Most photographers starting are happy to create an image, stick it on their social media platforms, and call it a day. This doesn’t really cut it once photography becomes more of a career, though, so in this article, I’ll talk a bit more about how to pitch your ideas.
What Is a Pitch?
Do you have a great idea? Do you want to share your great idea with a publication or an organization so that they share it with their audience?
Well, that’s a pitch. You tell them what your idea is, and both of you figure out if your idea will work for their platform or audience.
In photography, pitches happen all the time and in many different contexts, but the general idea of it is the same. Want your work in a magazine? In an art gallery? As part of a commercial campaign? As an editorial for a documentary? Or perhaps as an Fstoppers article? You name it, you’ll likely have to explain it in words first; you’ll have to pitch it to someone. Below are some ways to pitch your idea so it will get accepted.
I have this amazingly great idea! Contact me to find out!
No. Thank you, but no.
You need to actually share what your idea or concept is in simple and direct words. It’s fine enough to leave out some details or not share the whole thing, but you have to actually share enough to pique the reviewer's interest.
I know at Fstoppers we get hundred of story pitches a week. If you haven’t shared enough of what your story is, I know I personally don’t chase down these “amazingly great” leads, and I’m pretty sure my fellow writers don’t either. So, tell us what you’re doing! Get excited about it, and make us excited about it.
Know Your Audience.
This one is straightforward but still worth mentioning. You have to have an idea of who you're pitching to and what their target audience is. So, do your research, read the “about me" section, take your time, and see if your story is a good fit for that particular publication or organization.
You might have a great story, but it might not be a good story for them. If your story is about horses, it’s just not going to get published in a car magazine. You’re just not going to get your brightly colored color-blocked portraits into a blog that only does black and white work, no matter how good your pictures are. These are probably a bit extreme examples, but you get the idea. Find the right home for your work.
Be Concise. Be Clear.
This one is a bit tricky, but make every word count. This means get to the point as quickly as you can, but also provide enough detail so the reviewer knows what’s going in.
With some more concrete examples, let’s say you’re applying for a grant for your project. These usually have word limits or character limits; there should be a guide for how much you should be writing.
With something more open-ended like a magazine pitch, make your words count. Maybe include a picture or a mood board. If what you are saying is too complicated or verbose, it might not even get read if the reviewer isn’t specifically obligated to read all pitches.
If your pitch is absolutely important and there is money on the line, get a friend or colleague to read it before submission. At the very least, make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes, you’ve addressed it to the correct person where applicable, and it’s coherent.
Sometimes, you might have a great project that you’ve worked on. But it might not be exactly the right project for the organization you are pitching to. In that case, you must weigh if you want to wait for the right place and time to pitch or if you want to change your vision slightly.
This isn’t about compromising yourself as an artist, but rather about finessing what you’ve created into a broader narrative. As an example, I created my series, "Waiting," in 2020. I was going on daily walks with my partner to de-stress, and on these walks, I’d pick a leaf or flower and make an image of it. The original intent for me was simply a meditative exercise. Then, an opportunity arose for a group show focusing on indigenous flora. My choice in this situation was whether I wanted to keep to my original vision or pick out the native plants I’d already created images of to put in the show. I did the latter; this wasn’t too much of a stretch in artistic integrity for me.
But this point is probably a bit trickier to navigate; you’ll have to decide how far you can bend or break your project.
Pitching is a whole beast of a thing. It can be a bit daunting at first, but like everything in life, you’ll get better with practice. I hope some of these tips help you out; if you have other tips, please share them in the comments below!
Image provided by Anete Lusina.