With the advent of self-publishing and digital magazines, the landscape of print media has evolved. With many fashion magazines and communities that feature the work of many involved in the industry, the debate over the value of being published has been a hot topic in fashion circles. So what exactly is the value of being a published photographer in the digital age?
First and foremost, having your work published is a great means of marketing yourself. Whether or not your marketing strategy involves direct-marketing or a focus on building up social media presence, cover stories and editorials in magazines or websites are additional press for your name and your brand.
If your goal is to get your work in front of curators, editors, and clients, then be tactful in the publications that your work appears in. This can even apply to a geographical standpoint, as you may want to be featured in local publications that have a better chance of getting your work in front of clients residing in your market.
Editorials can be a really great way to test new members of your creative team, while walking away from the test with published tear sheets. This helps to give you credibility with your team as a marketable creative, while adding reliable talent you can call upon for other productions. Editorials will also give the team a reprieve from repetitive catalog or commercial work by allowing them to embrace creativity to create looks that are viable for editorial publication.
The key is to ensure that you properly record team credits so that those that contributed to the editorial are appropriately listed. Ensure that you have credits for any products or brands that were used in the publication as well for reasons we will review below.
The internet has taken over as the primary means of promoting one’s business today, with social media playing one of the most vital roles. Having your work published in a magazine with a large social media presence grants you their built-in audience, and an opportunity to gain some of their followers.
If you are submitting your work rather than having it commissioned, aim for the publications with a larger following. One aspect to be mindful of in your research is whether or not the publication itself credits appropriately. I have encountered several successful magazines who do not tag or link to the credits in their social media posts, which can be a waste considering the incredible reach they have. If your goal is to get your work to a larger audience, then pay attention to that point.
As mentioned earlier, credits when it comes to the brands used in your work are incredibly important. Not only do a lot of fashion magazines prefer independent or emerging brands, but it’s an opportunity for you to connect with those brands directly through social media tagging. Having your work reposted by these brands is free marketing, and may also lead to commissioned work by them.
Vision and Consistency
Editorials are a great way to demonstrate your individual style, as well as your ability to bring a creative vision to life. Through your choice of lighting, direction in styling, makeup, hair, equipment, and post-processing, you can demonstrate what a production under your direction looks like. Establishing your ability to convey a cohesive theme or element in your editorials proves your capability to potential buyers. Clients and agencies like to see that you can be consistent in your work, particularly when it comes to editorial and advertorial work that still exists in print media. Being able to produce one high-impact image isn’t always enough. Demonstrating that you can reliably yield uniform results will go a long way in gaining the right kind of clientele.
Submission Versus Commission
Many photographers hold differing views on when a photographer can truly label themselves as a “published photographer” in the face of these newer submission-based publications. When an editorial is shot for submission, it means that the photographer intends to submit the story to a magazine. However, said magazine did not reach out to the photographer prior to the shoot to guarantee that their story will be published.
A “pull letter” is a term referring to said guarantee from a magazine. Sometimes referred to as a commission letter, this allows you to gain better talent or wardrobe for your story due to the backing of the publication. Most modeling agencies will not provide an untested photographer with their working models without a pull letter, so keep that in mind when casting for your editorial.
A commissioned editorial, in and of itself, typically comes with some sort of compensation. This means that the magazine is hiring you to shoot a story for them, typically with a corresponding theme, style, or even subject. The main difference between the two when it comes to submission versus commission, is that the latter involves the vision of the publication, and should follow appropriate compensation. Editorials that were shot for submission (or even with a pull letter), should be personal work and demonstrate the creative vision of the photographer.
If a magazine is asking you to shoot their vision with specific instructions, without compensation, be wary. It’s one thing to put in the time and money required to create an editorial of your personal work, but it’s something else entirely to be asked to produce work specific to a magazine that may not benefit your portfolio in the long run.
When There Is No Value
While we have discussed the aspects of what being published gains you as a photographer, it’s important to know what to avoid.
There are a growing number of publications that now require the photographer to pay a fee. These fees are often labeled as an administrative fee, submission fee, or even a design fee. This is a major sticking point for a lot of professionals, for understandable reasons. Every editorial is a combination of the team’s talent, time, and respective equipment. There is always a cost involved when producing said work, so asking a photographer to then pay to display their images can be very insulting.
For some photographers, they are able to square with these fees as marketing costs. Just as running an advertisement in a magazine has a set cost, or running an ad campaign through Google or Facebook, it’s not unheard of to invest in the smaller submission fees of some of the larger publications with a reliably large audience.
That being said, do what is right for you and your brand, as there are many respectable magazines who will accept your work with gratitude, rather than charge you for work that you have already invested in.
What are your own experiences and opinions on the changing landscape of publications? Please do feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments.