As amazing as the Vivian Maier story is– one women’s body of work almost lost to time but rediscovered- most photographers don’t shoot photos with the intent of never showing them to the world.
While it’s easy to self publish, or put images up on places like Facebook and Instagram, many of us like to push ourselves and actually submit our photos for publication by a third party.
One way to dive into this is to enter a contest. Contests are a great way for amateurs to get their work to the next level, and build a portfolio of work that’s a level up from average. But, keep in mind that all contests aren’t created equal. There’s a big difference between entering, and winning, the iPhone Photography Awards and, for instance, the Sony World Photography Awards. Earning recognition for getting a great shot on your iPhone is fun, but the Sony awards are considered to be one of the world’s top photography contests.
When considering the options, keep in mind that it’s vital to research categories (wildlife, nature, portrait) meet deadlines and submit in the correct format. When I sent my shark photo to Alert Diver’s Ocean Views contest, I knew that it was a great match for the publication. It was really exciting to be honored by them and to see my photograph on their website.
For straight up publication a great place to start is sites or magazines that you like. Again, though, research is key. Does your work match what they publish? Do they accept images from guests or freelancers, or is it staff only? There’s a great list here of places that actively seek art and photography.
For “top level” magazines there are two options. The first is to find their submissions page, read it thoroughly, then follow the guidelines and go for it. In some cases sites have “photo of the day” options, which won’t pay but will put your work out there.
The second option is to do some old-school networking. Find out who the photographers and editors are then make sure you are following, friending and liking them online. Try to connect and build a relationship so that when the opportunity presents to submit, or even to ask about submitting, you are one of a thousand unknown photographers.
It goes without saying, but even better than online relationships are real-life ones. Workshops and conferences are a great way to actually meet the people you’d like to work with.
No matter what path you choose to follow when you try to take your photography passion to the next level, remember that it takes courage to fire those photos out to total strangers.
But, better to pitch, and miss, and then pitch again than to wait for a future generation to unearth all the images that only you could have created.