How to Sell Photos to Magazine Editors

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and over the years I have visited the island a number of times for an assignment or to shoot for stock.

Like most places, Puerto Rico is known for certain things -- beaches, Spanish Colonial architecture, historic forts, and rain forests to name a few -- so coming up with a shooting list is not difficult. And, by making sure my pictures are well composed, properly exposed, have a strong subject, etc., it's a good bet most of them are fit to be published in local travel publications.

The key to selling those images, then, is determining where and how you submit them to editors.

Here are three tips for improving your chances of selling your work to magazines:

** 1. Send images of subjects that the magazine publishes.

This might seem obvious, but a common complaint from editors is being asked to review images of, say, landscapes, when their magazine specializes in cars. Or a less obvious example might be if you sent Islands Magazine photos from non-tropical islands (not all islands are the kind featured in Islands Magazine) or you sent the editor at International Living photos from the U.S.

To editors, your untargeted submission means you are using the shotgun approach to getting published, and they do not appreciate your wasting their time. At best, they will be annoyed at you. At worst, your reputation will spread and negatively affect your business.

** 2. Study magazines and submission guidelines before submitting your work.

This second tip is closely related to the first one. Every publication, just like every photographer, has a style. Some travel magazines use highly-stylized imagery, often posing professional models in exotic settings, while others are more traditional and publish grittier, more journalistic pictures.

Study magazines carefully and realistically to determine which ones fit your style. Then, when you send a submission, follow their submission guidelines to the letter. The guidelines will typically include a contact person and an address, whether it's OK to contact them via e-mail, and what type and size of digital file they prefer.

** 3. Be persistent.

Travel publications receive thousands of submissions from writers and photographers, and it is difficult to succeed with your very first try.

Just like with friendships, establishing and building a relationship with a client takes time. As long as you have new images or information to share with a potential client, contact them three or four times a year (see submission guidelines), but note that there are mountains of studies and articles dealing with how many times is too much (or too little).

Once an editor selects your work, make sure you provide her with timely, high-quality and professional images and service. From then it is highly likely that the editor will contact you again in the future.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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