The goal of almost any serious photographer out there is to someday become published and see their name in print. It’s sort of a pinnacle for those behind the lens and the feeling you get from it is actually quite addicting. That might sound weird but it’s true. It’s starts a vicious cycle when it happens and you get so pumped on the idea of your work being forever ingrained on paper that you will do whatever it takes to make it happen again…and again. Getting published is not an easy feat by any means and in no way is it for the faint of heart. It takes a certain level of dedication to photography to make it happen and a sort of persistence that can’t be taught. If you are on the path to becoming a serious photographer and really need that little bit of insider information to break down some walls and make your dreams a reality, then this just might be the feature for you. Let’s get started.
First things first; I know that this one might seem a little obvious but that’s not always the case so let’s make sure we cover the bases here. The first step is to look at your work and I mean that in the sense of really analyzing your skills and comparing your photos to what you see in the magazines. By doing this, you will realize very quickly whether or not your photos are up to the standards of print. If you take some of your best shots and think to yourself “I can see these in a magazine” then you are on the right track. If not, keep working on it and try to look at as many magazines as you can and get a feel for what makes those photos different from yours and try to emulate them. Of course, that does not mean to simply try to copy them it just means to try to shoot as if you were going to have photos in that same magazine. If you don’t feel like you are at that level yet, it’s completely fine you should just keep working towards that goal. If you happen to feel like your work is ready to be seen by the masses then the next step is one you want to pay close attention to.
This is one step that seems obvious but some people overlook it. Get your contacts in place. Once you feel like your photos are up to par, the next step is to get them in front of the right people. Every magazine has a staff behind it so your goal is to get in touch with those people. Every magazine also has a masthead (where all of the employees names and titles are listed) somewhere either tucked in the front or back and what that is to you is a way to get a hold of the editors. A lot of the times the editors will put their email addresses right there next to their name so you can hit them up directly. Some magazines also have a generic email address where you can send submissions as well. It’s all there in the fine print you just have to search for it. Also, a lot of magazines have current contact/submission info right on their websites as well. What you need to do is send over some lo-res samples of your best work and with a completely open mind ask if that particular magazine might be interested in your photographs. What you are doing here is just simply showing them what you can do and that is all. The next step is to sit back and wait. If your photos are good enough to get noticed, a reply will surely be coming your way. Another good tip is to shoot with the best riders you can, and if you have access to shoot with a pro, try to make that happen. Sending in photos of a recognizable name within the BMX industry can only help so use those connections to your advantage.
This is the very first magazine I ever had photos published in. I happened to be lucky enough to attend a couple of the FBM “Ghetto Street” contests around 2003 and had my camera with me which at the time was a 35mm Canon A2E. I was later contacted by Chris Hallman who is a great photographer and at the time one of the regular BMX industry photographers so that in itself was huge for me as an up and coming shooter. He mentioned that the guy’s over at Freedom Magazine out of Germany were looking for some photos from the contest so I sent over my best ones and kept my fingers crossed. Later down the line I found out that they actually wanted to use some of them and I was more than stoked for the opportunity. I didn’t even think about getting paid which actually didn’t even happen but still, at that time it was not about the money at all. It was just about having the opportunity to see my name and photos in print. I sat around for what seemed like forever waiting for that magazine to come in the mail. I remember the day it happened like it was yesterday. I saw the envelope and immediately knew what it was. After freaking out for about five minutes I finally opened it and started flipping through the pages not knowing where my work would be. As soon as I saw the layout with the words “Photos by: Jeremy Pavia” it changed my life. No shit, I am serious. From that day forward I was 100% addicted to getting my photos published. Skip ahead to today and I have had my photos printed in ten or so different magazines over the course of eight years which is something I am very proud of because I worked my ass off to get to that point.
A very important thing to have when heading down the road to being published is patience, and a lot of it. Also, you need to have the ability to not get bummed on yourself as well as have the drive and motivation to keep pushing forward. These days there are more photographers out there than ever before trying to get a piece of the action so you have to understand that things aren’t going to happen over night. Another helpful tip is to be persistent. If you don’t hear back in a few weeks, that is completely normal. Putting together a magazine takes an insane amount of work (trust me, I did it for five years) and photo submissions are never a top priority. The thing that you want to do is keep your name in the minds of the editors. There is a balance to this as well though and I am not saying to just sit there and email them every day but rather send out an email blast every two weeks or so with some fresh new work suggesting that they check it out and as always, your email should end with something along the lines of “thanks for taking the time to check out my work, and if you are interested in using any of my photos please get a hold of me.” Leave it up to them to decide if they want to pursue it any further. But this way, you can constantly be on a list of potential contributors.
If everything works out and you get an email back, then that is amazing and a huge step in the right direction. That means you are doing something right. Whether or not they are just emailing back to say thanks, or to give you some constructive criticism it is a good thing so take what they say and run with it. If you happen to submit photos to an editor that is willing to help you out, they most likely will give you some advice on your photos and some helpful tips to get them up to their standards. You could also get an email back saying that they want to use some of your photos which is an email that most every serious photographer dreams of. It’s up to you really and if you have what it takes then go for it. Just always keep in mind that photography is about more than just getting your photos in print. It is about creating images that infect people with some sort of emotion and feeling. If it’s a BMX specific photo, shoot to inspire people to get out and ride. Shoot in a way that is different than most, stand out from the crowd and don’t be afraid to try something unique. If your photos don’t get the attention you feel like they deserve then maybe there is a reason for that and that should do nothing but inspire you to work harder. You always have to keep in mind that you are only as good as your last photo which means no matter how good you think you are, you can be better than that. No matter how good your current selection of work might be, that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t keep progressing and work to create images that are better than your best. So hopefully after all of that you picked up a few tips and gained some insider insight on the road to being published. It’s a long journey that can be rough at times and when you feel like giving up and things might never happen, keep pushing because if you want it bad enough, and you have the skills to match your dedication then things will eventually work themselves out. Good luck!
Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the fifth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Also feel free to leave future feature ideas in the comments as well and make sure to enter your best natural light photo in our first monthly “Reader Contest” sponsored by Fit Bike Co. Hit this link for another look at the details, rules and guidelines.