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One of the markets for freelance photographers is the many national, regional and local magazines and periodicals. Of course, that market is very competitive, especially for the high-profile magazines. Generally, only the most accomplished digital photographers with an established career and portfolio of published work can expect to attract the attention of those photo editors or managing editors.
You may not be there yet, but you can gain experience with local and regional publications that also need photos just as much as the big boys. This PhotographyTalk.com article presents a few suggestions about how to prepare and approach those publications that are more likely to provide you with an opportunity.
Prepare Your Skills
To maximize the likelihood of your digital photos being published in a magazine, you must have developed your photography skills well beyond a beginner’s level and have taken enough pictures to have a reasonable portfolio. Except in rare cases, you’ll probably need a DSLR camera and a selection of lens, filters and other equipment to create a good portfolio and be able to shoot the specific kind of pictures a publication may want to buy from you.
It may be a good idea to enter a number of photo contests to see how your skills and results rate in comparison to other photographers. If you haven’t already, then join a digital photography club, locally and/or online, where you’re apt to meet photographers with more experience than you. They can provide that critical and objective eye to help judge whether you’re ready to market yourself to magazines. You can solicit guidance from your instructor if you’re taking a photo course, or maybe a photography professor at the local college or university will give you a few minutes of his or her time to review your work.
Even before you’re ready to compete in the magazine photography world, devote some quality time to research. Visit your local bookstore with a large magazine selection and look for publications that seem to publish the kind of photographs that match what you’ve shot or like to shoot: landscapes, vacations, nature, sports, children, pets, families, etc. Some may use photos of public events and occurrences, much the same as a traditional newspaper. That is essentially photojournalism, which requires a different skill set and experience.
Now, you can look at major magazines for examples, but only the best and most experience photographers are published there. That’s why you should set a more realistic goal to sell yourself to local and regional magazines, as your entry point. Those are the publications you want to make sure you purchase at the bookstore.
Visit Publication Web sites
You can do much of your research on magazine Web sites, even look at issues instead of buying them. Be aware, however, that some local and regional publications may not have a Web presence. What’s of particular importance for you are the publications’ guidelines for bidding on photo assignments and submitting photos. Editors and publishers will simply disregard any inquiries or submissions that don’t follow their guidelines.
One of the most critical elements of any submission is a query letter. The editor will expect you to state in brief terms a specific story idea or topic in which to use your photos will appear. You should also state exactly why your photos would benefit the magazine: they improve the overall look, better than the others published on the same subject, help to increase circulation, etc. Include a short list of where your photos have already been published.
The contents, including photos, of many publications are planned months in advance; so don’t submit an idea for the Fourth of July during June or outdoor winter landscapes during January. Editors and publishers are slow to respond to query letters and submissions, first because they are busy and second because they want to spend whatever time they have with the photographers they use or know they want to use, not the next new kid on the block. In fact, don’t be surprised that some guidelines state that only those photographers that have been selected will be contacted by the publication.
Magazine publishers and editors are often just as they are portrayed in the movies and TV: tough, demanding and hurried and harried. Rise to that challenge with persistence, patience, commitment and confidence in your ability and you just may penetrate their hard exteriors.
Read these related PhotographyTalk.com articles for more tips.