“Your stuff should be hanging in galleries!”
Recently a friend who doesn’t know me very well made these comments. I know they were meant as compliments, and I truly do appreciate them. But folks who don’t know me well are not aware that my photos do appear in magazines. Nothing real prestigious, but magazines nonetheless, and some of them have even paid me for my work. I am also featured in a couple small galleries.
Getting photos into magazines is not very difficult, you just have to find a match for your work. Any magazine that covers events is always on the lookout for quality photos they can use. Once you’ve established contact with them, you can become a regular contributor. Tourism magazines love to get submissions, especially the kind that show people having a good time. Nature-oriented magazines, particularly those that highlight local game and flora & fauna welcome submissions from nature photographers. There are trade-specific periodicals that are always looking for photos, and local newspapers that accept a wide range of photo submissions.
I suspect what my friend meant was that I should be featured in something bigger, with widespread circulation. That would be nice, and could definitely give a struggling photographer a career boost, but it doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. It can take a lot of time and commitment to promote one’s self in an industry that is flooded with aspiring photographers who have some pretty amazing talent.
Galleries provide a whole different set of challenges. Knowing what sells vs. what you have to offer can often be a painful dose of reality. Many of the smaller galleries are only interested in photos that connect with local themes, like historic landmarks, familiar scenery, etc. Others may only be interested in more abstract themes. The up-front expense of showing in galleries is definitely daunting; you need to make the prints and have them mounted & framed, at your own expense. You’re counting on your hunch that the photos you choose to exhibit will sell, otherwise you’ll never recoup those costs. A good compromise is a gallery that also does framing; they’ll stock just the prints, then customers can pick out their framing options and have everything done there, with the only out-of-pocket expense from the photographer being the print itself. But the costs can add up tremendously when you start spreading dozens of prints over several galleries.
Friends and family can be great supporters for an aspiring photographer. Sometimes they may not be aware of the effort and cost that it takes to promote your work, though, and it can be frustrating. A good photographer can see where they stand in the real world, regardless of the accolades of those closest to them, and make decisions based on their own knowledge and experience. But I think I’m going to promote myself more in 2016.