To recap the previous two posts that I have put up here on getting published, I discussed one of the most effective ways to break into the editorial business and how to build relationships with editors. In the second post, I discussed exactly how that you go about submitting ideas to magazine editors in the form of the query letter. In this entry, I am going to talk about how that I personally go about creating story ideas for magazines.
As a photographer, you have a few different ways to go about creating articles and article ideas for pitching to editors. The absolute easiest thing to do first and foremost is to simply use the files that you already have in your library of images to build a story around. Maybe several ideas immediately pop right out at you based upon this. Most likely you will need to sit down and really browse through your images to see what sort of themes that you could create with them.
Say you spend a lot of time photograph big mammals, especially species like elk, pronghorn, mule deer, moose, etc. . . You have considerable coverage of these animals in the rut. You have deer exhibiting the lip curl, elk locked in dubious battle, pronghorn scrapping their scent glands across sagebrush, bull moose swaying their antlers in unison with each other, as well as other unique behavior shots like these. Based upon these images, you have quite a lot to work with in terms of creating a story idea for anything from state wildlife magazines to hunting magazines.
Your first obstacle here however is that you must overcome the trappings of cliché and trite ideas. Most magazines will no longer accept “me and Joe” type stories. They want something new, fresh, or at least different from any article they have ran in the last few years. This means you have to put your mind to work and be creative.
So you sit back in your office chair and consider the different possibilities. It probably will not take you long before you realize that with all of these behavioral photographs you have of animals in the rut, there is something quite unique about each one of these species and how they go about winning over the hearts and minds of ladies. You think about the heart stopping action of the elk rut, and how that the bulls become so drunk off of their testosterone that they literally scream out into the autumn air announcing their presence and beckoning any would be challengers in the area to dare come and try to take their girls.
This sort of behavior of course stands in stark contrast to the more passive species such as the pronghorn. Pronghorn bucks establish a territory in the Spring. They walk around the sagebrush scraping their faces and scent glands on the sage in what amounts to be a big square more or less. Once established, the pronghorn then waits. He waits, and waits, and waits some more. Patiently he bides his time, hoping he secured a good piece of ground that would attract females to it, and that hopefully, if he is really lucky, just maybe, a receptive female will possibly wonder into his little world. Compared to the testosterone pumping madness of the elk rut, the extraordinary passiveness of the pronghorn’s strategy for getting girls is almost hilarious, if not shocking.
With this comparison, you suddenly realize that you may just happen to have a unique story to pitch to a magazine. That is, a comparison of the different rutting strategies of mammals in the Rocky Mountains for instance. You look again at your images. Moose? Check. Elk? Check. Pronghorn? Check. You work your way right down the list and realize you can actually cover a little about all of these animals.
Now once presented to the editor, its quite possible that your idea might be a bit too broad. Maybe it would be better to just compare the elk to the pronghorn due to the extreme differences and make the story something of a comical piece. If the editor wants to tweak the idea, that’s OK. You have accomplished your goal of creating a unique idea that interests her.
A story idea such as this one can be pitched to a number of different types of magazines. Its all about how you spin it. And best of all, once your initial research is completed for writing the story, you could then rework the same idea to create a completely different type of article to another magazine that does not directly compete with the first. Viola. Your on your way to publishing, making one project evolve into multiple projects, and building relationships with several editors at once while letting the photographs you already have, begin making money for you.
To be Continued. . .