First of, I’ll preface the post by explaining why I chose to call it “You in Print”. Maybe I’m old school in some ways, but to me when you say “I’m a published model” it means that you appeared in a print publication. Perhaps it’s my printing background from university and the years spent in print houses prior to my photography career, but, in my books, published means print.. It’s not that digital is bad, or that I’m anti-technology. Quite the opposite actually. However, a print magazine is tangible, you can earmark the page, highlight a passage, and make notes on the side; never mind, the gratification you get when you see your hard work on newsstands while at your local grocery store.
Goals and purpose
First you should ask yourself why you want to be published. I guess it sounds kind of simple, but it’s a valid question. Is it to make yourself feel good about your accomplishments and seeing your image in print or is it as a business decision to further your brand and hopefully generate revenue from that exposure. Both directions are fine, but to make a smart decision on your next steps it is important to know the reasoning why you want to be published t.
Let’s take the first direction. You want to be published because you worked your ass off in the gym and made some damn good progress and feel that you have the look it takes to land on a page of a publication. In this instance your pool of opportunity is quite large as your target isn’t driven to capitalize on this exposure. If you live in Canada you could submit to a magazine in Australia or Sweden and possibly get picked up by a magazine. After your image or feature appears you’ll get a copy in the mail (hopefully if the publication or someone you know is nice enough to send it to you). That will validate your need to be published and for eternity solidify your physical accomplishment in print. You can frame the page out of the article and be proud of this accomplishment
The second scenario is a business driven decision. Assuming your goal of being published isn’t primarily for seeing yourself in print, but actually using that exposure to further your brand and as a result capitalize on it financially in the future. In this instance, your target market is key . If you are an aspiring fitness model in Canada or US, being published in a publication in those countries is a very big component. Establishing a presence in your relevant target market is crucial. One of the most direct results from being published in your specific target market is networking. I don’t mean networking in the broad sense as meeting people so you can go work out with and be buddies. It’s about establishing a networking relevance in a business framework. One of the most simplistic ways to illustrate this will be supplement sponsorship. If you are thinking about sponsorship (I’ll write an in-depth article on the process in a future blog) and want to approach a company it is advantageous to be published in a publication they advertise in or at least is in their sales region.
Another case applies to those of you that are trainers. A trainer that has group classes or individual training programs in Vancouver for example, being published in a magazine that is visible on shelf in that city gives you extra exposure in your geographic target region. I can guarantee you wil see more benefits from having exposure in your local market than on a different continent. For those with global online programs you will say, “I’ve got clients from Europe to South America to local ones, exposure in all markets is good.” Agreed, in this case of course it helps having that global exposure, however if you look at your subscription numbers I can almost guarantee that majority of your online clients are fairly local (either same province or state or country).
There are two approaches when it comes to image submission. The first one requires you to seek out a publication your image would be a good fit for and contacting them with a portfolio of images or a specific image set. The second is directly through the photographer. I’ve seen both methods work over the years.
Self-submission is essentially cold calling. You have some images that you think are a good fit. It’s important to underline the YOU in this case. Just because you think that the images you are submitting are amazing doesn’t necessarily mean that they are technically good. Print is less forgiving when it comes to quality versus online. Remember that your email to the magazine is among many other hopeful submissions. You don’t know if the email you sent it to is directed to the right person either. Depending on the publication, various people might be responsible for making the call, sometimes it’s the editor other times the art director and in some cases a person that strictly deals with image review and sourcing. Simply, it’s a hit and miss. The benefit of self-submission comes down to you. I’ve said it to many hopeful models over the years that the best marketing machine you have at your disposal is you. You are able to promote yourself 24/7 if you so choose. Relying on others to do so for you simply isn’t going to have the same effort.
The other side of submission is working with a photographer that regularly submits to a given publication. This is more important for those who are going down the business approach as illustrated above. If your target market is in a given region it only makes sense to work with photographers in that market who can submit on your behalf. In this case, after the shoot your work is done and the photographer then submits to the publication. It’s good to follow up with them from time to time to see if there has been any interest. When I say from time to time I don’t mean every week. You must remember that sometimes these things take time. I’ve had images published a year after I shot them.
The big one – What to actually submit
So by now you know what your purpose with being published is, as well as which path you are going to take with the submissions. But now… drumroll please! What the heck are you going to submit!? The biggest mistake people make is they hire a photographer to take a couple posed shots and use those as submissions. However, while flipping through a publication (print publication as I’ve seen many digital ones of just posed shot without a purpose other than a space filler) how many images are posed shots of you looking straight at the camera against a backdrop or white background. Well, one spot in the magazine comes to mind and that’s the cover. But if you are starting out I think it’s fair to say that aiming for a feature inside the magazine is a more achievable goal as a first step.
My tips for image submission are as follows:
- Shoot a workout feature. Even if the workout isn’t picked up they might want a couple images for an article. If you are prepared and shooting in a gym or in studio on white background a fitness photographer should need about an hour to get it done. A workout usually will consist of 6-8 exercises. TIP: shoot a couple extra in case they want to swap something. Come prepared, with a written shot list or if you are working with a industry photographer they will be able to direct you based on their knowledge what a magazine they work with might need. Don’t be fooled that you need to pay the photographer extra to get you “expert” workout plan developed. If you want to be regarded as a published print model and an industry expert I’d hope you can put together a workout and/or you are working with a photographer that can do that for you.
- Shoot random stock images. Take 10-15 minutes of your shoot to capture some generic stock style images. Flip through a magazine and notice how many images of random things they need sometimes. As an example, people drinking a bottle of water, eating an apple, grabbing their shoulder as if in pain, relaxing in front of weights after a heavy set, the list goes on. Working with a seasoned fitness photographer will make this easier as they should be able to guide you through the process.
- For females if you want to get a multi-page editorial feature make sure you focus on getting a series of shots. Several outfits different looks and poses. Some vertical some horizontal shots. Don’t feel like you have to look at the camera for all of the shots.
- If you are aiming high and the cover is your goal, make sure you submit your cover shots along with a workout feature. Rarely magazines will run someone on the cover without a workout feature. You definitely don’t want to get that call saying your image is good for the cover, but they need a workout and it’s your “bulking” season.
- In regards to outfits try to stay away from very busy patterns. Sometimes very busy patterns will take away from the actual workout feature. If you are shooting for a workout for a women’s feature make sure the outfit isn’t too revealing, it’s a fitness feature after all right? For guys, don’t wear super baggy shorts, a nice athletic look is always preferred for fitness publications.
In conclusion, before you book your next shoot remember your goals and purpose for the shoot, who your target audience is and what you want to achieve from that shoot. Coming in with a clear direction will definitely help you achieve more from the shoot and hopefully put you on the path to being published. Always remember you are your best asset when it comes to marketing yourself. Don’t let rejection discourage you. After all if you gave up at every point of hardship you would have never achieved your fitness goals in the first place. If one door shuts another one will open.