Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Image Building

When it comes to making money from photography it's the quality of your work that counts

When it comes to making money from photography it's the quality of your work that counts above all else. At the same time, however, you will be taken more seriously in some markets - and possibly offered higher fees - if you present a professional image. and give the impression that you're an experienced freelancer rather than a keen amateur hungry to make see your work in print.

Here are some guidelines that will put you on the road to success.

Putting together a submission
When you're selecting images to send off to a market, be ruthless. Reject anything that isn't pin sharp and perfectly exposed and clean any slides that may have marks on them from handling or a prior use using a spirit cleaner and microfibre cloth.

Colour slides should be mounted. For 35mm, use white self-adhesive card or plastic mounts and present them in transparent file sheets which usually hold 20 or 24 slides - never post glass slide mounts as they break very easily.

Medium-format slides look their best when presented in individual 5x4in black card masks which are slipped inside clear sleeves. Similar masks and sleeves are available for 6x12cm and 6x17cm panoramic shots, while 5x4in large-format transparencies can either be placed in individual 5x4in clear sleeves or presented in 10x8in black masks and sleeves. There are countless suppliers of these products. I personally use a company called Javarette Ltd and would recommend them to anyone ( but you will find many more on the web.

Beyond photographic magazines, the market for prints, whether colour or black & white, is limited. However, if you do submit prints, they should ideally be 10x8in or 12x8in in size - anything smaller is difficult to appreciate and anything bigger is simply unnecessary - and unmounted.

Make sure your name and copyright symbol (), address and telephone number is on each slide mount or the back of each print, along with a caption detailing the contents of the image.

Example 1: Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell, Lake District, Cumbria, England

Example 2: Lake District, Cumbria, England - Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell.

For many years now I have produced name/address and caption labels using a computer program called the Craddoc Captionwriter (see which allows up to five lines of text to be printed on white self-adhesive labels that are the exact size to fit the top or bottom edge of 35mm slide mounts - though I use them on all transparency masks and mounts. As well as creating individual caption labels, I also use this software to produce large quantities of address labels, as shown here.

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Personalised stationary
Although not essential as you can create a decent template on a computer, some kind of bespoke business stationary will be useful - a letterhead for covering letters, quotes for jobs, proposals and so on, compliment slips to enclose with picture requests and invoices, plus business cards to hand out to potential clients.

If you're unsure where to begin, pop along to a high street printer and talk to someone. Most outlets offer a comprehensive service, with prices to suit all budgets, and often they offer special discounts for new businesses, or package deals for the standard items. You will be shown different design options in terms of typography, colours, layout and paper type - the one you choose is up to you.

Initially, keep things simple, otherwise you could find yourself spending a lot of money. A two colour layout (black plus another colour) looks effective and doesn't cost that much, and batches of 500 letterheads, slips and cards will keep you going for a while. I asked a designer friend to create a logo, choose the type faces and produce artwork ready for printing, but most print shops will offer this as part of a package.

The main problem with having stationary printed when you first set-up a business is knowing what information to include. Forget about coming up with a fancy company name - your own name, with a line beneath it saying 'Photographer' or whatever title you prefer will do. Your address and land telephone number are also essentials, along with fax and mobile phone numbers, e-mail address and web address if you have them, and a VAT registration number if you have one.

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Photocards and leaflets
Along with business stationary, many freelance photographers also have a photocard printed which features one or more examples of their work, along with their name, telephone numbers and other contact details. This is a very polished and effective way of promoting yourself as many users of photography often pin attractive cards to notice boards, so they have a constant reminder of your work. Standard business cards, on the other hand, tend to be slipped into a special album if you're lucky, more often dropped into a drawer, or lost forever if you're unlucky.

Costwise a colour photocard is well within reach of the smallest budgets, and if you shop around you shouldn't have any problems finding a printer who can produce one for you. Usually a standard layout is offered - say, one image plus up to 50 words of text on the back. However, this can be varied to suit your needs for extra cost. You could have four or five different images on the front along with your name and phone number, for example, plus a couple of black & white pictures on the back and text briefly explaining what type of photography you do, for example.

These cards are ideal for mailing out with picture submissions, or as a promotional tool if you decide to 'mailshot' local companies, book publishers or magazines - just send them out with a brief covering letter.

Another option is to have a colour A4 sheet printed featuring a selection of your best images plus lists of subjects you cover or subjects you have on file and contact details.

This is a great way to impress magazine editors, art editors and other people who commission photographers or buy pictures, as it looks very professional. Again, you can have these leaflets produced by most highstreet printers, though if you have access to a computer and an inkjet printer you could produce your own very easily, tailoring the image content to suit different markets/clients and only printing them off when you need to.

A development of this could then be to create several different sheets covering different subjects which together, slipped into a card presentation folder, form a very stylish mini portfolio - easier and cheaper if you can produce your own as you only have the material cost to consider and there's no minimum print run.

Covering letter
Enclose a letter with each submission which briefly outlines the contents of the package, the number of photographs enclosed and why you're sending it. Ideally this should be typed or printed from a computer rather than hand-written. An example of what to say might be...

Dear ??????,

Please find enclosed a selection of 48x35mm and 35x6x7cm colour transparencies which I would like you to consider for use in the magazine at your normal rates.

I have no objections to you holding the photographs on file for a period of three months from the above date, but if you wish to do so I would appreciate an acknowledgement.

A stamped, self-addressed envelope is enclosed for the return of my work when you have no further use for it.

Thank you for your time - I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Bloggs

There's no need to go into great detail about the pictures or why you have sent them in the covering letter - simply address the essentials so it can be read quickly, then let the recipient decide what to do with them.

Packaging the submission
Place sheets of mounted 35mm slides, prints, or bundles of medium/large-format slides secured by elastic bands, between two sheets of stiff card that have been cut so they fit snugly inside the envelope you will be using. Stout corrugated card from boxes and packaging is ideal.

Use either card-backed paper envelopes for small submissions, or better still, padded bags - they offer a higher degree of protection and can be re-used. If you do re-use padded bags, remove previous labels and stamps so they look reasonably neat.

Make sure the destination address of the package is clearly entered - I always print it off the computer in large type - and write your own name and address on the back.

Finally, if you need to seal the envelope or bag, use packing tape sparingly. Metres of the stuff just isn't necessary - it merely makes the package difficult to open. Also, avoid stapling the package as this can make it lethal to the poor recipient - injuring a picture editor won't exactly win you any favours.

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Photographs have no material value beyond the cost of the film, or paper, so when posting you should insure them for 'consequential loss' - loss of future earnings from their sale should they be damaged or disappear without trace.

In the UK, the only way to do this is by choosing Special Delivery posting and specifying the level of consequential loss you require - the maximum is 10,000 and at the time of writing and costs 3 extra. This makes it relatively expensive to mail large packages, but at least you know that in the event of a problem you can claim compensation.

Original colour transparencies are obviously the most valuable, so this level of cover is recommended every time you make a submission. However, you may decide it's unnecessary for prints because you can easily make another one from the original negative - the same applies with images submitted on CD-Rom, which are copies from the original on your computer.

When submitting work to a new market you should also enclose the same level of postage for the return of your photographs - a completed Special Delivery form and sufficient stamps to cover the full cost.

This shouldn't be necessary once you have established a working relationship with a particular company or individual as they will be happy to cover the cost of return postage. However, you should still specify in your covering letter that consequential loss for 10,000, or whatever sum, is required when the submission, or any part of it, is returned to you.

By doing this, if you work is lost or damaged, you can make a compensation claim against the client and they can re-claim it back from Royal Mail, or the relevant postal organisation in other countries.

Be aware, however, that these postal companies will look for any excuse not to pay compensation. So avoid problems by making sure your work is adequately packaged and protected, and that you write, very clearly, on the front and rear of the package, 'Photographs - Please do not bend' or a similar warning.

Final tip: the cost of sending packages by Special Delivery does not rise proportionally with weight. The cost is moderate up to 2kg, but over 2kg is rises sharply. If you have a package weighed and it's just over 2kg it therefore makes sense to split it into two lighter packages and send them separately as doing so will save you quite a lot of money. Equally, if you're sending a lot of work to the same client and need to use more than one padded bag to hold the volume of pictures, if each package weighs more than 2kg, tape them securely together and send as one large package as the cost of Special Delivery postage is fixed from 2-10Kg, so sending two 3kg parcels taped together will cost you the same as one single 3kg package.

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Record keeping
Keeping a record of each submission is essential for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you will know which pictures are where at any given time and how long they have been out of your files.

Secondly, it will prevent you sending the same (of very similar) pictures to competing markets at the same time, which could result in them appearing in, say, the same issue of two rival magazines or two rival calendars in the same year. As already mentioned, this could lead to copyright dispute and land you in court, but at best it will probably result in your work being rejected in the future by those clients.

Thirdly, it means that when a submission is returned, you can check the contents against your records to ensure everything has been come back - or amend your records if part of the submission is returned and part of it held for possible use.

This could take the form of a complicated computer database using specially-written software. Most part-time freelances needn't go to such lengths, however, and a simple typed or hand-written list of the shots submitted - ideally with a reference number for each - will suffice.

You can buy books of delivery notes from some professional photographic bodies (such as Bapla in the UK, see which come in duplicate or triplicate so you have a copy as well as the client.

These allow you to enter details of the submission, but more importantly, they list the accepted terms and conditions for the submission of 'stock' images, such as your right to be recognised as the author of the work and the need for copyright clearance before any images are used. They also allow you to enter an amount which you will claim - typically 500-750 in the UK per original transparency - if your work is lost or damaged. Acceptance of this form implies acceptance of the terms and is basically a safeguard for you.

The main problem with these forms is that they're intended more for photographers who are sending out pictures that have been requested by a client, rather than making an on-spec submission out of the blue. Consequently, if you use them for on-spec submissions, you may get a phone call or a letter saying the form cannot be accepted. This is usually because the fee payable for pictures that are lost of damaged is too high, and most clients are unwilling to be held liable for pictures they never actually asked for in the first place.

An alternative is simply to enclose a picture list with your covering letter which lists each shot in the submission including a reference number (if you use them) plus caption details.

The good news is you should rarely, if ever, experience problems. In all my years of freelancing I have only made one claim against a client for damage of a transparency, and that was cause while it was being returned to me by post.

Once you have posted off a submission, avoid the temptation to start phoning the recipient for feedback two days later. Most people working in the design and publishing world are busy, and it may take them a week or more to look through a new submission - unless they specifically requested it. Phoning them up so soon will therefore do you more harm than good.

As a rule, you should have heard something - either acknowledgement of receipt, or return of the submission - within 7-10 working days. If, by the end of this period, you have heard nothing, a polite phone call won't go amiss, and then again a week later if there's still no feedback.

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