How to Become a Magazine Photographer

We all have one common dream as photographers: to see our work featured on the cover of a magazine. It’s an exciting moment for many photographers that shows our abilities to others and industry gatekeepers. Thousands will also see our work.
Finding a job shooting for a magazine is complex, with professional photography getting more competitive daily. 91% of those who submit portfolios will not be selected for the job.

Editorial photographer for several music, city, food, and business magazines for almost 7 years. Published work in The Financial Times and Decibel Magazines, as well as 5280 Magazine, have allowed me to see many sides of this ever-changing industry. Many beginning photographers have asked me how to become a magazine photographer. How do you get in touch with a magazine? How can you prepare? This tutorial will answer many of your questions. You will be able to publish your article if you follow the instructions.

Start a Portfolio

First, choose your niche and create your portfolio. Professionals who have been in the business for a while may have several niches. However, if you are starting in the field, then focus on one.

You can create strong and relevant content in your own time. If you are a wedding photographer, you will need to shoot a lot of wedding-related content. As you create your images, look at the ones published in the magazines that you like. Magazines have developed a brand that has appealed to their readers for decades.

Your portfolio is a visual resume. It will be used by magazine staff to show your skills and experience. It should look professional and cohesive. You can also remove any images that are not appealing.

Start with smaller magazines first.

Once you have your portfolio, it is best to get real-world experience working in a magazine. Start with free magazines to start. Many magazines are free in major cities. You can also find them online. Show your portfolio to these magazines, and you can work with them for several months.

As you might expect, these assignments are free. However, they will give you a lot of insight and help you to earn tear sheets quickly. Because you have proof of your work, the tear sheets will help later when you apply them to more prominent magazines.

Once you have mastered the art of working with magazines, it is time to start paying for assignments. You can only work for free if you are a professional photographer. The next step is applying for a regional or city publication job. Many city magazines, like my city’s 5280 Magazine, cover many topics, including local businesses, artists, food, and other news. If you look deeper into their websites, it might be possible to find that they also have home and wedding magazines. These publishers can provide stable monthly assignments as a springboard to more significant national publications.

The Cold E-Mail Pitching Method: Master it

As your editorial photography career progresses, you’ll need to improve your cold e-mailing skills. This is not only for photographers but also for anyone else. Although it may seem natural to email someone you don’t know, some veterans were still slightly nervous about the process. We must be brave and overcome our fear quickly to pursue new opportunities. Cold e-mailing is essential for any profession. If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Beginning photographers make the most common mistakes when cold emailing magazines. They either write too much or use too many words. But the trick is to keep your messages simple and to the point. Briefly tell them who you are and what you do with photos. Attach 5-10 images and your website link. Finally, please give them a brief overview of your editorial client history. Your email can be seen as inconsiderate by editors and art directors, who are often overwhelmed with hundreds of requests each year.

The most important thing about cold emailing to remember is not to be afraid of failing. It’s almost guaranteed. Even larger companies with substantial marketing budgets will claim that the average success rate of cold emails is 1%. And even the best photographers can be rejected due to circumstances beyond their control.

Many cold emails must be answered because publishers are too busy or have too many photographers. You might not be able to help in some cases if more prominent magazines don’t cover any stories. It is possible that they aren’t interested in your portfolio, which can be a shameful thing to admit. Don’t let this discourage you, no matter the reason. All this can do for your portfolio is to encourage you to continue building it and then try again a few more months later. Cold emailing is a failure for everyone. But those who persevere, learn, improve, and try again ultimately succeed. My career was challenging. But I persevered and got accepted by the magazines that I wanted.

Prepare for an in-person interview.

While most magazines will communicate with you via email or online, some will prefer to meet you in person. This is done to determine if your personality and team skills match. It can also help the magazine see how you will interact with future guests who may be photographed for them. You should handle this professionally and prepare your portfolio if it happens to you.

You should arrive at your meeting dressed and ready to go, just like you would for a job interview. It’s essential to make sure your portfolio and tearsheets are organized for professional viewing. Nowadays, most photographers present their portfolios digitally via an iPad or a laptop. However, if you have the funds, you can also print them. Although a print portfolio is unnecessary, it can be a great way to showcase your work.

Be found on the web

If you cannot get a portfolio review using the above methods, don’t despair. There’s one more powerful tool that you have. The internet is your power.

I have mentioned this in detail in my blog, 10 Steps To a Successful Photography Business. You should also have a Google My Business account and multiple social media accounts. And, of course, a website that is easily accessible to others. This goes hand in hand with managing your SEO. My experience is that magazines found me by simply searching online. It’s a sign that you are the best candidate to fill the vacancy. Even better, you will be guaranteed a job if you do a great job.

What to do after you get the job

Let me begin by saying, “Congratulations!” if you are awarded an assignment from a magazine. It’s not an easy task, but you’ve made it. The real work begins now. We will discuss the ground rules and expectations as you move forward.

First, you will likely be assigned to an editor when you shoot for a magazine. This editor will be your main point of contact throughout the entire process. You will receive assignments, tear sheets (to help you understand the magazine’s aesthetic), and a list of the article’s budget. The photographer will decide the rate of pay for editorial photography. This is very rare. A single photo assignment usually costs $150-$400. An article assignment can cost $500-$1,500, while a cover shot that includes an article will cost $750-$2,000. These windows will vary in price depending on the size of the pages your images take up and how big the publication company is.

The photographer may also manage the shooting schedule with the subject. Their contact information will likely be included in your editor’s email. This means that you will need to be flexible and allow the issue to take time, which can vary depending on the profession. One example: I have photographed CEOs on many occasions, but I was limited by their busy schedules and could only capture them for a ten-minute window. This can often happen with city magazines, so gathering information, practicing your idea, and even scouting the area in advance is essential.

You are responsible for capturing images most relevant to the article’s theme during your shoot session. Your editor may discuss the idea with you beforehand or assist you on the shoot. However, after you have finished your concept, capture additional material with different angles and croppings. You’ll greatly help your editor by giving them more options.


We have it! These are the essential tips for getting started in editorial photography. Although it will take some time to get into the editorial photography industry, it is one of the most rewarding, diverse, and rewarding areas of photography. It is hard to beat the feeling of seeing your work printed on a page and shared with the world. This is still a very desirable opportunity.

Photography success is not just about talent. You must also have a positive, long-term mindset and a strong commitment. Be bold, be prepared, and not be afraid of failing again. I will catch you on the next one.