The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Selling Photos to Magazines

photo courtesy of morguefile.com
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Do you have your own images that would make a great addition to your article?

Do you know if the magazine you're submitting to accepts photos?

Since images are often purchased separately, offering photos can increase your rate of pay. However, just as there are rules and guidelines for writing, you'll find the same for photo submissions.

First, consider:


  1. 1. Do these photos add value to the article or short story? Do they help illustrate or demonstrate the content?

  2. 2. Do you own these photos? You either took the pictures with permission in a private location or they were taken in a public place.

  3. 3. Or, do you have permission of the photo owner to use these images? If so, note photos courtesy of "first name last name." Your editor may want contact info to verify this permission.

  4. 4. Are they quality photos? Do they have good composition, originality, good color and lighting? Are the images in focus or deliberately out of focus for effect? Are they cropped and/or modified well? Compare your images with pictures in the magazine you're targeting. Be honest with yourself. Can you see your photo in this magazine?

  5. 5. Do you have a photographer's release? If the picture shows a recognizable person, the editor may need a copy of this form. Here's a good site with information on release forms: http://www.free-legal-document.com/sample-model-release.html. You may also search online for model release or photo release to see similar forms.

  6. 6. Does the photo format fit the magazine's photo guidelines? You'll find some information in market books, but check the magazine's own submission guidelines, which are often available online.

  7. 7. What rights you are selling.

How to sell your photos:


  1. 1. Find out what format the magazine wants. Yes, it's so important, I'm repeating it. Formats usually are:

  2. a. Digital, including number of pixels

  3. b. Color slides or transparencies

  4. c. Black and white photos, a size is often specified


  5. 2. When submitting a query letter for an article:

  6. a. Send a sample of the best photo. This can pique an editor's interest.

  7. b. Similar to a bibliography, list the photos available with a brief description of each.

  8. c. Communicate the format of your picture(s) to the editor in a way which shows you know what format the magazine expects.


  9. 3. When sending the full article either on spec or by request:

  10. a. Send a list of the enclosed or attached photos. Include a label for each photo, a brief description, and if the magazine puts captions on photos, possible captions.

  11. b. When sending by snail mail, put photos in protective sheets, and protect them with cardboard. Don't send your only copy.

  12. c. Send a photographer's release, if the magazine indicates they want one. At least mention you have it available.

  13. d. Depending on the type of article, you may need to indicate where each photo goes in the article. This can be done simply by putting "(photo #)" in the text and including numbers on your list of photos.


  14. 4. Some magazines may be interested in photos of children involved in activities or in photos of animals and plants. They would probably not purchase them outright, but have them on hand to use when needed, or contact you when looking for a specific type of photo.

  15. a. Send photocopies, tear sheets or other nonreturnable samples.

  16. b. Include previous photo publishing credits (where your photos have been published before, if any).

  17. 5. Never send your only copy of a photo. Photos are usually returned but can get lost or damaged.

  18. 6. Label any physical copies with your name and photo identification (name or number).

Sample photo guidelines--note how much they vary and remember they can change at any time:

U.S. Kids magazines: "We do not purchase single photos. We do purchase short photo features (up to 8 or 10 images) or high-quality photos that accompany articles and illustrate editorial material. Digital format is best with high resolution (300 dpi in an image size of at least 4×6 inches). We purchase one-time rights to photos but reserve the right to use the images on our websites. Please include captions and signed model releases."

Nature Friend: "Photographs are selected, month-by-month, based on articles selected that need illustrations, along with a front and back cover photo. What this means to a photographer is that photographs are secondary to writings and cannot be anticipated and selected in advance. Photographic submissions that require us to return material in a specified number of weeks will likely not be useful to us. Photographs that are in our files the day we are making selections will stand the greatest chance of being selected for use."

Dramatics: "Photos and illustrations to accompany articles are welcomed, and when available, should be submitted at the same time as the manuscript. Acceptable forms: color transparencies, 35mm or larger; color or black and white prints, 5 × 7 or larger; line art (generally used to illustrate technical articles); JPEG and TIFF files of high-quality scans. Unless other arrangements are made, payment for articles includes payment for photos and illustrations. We occasionally buy photo essays.

Just as it is work to sell an article or short story, selling photos takes effort. However, following the guidelines may give you the reward of seeing your own pictures in print.