As a photographer, it is really important that your work gets seen. While you may be lucky enough to have clients who will use your work with full credit, often this is not the case. In fact, most of the time, the work that you create for clients will be used without your name. This means that if you want to get more exposure for your name and brand, rather than relying on word of mouth, your best bet is to get it published yourself.
When your work is published, with your name alongside it, it gives potential clients a chance to see your work. These published images can be added to your portfolio – if taken from a magazine or newspaper, they are known as tearsheets. They establish you as a professional with experience in creating work for print, who has been considered talented enough to have their work chosen by editors. It’s a great idea to try and get some of your work published – especially test shoots, work that was done on a personal project, or anything you are particularly proud of. Here are some tips on how to achieve this for different mediums.
Photography or Specialist Magazines
Most photographers want to see their work in magazines, normally pertaining to their specialism. If you are a fashion photographer, for example, you would want to see your work in a fashion magazine. There are also photographic magazines which showcase the best work in a range of genres. Sometimes they will have themes they ask you to submit to; sometimes there will be open submission; and sometimes they do not accept unsolicited submissions. The first two categories are the ones you should focus on in terms of proactively getting your work published.
The instructions for submission are normally to be found on the website of the magazine, and they can differ from publication to publication. This means that you should read them very carefully, and follow them to the letter. If you make a mistake in the submission process, then you may find that your work is not even considered or looked at. Don’t be arrogant and assume that they will love it no matter what you send. If you send an email which does not have the right subject or does not contain the right information in the body, they may not even open the attachment to view your work.
You need to pick your magazines very carefully, too. For example, some fashion magazines insist that you have a minimum of six different looks in an editorial, consisting of perhaps six to ten images. If you send them over five images of a model in the same outfit, you are wasting both your time and theirs.
When your work has been accepted, you must also be careful not to have it displayed anywhere else before publication – such as on your website, on social media, or in another magazine. Publications like to have exclusivity until the issue has been released. There may be a few exceptions, but they will make this clear in their submission instructions. Be aware also that you are not likely to receive any payment for the use of your images in these cases: normally you just receive a free digital copy of the magazine at most.
If you have local magazines or newspapers, you can think about submitting your work to them. There are a few ways you can go about this. You might ask if they would like to feature you as a local artist. There could be events going on in the area that you can photograph – though it is best to ask ahead in this case as they may send their own photographer to cover them. They may wish to feature other local interest stories for which they can request you to take photographs.
The submission process varies, and you may be best off getting in touch with the editor to see what they are looking for. They may not be able to offer pay, and if they do, it is likely to be on a low budget. Local publications often make only a very small profit, which goes back into paying the staff. You may see this merely as a stepping stone: take on a few assignments or offer them a few photographs before moving on and adding the tearsheets to your portfolio.
Online Blogs, Sites, and Articles
Another place where you may see your images published is on the internet. Normally you can find a website that will feature your images in the same kind of category as a magazine. For example, our fashion magazine from above can be equated to a fashion blog or a fashion news site. These sites are often looking for something specific. For example, if you cover a fashion event, you can offer them the catwalk photographs as part of a feature.
Other sites may be looking for stock-style photography. You can get in touch with someone who is listed as the editor or owner of the site, or just through the main contact email. Let them see a link to your portfolio and let them know that you are happy for them to use your images; mention the fee if you are asking one. Some websites always use free images to cut costs, while others might be happy to pay higher stock prices – it’s all down to the individual.
If you have skill with writing yourself, you could think about submitting an article and using your images alongside it. The pay can once again be variable here. If you want to cut out the work for yourself, you can always list your images on a stock website. This will allow potential users to see your work and judge for themselves whether it will fit their purpose.
There are potentially infinite ways in which you could see your images published, all depending on your market and style of photography. Keep an eye out for contests where the winner will see their work published or exhibited. You can submit it to be included in calendars, or even create your own. There is a lot of opportunity out there, and while not everything will pay well or even pay, sometimes the reward of seeing your work out there is enough.