It's true that most magazines have their own photographers on staff. However, some magazine publications also use freelance photographers on an occasional or regular basis to get shots their staff photographers just won't. Does that mean that you can submit your own shots? Yes, often, as long as you follow specific guidelines.
First of all, you can't submit shots you've had printed. This is because a digital team is going to clean up your pictures before they send them on to printers. The best bet for you is to send your images along in CD-ROM format.
To submit your pictures properly, make sure you know the correct pixel size and resolution to send them in. This will make sure the magazine can see your image no matter what operating system they're using. It's true that a lot of people use Microsoft Windows, for example, but others have shifted to Apple Mac or Linux. Because of this, you're going to have to make sure your pictures can be seen in any format. What that means is that if you don't have the software to make your pictures the proper resolution, invest in some, if you intend to make this a regular activity.
You can save your images in different formats. Most commonly, you'll use GIF, GPG, and PNG. JPG is the most compatible no matter the operating system used. When you submit images, include your name and address, as well as a description of the CD's contents. One way to do this is by using the program Adobe Photoshop. With Photoshop, you can store your images in folders on your computer, choose "file," "automate," and "contact sheet." Then, simply choose your paper size and the number of images you want on each "sheet of paper."
Make sure you make your images of adequate size so that they're easily seen. If the images are too small, they'll be too hard to see and will not likely be picked. Editors don't have a lot of time to review images, so make sure their job is as easy as possible by making your images as large as possible within reason. If you want to get your CD back after you submit it to the magazine, enclose an envelope with return postage. Be aware that even if you do this, the CD may become their property regardless.
If there are any other concerns to be addressed, enclose a short note with your CD or call them. Be aware that your concerns may not be addressed regardless (after all, these people are very busy), but you can at least give it a try. Whatever you do, don't submit very large images, especially if they haven't been solicited. These take up a lot of space and can be very hard to read. Only send images that are relevant to their particular topic that you have found images for.Never submit the memory card from your camera and instead make sure you submit your images on a CD you can afford to lose, in the format they request. Make sure the CD you use is high quality enough that the image is going to be of good quality, too.
If you do things right, you could have success in submitting your images to a magazine, such that this may land you a full-time job taking photographs for a publication -- maybe even one of the magazines you submitted images to and had accepted. Regardless, though, it looks great on your resume to have done this, so go ahead and submit as long as the publication invites you to do so. It could just be a path to a new career.
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