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How to Get Your Image Published as a Front Cover

May 31, 2016

Fashion magazines, photography magazines, and all sorts of other niches all need to have cover images. But particularly in the fashion and photographic publications, these covers can be obtained simply by submitting your work for them to look at. It’s a huge achievement to be chosen as a cover star, and you may need to work hard before you get there – but it can definitely be done. So long as you know how to submit the right work in the right way, you could have your first front cover before you know it. Here’s our top tips for getting there.

Step 1: Choose your Publication

Of course, it’s very important to get your work into the right magazine. If you photograph sports, for example, it’s unlikely that you would want to be published in a fashion magazine – or that it would be beneficial to your career path if you did. Pay particular attention to the style of the magazine. Browse through an old issue to see what they are looking for.

It’s not just a question of finding a fashion magazine, for example. Some will showcase womenswear exclusively, some menswear, and some a mixture of the two. Some focus on a particular area of the world, others on a certain type of design. Some of them only want high street brands, some only independents, and some of them only high fashion. If you try to submit to the wrong magazine, you will be rejected outright – and you will have wasted your time. It’s also worth trying smaller online magazines first, while you get the hang of it, and working up to the more popular publications later.

You don’t have to choose a publication with a certain photoshoot in mind. In fact, it might be better to choose a publication and then put together a photoshoot that you think will work well in their pages. This way, you can follow their guidelines exactly.

Step 2: Check the Guidelines

This step cannot be overstated in its importance. Simply put, if you don’t follow the guidelines, you won’t be published.

Editors have submissions flooding in to their inbox at all times of day and night, at an almost overwhelming rate, and they won’t waste any time on something that is not submitted properly. Pay attention to every word in the submission guidelines. If there are none available to view online, send an email asking about them – you may well find that the magazine simply does not accept submissions. If they do, these are the points you need to watch out for:

  • How to submit (email? Online form? Post?)
  • How many images to include
  • Other information which is needed (eg your name, credits, title)
  • What size and format to send images in
  • How to attach your images (zip file? Dropbox link? PDF?)
  • How many looks are required (some will stipulate a minimum)
  • Do they accept previously published images?
  • What about images that have been shared on your website or social media?
  • Current theme, unless open

If anything else is stipulated in the instructions, be sure that it is hugely important. Don’t ignore anything on the page!

Step 3: Choose your Images

Whether you are shooting specifically for this magazine, or choosing an old shoot that fits the theme, you have to choose the images for submission very carefully. Stick within the limit of images that you are allowed to send, but make them the strongest possible submission.

You should also think about how your submission progresses as a story. For example, a fashion submission should carry the same theme through, normally with the same model, the same designer, or the same set to at least give a coherent story element. A submission to a photography magazine should carry the same style or be part of the same photo essay, so that it is obvious that the images belong together. Don’t just gather together lots of random images and send them in as one.

At this stage, consider also the formatting of the magazine. Some of them may be sized differently to the images that come out of your camera, causing you to crop the submission. If you have to do this, then make sure you do not choose any images that would lose important information outside of the limits of the frame.

Step 4: Make your Submission

Before you send your submission in, it is important to take the time to read through those submission instructions one more time. Have you forgotten to do anything? Missed a certain instruction? Especially if you are making a lot of submissions, it can be easy to miss something that turns out to be vitally important.

At this juncture, it’s also important to note that you should never ask for your images to be considered as a cover story, unless you have been instructed to do so. Editors know what they are looking for and they will choose the image that they feel best represents the issue, the theme, and the magazine itself.

When you submit to a magazine, if you are determined to go after that cover story, think about checking their social media pages. Close to the submission deadline, they may have already chosen their cover star. If this is the case, you can delay submission until the next issue.

Be aware that you aren’t likely to get a cover with your first ever submission, unless you have been shooting for a long time and just never bothered to submit before. There are plenty of reasons for this: you might not be shooting at the right standard yet, or you may not understand clearly what they are looking for. You also may not have a good understanding of capturing a theme yet. The important thing is that you have to make a submission in the first place in order to get that cover, and the more published credits you get, the higher you will be able to push your standard.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get published that very first time. Pick yourself up, and submit again. Likewise, you may be published, but only as an editorial and not as the cover feature. Whatever happens, assess your submission and compare it to the issue that comes out. Can you see why you weren’t accepted, or why the cover feature was chosen above yours?

This is a learning curve, so take the lessons on board and try harder for your next submission. Once you get the hang of things, and so long as your photography is truly impressive, you should be able to line up cover after cover. Make sure to add these to your portfolio as a demonstration of what you can do!