Sportif USA Catalog, Early Summer 2001 edition, page 17. My first published image, a landscape depicting sand dunes in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. But I should start from the beginning… The original focus of my photography at that time was landscapes. In early 2000, as I made plans to visit Morocco, I received a catalog from Sportif USA, a travel/adventure clothing company. The catalog was illustrated with landscapes from different parts of the world — Baja California, the Desert Southwest, Africa — so I decided to contact them and inquire if they would be interested in “sponsoring” my upcoming trip with free clothing. In exchange, I would provide them with pictures of my wife and me in Morocco wearing Sportif clothes, plus images of Moroccan landscapes for possible inclusion in Sportif catalogs. As a sample of my work, I included a series of landscapes of Colorado, where I lived at the time. To my astonishment (I had no credits to my name), they responded by offering me a 50% discount on their clothing and a promise to review my work when I returned (they respectfully declined my offer to be featured in their catalog wearing their clothes). After reviewing the offer I did a little victory dance in the privacy of my living room, then ordered some clothes for our trip. Having the knowledge that my images would be reviewed for possible inclusion in the Sportif catalog also made the trip more enjoyable and focused, since I was now “on assignment.” After returning from Morocco, I carefully selected and labeled my best landscape images, and sent the submission to Sportif. About six months later, I heard that one of my images was selected and that the fee would be $200. A few weeks later I received a copy of the finished catalog. I could barely contain my excitement as I lovingly gazed at my sand dunes image, which was placed between a picture of Sportif’s “Holy Moly Polo” on one side and the “Sudan Shirt” (featuring “on-body security with zippered pockets on the chest and below the belt line”) on the other. I was a published (and paid) photographer. Sweet! Here’s a copy of the picture they accepted: Now, it’s true my first published photograph was in a catalog and not a magazine, but I think there’s a lesson here that applies to both…
- Don’t be afraid to ask.Without a credit to my name, I was able to get a nice discount on some needed clothes and make a couple hundred dollars to boot. To paraphrase hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
- Make sure your pictures are good.Before contacting any potential client, make sure your images are well-exposed, well-composed, and of top quality. Do not send mediocre images mixed in with quality images and expect an editor to find the good ones. In Sportif’s case, I sent a plastic sheet containing twelve slides. Today, you’d do essentially the same thing digitally by displaying them on a website or CD. As always, check with the magazine’s submission guidelines, first.
- Make sure the images you send are what the client needs.Most editors do not appreciate receiving images that have nothing to do with the subject matter they are interested in. In my case, Sportif used landscape images in their catalogs, so I sent them a selection of my landscape images. Read through the magazine you’re targeting and pay attention to what kinds of images they publish before sending yours in.
- Contact the right person.Before I sent my request, I called Sportif and asked for the name, title, and contact information of the person in charge of putting the catalog together and selecting images. Check online or in the magazine’s guidelines first, or call to ask who selects and publishes the photos in the magazine. You’re looking for a first and last name and contact information. Sending requests and queries to “Sir or Madam” will probably get trashed.
- Be a duck — let the water roll right off your back!Although I was fortunate at one of my first attempts at getting published, rejection happens, so keep trying, and don’t let those rejections sink your ship.