It has been the modus operandi for every fashion photographer since light started hitting the silver halides, every single one of us who has been successful in terms of making money from our art has had to be published in magazines in one way or another.
Back when the world was a larger place and in a time where print was king and digital was still just a glimmer in Mr. Casio's eye, magazines were the only place to be if you wanted your fashion photography to be seen. In fact I'm talking about so long ago that magazines actually used to pay you the photographer to be in them (true story), because strangely enough your art was helping to sell their magazine and make them money.
Sadly those pay-days are long gone but it's not all bad. As a result of an over-saturated photography market so too are there now more magazines than stars in the sky, meaning that there is actually far more chance to get your work published and most importantly seen by others than ever before.
As you may have noticed by the tone thus far of this article, there is a little love/hate relationship going on here between photographers and magazines. Photographers think their work is amazing and that for a magazine to have it on their pages is a privilege, one that is worth paying for no less. Magazines on the other hand think their magazine is amazing and to have your work grace their pages is a privilege, one that is worth paying them for in some cases (more on those art-murdering heathens later).
So where do we currently stand as photographers in this tenuous commercial stale-mate of exposure versus dignity? The reality is that times have moved on, no we no longer get paid to have our work in fashion magazines (this obviously excludes the commissions of high end fashion magazines) but we do get far more opportunity to get them published, which is fantastic news.
We as photographers should embrace this change, because this trade of photographic exposure for free magazine pages isn't going away any time soon. I understand the argument for 'never working for free' but truth be told, getting your images published in a magazine is not classed as working for free and it is certainly a far cry from working for a commercial client without pay. You should see getting your images in a magazine as a by-product of a shoot you were going to shoot anyway and remember you still have complete control over those images as they are yours to sell after the magazine has used them too.
Never Ever Pay to get Published
So now that we have established that fashion magazines displaying and sharing your images for free is actually a fair deal let's look at what truly isn't a fair deal. I am of course talking about the so called 'magazines' that charge photographers to be published within their covers. These are simply not fashion magazines, this is merely a modern Yellow-Pages of adverts for photographers, these fashion images/adverts are simply sold to the highest bidder.
You are not being 'published' in a fashion magazine if you pay to be in there and you are merely advertising yourself in a stack of murdered tree souls that will only ever be looked at by your mother.
As those of us that have been fortunate enough to be published in fashion magazines will know, it is not simply a case of sending off an email to your favourite mag with a few thumbnails and 4 weeks later there's your images emblazoned on the cover. It takes time, patience and most importantly skill to be published. Magazines will not always except your work, nor like your style and you will receive rejection after rejection. But that's ok, because that magazine is maintaining a high standard of work within their covers. When your work is strong enough I guarantee you it will be showcased.
The magazines that charge you to be published aren't applying the same ethos, they just want your money because they can't sell advertising space to reputable companies because their magazine is crap and their magazine is crap because they house the highest bidder of photographers not the best photography. It's a slippery slope for them and one that isn't sustainable long term so please do not ever under any circumstances pay to get your work published. That money is far better spent on another shoot where your skills will grow and grow and I guarantee that when your skills have grown enough your images will be good enough to be recognised and published.
Five Points to Remember When Submitting Your Work
Just before we all fire-up our emails and get ready to start carpet bombing every editors inbox we can find, let's just take a quick moment to bear a few things in mind from a photographers point of view.
Here are a few things to be mindful and careful of when submitting and agreeing to be published in these magazines.
- They are your images, nobody else's, the magazine has no rights over them whatsoever. You are allowing them to be published in that one issue alone and probably displayed on social media. The magazine is not allowed to profit from the sale of your images now or ever.
- Magazines are apparently busy, I get it but don't send off your best work and keep your fingers crossed for 6 months. They will usually state how long it will take them to get back to you but even the busiest and biggest magazines don't take any longer than 4 weeks to respond. In my opinion 4 weeks is a long time so unless the magazine is outstanding then as a guide I give it 2 weeks before I resubmit the shots to a different magazine.
- Exclusivity is pretty much a mandatory requirement for every magazine now and that includes social media of course. Trust me I know how hard it is to not share your best work for months but you have to sit on it I'm afraid. It's also a very good idea to make sure the team is aware of this before going into a project. The model, MUA, stylist etc need to be made aware if you intend to submit work to publications and the possible timelines associated with doing so. For example if you send out all of the shots to the rest of the team, you have to be aware that the chance of somebody sharing one is extremely high. I myself have been burned before by a member of the team sharing an image before time and losing an imminent editorial. Now, nobody has the final images apart from me until they are published, it might sound harsh but it's in everybody's best interests, especially when a publication is the only thing certain team members are on board for to begin with.
- If you are particularly happy with a shoot and it gets published in one magazine there is no harm in offering it to another magazine if it perfectly fits their submission guidelines. Be honest though, make sure you let them know its already been published and chances are if they love it they may publish it or allow it on their online features instead.
- This last point should be pretty obvious but read the submission guidelines thoroughly. I know it's a pain in the ass to have to do all the work for them sometimes but you just have to suck it up I'm afraid. There is no point at all in getting the perfect shoot all emailed off to the perfect mag only to find out that they only review images through their online submission process. It's happened!
My Top Ten List of Fashion Magazines Worth Submitting To
So let's get down to the details of who we want to be published with. I'm going to be realistic here though, I'm not going to be handing out the editors email of Harpers and i-D here we need to be realistic of where we want to be to get the ball rolling. This list covers a range of different looks and all of them will require something different to get involved with. Some have a smaller following and thus a little easier to get into, some aren't even print based at all but have a colossal following and as such this list is intended to give you an initial jumping off point for your first submissions.
The following list is of course far from exhaustive but I have put together these magazines that I feel are displaying great imagery where your work being included alongside them is a positive thing. But most importantly I feel that these magazines are run by actual human beings, by that I mean that I have either been featured in these magazines myself and had great feedback as a result or I have communicated with them and understood their style and direction through an educated and understanding member of their team. I will not allow a magazine to use my work if they are insanely egotistical, dismissive and demanding nor will I allow any magazine to use my work with frankly ridiculous image rights requests.
:UPDATE: March 2017 - The links below have been checked and updated where appropriate - Alas, it would seem that the publishing world has suffered a few major blows of their own and as a result some of the publications below are no longer with us. I'll be on the lookout for new, more relevant publications soon and will publish my findings as soon as I have them.
A great magazine that simply focusses on the photography and not just some made up last minute back story or pithy story titles, just big bold and engaging imagery. Check out the guidelines too, they don't even insist on exclusivity if the images are good enough.
Elegant Mag has a whole host of awesome photographers on display so this would be a great place to get your work shown. They have several genres too including fashion, lingerie, beauty and ink so there's plenty of scope to submit too. They also get back to you within one week, wohoo!
Spanish fashion magazine Hacid has been around for a little while now and established itself as having more of a cleaner look to its contents. If you're after the pure fashion photography that is more about the showcasing the clothes rather than photography that sells the idea of clothes then this is for you.
Like a Lion Magazine - Submission Guidelines :UPDATE: Although links and emails are still active, it appears very quiet over at Like a Lion mag. Probably not worth your time until I hear more I'm afraid.
This is still an emerging magazine but I like a lot of what they put out there and they are't afraid to use images that challenge the status quo. Definitely worth a look.
I love Lucy's magazine, its always filled with the current photographic looks and the pages are always displaying big bright bold colours. This is the real deal fashion mag here so they want at least 6 different outfits displayed in your story before you submit.
Again here we have another emerging fashion magazine that is worth keeping an eye on. I've chatted to the editor a few times and he seems like a fairly open guy. They mainly look for a quirkier look, both in fashion styling and photography so if you feel you have something a little different in the pipeline then its definitely worth getting in touch with them.
NiF Magazine has seen incredible popularity recently and has a huge audience for you to be exposed to. They really straddle the ever increasingly blurred line between fashion and nudity so although not strictly a fashion magazine they certainly summon the visual clout of one. Nif is very focused on the art of the process and if you have work that is not necessarily mainstream but bold, different and engaging then you stand a serious chance of being excepted into the fold.
Ellements magazine has been around for a little while and has a solid reach but it's style is a little harder to pin down. The fashion it displays is a little more mainstream so if you don't have access to antlers, latex collars and the latest fashion stylists just yet, some strong clean photography of the latest high street fashion trends could get you through the door. Like I mentioned, it has decent size audience so Ellements is certainly worth a look.
Papercut Magazine - Submission Guidelines :UPDATE: Sad times indeed but alas it seems like Papercut Mag may no longer be with us. If you're interested in some fantastic fashion photography inspiration though you should check out their past issues before they're gone for good Papercut Mag - past issues
I've included Papercut magazine here as an example of a magazine that is a little higher up the ladder in terms of exposure and thus a little harder to get into. Papercut has long been established as one of the top independent fashion magazines and as such probably receives a very high number of submissions from eager photographers hoping to grace their pages. As a consequence of this Papaercut has an example of one of those submission processes that is a little bit more tedious than others. You have to create a profile then upload your shots one by one at lo-res with each image being described and credited then repeat the process again upon selection at higher resolution. It also took them nearly 5 weeks to accept the shots so it goes to show that these higher volume mags can be tedious and also take their time.
Fashionising is not technically even a fashion magazine, it solely exists on the web and makes no pretence otherwise. I have included it here in my list to illustrate a little point, we all want to be published but we all want to be 'printed'. Why? Well its because we want that immortalisation of a physical product we can all touch, hold and pass around. Trust me I get it, but we should be honest with ourselves with what we are really after. We are after 'exposure', we want our work to be seen by as many people as possible and printed matter is not necessarily always the best vessel to do that with. Fashionoisng seems to be more of an industry go-to site where editors, stylists, designers and other industry experts go to peruse the latest goings on. I've only had a few shoots 'published' on Fashionising and I can assure you that I've had more interest, feedback and communication from people through Fashionising than anywhere else. If you can get a profile sorted on here then its definitely worth the time.
So there you have it, my list of ten magazines that are worth looking at, all for different reasons and all spanning different genres and ideals. Remember never pay to get published and also remember that you as the photographer has the final say on the usage of your images so never sign anything to the contrary.
Please feel free to add your thoughts on this though as I can only comment on my personal experiences, if you've found yourself at the end of anything to the contrary then please feel free to chime in. Also I'd like to hear your recommendations on mags to submit too, its always good to hear of any that I hadn't considered.
I wish you all the best of luck with your submissions :)