolio
Most magazines receive numerous submissions from photographers who hope to see their work published, so your work needs to be of an exceptionally high standard. This doesn’t apply only to the images you submit, but to your portfolio in general. If a publication’s editor or art director is impressed by your submission, there is a good chance that they will look at your other work, and your social media profiles too, to make sure you’re a good fit.
If your portfolio and social profiles don’t accurately reflect your talents, interests, style, or preferred genre, you should think about building them up through self-assigned projects. Your favourite magazines are more likely to publish your work if they think your talent is worthy of being showcased—and that goes beyond the images you submit.
Do personal passion projects, styled photoshoots, and free sessions in exchange for model releases signed by the models you shoot.
Portfolio-building can be a great opportunity to develop fresh, new photography ideas. Besides experimenting with your preferred subject matter, try new things with your equipment, and collaborate with other creatives.
When it comes to sitting down and putting your portfolio together, don’t include every photo you’ve ever taken. Curate the images carefully, as you want your portfolio to look and feel aligned with your talent. Use a tool like Format or Squarespace to build your own photography-focused website. A powerful portfolio showcases your talents and vision and shows that you believe in your brand.
6. Be Prepared To Shoot Together
The photos you submit may not be the ones a magazine publishes. Some publications’ editorial staff prefer to work with photographers on a shoot. This offers you a chance to create something exclusively for the magazine—and it offers them the chance to see if you share their vision.
This can be restrictive, as the magazine will more than likely organise the venue, the models, the make-up artist, the wardrobe, and the props. You would need to arrive with your photography equipment and then work with what’s available.
This means lugging around the essentials, which can include one or more cameras, lenses, a reflector, a flashgun, SD cards, a studio flash kit, a laptop, and an external hard drive. You may also need to take backdrop paper or canvas and a backdrop stand. If you don’t have all the basic equipment required for the type of shoot you want to do, you’ll need to know where you can hire it. Make sure you book it in good time.
This approach may be challenging, but it showcases your ability as a photographer far more than a simple submission of your best photos could do. This collaborative approach is not limited to magazines. It’s also an important aspect of the approach of some photobook publishers.
Editor Abigail Dennison revealed that she rarely accepts submissions for her publication. Instead, she prefers to collaborate on shoots with photographers who hope to see their work published in her magazine. Dennison explained that, in most cases, she doesn’t feel a connection to the photographs that photographers submit for publication, and that she would rather avoid random images from people she doesn’t know. Instead, she prefers to publish images that have something special about them.
“Editors may be more inclined to consider your future submissions if they see that your work has appeared in other publications.”
7. Refocus Your Goal If Need Be
One submission rejected by your favourite magazine can be disappointing, and several can be downright discouraging. If publications aren’t yet interested in your work, don’t be disheartened.
Make submissions to other magazines with a similar aesthetic. If they accept and publish your photos, they’ve given you a foot in the door. It will introduce your work to a wider audience, and editors may be more inclined to consider your future submissions if they see that your work has appeared in other publications. It also offers you the chance to strengthen your portfolio by including any publication credits with the relevant photos.