Editorial photography is all about being published. Whether you shoot fashion, portraits or documentary, having your images featured in a magazine or journal is a big step in your professional career. The editorial world is comprised of multiple photographic genres that feature creatives work in print and online mediums.
The road to becoming an editorial photographer can often be uncertain. As with most photographic career paths, there is no guideline on how to reach a certain level of success. Instead, you keep shooting and creating in hopes of seeing your work published in glossy print.
To help you understand how to start your career as an editorial photographer, here are 4 helpful tips to guide you on the path to publication.
Build a Professional Portfolio
The first step to becoming an editorial photographer is to build a professional portfolio. This all depends on which type of editorial you want to work within. You can shoot fashion, portraits, lifestyle and even documentary focused content.
For example, creating editorial portraits can encompass a large network of individuals. You can be hired to photograph artists, musicians and celebrities for publication, press content and interviews for a magazine. This will usually be a creative production developed in unison with the marketing team at the publication.
As an editorial photographer, remember to create images that are indicative of your style. This is usually the best way to be considered by a publication. In fact, editors that can recognize your work will be more inclined to hire you for a project.
You can build a professional portfolio in multiple ways. Start by creating personal projects that express your vision and style. So, think of concepts that are intriguing, yet match the aesthetic of publications you admire. Add styling, grooming and set design to create images with a cohesive and professional look.
You should start with photographing models and work your way up toward reaching out to local artists or musicians for a dynamic and differentiating body of work. The best advice for growing in editorial photography, is to always keep shooting. Producing new work in a consistent manner means a greater possibility of being considered for an upcoming project.
Use Targeted Networking
The next step to becoming an editorial photographer is to use targeted networking. This means creating and building relationships with key players in the industry. Networking should be a top priority for growing your photography career.
To network, you can attend industry events, connect with mutual acquaintances and reach out individually to people whose work and influence your admire. There are not always creative industry events to attend. But, there are meet-ups, gallery openings and publication launches that you can go to. You will have to be creative with your networking efforts and do your research on where to find the right people.
You can also utilize your existing network to build new relationships. If you know another photographer who has worked with a publication you admire, ask them about it. Pick their brain on their process and express your interest in reaching the level they have obtained. Flattery and a true interest in another creative’s work can allow them to open up to you and offer their advice.
Finally, you can network by individually reaching out to people in the industry and proposing a “networking date.” This can as simple as buying them a cup of coffee in exchange for a small amount of their time and feedback. Bring your work and come prepared with concrete topics you want to discuss. Remember to always be professional and personable.
With this, connect with people who are within your reach. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can land a meeting with the editor in chief of a mainstream publication. Instead, find an assistant or intern who also is keen to network and connect with industry professionals. Start small and work your way up to a sit down with the decision makers.
Submit Your Images to Publications
Another method to growing as an editorial photographer is to submit your images to magazines. This often applies to fashion photographers who will develop creative editorials for submission. This process can be beneficial if you have never been published.
In order to do this, you will need to find magazines that accept submissions. Employ a general search of publications that you like and whose style aligns with your own. You can then check to see if they offer a submission process for new content. If they do, you will need to follow their specific guidelines for your images to be considered.
Another way you can find publications that use submissions is through the platform, Kavyar. They are essentially a magazine database that allows you to upload and send your submissions to magazines seeking new editorials. In fact, some of the submissions require a payment, but I suggest starting with publications you can submit to for free.
Finally, you could also pitch ideas to magazines for editorial ideas. This requires you to create a mood board and have a team in place to share with the editors. You will need to give them your idea and if they accept it, they can give you a pull letter for clothing. This doesn’t always mean they will use your editorial once it is finished, but it’s a good step to creating a project with an editorial focus to add to your portfolio.
Connect and Develop Relationships With Magazines
The final step to growing your career as an editorial photographer is to connect and develop relationships with magazines. Aside from fashion publications, there are a handful of great magazines that hire editorial photographers for projects such as Kinfolk, Cereal, Refinery29, ManRepeller and more.
I suggest taking a look at publications you like and identifying the style of projects they create. Then, develop an idea of your own that you believe they would be interested in. Use this personal project as a starting point and reach out to the publications to introduce yourself. This can be as simple as an introductory email letting them know you are interested in working with them on future projects.
Developing relationships with any new client can be difficult. The most important thing to remember is to remain persistent and determined. You may not hear back right away, but this doesn’t mean you should be discouraged. So, keep creating work you are proud of and passionate about. Eventually an opportunity will arise from your dedication.
As you can see, the path of an editorial photographer requires a series of different steps. By building a professional portfolio, networking, submitting your images to publications and developing relationships with magazines – you will be one step closer to seeing your photographs in print.