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How to get your images published

There are a variety of reasons why you might want to get your images published. Firstly, there’s the feelgood factor. It feels good to see your photos in print in a newspaper or magazine. You can get a little confidence boost from it and enjoy your moment in the limelight.

Secondly, you may be setting out in business and want to get your images seen more widely. If you can get your images published in the media then you might be able to reach more people and you’ll also have something to write about on your website & social media. It isn’t a route to instant fame, unless you have something truly exceptional to share. But, it can help and it doesn’t have to cost you anything.

Thirdly, you might be hoping to be commissioned by a magazine one day. So, you may want to get some shots published with them so they are familiar with your work. Or, you may want to be able to show a track record of having images published regularly in the media when approaching media companies or trying to get PR jobs with businesses.

Fourthly, you might be hoping to be paid for your photos. Some publications might well pay for photos that they want to print. Perhaps you think that it might be a good supplementary income and a way to earn money from photos you’ve already taken.

Regardless of what your reason might be for wanting to get your images published, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success. It can be frustrating submitting pictures over and over but not seeing them used and quite probably also getting no response at all. So, make sure you bear a few things in mind when thinking of submitting your images for publication:

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Front Cover

1. Do your research

Make sure that you check that you are submitting the right kind of image to the right people. Obviously you don’t want to send you finest architectural photos to a wildlife magazine. Don’t be lazy, check exactly what kind of content they publish and try to match that as close as possible.

2. Pay attention to submission guidelines

Check if there are any submission guidelines and if so make sure you stick to them. If they ask for files to be sent using their online portal then make sure you use that. If they specify a particular file type or pixel dimensions then make sure you get that right. If you fail to follow the guidelines they give then don’t be surprised if your images are rejected. They don’t have time to filter through all sorts of sources and probably don’t want to spend time waiting for high resolution images to download. So, don’t make an enemy before they’ve even had a chance to consider you picture.

How to get your images published - Nelson's Journey charity ball

3. Find something with a story

Yes, people are looking for good images. But, if you can attach a good story to them as well then you create an extra layer of interest. Find a publication whose readers would want to hear about your story and see the image(s) and approach them.

4. Play to their interests

Make sure that their interests are at the front of your mind and not your own. People working in the media need content to fill their magazines, papers, programmes, etc. They are under pressure to get something good out quickly. If you can help them do that then they are more likely to use your work. 

For example, if you are approaching local media make sure that there is a strong local angle to your work. Try to photograph something that has a story around it and that is easily understood to be of local interest. If it isn’t obvious or isn’t linked to local news then they are much less likely to use it.

5. Enter competitions

This might be competitions run by the publication itself or an external one. Winning images are often featured in the media, especially when the competitions are more high profile. Some of the bigger competitions submit a PR piece to the media for you. Or, you may want to approach your local papers to tell them about a competition you have won. This could be especially effective if there is a strong local angle to the story (and the image).

6. Is your timing relevant?

Don’t try sending winter wonderland photos to a weather channel in the middle of June! Magazines plan Christmas editions in Autumn or sometimes even late summer so make sure that you send your Christmas content in for the right copy deadline.

"Pavilion Theater on Cromer Pier before Sunrise"
Iceni Magazine Cover Image

Is your photo 5 years old? Then its probably unlikely that someone will want to make a news story out of it. Unless there is an anniversary, for example, make sure that your images are submitted in time for them to still be fresh and relevant.

7. What credit/pay is available?

If you are wanting to gain exposure from your photos then you need to know how you are going to be credited. Will it just be your name? Will they print your website? You then have to decide if it is worth it for you. Likewise, if you are hoping to be paid then you must make sure that you fulfil all criteria for paid work. Sometimes you may receive no pay and little obvious credit. In which case you must decide if it is still something you want to pursue.

8. Don’t expect instant success.

You may well have to hear “no” many times or get no response at all. Re-evaluate if your images are meeting all the criteria. Also, check that the images are of sufficient quality. Do your pictures really sit well alongside what they normally publish? It may be that there are no quality issues and that your content is relevant but you still don’t get selected. You need to be persistent if you want to get your images published. They look at so much content that sometimes a little luck goes a long way!

© Joe Lenton, February 2019

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