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Have you dreamed of seeing your work in the glossy pages of InStyle or National Geographic? Editorial photography has always been a much sought-after and glamorized aspect of the photographic industry. The reality of breaking into and selling your editorial work requires finding and keeping editorial clients, marketing expertise and good people skills. You’ll also need to be an expert at telling a story with your images.

1. Finding Contacts

If you have the time, scan the names of editors and art directors in the mastheads of magazines. With a bit of a budget, you can access thousands of creative contacts through list companies like Agency Access, Adbase, or Freshlists and do a targeted marketing campaign. There’s also the yearly publication of the book Photographers Market that’s chock full of numerous other outlets for your work.

2. Share Your Expertise

It helps tremendously if you have a niche in which you shoot. Special interest magazines such as Food & Wine often want somebody whose been immersed in the field for a while or is at least an avid enthusiast. In fact, most editors as these publications are often personally vested in the subject and deeply involved in the community. They didn’t get to their position without being in expert in the topic themselves. Use this to connect with them at industry events, online forums and blogs.

3. Expand Your Offerings to Include Writing

Now more than ever magazines are going digital. With that comes the need for good content. Sharpen your writing skills and you’ve upped your chances for hire by becoming a photojournalist. You may even get lucky and get assigned to cover an event and you’ll be able to up your rate.

5. Study the Content

Know what the editor will want before he or she does. Every magazine has its own unique style of photo art direction. Study their issues and collect tear sheets. Be aware of the composition, lighting, or creative use of flash, or time-delays. Also styles of photography tend to come and go each year. Are seventies vignettes in or color saturated eighties style pictures? Make sure you create new portfolio samples to reflect you are aware of changing trends.

6. Build A Database of Images

The best way to satisfy a photo editor and get your first image published is to be on-target with their needs. Most magazines publish a downloadable copy of their editorial calendars for the year on their website (hint: look in the footer!) with special feature issues and closing dates. Sites like Media Bistro also offer a list of editorial closing by month if you sign-up as an Avant Guild.

7. Learn to Work Fast

Often your first entree into a real editorial assignment will come from a last minute need from the publication. Be sure to exceed their expectations and not only be on time but even early. Editors want a reliable, go-to photographer with whom they can build a long-lasting relationship.

8. Practice 360° Marketing

Successful editorial photographers often say the harder they worked the luckier they got. Be selling yourself everywhere at all times. You main goal should always be to land a one-on-one portfolio review with the editors. After the initial meeting your task is to continue keeping in touch with them. Make sure each time you contact them your emails are well written.

Become a member of industry organizations such as ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) where you can upload several portfolios in their Find A Photographer directory. Also check out Editorial Photographers, where you can post your work to their Find A Photographer directory.

9. Stick to Deadlines

A missed deadline is a sure fire way to never get hired again. Editor’s live and die by a hard date. If they don’t have your materials you’ll not cause them to seek out another photographer, you’ll also blow their budget by causing them to incur late fees. And most importantly, you’ll make the editor look bad to their internal team.

The national organization of Editorial Photographers is a great resource for learning about the business of editorial work. Persevere, stay flexible and establish your reputation as a reliable, multi-talented individual whose expertise is a must-have for their readers. When the opportunity arises, you’ll be poised for that big assignment.

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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