Breaking into magazines

Happy Holidays; getting published …

Winter storm at Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Winter storm at Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park

First of all, Happy Holidays!

I’m traveling for the final two weeks of 2015. I’ll be spending about 15 straight days within a few hours’ drive from any of five national parks, and won’t be able to visit even one!

Alas, the time with my family is more than worth the trade, especially getting to see my 33-month-old daughter enjoying the first Christmas she actually “gets.” She’s loving every minute of her extended holiday.

I wish the same to you and yours.


This Week’s Question

Q.  I have only been into photography a little over a year but have produced some really good stuff. People are always telling me that I should submit them for contests, or hang them in a gallery, or they could be postcards or calendars. So my question is, How does one get their photos out there to be published in a magazine? I can’t seem to be able to find the answer and since you have, I thought I would try asking. — Greg L., Houston

A. The best route is often to package something a magazine will value for its readership—i.e., a story.

As a former magazine editor, I can tell you this: The currency of magazine freelancers is ideas. The more ideas you can provide to your magazine clients, the “richer” you will be in terms of opportunities to be published. If you can generate a story idea based around your photography, that can be your best ticket to being published, especially with a publication you don’t have an established relationship with.

I’d suggest identifying your absolute strongest area of photography, looking at your best work in that area, and trying to conceive and then build a story around it. It could be an idea for a strong text-based feature, or a concept for a photo essay. Research the magazines that cover that topic, and study what sort of articles they run. Those are the kinds of ideas to pitch to them; they won’t stray far from their model, because they know what their readers want to see and read. (If you don’t write, then you could find a writer to work with you, and pitch stories as a team.)

Once you put together a professional pitch, be ready to have it ignored or rejected many times. Honestly, don’t take it personally, and don’t let it temper your ambition. Just keep re-sending it to other publications, perhaps tweaking it to suit each title’s editorial angle or niche.

For a great guide to publications that work with freelancers, check out the books Writers Market and Photographer’s Market. (The latter also has chapters and articles about getting photos published.)

If you’d prefer to just show your photos to an art director and try to get assignments, generally the best practice is to work regionally. Towns, counties and states often have magazines open to working with new talent. Send an email or a letter, or perhaps a professionally printed card, then follow up with a call and see if they’ll have a look at your work. Have a professional-looking website—they’ll likely just ask to see that rather than a physical portfolio.

I hope that helps. Good luck with your venture.


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