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Photography For Profit
By Michael Russell

There are ways for an amateur photographer to get recognition and financial reward and that's by selling photographs. Publications are always in the market for appropriate photographs, colour or black and white. The major national and international magazines usually pay the best rates for pictures. But they are the most difficult to sell because you have competition from staff photographers and professional free-lancers who are hired on a regular basis.

Fortunately, many regional, specialty, and company magazines, as well as area newspapers, are glad to have colour transparencies or prints, or black and white prints submitted for publication. Payment can range from only a photo credit line mentioning your name to a check for hundreds of dollars. Contact the publications and ask for a copy of their guidelines for submitting photographs.

The most valuable source for finding publications that buy photographs is Photographer's Market, a book that is updated and published annually by Writer's Digest Books. It describes hundreds of publications, including their addresses and telephone numbers, the types of pictures they use, rates of pay and the name of the photo editor or art director to whom you should submit your photos. Copies of this exceptional photo market guide are available at libraries and bookstores. Be certain to use only the current year's edition, because publications frequently change their picture requirements.

Pictures bought for advertising rather than editorial use pay the most money. However, use of a photo in an advertisement requires model releases signed by all recognizable persons. These releases give the photographer permission to use the photograph and help avoid any subsequent lawsuits by persons in the picture. Advertisers may also require property release if a building or other identifiable property is prominent in the picture. Standard release forms are sold at many camera stores; carry some in your camera bag in case you come across a subject you think might eventually be sold to an advertiser.

  

 

One of the best publications with down to earth advice is the ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, 6th edition, published by the American Society of Media Photographers, Inc.. Copies are available at some bookstores and camera stores or directly from ASMP.

If you are thinking about becoming a professional photographer, itís also worthwhile to read magazines published for the pros and their special interests. Among them is the newsy Photo District news, which covers everything from stock and advertising photography to digital imaging. It's available by subscription and is also sold by some camera stores, bookstores and newsstands.

One way to start on the road to a photographic career is to take informal portraits of friends and other people. You can improve your camera skills while making enough money to cover the cost of film and prints. However, until you achieve a state of proficiency and confidence in your work, be careful that your subjects don't expect a more professional result than you can deliver.

Whenever money is involved, make certain your subjects know how much you will charge them for photographs. And be sure that they understand you expect payment upon delivery of the pictures. Although people are always anxious to see the finished prints, once the photographs are in their hands they often are in no hurry to pay you; let them know you expect to be paid immediately.

Many times recognition and payment act as stimulants toward making you a photographer. Well-known photographer Philippe Halsman, whose portraits were featured on more than 100 Life magazine covers, put it this way, "I drifted into photography like one drifts into prostitution. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends and eventually I did it for money".

Regardless of your specific interest or goals, the more you photograph, the more your photographs will improve. Start making photographs, then keep making better photographs. And most of all, enjoy your photography.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Photography

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