Ask the Pros: How Can I Start Photographing For a Magazine?

Ask the Pros: How Can I Start Photographing For a Magazine? After our terrific Ask the Pros: Live! event back in October (get caught up on the great advice our panel had to share), we're back with more of the online version. Our Ask the Pros series is here to answer some of your most common questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication and media art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. 

For all you photographers out there, today's photo editor pros give you insight on how to get on their radar...

As an aspiring photographer, how can I start photographing for a publication?

PRO: Scott M. Lacey - Photo Editor, Boston Magazine
A good start would be to get together a cohesive body of work; something that showcases a style so that I know what I'm getting if I hire you. As much as we get flooded by promos, I do make an effort to try and open every email and mailer. If I see something I like, I'll bookmark the photographer into a category and, when its time to hire someone for a particular assignment, I will go to my bookmarks to look for something new. Besides having your photo credit in a magazine, a solid promo that showcases your style is probably the best way to get your work in front of me.

PRO: Susan Hennessey - Photo Editor, Inked Magazine 
I think it can be tough to break into shooting for magazines, since most magazines like to hire people who have previously been published. But the best way to make magazine editor contacts is to assist photographers. I have met a lot of new emerging photographers who were on set at other shoots. If it's a photographer I use frequently, I usually create a relationship with his/her assistants just from seeing them so much. Stay friendly with the photo editor/creative director and keep in touch. Email them your latest links, photos etc. Never call.

PRO: Kathy Nguyen - Senior Associate Photo Editor, Fast Company Magazine
First you want to really know your audience and decide which publications you would like to work for, are interested in, or you just love! Look through those publications and really take note on the type of photography, lighting, styles, etc. You can also see who the photo editors are and reach out to them directly to set up a meeting to review your portfolio or to just introduce yourself and share your work or a link to your website. For me personally, I prefer an email rather than a phone call, but I'll take a look at the work, and if I think it's a good fit, then I'll meet with a photographer or I'll keep them in mind for future stories.

PRO: Ryan Mesina - Associate Photo Editor, Money magazine
- Have a website - not having one is flat out unacceptable.  
- Send out periodic email blasts and promo cards once every few months. They're a great way to get your name out there and on our radars.  
- About once a year, send out personal emails requesting meetings/portfolio shows. While you won't get a reply every time, it's our job to search out new talent and we are always looking. If the work is good, you'd be surprised by the number of replies you'd get. Don't ever cold call a photo editor. We are very busy and an email allows us to look at you online and reply at our own convenience.

PRO: Kathryn Marx - Assistant Photo Editor, Veranda Magazine
That's a tough question for me to answer, because we generally reach out to photographers that we're interested in working with, rather than wait for them to come to us. The main things we are looking for are:
- the city the photographer is based in 
- client list 
- lighting style 
- strong understanding of composition
     My biggest recommendation for aspiring photographers would be to have an easy-to-navigate web-site that includes the basic information any client would need to know (city/state, experience/client list, current portfolio). It's unfortunate when a photographer's work is strong but their website makes viewing the photographs difficult and lacks important information. Gimmicks, introductions, and overly complicated sites will make me less likely to consider the photographer for a shoot. Also, update your website as you shoot more! It's always refreshing to return to a photographer's website to find new and exciting work that wasn't there the last time. 

PRO: Deborah Boardley - Photo Editor, Essence Magazine 
Get your work in front of the person(s) hiring for the publication. Follow up, and yes be a pest if you have to. Make sure the work is unique so that you stand out, but also the editors must see and trust that you can nail the story you're hired to shoot. Work on projects that show you can conceptualize and execute a theme or story similar to their content. Lastly, put yourself in environments that the gatekeepers hang out ... art/book openings, equipment rental houses, studios, digital houses, coffee shops ... and yes, I've had talent show up at my coffee shop, introduce themselves and start a conversation.

PRO: Rachel Barker - Associate Photo Editor, HGTV Magazine
Just keep shooting. Work on personal projects and photograph for anyone you can: newspapers, school publications, local magazines. Start really filling up your portfolio. Try to get your name out there. Ask anyone you assisted to pass your name along to possible clients. Network like crazy and try to get meetings with editors to show them your work. Even if they don't have a job for you right then, you'll be memorable; you made the effort.

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for all their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.
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