OpEd: Observations on Submitting Work

I generally make an effort to avoid these types of posts at all costs, because what the hell do I really know?  However, after running this blog for a few years I know what works for me, and think in general it will apply to many other blogs. I’m a big proponent of submitting work, so here are my observations.

Know about the blogs you’re targeting

I can always tell right away the people that have actually looked at the work we publish, and those that picked up our link from other blogs.  Spend sometime browsing or following the blogs you’re targeting. Get a good sense about the type of work that appeals to them. Compile a list of the top blogs that you really feel share your sensibility.

Don’t Do Email Blasts and Be Sincere

Sure, it’s easy to just grab 100 email addresses and send the same email. It probably works for people,but I’m always much more receptive to the work when the message is personalized and is supportive of what we’re doing. It actually makes my day.  We all tend to know about our audience numbers, but less about whose actually following and appreciating the work.  No matter who you are, it’s always good to know that people appreciate what you’re doing.

Do Email Blasts

Huh? Well, you’re going to have much better luck if you target many blogs. It’s just the law of averages. There are plenty out there, so why not build a nice list, and hit them all over a week or two.  Just be sure to individualize each message.

Luck of The Draw

There have been at least three occurrences that I can remember off the top of my head where I’ve received an email, really enjoyed the work, planned on doing a post, then opened up my RSS Reader to see the same work appear on a blog I follow. Sorry, but redundancy is annoying and a plague on photography blogs, so I generally won’t go forward with the post.  I’ll keep it in an archive though, and if a few months pass, and the work still resonates, I’ll consider it again.  But generally, in LPV land we’re making an effort to showcase work that hasn’t been published all over the place.  And if it has, we try to take a different angle on it.

Submit a Specific Body of Work

In general, the emails that grab my attention draw me to a specific body of work. Within the email, there’s a small description, a link to the work, and about 5-10 photographs attached. That’s perfect.  However, I don’t personally mind portfolios either but again, it should be a specific set of work.

Sometimes, the body of work submitted doesn’t resonate, but after going to the site, I’ll find plenty of work that does resonate and I’ll end up creating a portfolio type post.

Connect, Connect, Connect

Providing a website and or blog are obvious.  But I also like getting Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr feeds. Gasp, Flickr, how evil I know, but if you’re there, and email me, I’ll add you as a contact. And once you’re in the ecosystem, it’s strange how the work has a tendency to float around. We’re apart of several well run groups on Flickr, and invite work we like to participate. To get an idea, you can check out the Photographs on the Brain pool.

Twitter is another great way to stay visible. On a weekly basis I go through all the new followers of @lpvgallery and check out whose doing what.  In fact, Twitter might be the most under appreciated place for a photographer to network.  There are at least 10-15 photographers that I follow who might not have been on my radar before but now seem like close friends.  That’s how it should work. And you know what? Now I feel somewhat invested in their work.  It might not necessarily resonate with me, but watching the process and struggle unfold helps me understand photography that much better. And being a photographer myself, it creates a shared, creative experience.

Tumblr is the wild wild west, which makes it awesome.  However, be careful, because too many photographers end up just dumping work, or worse, creating a weird hybrid of their own work and others.  I generally think it’s best to keep your own work separate from the “work of other photographers that you love and want everyone to know about.”  I know many disagree with me, so make up your own mind.

The Worst Part

The absolute worst part of doing all this is playing gatekeeper. I really don’t like it, but of course, we can’t publish everything that’s submitted to us.  If we don’t respond or don’t post the work, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t dig it or think it’s good, it’s because we’re trying to cultivate our sensibility in order to bring a unique voice to our audience.  Needless to say, thick skin is necessary for survival.  Plus, you can always start your own blog, and reject people for revenge.

Persistence

If it doesn’t work in May, it might work in October.  There’s no reason not to keep trying. But as I’ve mentioned above, be sincere and authentic. Perhaps you have a new body of work that will resonate, perhaps the sensibility of the blog has evolved.  There are so many photographers, blogs, websites, Flickr groups, it’s really hard to keep track of it all. So just keep at it.

The Missing Creative Element

I’ve never had anyone email me with a pitch for a specific type of project or post that would be exclusive and unique to LPV.  But man, I would absolutely eat it up if someone did.  It’s easy enough to email someone and say, hey, look at my work. I know it’s the job of the blogger to develop features that keep people engaged, but I consider what we do a collaboration with photographers and want to move more and more in the direction of creating unique features.  I have a weakness for crazy, inspired, impractical ideas. They get my attention.

Conclusion

These are just my observations. Of course other bloggers might have very different standards, and opinions, so take from it what you want.  We try to be open and transparent, and find connecting with photographers to be the most enjoyable part of running the site.  For a better idea about what type of work we feature from photographers, you can check out our From the Inbox feature, and our list of Featured photographers.