As a travel photographer, educator and writer, one of the questions I’m most often asked is How do you get your articles published? Most people probably don’t think much about how a specific article or topic is selected for publication, let alone how those articles are brought to the attention of a magazine in the first place. But once you decide to become a travel photographer and writer, you realize you have no idea how articles get published. To give you an idea of how the magazine world works, following is the story of how my Istanbul piece was selected by Shutterbug Magazine.
In 2012, after leading a workshop in India, I stopped in Istanbul to scout the location for a possible photo expedition there. I immediately fell in love with the place, its architecture, history, gorgeous location and people. I thought an article about some of the best places to photograph in Istanbul would be of interest to Shutterbug. I subscribe to the magazine and was familiar with the types of pieces they like, plus I had previously placed a number of my articles with them.
During my visit in 2012, I photographed quite a number of subjects, from the famous mosques (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque), to the chaotic bazaars, to the nearby fishing village of Sariyer. In 2013, I led two photo expeditions to Istanbul, and during my free time, I rounded out my collection of Istanbul images.
After returning to the office I edited my images and narrowed down the subjects I would feature in the article. I enjoy writing “where-to” articles (as opposed to “how-to”), so the piece focused on some of the best subjects to photograph in Istanbul, best times to capture them, some compositional ideas and equipment suggestions. I also sprinkled the article with facts about the subjects to add interest and historical context.
Because magazines have space limitations, I made sure I kept the article to under 2,000 words, and submitted 20 images to illustrate it. I proof-read and fact-checked the article after each draft, and selected only my best pictures for submission.
Most travel publications have submission guidelines that outline how many words their articles are, what kind of stories they are looking for, how to propose a story, etc. They are all a little different, so make sure to check them out if you are pitching a story to a magazine for the first time.
In my case, since I had worked with Shutterbug before, the editor had instructed me to submit story ideas via email, so that’s what I did. In the email I included a sentence of my idea (where to photograph in Istanbul), an itemized list of the images submitted, a link to a gallery of my images, and an attachment of the article. Because Shutterbug usually includes “If-You-Go” and “About the Author” sections, I included those as well.
Within a week of my submission the editor responded saying he liked the article and would add it to his editorial calendar. Because he wanted to include the piece in the magazine’s travel issue, it would not be published until late spring of 2014. This is not uncommon in the industry as magazine issues are usually planned many months in advance.
The Istanbul article was published in the July 2014 issue of Shutterbug, and it included 9 of my images (the one included here depicts the Blue Mosque). I received payment about the same time, plus a couple of extra copies for my records and future marketing efforts.
Although about 2 years transpired between my idea and the article being published, this is common in the magazine industry as well. The idea is to have a number of articles in the pipeline in order to create a steady income over time.
Now get out and shoot something.