How to sell your photos to a magazine

How to sell your photos to a magazine

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 18/05/12

Last night IdeasTap, in association with Blurb and PhotoShelter, hosted a panel discussion on what photo buyers want from photographers. Photography commissioners from GQ, Q Magazine and STERN shared some of their top tips…

Get in touch with photo editors 

The best way to contact James Mullinger, Photographic Director at GQ Magazine, is by post: “The old school way is the best. Inboxes are full because there’s always stuff coming in, so send a nicely printed 10x8 shot that you think reflects the magazine you’re sending it to.” If you’re lucky it will get stuck up on the wall and next time the photography team is looking for a photographer to use for a shoot, it could be you. Dagmar Seeland, UK Picture Editor at STERN, prefers to be reached by telephone. “I get 50, 60, 70 emails a day so a lot end up in the bin. Give me a call – I won’t bite!” Remember photo editors are a varied bunch, so it’s good idea to give them a quick call and ask how they prefer to receive images. 

Be prepared to do your own production – and post-production 

These days, as magazines are trying not to spend too much, they often look for photographers who can do production in-house. James: “Because of staff cuts, workloads, we need someone who can do all the production and already has their team in place.” The same goes for post-production. “There is more demand for photographers to do their own retouching," says Russell O’Connell, Picture Director at Q Magazine. 

BUT don’t go overboard with retouching 

“Some photographers do retouching badly,” says Russell. “They polish their pictures to make up for their shortfalls.” James agrees, adding: “The biggest mistake is cleaning up people’s skin too much – you want to see their pores.” 

Avoid styles that could soon look dated 

“A few years back, HDR [High Dynamic Range Imaging] was the in thing,” recalls Russell. “As soon as I see a picture like that, I delete it. Be careful of trends. Just as in the nineties, everything was cross-processed, we’ll look back at HDR and think, ‘That was then’.” 

Digital is preferable 

“It’s hard to deliver a print [that has been shot on film] finished without getting it scanned in and retouched,” says James. “And repro houses don’t have the capability any more – they don’t have good enough scanners.” Russell points out that: “Once the magazine is printed, due to the low grade of the paper stock, the tonality [you get with film] is lost.” Ultimately though, it comes down to deadlines. Dagmar: “We tend not to do it. We just haven’t got the time.”

You never know who might be checking out your Flickr stream

“I haven’t commissioned photographers through Instagram but I have through Flickr,” says Russell. “There is some brilliant stuff. I can see it going more towards that.” Dagmar concurs. “We once found a ‘photo of the week’ on Flickr. It was published as a double page spread and we paid the photographer €900.”

 

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Image: Tabloids of Japan by _Davo_ on a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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