by Wendy Shattil
Do you look at photo books and think “I have pictures as good as these”? You might be right, but how do you get your images from the computer into that book? I’ve been on both sides of this question — as photographer and as photo editor — and I have the answer.
You won’t know if your images are good enough until you try submitting them, and you have to be willing to put in a little time selecting and preparing your images for submission.
I’m currently in a unique position to offer you the opportunity to be included in an upcoming book about the Pacific Flyway. As project manager and photo editor, I am charged with locating and selecting more than 200 images for this photo-driven book, and I’d love to see well-chosen submissions from talented NANPA photographers.
Not only pros get published, but they do have an advantage in knowing how to prepare effective submissions. Pros also recognize their truly competitive images and are willing to put in the effort to get those photos in front of an editor.
Here’s your advantage: I know what I’m looking for and I’m going to tell you how to get my attention with five easy tips.
- If you think you have material to fit the topic, request submission guidelines and study them thoroughly. For this Pacific Flyway book, the general need is migrating bird species, their behaviors, and locations from the Arctic to the tip of South America. Further, I’m looking for plenty of specifics which are detailed in the want list. Request from me at email@example.com.
The last photo-driven book I managed was The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest, which won the Gold Nautilus award as a best seller. I received more than 6,000 images from this region and selected 233 from 55 photographers. The Flyway book will have a similar feel and the same number of pages, so I’ll use over 200 images from plenty of photographers. Looking at Salish Sea will give you an understanding for the quality and originality I seek. Here’s a link to the Amazon listing which allows you to view a number of pages within the book. https://www.amazon.com/Salish-Sea-Jewel-Pacific-Northwest/dp/1570619859 .
- Understand what I’m looking for. Study the photo request and only send images that fit the requirements. Be objective. How are your photos different? Sometimes our experience taking the photo makes it meaningful to us in a way an impersonal viewer will not see. Maybe you shared the day with a special person or found some particularly delicious wild blueberries. I won’t know nor do I need to know that. I only see the image.
I’m looking for original capture, relevant content, and technical quality. If I’ve seen a dozen versions of a sandpiper feeding in the mud, I’ll select the strongest one. Maybe your image has golden lighting to set it apart or was taken at an unusual angle that brings out something special in the image. Keep these things in mind when deciding if your image is worth submitting.
You should feel great about the weakest image you submit. Don’t be tempted to include images outside the parameters of the photo request. Be selective. Don’t send multiple versions of a subject expecting the editor to choose from them. Choose the best version of each subject. I will ask for variations if I want to see more.
Make your submission worth my time. I’d rather see 10 well-selected images than 100 that I have to pick through to find ones meeting my specifications. Quality is always preferable to quantity. You may have two stunning images of excellent technical quality that perfectly fit a requested subject. Don’t pad a submission with average images. Also, first impressions are important. I’m hooked if the first images I see from a photographer are engaging, technically excellent and original. Give me a reason to take more time studying your submission. We’re a team: you want me to select your images and I want to find them. Getting published is a process. Follow the guidelines meticulously.
- Tell me the story. Metadata is your friend and mine. Include all the pertinent information: keywords, names, locations, species, behaviors, titles and captions. If an image is compelling enough for a second look, I want to know more about it. When I look through a large number of submissions, it helps to search with keywords. Photo editors have their systems. Mine is to create a Lightroom catalog and create a collection for each photographer. If I want to look at feeding shots from a dozen photographers I’ll search for ‘feeding’. If I want rafts of grebes at the Salton Sea, I’ll search for that. You want me to see your images, so help me do it.
- Be smart when you submit. Deliver images using the requested method. Don’t expect an editor to go through time-consuming searches on your website. While that might be easier for you, it is unwelcome to me. Expect to take time preparing and sending a submission.
Meet or exceed the deadline. Earlier is better, because the editor isn’t under as much pressure as she might be at crunch time. Most submissions arrive close to deadlines so stand out by being early. When contacting the photo editor with questions, use the stated method. The first approach should be email. If a call is warranted, the editor will say so.
Like many people who work with photos over time, I’ve developed an excellent image sense. I may forget where I put my car keys, but I can tell you whose image is on page 88 of The Salish Sea, where it was taken and the name of the photographer’s cat. I remember the images I’ve seen and when I come across ones that grab me with a fresh look, I move them forward.
Put yourself in my shoes to understand what I’m looking for and prepare an ideal submission with complete metadata, refreshingly relevant subjects, and technically well-captured images.
Here are few final bonus tips:
- Show common subjects in a unique way.
- Ask yourself – what do my photos say?
- Don’t overprocess images. Don’t overcrop.
- Book publishing is very different from internet postings, including Facebook and Instagram, and requires more time. Images reproduced in books have to be higher resolution and larger overall size.
Wendy Shattil has been photographing wildlife for 30 years and has received many awards and honors, including the Grand Prize in England’s BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. She produced 17 books, numerous magazine articles and led nature photography trips–many with her long-time partner, the late Bob Rozinski. See more at www.dancingpelican.com .