As a creative artist, getting your work in front of as many eyeballs as possible is a huge portion of what you need to do to move from “starving artist” to “working professional” and for some, to “sought after and brand sponsored superstar.” (Of course, I use the term ‘superstar’ relatively, as we are ‘mere’ photographers after all…)
Being the Managing Editor of SLR Lounge, I get asked quite a bit, “How do I get my work featured in an online publication?” First of all, do you want your work to be featured in an online publication? The answer to that should be, YES! Why? We want our work to be seen, don’t we? If our work is seen, then we book more clients, build our businesses and sometimes, will be sought after by companies who want to sponsor us and use our products. And be honest, the attention isn’t too shabby either, right?
In the Internet age we currently live in, even a good mugshot can go viral and open up doors of opportunity, so why not your work? We’ve featured numerous photographers that have gone on to launch their careers, leaving us little people behind, haha. Just yesterday, I received this email from a photographer I interviewed earlier this year:
…because of the article you took a chance on and did of me, I now have a gallery in a national museum in Washington DC. Just want to say thank you!
And the day before that:
Since we were featured on SLR Lounge, we have seen thousands and thousands of referrals. That URL ranks in the top 20 nearly monthly since its publication for referrals Thank you!
So, how do you get your work noticed and featured in publications such as SLR Lounge? I don’t have a surefire formula to get you there, but I do have 5 quick tips that will definitely help you get closer to that goal.
1. Produce Amazing Work/Do Something Remarkable
You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh.” But you’d be surprised. I see a lot of submissions each week through my inbox, on Behance, 500px, and Flickr. I see some really awful work and I see some pretty good work, but if your work doesn’t stand out, it’s going to pass right by. I’ve seen a million lovely (and not so lovely) wedding photos/portraits/landscape/ timelapses, and most of those look the same as the last 4 portfolios I looked at.
What makes your work different from the rest? I’m looking for something that I would share with my own family and friends on social media. And if you’re shooting, posing, and processing your images just like everyone else, it’s time to get creative, change it up and take some risks!
Bonus Tip: If your work is not so great, well then watch some tutorials, go practice and improve! I’m a firm believer that practice, patience and persistence are the keys to success in any field. To get you started on some tutorials, of course, I’m going to recommend the SLR Lounge Workshop DVDs – from how to photograph newborns to posing couples in natural light to HDR, if you really want to improve, start here.
2. Put Yourself Out There
I only have so many hours in a day between writing, editing, mom-ing and sleeping. I scour the Internet as often as I can to find awesome photographers, but sometimes, you’ve got to come to me. Aspiring singers, for example, pound the pavement, sing at open mike nights, send out demos, go to voice lessons and put themselves out there all in the hopes of getting in front of the right people and be noticed. The same goes for a photographer. You have to hustle. No one is going to promote your work for you initially (unless you hire someone to or have already built a solid base of raving fans).
Don’t let fear hold you back, the worst I (or anyone) can say is no and I try to do it as nicely as possible. If you get rejected, try, try again. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because his editor said “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Oops! As I said before, I get submissions daily, so I really only have a minute or so to spend on each one. Something will need to jump out at me for me to stop and want to find out more.
And please remember, if you get a ‘no,’ it may not necessarily mean your work isn’t good, it may not be quite right for us at that time – maybe we already featured 3 astro timelapses that week – or it could just be really bad (just kidding).
Bonus Tip: There are lots of publications that feature photographers, not just photography ones. Share your work with the photo related magazines of course, but think outside of the box and do your research.
3. Create a Series
Many times when I look at a photographer’s portfolio, I want to see a cohesive project. A series will make me take notice, instead of one or two good images, which would be difficult to write an entire feature article around.
A story that accompanies your series of images is always a plus. I’m a sucker for a great backstory, like many people are. As a writer, I want to tell stories and if your story and photos are interesting, most of the time, you’ve drawn me in.
Bonus Tip: When you submit your work, write more than, “Hey, check out my website. Here’s the link. Maybe you could feature it.” Tell me why I should feature your work, tell me why you chose to do this series about cats playing poker. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go to your website, look for the right series and find your artist statement on Cat Poker. Cliff’s Notes got me through high school, and a nicely condense version of why your series is awesome, will save me time
and help me pass the midterm.
4. Aim to Educate
When you submit your work for consideration, know your audience. SLR Lounge strives to be an educational site. Sure, we have news, gear announcements, and other fun stuff, but at our core, we want to help people become better photographers. I go through a mental checklist each time I open a submission – is it educational? interesting? newsworthy? remarkable? moving?
If you’ve written a tutorial about how you used silly putty to improve your macro shots and your macro shots are awesome, that is something I would definitely want to take a look at. If you only send me three random shots from your macro photography portfolio, as great as it probably is, I might pass on it.
Bonus Tip: We have two Facebook groups, the SLR Lounge Presets & Textures User Group and the SLR Lounge Weddings and Portrait Photographers Group. The community posts recipes and images all the time and the editors pick images to feature for our ‘How I Shot It‘ series, where you tell us how you shot the image. This is a way to get one of your images featured on the site as well as help others become better photographers by sharing your knowledge.
5. Make Sure Your Contact Info Is Easy to Find
I should have put this tip as number one, because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve given up on trying to contact a photographer because I couldn’t find an email address! Sometimes I will see an amazing set of images that I am dying to feature and so, I go to make contact so I can ask for permission to use the images. I find the photographer’s website and find that they have no contact form, phone number or email address (photographers that use Behance, Flickr, 500px and Blogger are notorious for this). There is no information (or very hard to find information) on how they can be reached or maybe they put just links to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn are not good options if you want to get a message to someone. If you, as the photographer I want to feature, only has a personal Facebook page, any message I send to you goes into your ‘Other messages’ box, you don’t get a notification and half the people don’t check it or even know that it is there. For LinkedIn, if I don’t have a premium account, which I don’t, I cannot send you messages and for Twitter, I’m limited to 140 characters.
More than once in these cases, I’ve given up and decided that the feature wasn’t worth all the trouble and moved onto someone else.
Bonus Tip: Make sure you have an about me page and make sure you put your contact info there, even if you have a separate contact page. When I write features, I always go through their about me page to get an idea of what that photographer is like and maybe share some tidbits of interesting info in my article.
Getting your work seen is an important part of your job as a photographer and it’s nice to have your work recognized and shared. As artists, we may create for ourselves, but mostly we create so we can share our art with the world around us. So, go forth, shoot some awesome photos and send them my way…just try not to do it all at once. I can only handle so many emails in a day :)
Please feel free to leave me questions or comments below!