Is there a secret to getting your work into a magazine? Well, no, maybe, yes, hmmm, that is a tough question. Here at FOLK I am always hunting for high quality projects, stories, photos, etc to include in our issues. I thought I’d ramble on about my top tips for getting published. These tips go across the board for any magazine.
You learn a lot when you’re sitting at the computer doing layouts for hours and hours each issue. Photos are the biggest flaws I see many bloggers doing. All of the problems I see can easily be fixed — all while keeping your style. I know I have had more to learn than most anyone.
Get to know your camera — and your lens. The most important part of photography is the camera. I in no way mean you have to shoot with a Canon 5-D. I don’t. I shoot the bulk of each issue, and the photos you see online with a Canon 60-D. The secret is to invest in lenses. This is if you are shooting with a DSLR camera. For blogging and submitting to magazines a point and shoot will work just fine. Just know how to work your camera. I have even printed quite a few photos that I’ve taken with my iPhone.
If you are shooting with a DSLR don’t be afraid to take a class (be it online or in person) or simply abduct the nearest photographer you know. Over the past few years I have had a friend and a photographer answer all my questions. After a while I started to get a hang of what I was doing. When shooting with a DSLR there are a few things to remember:
Shoot in RAW. If you have the option to shoot in RAW you will want to do it. The quality of your images will blow you away. I had all of my writers switch to shooting RAW. They now all shoot in RAW on their blogs. If you can’t shoot in RAW make sure you are shooting in the highest quality possible. A magazine will have to look at the size of the image. I tell people to shoot and submit in the largest size possible. I can easily shrink a photo. I cannot make one bigger.
After some practice shooting in manual will become your favorite. Up until recently I was terrified of manual. I had been shown all the ropes a long time ago. It took plenty of practice to convince me how important it is. Manual allows you to get the photos you’ve dreamt of. My biggest advice for shooting in manual is to keep you ISO as low as possible. This will affect grain. The lower the ISO the less grain. Often times if you are shooting in darker lighting you will then have to adjust your shutter speed lower than desired — for this bring out the tripod. Embrace the tripod. Play with your shutter speed. This is what affects exposure. I, in my personal photography, under expose for darker earthier feels most of the time; I am a huge fan of arosynote.com which under exposes most every image. It is a matter of preference. For submission purposes shoot with a very natural exposure. This is safer for us to print, and will increase your chances of being selected.
Speaking of lighting — natural lighting is a must! The best shooting is near a window or in a shaded area. Partly cloudy days give perfectly lighting. Too much light causes shadows, not enough lighting causes colors not to pop. It is a very thin line for lighting perfection. I do the bulk of our shooting in the mornings when the light is white and soft. I find afternoon light to turn my photos orange. Don’t be afraid to play with the direction your light comes from. You’ll be amazed at how much it can change an image.
Editing photos is super easy. I recommend using software like Adobe Lightroom. Photoshop mastery is certainly not a must. Keep your editing to a minimum. Light retouching is cool. Creating harsh contrast is not. Editing is a big make or break for submissions. Keep the colors natural, keep the contrast natural, keep the retouching natural, keep the effects natural — basically here I am saying to keep it natural. Always avoid borders, stickers, text, or anything of that nature. When you submit photos do so without watermarks. It is a pain for the magazine to have to ask you to resubmit without watermarks.
Lastly make sure your photos are at least 300 DPI. This is very important in getting a good resolution.
This may be the most important part of this entire piece. Make sure your submission is original. In today’s setting we are very eager to see new, ground breaking content. We don’t want to see the same project we have seen on Pinterest 1,000 times before. Speaking of Pinterest, I love Pinterest, but Pinterest is not the place to go if you are looking to create original content. Have I said Pinterest enough? I personally have to stay totally off of Pinterest. On average I produce 20-30 of my own ideas and issue and produce 15 stories a month for our blog. The more I am on Pinterest the more I find myself accidently stealing ideas, styling, or concepts. If you submit a piece to a magazine and we head over to Pinterest only to find 25 identical projects we aren’t going to be able to run your piece. However does this mean I don’t like Pinterest? Nope, not at all! It is great for sharing your own ideas, and finding ideas for yourself — just not ideas to share with others. Be original. Be brave. Be yourself!
On that note, don’t be afraid to rethink a classic idea. I have a cookbook from the late 1800s that I am rethinking all the recipes for. That totally works. I am keeping it fresh and adapting it to 2012.
Photo styling is rather important. Photo styling is what causes you to fall in love with images. One rule runs this — keep it simple. Nothing speaks more than simple styling. Timeless styling also works well too. I try to use vintage items as often as possible so our pages won’t become dated as quickly. For styling don’t be afraid to develop your own style. My personal style is super rich and earthy. I am training in Early American style, even in a modern setting I still lean towards Early American elements. With that mix of modern and Early American I have developed a style that is my own and that is recognizable. Creating your own style will cause you to quickly rise. We love people with their own voices, both in photo and text.
Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. However do this only if you are working daily to improve your talent. I try to learn something new every day. Even as an expert I have a ton to learn. My motto as an Editor-in-Chief is that I am here to learn with you. We will learn together, having fun all the while! On that note research how to submit. Get to know us, the editors. I am active on my personal Facebook profile and with the FOLK page with the reader/follower. The more you know about us, the more we will want to know about you. In the end we both win. This also allows us to see your posts, find your Facebook page, and stumble upon your blog. I have found many stories this way.
In the end it is simply about being original and unafraid to fail. Keep learning and keep growing, you’ll be published in no time. If you get rejected the first time keep working and resubmit, ask for feedback. We are more than happy to give it. Keep in mind that we aren’t heartless; we are simply running a business. Each page in an issue costs us thousands. We have to be very wise about what we print.
Good luck — and in the comments below be sure to give your thoughts. We are all in this together!
WANT TO SUBMIT TO FOLK'S CHRISTMAS ISSUE? I am on the hunt for stories for this issue. Do you have favorite Christmas memories? If so let me know. I am doing a special section on reader submitted stories. I am also on the hunt for veterans stories for a salute in the issue to our nation's service men and women. (email@example.com)