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How To Sell Your Photos For A Byline and a Check
by Lori Appling

(The below tips are excerpts from AWAI's Big Bucks for Snap Shots: 53 Can't-Miss Techniques for Becoming a Money-Making Freelance Photographer. This guide comes free with AWAI's home-study course on travel writing http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/kp/wfd - or you can buy the photo guide separately here: http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/photos/wfd )

It's true that sometimes a publication commissions a professional photographer to take the photos they need. And sometimes editors buy their photos from a stock-photo house.

But just as often, it's the writer who provides the photographs. Particularly for smaller-market and lower-budget publications, having photos available to an editor can make a real difference in whether or not you make your sale.

Some publications will pay a flat fee for an article-and-photo package. Others pay one fee for your article and another for photos. (You'll find that sort of information in a publication's Writer's Guidelines.)

As a writer, then, you have several options:

1) You can team up with somebody who can take the images for you.

2) You can inquire at tourism offices (or stock photo agencies) for suitable images.

3) Or you can learn how to handle a camera yourself.

The first option is an economic decision -- do you make enough per article to share your take with a professional photographer? If the answer is yes, this may be your best choice.

Some freelance writers will travel with a "researcher/photographer" spouse. One does the writing, one does the snapping. (Such an arrangement allows you to both take a "working" vacation and the corresponding deductions on your tax returns.)

Borrowing images (option #2) means that you are taking responsibility for their safe return (usually prints or transparencies (slides is another word for transparencies)). If an editor loses original material from a tourism organization, this can cost you (as the responsible party) up to $1,500 per image, which is the average standard value of an original commercial transparency. You can try to get it back from the editor, but first you must cough up the dough.

Learning to take your own images (option #3) is work -- for some people more effort than learning how to write. The good news is that most professionals agree that anybody can take usable images (even if they aren't great images). Here's how…

** FIRST, YOU MUST read the Photo-Submission Guidelines!

These are usually included as part of the Writer’s Guidelines, which you can typically find online at a publication's website or in Writer's Digest's Writer's Market: http://tinyurl.com/2d99w . Here are a few examples:

* Frontier Magazine will review duplicate slides only. They buy one-time rights and negotiate payment on a case-by-case basis. Subject identification is required for review. (In other words, the editors won't consider your photos if you don't include captions with them.)

* The International Railway Traveler reviews contact sheets, negatives, transparencies (8 x 10) preferred and 5 X 7 prints. They buy first North American rights and electronic rights. (I’ll tell you a little more about rights in a second.) Costs of converting slides and negatives to prints are deducted from payment. Captions and subject identification are required.

* Islands reviews 35mm transparencies sent in protective plastic sleeves. They buy one-time rights for $75-$300. Identification of subject matter is required.


When you send in your article query to the editor of a publication, indicate that you can provide photos or illustrations to accompany your story.

It’s always a good idea to mail photos and slides First Class. If you fear losing your prints or slides, you can send them Certified or Registered Mail. (Remember, both Certified and Registered Mail require a recipient's signature. The only difference between the two is that the contents in a Registered Mail package are insured.)

If you’re sending in photos separately from your article, (if, for example, you’ve already emailed your article to the editor) then you should enclose a letter of explanation with your photos. The letter should be less than a page long and should tell the editor what the photos are, what they’re for, and whom they’re from.

Also, include a separate self-addressed label and an envelope with sufficient return postage so you can get the copies of your photos and slides back. Never submit photos or slides mounted in glass.


© Copyright 2004, Lori Appling

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