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Secrets to Getting Published in Fashion Magazines

When I first ventured into the world of fashion photography and submitting to magazines, quite honestly I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know the etiquette of submitting to magazines, where to submit my images, or really anything about what truly makes up an editorial. I stumbled around as I transitioned from a small portrait studio in upstate NY to an NYC fashion photographer. Today, thankfully, I run a successful studio in New York with clients including some of the biggest PR and advertising firms in the world including Grey, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Edelman. Furthermore, I have been published in dozens of fashion magazines ranging from small online publications to several international Elle Magazines and Marie Claire Magazines.

One of my goals in education is to help people succeed at their passions and to avoid some of the problems and pitfalls I fell into as I developed my career. When I began submitting to magazines I encountered a lot of rejection, but that’s just the nature of the game. This post is intended to help increase your chances of getting published and help save you time in the submission process.

Here are 5 tips I’ve learned have made a HUGE difference in increasing my success rates for submitting to magazines. If it’s your first time submitting, don’t be discouraged if you don’t here back, just keep submitting, improving your work, and developing your vision. If you follow these tips, however, it will make a huge difference in your likelihood of success!

1. Define your style and research publications with a similar aesthetic

One of the biggest reasons for initial rejection from a magazine is that your images do not correspond with the style of that magazine. If you shoot soft, ethereal and feminine images, then a dark and edgy magazine will certainly not be interested in what you shoot. Define your photographic style and then research magazines that share this aesthetic or that match the look and feel of a particular shoot.

You can start by researching the list provided below in “Get Published”. Review the style of photography, requirements and aesthetic of a magazine as it compares to your own style.

Of course new fashion magazines are constantly popping up, and you’ll want to continue to do your own research. When I was first developing my list of magazines I frequently would research on ISSUU.com and Magcloud. ISSUU is a platform that allows an individual (or company) to create a magazine to be shared completely free online. The site now has more than 25 million issues in its archives, and search by your specialty in photography will reveal a wide range of potentially useful results. Magcloud is a platform that allows an individual (or company) to create a magazine that can be printed on demand. People can purchase either a digital copy or physical print edition of a particular issue. Both of these sites are a great place to grow your list of potential magazines and figure out which publications are a good fit for your style.

Do not send mass emails to dozens of publications and expect success. Instead, be targeted and purposeful so that the images you shot match the publication. Mass emails not only decrease likelihood for success, but will show magazines that you are not doing your proper research and preparation.

Gels editorial - Lindsay Adler Photography2. Research “decision makers” at the publications and start networking

I have found that sending editorials to the generic ‘info@’ email often yields no response, no matter how great the editorial. Instead, you need to check and see if there is a specific submissions email and/or submission guidelines. Many small to mid-sized magazines have a submissions page on their website with strict details of how all photographs should be submitted. Be sure to check this carefully first. Often if you do not follow their guidelines they will not even look at your work, even if they are a perfect fit. Don’t waste your time, and check this first. I learned this the hard way! I once had an editor look at an editorial, accept it for publication, but when I sent the images and credits incorrectly (based upon submission guidelines) they refused to allow me to correct the mistake and didn’t take the editorial. Time is money, and so if you waste their time they take it very seriously.

Of course, many magazines have no submission guidelines or email. What then? At that point you will want to begin researching the ‘decision makers’ at the magazine. You want the contact information of those individuals who select the editorials and photographers that the magazine features.
The editor in chief and photo editor are your priority when reaching out to publications. Seek their contact information first. After that you can also look for information of a managing editor or creative art/director. These individuals may also be influencers at the publication.
If you can find their emails on the magazine website, great! If not, try to determine their emails by studying the company email structure. If you can find ONE person’s email, you can usually figure out everyone else’s email based upon its structure.

Once you research the influencers, however, your job is not quite done. I recommend that you try to connect with these individuals on social media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIN or whatever network they are most active on. Find ways to comment and build a relationship with these individuals and organizations. When you do decide to send them an email with your work, now they will already be familiar with your name and more likely to take a closer look at what you have sent!

3. Shoot with people who have been in magazine

A key part to success in fashion photography is networking. Your network of contacts opens up many opportunities and insights.
One way to get into your target publications is to try shooting with creatives that have already been featured in that magazine. Look through the magazine and write down the hair stylist, makeup artist, and wardrobe stylists that have been part of previous editorials. Reach out to these individuals through email and social media to begin including them in your network and possibly shoot with them. If you can, propose test shoots with them or ‘spec’ editorials intended for submission to that magazine.

This is certainly no guarantee that your shoot will be published, but getting to know these people means you are working with creatives that already understand the aesthetic of this magazine and likely have some of the contacts you may need. Several of my biggest magazines publications came as a result of someone on my creative team (hair, makeup, wardrobe) having recently been published in this magazine and having the appropriate contact. My very first publications in Marie Claire and Elle were because one of my creative team members had already worked with them and had the appropriate contacts. Not only that, when you submit your shoots to these magazines, you can reference that you are collaborating with creatives that have already been featured in their publication. This catches the attention of the editor, lends to your credibility and shows that you are already ‘part of the club’.

4. Shoot something that fits: Brands, style, type of models, upcoming themes, and more.Swim Editorial - Lindsay Adler Photography

You’ve done your research of magazines you like and the people making the editorial decisions, now it is time to shoot something to submit. This is called a ‘spec shoot’ or ‘shooting for submission’. This means you haven’t been hired to create it, but you are shooting it with the hopes of a magazine accepting it. Now you need to shoot an editorial that fits this magazine (or several magazines) in hopes of getting it published.

If you are hoping to shoot a full editorial, I recommend the following:

  • Know the style of the magazine including upcoming themes and deadlines. Many magazines shoot 2-6 months in advance of publication, so be sure that your editorial fits both the upcoming theme of an issue and the time of year it will be published.
  • Shoot a minimum of 5 different looks. Either change the hair/makeup 5 times, or the clothing. This diversity is usually required for an editorial to be accepted in a magazine
  • Study the type of clothes and designers that are featured in the magazines. Some magazines include only ‘up and coming designers’, others feature high-end couture, others are open to any clothing you include. Take a look at the clothing credits that have appeared in previous issues and also the advertisers in the magazine. This will help you get an idea of the type of clothing they are interested in.
  • Be mindful of the type of models they feature. If most of the models are androgynous and edgier females, than your model should have a similar feel. If all the models are soft, doe-eyed and young, than you would want to select a similar model. Magazines may love the shoot you have created, but if the model doesn’t fit they could reject it.

I learned this the hard way through one of my first rejection letters from a magazine. The editor told me that they loved the shoot but the model just didn’t fit the overall look they were going for. Their models were very young, very soft and feminine. My model was a bit older with stronger and defined features. Had I planned and done my research a little more carefully, perhaps my editorial would have been accepted by this beautiful magazine!

5. Don’t Just Say “Publish Me”!

You’ve done your part so far to prepare yourself for success. You’ve defined your style, and researched magazines that fit your aesthetic. You’ve worked hard to create a striking editorial that fits the requirements, clothing and style of this magazine. Now, all you have left is the submission process.

As suggested before, you definitely will want to make sure you adhere to any submission guidelines if they are listed on the site. If, however, you are simply sending an email, you’ll want to do your best to catch the editor’s attention and stand out from the crowd. If your email basically says ‘Here are some images I’d like you to publish’, this probably won’t stand out in their inbox. I recommend starting your email with something to catch the editor’s attention. Referencing a recent editorial or feature in the magazine that caught your attention will also show the editor that you are a fan and follower of their work. Also a reference to a recent accomplishment of the editor (or person you are writing) will definitely draw their eye! Consider including an intro that shows you understand the style and goals of the publication, like referencing commonalities in the cover or understanding of their visual style.

Next, your email should include a bit about the shoot, your creative team, relevant credits, and WHY this editorial is a perfect fit for that magazine.
Finally, I recommend letting the editor know that if they are not interested in that particular story, that you are more than willing to create mood boards and pitch ideas for other stories you can shoot for them. If you just send photos and ask them to publish them, than the door closes if they are not interested. Leave the door to opportunities wide open by offering them other shoots specifically for their magazine.

Note: If you want to know more about fashion terminology like “mood boards” and much more, be sure to check out my ebook on fashion terminology below that’s bundled with the updated version of Get Published!.

Bringing it all together

While I certainly can’t guarantee you get published, I know that if you follow these tips you will greatly increase your chances of success. It may take awhile, but when you finally see your images grace the pages of a magazine, it will all be worth it!

Post Series: Getting Published