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There are various options to get your photographs in print.
Specialist magazines, such as those interested in photography or diving may accept photographs on their own, but are likely to want some form of story to go with them, forcing you to break out into the field of photo-journalism as well. Occasionally they may accept suitable photographs for cover shots, but these need to be carefully designed to allow space for titles and other text around the photograph itself. Payment will generally be subsequent to publication, if the magazine in fact pays for photographs at all. Annual photo contests, however good, tend to be given relatively little magazine space.
The other area is stock photography, where you send your slides to an agency who hold them on file in the hope that somebody, somewhere, will want to use one of them
There are various books, published annually, listing photographic agencies and their areas of interest. This should be your first port of call. Once you have identified a number of suitable agencies, then send a stamped self addressed envelope asking whether they are accepting new photographers, and if so, requesting guidelines on submitting photographs. Listen to their advice - it may be hard to take and expensive to follow, but remember that agents talk to buyers all day long and they know what buyers want.
Although larger format is preferred, as it enlarges with more detail, 35mm film is perfectly acceptable, but stick to the big name film manufacturers who manufacture professional and amateur film. Don't use film speeds over ISO 100 any more than necessary, and avoid amateur processing - professional labs charge more for developing, but they deliver higher quality, so bear this in mind.
You should shoot only transparencies. Most stock projects involve working with a printer, and most printers are only set up to work from transparencies You should have duplicates of your transparencies mounted as slides, with printed labels specifying exact name of species, a copyright notice, and the location shot.
Most agencies require an initial submission of 200 photographs, and while the photographer retains full copyright, the usage fee will vary with the type of usage and the size of the print run. In general most agencies do not get involved with projects where the minimum usage fee is less than 200 dollars per photograph, of which they will probably take a commission of 50 percent..
The obvious embarrassment of having the same photograph sold through different agencies, for example for a calendar, probably means than an agent will ask you for an exclusive arrangement, and this will be to your benefit.
Agencies will be only too quick to return sub-standard work, so make their life easier, and include the postage for any returns they want to make. Be aware that they receive a large number of very good photographs, and will be looking for sharpness, subject matter, composition, and. in the case of slides, colour saturation. Just because you have specialised in underwater photography doesn't mean they will accept poor photographs, as it is their job to know what a good one looks like.
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This page was last updated on 11 August 1998
Please address any comments to Mark Mumford