Monday, 14 November 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 5

I often say to magazine and non-fiction book writers that offering photos with your submissions not only increases your chances of publication (because picture sourcing is immensely time consuming and therefore you're making the editor's job easier), but it can also increase your fee too.

Magazines are visual products these days (getting side tracked - did you buy last week's copy of Woman's Weekly magazine, which included a copy of its first issue over 100 years ago? Yes it had pictures, but there were an awful lot more words in it than today's magazine has!) so page layout is important. Photos and pictures help with this. But you are not the page layout designer, so you do not need to worry about where to put your photos in your script.

In fact, you do not 'insert' your photos anywhere into your word processing document. Magazines cannot take the photo from your word processing document and then use it successfully in their page layout software. When you import a photo into your word processor, there's a high chance that the word processor will process the image and throw away some of the data, so that your document does not become some humongous 56 gigabyte file! Magazines need high quality images and those inserted into documents are not as high quality as they could be.

When inserting images into a word processor, many then start moving the text around the image, which goes on to create other formatting problems within your document.

Giving a magazine the largest file size you can provide offers them flexibility. With a large file size, they may be able to use the image as a double-page spread Like so:

They can also use the image much smaller, if that's what they prefer. What they can't do, is take a smaller thumbnail image and use it as a double page spread. Once you start enlarging an image, the quality deteriorates quickly. And if the quality isn't in the image in the first place, because it has been placed into some word processing software, then it is practically unusable.

So, if you have suitable images, save them as individual files on your computer in JPEG format. When you save them, give them a useful file name that includes the following:

  • A unique reference number
  • A suitable caption
  • Clarification as to who owns the copyright
The photo in the top of this posting is one page of a six-page feature I wrote for Discover Britain magazine. The image of the unusual AA phone box was saved as follows:

IMG_0001 - The 1920 AA Phone box in Eardisland- Herefordshire - by Simon Whaley

When I wrote the feature, at the end of my article text, I added a subheading, List of Illustrations, and then I listed the file name of every image I was supplying with my accompanying article.

This is sufficient for an editor to identify which images they want to use, whilst also giving them enough information to caption the image on the page. There is no need to insert any images within your document anywhere.

I usually burn the images onto a CD Rom, although this is mainly because my camera has 21 mega pixels, so the average size of each of my photos is about 18 megabytes (and I supplied the editor with nearly 30 photos for this feature) so emailing this many images would bring down my own email account along with the magazine's too!

If you're pitching an editor with an idea and you have photos available, it can be useful to attach low resolution images to your email pitch, to give the editor a flavour of the types of images you have available. I always ask how the editor prefers to receive large-sized files. Some stipulate CD Rom submission, some will say it's okay to email if there are not too many images, whilst some magazines operate a specific email address for photos only. (Another reason for not inserting the images into your text!).

So next time you want to include images with your article, all you need to do is list the unique reference number, the image caption, and who owns the copyright in the photo at the bottom of your article. You do not need to insert the photos into your text where you think they ought to go. Just ask the editor how they prefer to receive image files and then follow their instructions.

Good luck.


  1. Pictures are also good to include with letters, tips and fillers. I've sold a few of these and I think some of them were chosen mostly because I had an interesting picture with to illustrate them. Actually, I think it's about time to send out a few more.

  2. Yes Patsy, pictures help to sell a variety of words! Many letter pages carry photos these days, and many of the women's magazines that have household tip slots, often pay more for tips with photos than those without. It's a good reason to have a camera with you at all times!

  3. Great info - thanks so much for this! Any more posts with photo advice (along with the usual, excellent writing advice) will be much appreciated :)