How to Pitch an Article to Fstoppers

How to Pitch an Article to Fstoppers

At Fstoppers we love having our readership contribute articles to the site. There is a dedicated link on our contact page that makes it easy to send in your pitch. Your suggestion is sent to all of the Fstoppers writers and this gives you many opportunities for someone to find your pitch interesting and have it be published on the site.

Although I have been a staff writer here at Fstoppers for under a year, I’ve seen a lot of poorly conceived approaches for article suggestions. Let’s take a look at some actual solicitations and how they could have been approved. We will start with the obvious — don’t compromise the integrity of the site.

A pitch to Fstoppers that suggests trading content for links

No matter how large your audience, Fstoppers is not interested in collaborating with you just so we can tap into that audience. Likewise, we aren’t interested in any sort of link exchanges or mention exchanges. What we are looking for is interesting topics that showcase the amazing ways you approach your craft. We are looking to share new techniques with our readers that can help them create even stronger images than they are creating now. Many of you instinctively understand that a brazen pitch to simply swap links would not be of interest to Fstoppers. You may not realize, however, that if your article suggestion is too self-serving, the writers may be wary of pursuing it because we aren’t interested in writing an advertisement for your photography business. Let’s examine the pitch below to see what was done correctly, and how the pitch went wrong.

Example of a pitch to Fstoppers that is too self-serving.

Starting the pitch by referencing an article by Alex Cooke is good because it suggests that the person sending the pitch is familiar with the content on Fstoppers and is a genuine fan of the site. The person goes on to suggest writing an article that is related to Alex’s article. It is logical to assume that readers who liked the original article, will enjoy this one as well. The problem with the pitch, however, is that it is designed to promote one specific photography business. The person who sent the pitch has a relationship with that business and is attempting to use Fstoppers to drive more customers to that business.

Had the writer of the pitch spoken to several photographers and offered to submit an article on techniques that are working for top photographers in the wedding industry, it would feel more organic and be of interest to the writers and editors at Fstoppers. Or had they suggested an article titled, “How You Can Apply The Techniques and Tactics of Today’s Top Wedding Photographers” it might have been of interest to Fstoppers.

At the risk of being blunt, I will state that our readership is more interested in themselves than they are in you. They are intrigued by an article titled, “How You Can Create Amazing Images in a Rainstorm” because it can help them improve their craft. They are less interested in“How I Created Interesting Images in a Rainstorm”.

Recently we received an article submission from photographer Kristie LaRochelle who submitted a post she had written for her blog about her approach to industrial photography. I reached out to her and explained that the article in its current form was best suited for her blog and not the Fstoppers platform. I suggested I interview her to create an article with a broader appeal. Her submission wasn’t suited for Fstoppers, but I could create an article with a broader appeal if I interviewed her. That article was titled, “Five Shots You Need to Get When You Are an Industrial Photographer”. Below is another example of a pitch that reads like a commercial for one photographer rather than an actual article suited for an online photography magazine.

A pitch to Fstoppers that is too self-serving.

Often we receive a pitch that is simply too short for us to understand what makes this article interesting. Consider including a hook, or detail, that makes your pitch unique. A pitch that lacks a hook might read, “How I photographed 10 dogs to create a new portfolio.” One that includes a strong hook might read, “How I photographed 10 dogs in 10 minutes to create a new portfolio.” The pitch below refers to “the world’s brightest drone-based lighting rig”, but that hook would be stronger if there was some additional information about the rig. The entire pitch is only 2 sentences. A sentence beginning, “This lighting rig consists of…” might have been enough to create interest in the topic so that a Fstoppers writer would make the effort to view the YouTube video.

A pitch to Fstoppers that would have benefited from including more information.

When your pitch is based on a video it is important to summarize the pitch in writing. Many YouTube videos require a time investment that I am not always willing to offer. Today it is common for a photography video to start with an introduction to the topic, which is followed by a sizzle reel style opening credit sequence which is in turn followed by yet another introduction to the same topic that was introduced at the start of the video. I will click away from any video that hasn’t gotten to the point after 45 seconds or so. Likewise, if the person speaking talks unnaturally slowly or if there is a loud music bed underneath the talking, I won’t watch the video. It is fine to include a video with your pitch, but make sure the main point of interest is explained in the text. Don’t simply send in a link to your video as your complete pitch.

While we all live on the same planet we are also living in our microcosm of that larger world. And in that microcosm, we have things that are common to us, but foreign to others. As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, terms like side control, x-guard, and seatbelt are common to me and I speak to dozens of people each week who understand what I mean when I use these terms. At Fstoppers, we receive pitches where the person making the pitch has assumed that we will understand the significance of the product, person, or event that they have mentioned.

In the pitch below, there is. A reference to an elopement photographer. I have never heard that term. Using context clues I can deduce that the term refers to a photographer who shoots people who have eloped in Colorado. For the pitch, the photographer could have just used the term wedding photographer since we all understand what that means. The fact that this photographer shoots elopements rather than weddings wasn’t relevant to the pitch itself.

A pitch to Fstoppers that uses terminology that is not commonly known.

In the pitch below, there is a reference to the Nikon Coolpix 990 but there isn’t enough information about the significance of this particular camera. It is good that the person mentioned that the camera is 22 years old but including some additional information about the camera would have been better. Perhaps the camera was very popular for a very long period and was a big seller for Nikon. Or, maybe the camera was produced for only 6 months and gained a cult following.

If the camera was the most expensive camera of its time, then maybe that should have been included in the pitch. A stronger pitch for this article might read, “22 years later, A look back at the Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera ignored by the very users who would have benefited most from its features.” Or, “22 years later, a look back at the Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera that has features still missing from today’s pro models.”

A pitch to Fstoppers that is lacking context.

It should be clear at this point, that the more specific you can be in your pitch the better chance you have the pitch is accepted. Note the vagueness of the solicitation below. The person is offering tips about landscape photography but there is no context. I don’t shoot landscape photographs, but I could write an article on that topic if necessary. My tips would be, to use a tripod, shoot at low ISO, take photographs at the ideal time of day, use a sharp lens, and experiment shoot at different angles. That article would not be very interesting because those tips are generic and could be applied to any type of photography.

To hook the reader the article needs to offer something unique or out of the ordinary that would be known only to an expert in that area of photography. A better pitch might be, “How to Take Better Landscape Photographs Without Using Expensive Gear” or “How Photographing Senior Citizens Made Me A Better Landscape Photographer”.

A pitch to Fstoppers that is too vague.

Here is another pitch that is so vague as to be pointless. There is nothing in the itch to entice the reader to click the link.

A pitch to Fstoppers that is too vague

Let’s conclude with a look at a pitch that is well done. Below is an excerpt from that pitch and you will note that the solicitor understands that an article needs to have an audience. The pitch lists 4 different types of photographers who might find value in the article.

A pitch to Fstoppers that is well done.

If you do make a pitch to Fstoppers, think of your audience first. It is fine if the article benefits you in some way but always ask yourself, how would readers benefit from this article? Also, be specific in the topic that your article will address. Whenever possible, include a hook that will make the article memorable. And finally, don't be discouraged if your first pitch is ignored. As you keep coming up with ideas, take a few moments to reach out to Fstoppers with a strong pitch. Eventually, you will find yourself contributing to this site in a meaningful way.

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28 Comments
Jim Cutler's picture

Truncated my own message. Nothing to see here.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Subject: Content on your site

Your Message: Would you be interested in more reposts from popular YouTubers (usually gear reviews) accompanied with 2 paragraphs of text? I don't have particular topic now, but plan to specialise on one of the future Tamron lenses. Half of the article will be a copy-paste of specs. Looking forward to working with you on this fascinating project!

John Ricard's picture

If the video has really loud, bad music playing underneath the talking, then I'm definitely interested.

Mike Ditz's picture

If you open with a guy rearing a baseball cap (regular or backwards are ok) saying "Hi Guys!" I'll be watching all ten minutes and fifteen seconds, and definitely will like and smash the subscribe button. Bonus points for the entire video is the guy talking to the camera.

Stuart C's picture

The opening gambit is actually ‘what is goin on youtoooob’

Mike Ditz's picture

I admit I am a bit behind the times...

Stuart C's picture

I mainly follow British landscape photographers on there so its safe to say the caps are normally worn forward and they don't end every sentence with the word Bro :)

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Has ownership of fstoppers changed? It sure feels like a different place lately.

John Ricard's picture

It would be good if you wrote more than 1 sentence. I have no idea what you are trying to say.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

10-4

Susheel Chandradhas's picture

Different in what way?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

They used to have contests and the owners were more involved in the past I feel, but Lee posted an article within the hour after my post so that was it.

Jan Steinman's picture

I understand the need to pay the bills with ad clicks, but before I prepare a pitch, are you interested the esoteric, such as camera equipment modification/fabrication, vintage lens reviews, odd-ball techniques and improvisations, etc.?

This would be words with photos, not videos. I rarely look at videos, and assume there are others like me out there. I have a long list of publications, including monthly columns and art director for a print publication.

I note that such things are not about the latest and greatest that people click-through to generate ad revenue…

Thanks!

John Ricard's picture

I'm pretty new to Fstoppers so I'm not an expert on this topic. But I think articles that give information that readers could apply to their own photography are of most interest. Of less interest would be some modificaiotn you've made in your own photography that no one else is likely to apply. As an example, I had my Leica M10 monochrom engraved by Leica. I don't think anyone wants to read an article about how I modified my own camera with my own initials for my own enjoyment. But if I had made a modification to that same camera that others could do -maybe I put a piece of glowing tape on the camera to help me see the shutter speed numbers in the dark, then I think maybe there are readers who would find that interesting.

Jan Steinman's picture

Yea, I agree that making a cosmetic change to your camera is probably not of interest.

I was talking about making changes that give your equipment unique capabilities, such as this:

Stuart C's picture

This makes me glad im just a reader:)

Reggie Ballesteros's picture

Thanks so much for the great explanation of what not to do and what should be done. Was the last example, the well done pitch, successful in getting picked up as an article?

John Ricard's picture

I am planning to write that one up in a day or two.

Felix C's picture

Have you read the comments that accompany articles that Alex Cooke has written? All he does is post links to YouTube videos which the majority of the commentators do not like, if there are any comments; which many of his article have none. When a brand like DPReview does post a link to a video, at least they interview the originator of the video. When Fstoppers posts original content, it is great, especially the videos from Patrick and sometimes Lee. I am surprised on the recent article the Lee wrote about Rhino sliders that he did not include "Coming to you from..." in the second paragraph. Maybe he did not get the memo?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I don't disagree with you on Alex, but you have to look at the number of articles he presents on regular basis and imagine the volume on a weekly basis to realize what he does. I've criticized some of his articles and I have been the first to recommend some from him as well. He brings a super wide variety of articles, over 5000 in fact so far. Others write very nice articles but not as diversified and writing obviously takes longer. So I think we need the two because that gives more time for writer of full content to create better quality and skip the sloppy. Just a guess, but I don't think they make a fortune writing and I don't see why they would work on deadlines pressure. I think Alex does pretty good overall.

John Ricard's picture

The original articles I have written for Fstoppers have taken me around 6-10 hours each. Coming up with the introductory paragraph is hardest but trying to convey information clearly in writing is time consuming and much more so than just stating that same information in a video. It's also a struggle to not continually repeat common words like, "photographer, images, shooting and capture". I turn in one article per week and I defintely feel the deadline pressue you mention.

Alex Cooke's picture

Thank you for your take. And yes, that's exactly it. Fstoppers really has two functions: to provide quality original content, whether opinions, education, reviews, etc., and to serve as a content aggregator where people can find some of the best content around the internet that they either might not find otherwise or, if they are less experienced, not know whether to trust or not.

As you noted, producing original articles is really tough, and as EIC, I want to get out of the way of my writers and make their lives as easy as possible when it comes to this, so I generally handle the majority of the reposts so they can focus on writing originals because they're more rewarding and because it allows Fstoppers to bring the unique perspectives of literally dozens of professional photographers, which no other site can claim to do. And I do write original articles; I've written over 300, in fact. But most days, my focus is on supporting the writers, which is why Fstoppers puts out at least two (and often up to four) long-form original articles a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Not many other blogs (in any industry) can claim to do that.

And the reposts are more popular than you might think. Sure, they get some detracting comments from a few of the same people, but they consistently get high numbers of views, and YouTube creators reach out to me all the time to thank me for sharing their content and growing their audience, so I see it as a win-win. Of course, readers can't see those stats that I can, but I would be a pretty terrible EIC if I kept posting content that wasn't popular. I love when I can find an up-and-coming channel that deserves a much bigger audience than it has and help show it off to the world, and I'm constantly re-examining what I post and tweaking it to be better.

All this is to say that there is a deliberate method to the madness, and we pay more attention than it might seem on the surface.

Weston Edwards's picture

With the number of “articles” that Alex posts, tells me he’s not very busy as a professional photographer.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I know nothing about his business as a photographer. I can tell you that my photography represent a good portion of what I do, but I also do a lot of image prepress work that can take me more time than the actual photography time I spend to capturing those images. Prepress is foreign to most photographers and the rgb color world today, yet photoshop was largely a prepress tool when it started. My point is that as a photographer, your income can come from a variety of sources linked to photography. I think you have to have an advanced knowledge of the topic to write or search for related videos. May be he does more fstoppers now due to slow down from Covid, I don't know. Lots of things can change any time in life but if it's a good opportunity for him to stick with photography, why not. Lots of photographers have become instructors, doesn't mean they are not good photographers, but who knows why they decide to do it and start their own private online classes. Can be loss of interest or loss of clients but if you think about it, some may have reached an evolutionary point where they become too expensive and don't get hired any more. I don't think one can drop his/her price all a sudden, call a lost account and expect getting it back. Being able to diversify at opportunistic times is not a bad thing.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Quit your belly-achin' and bookmark this:

https://fstoppers.com/originals

And, contrary to your assumption, I love videos. I queue them on a playlist and watch them while working, cooking, cleaning, in the garage, etc.

Out of all the members, there's only like 3 of you that constantly complain about videos. My guess is you're coming here via some (social media) neewsfeed which does not display the play icon on the thumbnails. If that's the case, I would suggest you visit the site directly so you can tell easily if the article is a video and who the author is.

Stuart C's picture

Guys been a serial whiner about the quality of articles for years by the looks of it… why not just stop visiting?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

For some of these guys (sadly, adults), they're not content with their lives unless they cry about something, anything. Instead of steering clear of whatever aches them, they steer right into it.

Weston Edwards's picture

Kind of late for an April Fools joke. Funny that you consider a one or two paragraph introduction to a YouTube video you are posting a link to is an article.