In the past, getting published was the only way to get your work out in front of the masses. Now, with self-publishing social media platforms and personalized photography websites, the landscape has changed. We find ourselves asking, do we even need to get published anymore as photographers? We believe, depending on your goals as a business owner and artist, there is a real benefit from getting published.
Benefits of Getting Published as A Photographer
You are drawing a parallel from their style to yours. When your work is published in a magazine or on a blog, you are essentially aligning your brand with theirs.
You are increasing your brand’s strength. Being able to put a trusted brand’s logo next to yours will help you essentially co-opt some of their credibility. It validates and increases your confidence. This might feel like a weird one, but as a business owner, you need feedback on what you are doing.
It pushes you to continue to create great work. Having a goal to get published in your favorite publications will help propel you to make better and better work.
Best Practices for Photography Publication Submission
Becoming a published photographer is a complicated process. There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of being chosen for your submission.
First, find your voice. Your aesthetic should be consistent and truthful to what you love to shoot. Your look should be consistent. The publications will vet you; make sure everything they find is 100% consistent and high quality.
Make a plan. A well thought out plan is going to drastically increase your chances of being published over wildly submitting to any publication you can find. Start by creating a database of local and national publications. Take note of where your peers are being published; these should be at the top of your list. The list should also prioritize smaller publications. Once smaller publications publish you, you are more likely to be considered by larger publications.
Also, make sure every publication on your list is on brand. Every magazine and blog has a slightly different aesthetic. Choose publications that are complementary to your style.
In your plan, create a snapshot of what a publication requires. Include their submission schedule and guidelines. Make sure to stay organized and keep good notes.
Publications don’t always give a proper heads-up before they publish your work. Submitting the same work to competing publications is a rash move that may lead to duplicate work being published, possible blacklisting you from those publications. Most publications have rules about this, take them seriously.
Put yourself in the editors’ shoes. It’s important to have a deep understanding of what they have recently published and what seasonally relevant. If they just published a light and airy barn wedding don’t submit that. Try to send them something new and fresh. Remember they look at many submissions each day. Think about which of your photos would add the most value to their publication.
Do not submit identical work. Publications don’t always give a proper heads-up before they publish your work. Submitting the same work to competing publications is a careless move, and may lead to having duplicate work published, which will blacklist you from them both. Most publications have rules about this, take them seriously.
How to Submit To Publications as a Photographer
Every publication has its requirements. There are a few best practices you should consider for every submission.
Don’t submit a catalog of photos in hopes that they will like one. This devalues your good images. Cut any photo that you don’t consider to be one of your best. Be intentional.
Send complete submissions. When a submission is turned-in ready-to-use, it can increase the chances of that submission getting published.
Paint a story. Magazines tell stories. Write the story behind your images (literally or metaphorically). Create a page mockup in the style of the publication, and don’t be afraid to send a couple of variations. Make it easy for them to visualize what your work will look like in their publication.
Note: It can be easier to pitch an article vs. photography alone. If you have the story, write it.
Be professionally persistent and don’t give up! Wait a couple of weeks then send a follow-up email. Resist the urge to call unless explicitly asked to do so. Harassment will not get you anywhere with editors. One technique for getting noticed is to follow and interact with the editors and their publications on social media. Try to subtly put yourself top of mind.
Competition is fierce, and you can safely expect to be met with denial (or worse, no response at all) more often than not. But keep trying, and continue to spend focused time perfecting your portfolio and fine-tuning your approach with these guidelines in mind.