Got good photos? Want to get them published in a magazine? It might take a bit of work, a lot of patience and skin thicker than an elephant’s heel to handle the rejections but it’s possible.
There are plenty of magazines that are willing to take images submitted on spec. You’ll have to read their notes for contributors and understand what sort of shots the publication wants. And then you’ll have to choose where to send them.
Here are five of the best magazine opportunities for freelancers.
According to Photographer’s Market, which we’ve mined deeply for this post, a number of magazines take more than 500 images a year from freelancers, giving talented photographers a good chance of landing a sale. Auto Restorer, for example, has a demand for over 560 images of cars and car parts, while Birds and Blooms puts as many as 60 photos shot by freelancers in each monthly issue.
A large number of photos though might mean a small price per image. Astronomy, for example, buys an impressive 840 photos each year from freelancers… but usually only pays around $25 for each.
Yankee Magazine however can take just short of 1,000 photos each year and pays from $150 for a color inside photo to $1,000 for a cover shot.
That’s a lot of opportunities to make a decent sale.
Southwest Airlines Spirit
Covers, of course, always pay more than inside photos, but there’s only one per issue and it’s not easy to get that top spot. When you’re looking for the best paying publications then, it’s important to examine rates for both uses. MuscleMag International, for example, pays up to $1,000 for a cover but its inside shots drop as low as $25 for a color photo and $20 for black and white. Backpacker Magazine offers a better range with its cover paying from $500-$1,000 while the minimum price for inside color shots is still $100.
But when it comes to pay, the best magazine to sell your photos to could be Southwest Airlines Spirit. The cover of this publication pays from $1,000-$1,500 but inside shots aren’t much cheaper. They start at $900 and rise as high as $2,500 — although it’s probably not a good idea to bank on making those top-end rates unless you’ve got something truly exceptional.
Money is a lot, of course, but it isn’t all you get when your photo appears in a print publication. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that your photography is professional quality. You get a tear sheet you can show to potential clients in the future. And you get the sort of bragging rights no amount of money can ever buy.
The most prestigious magazines though are very unlikely to take images submitted by freelance photographers on spec. You’ll usually have to be a professional with an impressive portfolio, a long list of top clients you’ve helped in the past and even an agent. Sports Illustrated and Cosmopolitan, for example, expect photographers to send a query letter before submitting images (and you can expect they get lots of those), while Playboy say they don’t use freelancers but might use an image if they like it. Don’t hold your breath.
The most prestigious magazine for photographers though has to be National Geographic, one of the few magazines which still puts beautiful images front and center. Of course, they don’t take unsolicited work either but they do have a competition. You can enter your shot online and the month’s winner will be published in the print magazine. The pay is nominal (actually it’s nothing) but how much is saying “My photo appeared in National Geographic” worth to you?
Careers and Colleges Magazine
Prestige is important. But so is exposure, and for that you need a magazine with a big name and lots of readers, as well as a kind eye for freelance photographers. The most obvious suspects, which is just about any magazine you can think of right away, aren’t likely to have that kind eye but there are some publications with big circulations and a reasonably open nature.
AAA Midwest Traveler, for example, has 470,000 readers and pays from $75. But they demand a query letter, a resume of credits and a list of stock topics, so breaking in might not be easy. Cycle World Magazine has a smaller circulation with “just” 335,000 readers but the pay starts at $50 although they do promise to reply within six weeks.
Top of the list though is Careers And Colleges Magazine. You have to call for an appointment. And it takes as little as one freelance photo per issue. But the fees begin at $350 and it has a circulation of 750,000.
If you can get your foot in that door, you’ll be showing your photo to plenty of people.
Magazines tend to aim at pretty narrow niches. Triumph World, for example, takes about 60 photos shot by freelancers in each issue… all of them of Triumph cars. If you’re the sort of photographer who has a hard drive full of photographs of anything from aardvarks to zippers though, you might want to aim for a magazine with a broader range of needs.
Southwest Airlines Spirit is another good bet here. They’re looking for a huge selection of images from celebrities and couples to politics and medicine. Southcomm Publishing Company, which publishes a string of publications across the southeastern United States also has broad needs (but only pays between $40-$60 per image.)
Country is specific to rural themes but that still gives you pretty wide scope that could include families and children as well animals and farmers. They take almost 500 images a year and pay from $100.
Take a look at Photographer’s Market, a great resource for professional and part-time photographers, and tell us what you think are the best magazines to submit your photos to.
[tags] magazine photography, sell photos to magazines [/tags]