Shots in magazines
Magazines use a phenomenal number of images in every issue, so they’re a natural opportunity for photographers looking to make money. And with specialist magazines covering all manner of subjects, combining your photography with your hobby – be it scuba diving, stitching or steam trains – can provide art editors with an invaluable source of images that they simply won’t be able to find in generic stock libraries.
However, with their tight deadlines and a busy schedule it can be hard to get their attention – at least in a way that you want. Very few art editors will appreciate you calling them to give your big sales pitch if they’re busy sending the magazine to press, but a quick phone call won’t hurt. However, don’t simply email the art editor with lots of large images attached, or even worse, a massive list of Flickr links – it looks amateurish. The best approach is to send a web page link that shows a carefully selected portfolio of images.
By “carefully selected” we mean just one or two (at most) versions of the same subject; art editors don’t want to see a whole sequence of shots taken at different apertures because you couldn’t decide how much depth of field works best. You need to show enough images to give them a sense of the quality of your photography and the range of subjects you like to shoot. It can help to theme the images by subject, style or technique, and explain briefly what you’ve done in your email.
All magazines work on a seasonal cycle, so in the winter you’ll tend to see shots of frost and snow and in the summer bright blue skies and sandcastles. However, most magazines are put together at least a month ahead of their publishing date, and the planning starts months earlier than that. August is the traditional time for many magazines to start thinking about Christmas, for example, so it’s no good sending in shots from your summer holidays then. If your pictures are really memorable, you might be lucky and find that they get used the following summer, but the picture editor is going to be looking for autumn, Christmas and winter images during the summer months.
It’s all about timing
Before you contact a magazine, spend some time researching it and finding out the types of features it runs, and be honest about whether your images are really good enough to feature in it. Also check which subjects have been covered recently, to avoid repetition. Finally, be realistic: you’re unlikely to sell a major feature with images if you haven’t been published before.
10 tips for making money from magazines
Start for free
A good way of getting your work published initially is by submitting images for readers’ pages and letter sections. You may not get paid, but it’ll get your name known and will help you build relationships with editors.
Stick to deadlines
Be 100% reliable and on time with submissions. Journalists are always pushed for time, and they’ll favour photographers who are consistently professional in their manner and easy to work with.
Don’t send images to more than one publication at once. You may think you’re more likely to get accepted somewhere, but if two publications both print the same shot in their next issue, neither will want to use you again.
It’s fine, however, to mention and link to your previously published work when pitching other photos to a new title. Editors read other magazines, and if you’ve been published a few times it shows you know what you’re doing.
Try Online publications
Most popular print magazines also have a digital presence these days, which will often feature different content to the printed version, so consider approaching publications via this angle too.
Send out regular contact sheets, which are PDFs with lots of small images. These are easy for editors to refer to quickly if they’re looking for a particular colour or subject matter to fill a space. Don’t bug editors, but send a brief email once a month with examples of new work.
Try your local media
Another way of getting your photos published when you’re starting out is to contact local titles. They won’t pay a fortune, but local magazines, newspapers and websites will often need reportage shots of events, or photos of nearby landscapes.
Pitch it right
The best way to submit photos is by sending an email with a small selection of low-res versions of the images you want considered, plus a link to your website and a description of when, where and how the photos were taken. And a pro-looking online portfolio is essential.
Sell your hobby
If, for example, you’re a cycling nut who loves photography, why not combine your passions and pitch your photos of sports events to bike magazines? Read all the specialist mags you can get your hands on to give you a feel of what they’re looking for.
Check what contract a magazine wants you to sign. When a magazine uses stock images, for example, contributors sign a One Time Use contract that allows the photos to be published in a single magazine issue and associated digital editions.