Tips for Getting Your Photos Published
Updated: Nov 26
Many of us dream of seeing our work in print. It’s a mark of achievement that says you’ve managed a certain level of quality that others appreciate. It’s also something that you can use as part of your portfolio, not to mention sounding very impressive to your peers. Getting there, however, is not always easy. If you have always wanted to see your work in magazines but don’t know where to start, or haven’t been successful yet, hey it’s Rachel with Rachel Z Photography your San Francisco, California photography guide with some tips for getting your photos published.
Find the Magazines You Want to Target
To start off with, think about where you would like to be published. Maybe you don’t really mind where it happens so long as you get that first tearsheet (what we call an example of your work on the printed page, or a digital one in modern times). Or maybe you have harbored dreams of getting into a certain magazine for a long time.
Don’t just stick with one publication. There is a huge amount of photography magazines out there, both online and in print, and they have lots of different styles and focuses. Some of them are more aligned towards the amateur and therefore would be perfect if you are just starting out, while others are angled towards showing off truly impressive professional portfolios.
Don’t limit yourself just to landscape, photography, or travel magazines, either. Be creative! Take images of a beautiful model in front of one of your favorite landscapes, and you could find your work in a fashion magazine. Stick a vintage car in the foreground and you could go into an automotive publication. There are endless possibilities out there which will still allow you to shoot the landscapes that you are passionate about.
Understand the Submission Process
Just as there are lots of magazines out there, there are also lots of editors, and each editor may have a different preferred submission process. The easiest way to find out what this is will normally be just to look at their website. You will see a page with all the submission guidelines, from how to send in your submissions to what format they should be in.
If there is no such page in sight, then look at the contact details and simply send them an email to ask. Maybe they are not accepting submissions, in which case you will have to submit your portfolio and wait to hear back (see the next step). Try to contact the picture editor if you can, but if specific email addresses are not listed, you can just go for their normal contact address.
Make sure to also take a careful look at the publication itself before you submit, especially if you are not already familiar with it. What photographs do they publish? Are yours similar enough to make the cut? Are they high enough quality? Some magazines will prefer glossy, sharp images that depict a place perfectly, while others will be more accepting of artsy blur and the use of different techniques.
Look Into Alternatives Outside of Submissions
If the magazine is not taking submissions, we hinted above that you should send in your portfolio. Here’s more explanation on that: gather a small selection of your very best images, especially images that are in the same style that the magazine already publishes, and get the email of their picture editor.
Send them a cover letter along with this portfolio explaining who you are and what experience you already have, and what you are hoping for from them. Usually, you can let them know you are available for travel commissions, for example. This will put you into their list of photographers that they might contact for assignments–if they like your work enough.
Competition for these positions is high, and an editor might choose to stick with a photographer that they already work with instead of looking further afield. But it’s better to try this tactic than to do nothing at all. Send them an update, perhaps once a year, with a new version of your portfolio to remind them you still exist.
Another great way to find a place to submit to magazines if you aren’t already sure where to go is through portals. Portals are places where lots of different publications will list their submission requirements and give you the chance to send things in. Submittable is one of these–it is more widely used for written work, but can also provide a platform for image submissions as well. Kavyar is another, mostly with a fashion focus but also open to portfolio submissions and other types of photography.
When you find a portal, check through the magazine details carefully, just like normal. Take the time to actually read one of their issues and check that it is right for you. Read all of their requirements as well, such as whether they only take unpublished work (likely) and how your work will be used.
Wait and Repeat
Don’t just send out one set of images to one magazine and then cross your fingers. You are likely in for a bit of a wait no matter what, so don’t sit and refresh your emails every five minutes waiting for a reply–be proactive. Find fresh magazines to approach and submit work to.
Since most publications will only want to see exclusives, i.e., shots that have never been published elsewhere, you will probably run out of things to submit. This is your signal that it is time to go out and shoot some more! You can plan your excursions with specific magazines in mind. For example, if you know a magazine has a special on mountains coming up, you can get yourself over to a mountain range and start trying to capture something that will fit.
Of course, if those images don’t get picked up by the magazine you were thinking of, you can submit them elsewhere instead. Every shot you take, so long as you put in a good amount of thought and technical skill, could end up being published once you get on a roll.
About Rachel Z Photography
I’m a 29-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, activist, tattoo enthusiast, and guardian of 2 lovely rescued birds. I adore doing portrait photography for others, whether that’s indoors or outdoors, covered in flowers and nature or covered in fake blood. My goal with my photography is to empower you by taking the essence of who you are and turning it into works of art. I want to hear what YOUR ideas are and help make them into a reality. I want you to feel powerful. I want you to feel beautiful. I want you to feel confident, because we all deserve that.