Photographs can add a whole new dimension to your writing. Magazine editors often prefer to have photographs to go along with an article, as they will attract readers that may otherwise not read that particular item. Having photographs available not only makes your writing more sell-able, but editors will sometimes pay more for the photographs than the article. And by taking the photographs yourself, instead of the magazine’s staff photographer, you get to keep all the money for your article.
Your photographs should do one, or more, of the following.
- Be attractive or interesting enough to make someone want to read your article.
- Clarify something in your article that you didn’t have the room to fully explain, or that’s difficult to explain, in words.
- Tell a story that is not mentioned in your article, much like a sidebar in an article.
When you have photographs, mention in your query or cover letter that photographs are available upon request. Also say if they are film or digital. Don’t send photographs until the editor asks to see them.
Always check the guidelines of the publication you are submitting to. Most publications will want digital images emailed to them, but wait until they ask you to send them. A few publications still take film, and while you still need to check their guideline, as a rule the following will be true for over 90% of the publications.
- Magazines that accept film will want 35mm slides. A very few will want larger film size.
- NEVER send your original slides, only send duplicates. A friend of mine was going to have an article about her appear in her hometown newspaper, and asked if she could take some of the photographs I had of her for the paper to use. I had taken many pictures of her when she was a dancer at Disneyland. Since I didn’t have time to make duplicates, I just gave her some originals. After all, the newspaper was a professional business that was used to working with photographs, right? A week later she returned, without the slides. She said the newspaper still had them. It took me two months of letter writing to the newspaper to have them returned. Of the ten I gave her, one was lost, one had been removed from the slide mount, had almost a quarter of an inch of the image cut off and put into a new slide mount and another had a staple in the middle of the slide. That was the last time I sent out originals.
- When mailing slides, put them into clear plastic slide pages, and sandwich them between corrugated cardboard. One piece of the cardboard should have the ribs running vertically, while the ribs in the other piece should run horizontally. Have one rubber band going from the top left to the bottom right corner, and another going from the top right to bottom left. This not only helps to protect your slides during mailing, but at the editor’s office too. I’ve had slide pages returned with boot prints on them, coffee stains, cuts, tears and more. Yet another reason to send duplicates.
- Create a filing system for your pictures so you can track them. S for slides, P for prints, D for digital, then maybe a year and roll or shoot number. So S0824-5 would be a slide taken in 2008, the 24th roll you’ve shot that year, and slide number five on the roll.
- If there is a person in your photograph, and you can see their face, you will need to have them sign a model release. You can buy them at most camera stores, or find them online.
You must be sure to use the proper film in order to get the best possible image. Here are a few tips.
- The slower the film (ISO 25 is slower than ISO 100) the finer the grain and the sharper the image when enlarged. For this reason, I would suggest not using film with an ISO of more than 100, or 125 for black and white. In low light conditions, you could go as high as ISO 400, but I would use this film sparingly.
- For digital images, shoot at the highest quality possible, and shoot RAW if possible. You will eventually convert the RAW images to JPG, but RAW lets you do the most manipulation of the image.
- A little known secret about film is that the color of the box often tells what the film does best. Fuji comes in a green box, and captures greens beautifully. Kodachrome has red on the box and captures reds wonderfully, while Ektachrome has blue on the box and shows blues at their best. All of these films capture all colors with excellent results, but these little color differences give just a little more “Pop” to the mentioned colors.
The problem with many people today is that their pictures have bad composition, thanks to watching television. Television is notorious for putting the subject in the center of the screen, and this is horrible composition. It doesn’t look bad on television because the scenes change so fast, about every three to five seconds, that you don’t notice it. However, in a still photograph it shows up as a glaring mistake.
There is a simple solution to this problem. Do you remember what a tic-tac-toe board looks like, or the pound sign on your phone (for Generation X’ers)? When you look through your camera’s viewfinder, imagine this symbol being superimposed over what you’re looking at. Now, place the main subject of your photograph at one of the four points where a vertical and horizontal line cross. This technique is called the Rule Of Thirds, and it will greatly improve your photograph’s composition. You can read more about this on the Articles page.
If you are going to be shooting a photograph for the cover of a magazine, be sure to check where the title goes. Magazines may have their title across the top or down one side. Leave a blank area in the photograph for this. You don’t want to have some important part of the photograph covered by the title. Also check to see if other text will be placed on the cover to prevent this same problem.
The real secret to taking great photographs is to take a lot of pictures. That means shooting thousands of photographs. Practice makes perfect, and increases your income.
If you’re interested in Fine Art Prints or stock images of Arizona, visit JeffColburn.com