Putting Your Best Photo Forward

Yesterday I talked about resources available to find buyers for your work and talked about a great guide, The Photographers Market.  In the post, I mentioned briefly the idea of a query letter, and today, I’d like to take a closer look at that aspect of selling your work, because it’s just as important as the work itself.

You see, the age old adage of putting your best foot forward is a good one, and when submitting work to potential buyers, the same holds true.  Of course it goes without saying that you are also putting your best photo forward, but the photography isn’t all that you are showing.  When submitting work to buyers, whether it be magazines, galleries, or other publishers, what should often be included is a query letter.

This is a tough situation because just like anything else, putting together a query letter takes some time.  You want the query letter to be well-written, and writing is a skill, just like anything else that must be honed. A query letter should have a couple key facets:

1.  Short and to the point – Editors, reviewers, and gallery owners get lots of requests, so respect their time by getting right to your point.  While you don’t want to just say “Here’s my work, buy it”, you also don’t want to submit a query letter detailing your growth, develoopment, your sources of inspiration, or other tangential information.  It might be nice for an “Artist Bio” or “Artist Statement“, but it really doesn’t belong in a query letter.

2.  Accurate – One thing that is something of a pet peeve of mine is spelling and grammar.  I’ve seen a lot of just lazy spelling and grammar errors in the online community, running the gamut from forums to blogs, and even articles at major publications like USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and others where someone couldn’t take the ten seconds to run a spell check on their work.  It’s very easy, and most writing resources out there today even have built-in spell checking – including your browsers!  So, check your work, and make sure it’s accurate.  If you know you are a bad speller, then have someone proof-read your work.

3.  Include your work! – So many people tell me they are concerned about people stealing their images, even buyers and publishers, but you are not going to get anyone to buy your work sight unseen, so simply get it out there.  If it’s a series of themed images, include low-resolution copies.  If it’s an article idea – submit the article!  While some unscrupulous publishers may take the idea and have someone else write  a version that is similar, this is more the exception than the norm.

There’s more of course, and while I could go on with many more facets, sometimes it’s just easier to see it rather than explain it.  So, here’s a few articles I’ve read on the subject of writing a query letter that hit on some of the points I’ve discussed, and also include sample letters:

As you can see, this whole idea is nothing new, and the practice of writing a query letter accompanying your work is of utmost importance.  Writing a good one will make you stand out, and writing a bad one (or not even writing one) can land your email or letter in their trash bin.  So do you want to stand out or be thrown out?  Take the time to write a good letter, and when possible, have someone proofread it.

There you have it – that’s the nuts and bolts of query letter writing.  For the other photographers out there who have practice or experience with this – what would you include or add to the conversation?  Did I miss anything?  Extra tips or suggestions?  I’d love to hear others thoughts, so feel free to sound off via the comments or email.  Happy shooting all and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

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3 comments for “Putting Your Best Photo Forward

  1. Tye
    May 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I was always curious about query letters, thanX for this post. It is a good starting point to get me off in the right direction!

  2. May 31, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Good work on this one Jason! I’ve got a friend who has work appearing in magazines almost every month. He’s a writer and photographer and is published in many outdoor magazines, and other popular magazines. You wouldn’t believe the number of queries he sends out each month!

    As a gallery owner I can say this….. Do not show up with a portfolio book that’s huge. Show up with a portfolio that’s good. I’d rather see 10 samples of really great stuff than 50 samples of so so stuff. 🙂
    .-= Rich Charpentier´s last blog ..Toying with masking….again =-.

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