A Guest Post by Andrew S Gibson.
With the release of Mitchell Kanashkevich’s eBook ‘Getting Published in Photography Magazines’ as part of the ‘Going Pro: How to Make Money From Your Photography‘ kit I thought it worthwhile to look at the process from the point of view of the photography magazine itself. What do photography magazines look for and what goes through the mind of their staff when they’re considering your submission? As Technical Editor of EOS magazine, I’m in a unique position to give you some insight into those questions.
Your first step when considering a submission is to get hold of several copies of the magazine that you’re interested in and take a good look at the photos it uses. What’s the purpose of the photos in the magazine? Do they illustrate specific photographic techniques? Are they stand-alone images or are they part of an article? Do you recognise any of the names in the photo credits – are they professional photographers or magazine readers? How much post-processing have the images gone through? All of these points help you get a feel for the types of photos used in the magazine.
It helps to be a regular reader – if you’ve read every copy of a magazine published for the last year you’ve probably got a pretty good understanding of their requirements. If it’s the first time you’ve seen this particular magazine, it will take you a bit longer.
Our photo requirements at EOS magazine are quite specific. To start, all the images in the magazine must be taken on a Canon EOS camera. We use photos to illustrate very specific photography techniques. Some of the topics we’ve covered in recent issues are hyperfocal distance, mirror lockup, astrophotography and Picture Styles.
If you read our magazine you’ll notice that we use a lot of comparison photos. As an example, in the Picture Styles article we showed the same photo processed with several Picture Styles so readers could see the differences between them.
What’s the best way to get published in EOS magazine? In the first instance you should read our photo library submission guidelines, available online at www.eos-magazine.com/photolibrary. The information about the types of photos we need, and how to send them to us, all are there.
Once you’ve sent us some photos, we’ll add them to our library and they may get used in the future to illustrate an article. Admittedly, this is bit hit and miss as we have thousands of images on file, and our requirements depend on the articles that we’re writing. But you can increase your chances of publication massively by sending in high quality images that illustrate specific photographic techniques and include comparison photos. If your photos are good enough, they will get noticed.
The second approach is to send some lo-res images by email to our editor (you’ll find her email address in the guidelines). I don’t want to encourage general submissions that way – you should only email images if you have strong set that illustrate a specific technique. So, for example, if you have a set of photos that illustrate the use of Speedlites, then send them in. If the photos are good enough, and we haven’t published anything similar in recent issues (that’s where your market research comes in) we may use them – we may even write an article about the techniques you used if the photos are interesting enough.
We also look for newsworthy photos – such as a set of photos with an interesting story or technique behind them, or a project (such as 365 project). This is the sort of thing that may appear in the news section of our magazine.
Every photography magazine is different and you should study your chosen magazine carefully to see how your photos may be used. Some magazines have a section where they invite readers’ submissions and this can be a good place to get started. I got my first photos published this way. A word of warning – not all photography magazines pay for photos published in these sections. It usually says in the submission guidelines (you did read those didn’t you?) – the magazine may pick an image to receive a prize or you may just get the glory. It’s up to you whether you think this is worthwhile.
What photography magazine staff look for
At EOS magazine I view a number of submissions sent to the magazine. So, what do I look for? There are two important things. First, the quality of the photos has to be excellent. You really need to ask yourself if your photos match up to the quality of the photos already published in the magazine. It’s always difficult to be objective about your own photos, so don’t be afraid to ask for someone else’s opinion. If your photos aren’t up to the required standard then take the time to work on your technique and creative vision until they are.
A little while ago we had a submission from a photographer who had some great images but they were covered with dust spots. That’s not cool. It looks unprofessional and we had to ask him to fix them.
Second, the photos must be relevant to the content of the magazine. They must illustrate a certain technique and do it well.
As well as dealing with images that are submitted to the magazine, I sometimes need to hunt for images that we need. For example, I wrote an article about reverse lens macro photography for the current issue of the magazine. It was surprisingly hard to find good images to illustrate it. Normally I search on Google, or on photo sharing sites like Flickr, 500px or 1x.com.
How can you increase the chances of me or another photo buyer finding your photos? A blog helps immensely. I always search Google to see what I can find when I’m researching articles. If you’ve got some good photos, then write an article about them on your blog. It greatly increases your chances of being found. For example, if you have some great reverse lens macro photos, post them on your blog and explain how you took the photos. The next time that a photography magazine writes an article about this topic, they may find your blog.
You can also post them to the above mentioned photo sharing sites. It’s a good idea to post a detailed description with the images. If I’m looking for photos, I normally have very specific requirements. If your caption mentions the camera, lens, relevant camera settings and explains the technique you used I can see right away whether it fits our needs.
It doesn’t bother me whether you’ve been published before or not. I don’t care whether you’re a professional photographer. All I need to know is whether your photos are good enough for the magazine. Having said that, if you act in a professional manner it makes a good impression and lets me know that you may be a good person to work with in the future too.
How to be professional
If you say you’re going to do something – do it (and do it well). Add a signature to your email account with a link to your website. Don’t have a website? You should – anyone can go to wordpress.com and start their own free website. Don’t think you have to have a professionally designed website, while it would be nice the important thing is to have a professional looking showcase for your images and stories and that’s easy to do at wordpress.com (it’s good enough for Steve McCurry).
Edit your photos. You should only have your best ones on your website. The same goes for photo sharing sites as well, especially Flickr. It makes a much better impression if all the photos you’ve uploaded are high quality – and a poor one if I have to wade through all the rubbish to get to the good stuff.
Play to your strengths. If you’re a Photoshop expert, make sure I get that when I look at your website. If, on the other hand, your specialty is low light photos, make sure that visitors to your site can’t miss that fact (Brent Pearson is good at both).
Long term relationships
Never be afraid to ask about money. It’s OK to ask a magazine what their publication rates are, and it’s always best to double check in case they don’t intend to pay you. It’s rare, I’m sure, but it does happen. I got told once by the editor of a UK photography magazine that they ‘have no budget for photography’.
Photography magazine usually have fixed rates for photos and won’t go beyond that. They may make an exception for a ‘name’ or professional photographer, but generally speaking you’ll have to accept what they tell you. It won’t make you rich, but it could be the start of a long term business relationship.
Photography magazines like EOS magazine have an insatiable need for relevant, high quality imagery. We have a problem to solve each issue – how to fill it with inspirational images that illustrate the techniques we write about. Can you help us solve that problem? If your images will help the magazine fill its pages, you’re on your way to getting published and building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
For example, we have a photographer who supplies us with most of our requirements for photos taken with portable Speedlite flash units. He’s been working for us for years. He’s great at what he does, his photos are creative, the quality is excellent, and if we ask him to do something he always does it on time and delights us with the quality of his photos. If you want to build a long-term relationship with a publisher, that’s the sort of thing you need to do.
One thing leads to another and long-term relationships bring long-term benefits. For example, one of my first published photos appeared in Practical Photography magazine. They asked me to write an article about the story behind the photo, which led to several more photos and articles being published. If I hadn’t ended up working at EOS magazine, that relationship would probably have developed further.
Your photos, our needs
If your photos are good enough, they’ll get published. It may take time – not only do your photos have to be of the highest standard, but they also have to meet the needs of the magazine you’ve sent them to. If you send me some reverse lens macro photos next week, it doesn’t matter how good they are, they won’t get used because we’ve just written an article on that topic and won’t revisit it for another two years at least.
However, if you’d sent them a month or two ago they may have been published. Timing, and luck, are everything. You can increase your chances by asking if the magazine has any current picture requirements. If you have persistence, and the understanding that this is a long-term game, combined with sound photographic technique and a collection of high quality images, sooner or later you’ll get published.
It’s always a pleasure to publish someone’s work for the first time. While I was researching the reverse lens macro article I mentioned earlier, I came across the work of Roni Delmonico and we used some of her images to illustrate the article. She was delighted and wrote about it on her blog. If you act on the advice in this article, next time it could be you.
Andrew S Gibson is a freelance writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. He is the Technical Editor of EOS magazine and writes photography eBooks for Craft And Vision. including The Evocative Image. Follow Andrew on Facebook here.