Commercial Photography – How to Shoot for Magazines
With the explosion of digital photography, it has created a lot of opportunities in photography that once were not available to anyone but professional photographers. This explosion of new photographers has helped to broaden the market for both publications and photographers themselves, creating new sources of images and new places to sell them. But as a new photographer it may seem challenging to get started so let's take a look at the world of magazine photography.
4-19-12: Published by Lost Albatross on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)
The World of Magazines
Sure, there are plenty of magazines out there that deal primarily in celebrity gossip or trendy news. Since it's not likely you will be booking Brad Pitt into your studio (or sneaking around outside his house), it's important to remember that there are thousands of magazines out there that are all dedicated to pretty much everything else.
There are magazines on cars, dogs, computers, fitness, home decor, cooking and so many others. These magazines are always on the market for relevant and useful images that fit their niche.
i got published in Avalanche Echoes by iwona_kellie on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
One way to think about it is that these magazines will always need images of their topics and are happy to pay for them. Dog magazines will always need good pictures of dogs, and are more than willing to pay for them.
How to Get Started
First, you should look for a niche that you find interesting. No matter what you love to take pictures of, there is probably a market for it somewhere. Once you've decided on a market, swing by your local bookstore and grab a few magazines off the rack.
Be looking for the kind of photos that they use and think about if those are the kinds of pictures you could take. Make sure that you're really honest with yourself at this stage because if you can't shoot the kind of quality pictures that they're using then you need to keep practicing before you start.
Published Again! by me'nthedogs on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
Once you're ready, look through each magazine and find the photo editor or information on how to submit photos. You want to make sure that you understand the magazine's guidelines before you start otherwise your pictures will likely not be accepted. Once you have all the details nailed down, send in your photos. When you send in your photos, make sure to accompany them with a note or letter with a link to your portfolio.
It's Time to Wait
Anytime you submit a photo to a magazine, plan to wait several weeks for a response. Magazines are a print media, and even if accepted your photographs will not show up for a few months. Additionally, it's always best to only submit each photo to one publication at a time, this way you don't run the risk of having to decline an offer because another editor has chosen to use your image.
published by Zanastardust on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
Most magazines will note their usual wait time for a response, which can be anywhere between two and eight weeks. If after that time you still haven't heard anything, then send a polite follow up message to the editor about your submission.
What's so surprising about selling pictures to magazines is that the process is so easy. All you have to do is find it, shoot it and mail (plus a little waiting). Selling your photographs to a magazine may sound like a crazy idea, but once you get started making submissions, you'll wish you would have started doing it sooner!