Steven Brokaw Photography

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Non-Commissioned Magazine Submission

Photographers in the editorial fashion or model-centric photography genre dream of a photo or an editorial series in print or in an online fashion magazine.  Think Vogue, Elle, W, Nylon, etc.  Well, hate to break it to you, but unless you are a huge named photographer, commissioned by the magazine or work for a brand the chances are pretty slim, OK, almost impossible getting in.  Right?  Well, maybe not.

Surprisingly, several magazines and a growing number of online-only lifestyle and fashion magazines take submissions from the general photographer public.  Don’t get me wrong; having the possibility of submitting a shoot to a magazine doesn’t guaranty it will be picked up.  Chances are extremely low, but the nice thing…the opportunity exists.   Magazines such as Black & Grey, Interview, Paper Cut, Push It, Ellements, Ouch Magazine, etc. accept submissions.

I’ve submitted shoots and have been both accepted and rejected.  It requires a commitment in time, money & energy.  Not something you should do if you don’t want to make the investment.  Also, it requires willingness to hear NO much more than YES.  But if you do want to make the investment & possible rejection then I would encourage you to do a submission.  Something about having your work in a magazine on the shelves of Barnes & Noble or online is extremely rewarding. 

So how is it done?  Each submission requirement is different, but there are common themes.  I though I would write about my process.  Use this, as a guide not rules set in stone. 

Here is my process at a high level.  I often follow this order for each shoot submitted:

  • Identify a magazine you want to submit,
  • Look at magazine’s style / genre of photos you want to focus on
  • Search the magazine’s main page online and search for submission guidelines
  • Review the submission guidelines & theme,
  • Most have hard submission deadlines
  • Theme requirements for the edition
  • Is a mood board required
  • If fashion are their specific requirements (i.e. local fashion designers only, etc.)
  • What is the submission format
  • Line up the creative team,
  • Makeup artist, hair stylist, and assistants
  • If fashion, identify & confirm clothing stylist
  • Discuss & confirm style with each member
  • Agree to each creative team member’s fee if required
  • Make sure stylist or assistant will take detailed notes of all looks, styles & accessories.  Notes should be turned in quickly after the shoot
  • Based on theme & mood, hire a model or models,
  • Be prepared to pay for a professional model
  • Work with agencies or do a casting call
  • An experienced, professional model will make your shoot go much easier
  • Research & confirm a venue or studio,
  • The proper venue is critical to the shoot
  • Lock down the shoot date with the creative team and the venue,
  • Send confirming emails
  • Create & then send the team a call sheet,
  • If anyone is represented by an agency send the call sheet to them
  • Make sure you get everyone’s contact information
  • If everyone on the creative team is on social media, create a group page to share information (i.e. Facebook, etc.),
  • Research and decide lighting setup and required equipment,
  • Do you need to rent or borrow any of the equipment
  • If possible shoot tethered you’ll want an assistant
  • Do the shoot,
  • Get a model release
  • Pay the team,
  • If you are collaborating with your creative team on image selection, then agree to a date to share / review images,
  • Remember, if you are organizing the shoot then you have final decision on the selection
  • Process images,
  • Create a high resolution & low resolution copy of the image
  • Submissions almost always require low res images unless accepted
  • Send in your submission,
  • Follow the submission guidelines exactly
  • Wait, wait, and more wait,
  • If contacted by the magazine telling you the submission has been accepted then send in the final, high-res images,
  • Pat yourself on the back!

You should know that any fashion submission is forward looking.  This means if you are shooting fall fashion, you may need to shoot and submit in early summer.  This is a real limiting factor if you don’t have a top-notch fashion stylist.  Submissions may need to be sent in months in advance of the publication date.

It’s important to know your submission MUST match the theme / style of the magazine and the style of the edition being submitted.  If not, you’ve wasted your time & money.  Research the magazine in detail.

As I mentioned earlier each magazine / publication has different submission guidelines.  However, from experience here are tips / comments I’ve learned from doing submissions.

  1. Normally, you will hear nothing unless the submission is accepted.   Don’t bother asking for follow-up because you won’t get it.
  2. If you don’t follow the submission guidelines or theme then the magazine will reject your submission without notice.
  3. Be prepared for rejection.  Established publications get thousands of submissions for each edition.
  4. Stay consistent with the magazine theme & vibe.
  5. Magazines are moving online.  Don’t be surprised if there is no print edition
  6. Not all magazines take submissions or may close submissions with limited / no notice.
  7. Rarely, OK, never expect to be paid.
  8. You can’t publish your photos anywhere online until accepted.  If accepted you may be required to not publish online any of your photos from the shoot if a consistent look.
  9. Magazines won’t accept submissions that have been published elsewhere, even simply something like Facebook.
  10. When you submit your photos you are essentially giving up control of your image.  You “own” the image, but most magazines can do whatever they want with the image or set.  Read the guidelines before you submit if you have an issue with this.
  11. You will not be allowed to add your watermark or logo on the image.  Also, you may not get obvious recognition in the magazine.
  12. If your submission is not accepted (you will know this if you hear nothing back) you can submit your shoot to another magazine.

OK, there you go.  Remember this is one guys experience only.  Now go out there and create something amazing.

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