5 of the Best Magazines For Your Photos


Photography: CatDancing

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.

Yankee Magazine
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.

National Geographic
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]

11 comments for this post.

  1. photographer Said:

    as an amateur photographer, this was really helpful. thanks for sharing this stuff to all of us aspiring photographers! 😀

  2. steve b Said:

    Wow, that's insane. Those rates are just sad, really. To have a 1/4 image reprinted a half million times and only earn a few hundred bucks is really just sad.

    I'll just wait for more people to find my site and flickr stream instead of wasting time trying to put myself out there for another PE who doesn't have the time to care.

  3. Tyler Said:

    I just have to say, it takes time. Never give up. The key to success is not rushing, but waiting. How professional you are doesn't depend on your publications; It depends on how your photography inspires people.

  4. al Said:

    Thanks so much for the advice. I joined AdBase and felt overwhelmed by the information and advice by them.

  5. Rosa Frei Said:

    Yeah, really great article with lots of information. Thanks! I also checked out AdBase, thank you for the tip al!

  6. Bluegraph Said:

    Be advised that National Geographic "Your Shot" competition is a rights grab. Read the fine print before submitting as the magazine receives all rights to publish your photo for commercial purposes, such as screen savers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.

  7. Australian Albatros Said:

    My photos appeared in Forbes, the Wired mag, the New York Times and some others that I do not care about. Just be good and offer the pictures through various distribution channels.

    The magazines will come by themselves.

  8. MARK Said:


    My "old prestigious" boarding school in New Zealand are showing a keen interest in my Black & White photos (MINT CONDITION) They show my Headmaster with Prince Andrew standing at the school Chapel in 1984. I know that these pics can be used by the school for T.V Documentaries/websites/photo & cards sales/Books/souvenirs and magazines...
    How much should i ask???

  9. Peter Said:

    I was one of those lucky ones to get a photograph printed in National Geographic Magazine as the 'readers choice' award, Sept 2011 issue. It was a huge honor as you can imagine. But as 'Blugraph' (above) says, NG keeps the rights to publish my photograph in any way... but this is ok with me since every time it is reprinted it gets my name along with the NG logo next to it. In the case of such a known publication, I absolutely consider that a win win! They get to use my image, I get to use there name.
    That said, read the fine print and don't get sucked into giving shots away to publications that won't boost your photography in return. It's only fair.

  10. Mildred Joy Montgomery Said:

    As a new Freelance Photographer, how much to charge a magazine for publishing your work and is there a way to keep the rights under your control?

  11. Linda Boss Said:

    I'm hoping to get some advice. People magazine contacted me, wanting to buy a few photos of me with Travis Alexander, from when we dated a decade ago. I have no idea how much to ask for, & they want me to name a price. Any advice?

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