Picture Perfect: Using Photos to Sell Your Articles
by Christine Ridout

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Given a choice between an article with photographs and one without, most editors will choose the one with photos. Good photographs often help sell an article that might otherwise be rejected.

Taking Good Photographs


Do not send photographs with queries or completed manuscripts. Instead, state their availability in your cover letter. Editors will request photos if they are interested in your article, and their availability will increase the chances of acceptance. (However, I have occasionally violated the "don't send pictures" rule by sending inexpensive prints with my query on the assumption that seeing the photos will help make a sale. Sometimes it works.

When you send slides, send duplicates, because slides are often lost or damaged. Be sure to find a photo lab that makes high quality duplicates. Never send poor quality slides to an editor!

If You Have No Photographs

Invariably, there will be times when you don't have photographs. Many agencies and organizations, however, will give you free photographs. Consider the following:

One final note: When you receive free photos, find a photo lab that makes high quality duplicates and return the originals to the organization with a thank-you note. It's important to maintain good relations with these organizations because you may need them again.

Working Backwards

If you have some great photos but no specific use for them, don't put them in a drawer; build an article around them. When my photography class took a field trip to a wildlife reservation near my home, I got some great shots that were too good to put aside. I put together travel, recreation, and local activities articles about the reservation. If you have some terrific shots of children or pets, ask yourself what activity they were engaged in, or what's special about your pet or child that would make an interesting article, and write it.

Most of us are happy if our photos are good enough to submit with our articles. But if you enjoy photography and become good at it, nudge yourself into the writer/photographer group. Remember, the better the pictures, the more likely the sale, and, you can market your photographs separately and increase your income.

My camera has become an integral part of my writing gear and goes wherever I go. Sometimes, I capture images I didn't expect and later find a use for them. Other times, I think about images to accompany an article I've already written and go in search of them. But there is a lot of serendipity in this search: sometimes I get what I want, other times I'm frustrated, and other times are full of surprises and I get photographs I never anticipated.

Keep your camera loaded and easily accessible, and make it a complement to your writing.

Find Out More...

Eight Steps to Professional Travel Photos - Bob Difley

Expanding Your Range as a Writer with Your Camera - Audrey Faye Henderson

Using a Camera to Collect Stock Images - It's a Snap! - Gail Kavanagh

Copyright © 2000 Christine Ridout
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Christine Ridout has published over 200 articles in various magazines, and also syndicates articles through the New York Times Syndicate. A teacher as well as a writer, Ridout is the director of the BostonWest Center for Writing and Photography in Wayland, MA, where she offers numerous workshops for writers and photographers.


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