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So You Want to Get Published?

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By Skip Cohen

There’s no singular secret to getting published. It’s a combination of networking, quality, timing and patience.

Networking: Everyone would like to think that having an image published is completely objective, but often work showing up on the pages and websites of the magazines we most respect is the result of great networking.

Here’s a typical scenario: A magazine is doing a story about a particular subject and the editorial staff needs to find images to go with the story. First, they’re going to draw from their own personal “stash,” files of images that have been sent to them previously. Second, they might contact photographers they personally know in their network. Third, they might contact the various manufacturers relevant to the story and draw from their files.

Here’s a terrific reason to network when you’re attending any trade show or convention. Get to know the exhibitors. Get to know the editorial staff from the various magazines. Even more important – they need to get to know you and your work. Just a simple post card with some of your images on it will often be enough to plant a seed in an editor’s mind that might benefit you down the line.

Here’s my favorite follow-up technique, going back to my Hasselblad days. I loved it when a photographer who I’d met would send me something after the convention. The most effective ones were simply a postcard showing some of their images with a note thanking me for my time. It jarred my memory and showed me work using Hasselblad gear. Easy, simple and a great demonstration of the photographer’s skill set. If you want to make post cards, you don’t have to go any farther than a great lab like WHCC to find a whole source of ideas to draw from. If you want help designing AND printing your card, another source is Marathon Press.

Quality: Nobody wants to publish an average image. That means it’s up to you to build a reputation for quality photographs, but it goes deeper than just a well-exposed image. It’s about every step of the photographic process, especially composition.

Look at cover shots for example. An image has to look good when framed with the magazine’s header, the logo on the cover. And make sure you consider how the image is going to reprint – often great images just might not reproduce well when printed on the paper stock of the magazine, which can be anything from newsprint to a discounted lightweight paper. Even images published on the Internet have to maintain a quality, look and feel consistent with the publication.

Timing: You’ve got no control over timing – it’s either right or it isn’t and often it’s about luck. Here’s my favorite example of great timing.

My friendship with Scott Bourne goes back about fifteen years ago, when the Hasselblad X-pan was introduced.  Scott had taken some outstanding images and sent them to us for consideration. While we didn’t have an immediate use for them, a day or two later, I got a request from Studio Photography and Design. They were doing a story on the X-pan and wanted a photographer they hadn’t written about before, who was using the camera. I had Scott’s images right there. I didn’t know Scott, but his work was outstanding. I sent his whole package over to the magazine and they used his images in the story.

The images were relevant to our needs at the time and here’s where Scott’s ability as a photographer played a role. The images were outstanding and demonstrated the quality Hasselblad and the magazine wanted to represent. Again, you can’t control timing, but if you don’t get your images out there for people to see, then how will they ever find out about you?

Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of “great timing:”

  • Submit work to the manufacturers whose products you use that demonstrates their gear in action. You might wind up being featured in their booth at a trade show or one of their brochures and it’s a great way to start getting noticed.
  • Submit work for photo contests and print competitions. First, it’s a great experience, but second, you never know who’s looking at the work and judging the contest!
  • When you send images to a magazine, get the name of an editor or writer. Don’t just send them in cold – you need a contact and then work to develop a relationship with that person.
  • Be relevant – new products, new concepts and techniques are all newsworthy. Pay attention to what’s going on in the market and keep your images cutting edge.
  • What blogs do you follow and do you have your own blog?  It takes time to build up traffic on a blog, but it’s a great way to share your images – but remember the issue of quality – NEVER publish images that are just average!

Patience: Patience is the cornerstone of the foundation for virtually every photographer who’s ever been published. You just have to wait it out. You never know when an over-worked underpaid member of the editorial world is going to look at one of your images and see the “wow” factor. You need to develop a psyche that simply accepts rejection. Just because your work wasn’t chosen for an article, cover shot, etc. doesn’t mean you’re not getting noticed.

Most important of all don’t make a pest of yourself. Patience is about building your reputation one person at a time. Make it a point to keep in contact with your favorite manufacturers, magazines and websites, but don’t get in anybody’s face! Keep it light, sincere and consistent and don’t go overboard with emails, phone calls or even personal visits.

Being published is about recognition and the result of staying focused. Like so many different aspects of any career, Thomas Edison said it best,  “The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”


Written by scottbourne

May 3, 2010 at 7:02 am

Posted in Getting Published

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Are You Trying to Get Published? Editing Counts

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Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved

When it comes to selecting the best photos to show buyers and publishers, most photographers show far too many images. What’s worse, many of the images they end up selecting are not their best.

The first rule of good editing is be brutal. If there is even ONE thing you don’t like about a particular photo, don’t include it in your portfolio. Editors are accustomed to looking at only the very best images. Good images will not be good enough to compete. So, choose only great images or your very best work.

Narrow your best images down to 25 and then, narrow them down again. To finish the job, consider paying a consultant to critique your work. After explaining the target audience for your images, ask the consultant, “Are these the right photos to show?” Then listen to their advice.

Most photographers have great difficulty in editing their own work. They end up selecting shots that have emotional or sentimental value to them, but do not work in a portfolio. Try to get professional assistance if you can afford it or if you have a relationship with an art director, designer, editor or buyer, ask them to evaluate your portfolio before you submit it for review.

Also use online tools like and ask for feedback. Join pro groups or groups comprised of serious amateurs. Showing images to lots of people is a good way to help complete the editing process successfully.

And always remember – just because you fell in love with one of your images, doesn’t mean the photo buyer will too.

Written by scottbourne

March 27, 2010 at 7:04 am

Posted in Getting Published

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