At Fstoppers, we love having our readers contribute articles to the site. There is a dedicated link on our contact page which makes it easy to send your pitch. Your suggestion is sent to all Fstoppers writers, giving you plenty of opportunities for someone to find your pitch interesting and get it published on the site.
Although I’ve been a writer at Fstoppers for less than a year, I’ve seen a lot of ill-conceived approaches to article suggestions. Let’s look at some real solicitations and how they might have been approved. We’ll start with the obvious: don’t compromise the integrity of the site.
No matter the size of your audience, Fstoppers isn’t interested in partnering with you just so we can tap into that audience. Likewise, we are not interested in any sort of link exchange or mention exchange. What we’re looking for are interesting topics that showcase the amazing ways you approach your craft. We seek to share new techniques with our readers that can help them create even stronger images than the ones they are creating now. Many of you instinctively understand that a cheeky pitch for simply exchanging links would not appeal to Fstoppers. However, you may not realize that if your article suggestion is too self-serving, writers may be hesitant to pursue it because we are not interested in writing an advertisement for your photography business. Let’s take a look at the pitch below to see what was done right and how the pitch went wrong. Starting the pitch by referencing an article by Alex Cooke is a good thing because it suggests that the person submitting the pitch knows Fstoppers content and is a genuine fan of the site. The person goes on to suggest writing an article related to Alex’s article. It is logical to assume that readers who liked the original article will also like this one. The problem with the pitch, however, is that it’s designed to promote a specific photography business. The person who sent the pitch has a relationship with this business and is trying to use Fstoppers to attract more customers to this business.
If the pitch writer had spoken to several photographers and offered to submit an article on techniques that work for the best photographers in the wedding industry, it would seem more organic and would be of interest to Fstoppers writers and editors. Or if they had suggested an article titled “How to apply the techniques and tactics of today’s top wedding photographers,” that might have been of interest to Fstoppers.
At the risk of being brutal, I will say that our readership is more interested in itself than in you. They are intrigued by an article titled “How You Can Create Amazing Pictures in Torrential Rain” because it can help them improve their art. They are less interested in “How I created interesting images in torrential rain”.
Recently, we received an article submission from the photographer Kristie La Rochelle who submitted an article she had written for her blog about her approach to industrial photography. I contacted her and explained to her that the article in its current form was best suited for her blog and not for the Fstoppers platform. I offered to interview him to create an article with a broader appeal. His submission wasn’t suitable for Fstoppers, but I could craft an article with broader appeal if I interviewed him. This article was titled “Five shots you need when you’re an industrial photographer”. Below is another sample pitch that reads like an advertisement for a photographer rather than an actual article suitable for an online photography magazine.
Often we receive a pitch that is just too short for us to understand what makes this article interesting. Consider including a hook or detail that makes your presentation unique. A no-nonsense pitch might be “How I photographed 10 dogs to create a new portfolio.” One would include a strong hook: “How I photographed 10 dogs in 10 minutes to create a new portfolio.” The pitch below refers to “the world’s brightest drone-based lighting platform”, but this hook would be stronger if there were additional information about the platform. The whole pitch is only 2 sentences. A sentence beginning with “This lighting device consists of…” might have been enough to spark interest in the topic for an Fstoppers writer to make the effort to watch the YouTube video. When your pitch is based on a video, it is important to summarize the pitch in writing. Many YouTube videos require an investment of time that I’m not always ready to offer. Today it is common for a photography video to begin with an introduction to the subject, which is followed by a sizzle reel style opening credit sequence which is in turn followed by another intro to the same subject that was introduced at the beginning of the video. I will click on any video that hasn’t gotten to the point after about 45 seconds. Likewise, if the person speaking is speaking unusually slowly or there is a loud musical bed under the conversation, I will not watch the video. You can include a video with your pitch, but make sure the main point of interest is explained in the text. Don’t just send a link to your video as a full presentation.
While we all live on the same planet, we also live in our microcosm of this larger world. And in this microcosm, we have things that are common to us, but foreign to others. As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, terms such as side control, x-guard and seat belt are common to me and I talk to dozens of people every week who understand what I mean when I use these terms. . At Fstoppers, we get presentations where the person giving the presentation assumes that we will understand the importance of the product, person or event they mentioned.
In the pitch below, there is. A reference to an elopement photographer. I have never heard this term. Using contextual clues, I can infer that the term refers to a photographer who photographs people who got married in Colorado. For the pitch, the photographer could have just used the term wedding photographer since we all understand what that means. The fact that this photographer is photographing runaways rather than weddings was irrelevant to the plot itself.
In the pitch below there is a reference to the Nikon Coolpix 990 but there is not enough information about the importance of this particular camera. It’s nice that the person mentioned that the camera is 22 years old, but including some additional information about the camera would have been better. Perhaps the camera was very popular for a very long time and was a big seller for Nikon. Or, maybe the camera was only produced for 6 months and became cult.
If the camera was the most expensive camera of its time, perhaps it should have been included in the pitch. A stronger argument for this article might be: “22 years later, back to the Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera ignored by the very users who would have benefited the most from its features”. Or, “22 years later, back to the Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera that has features still missing from today’s professional models.”
It should be clear at this point that the more specific you can be in your pitch, the more likely you are that the pitch will be accepted. Note the vagueness of the solicitation below. The person offers advice on landscape photography but there is no context. I don’t do landscape photography, but I could write an article on this subject if necessary. My advice would be to use a tripod, shoot at low ISO, shoot at the perfect time of day, use a sharp lens, and experiment with shooting from different angles. This article wouldn’t be very interesting because these tips are generic and could be applied to any kind of photography.
To hook the reader, the article must offer something unique or out of the ordinary that would only be known to an expert in this field of photography. A better pitch might be “How to take better landscape photos without using expensive equipment” or “How photographing old people made me a better landscape photographer.”
Here’s another pitch that’s so vague it’s unnecessary. There is nothing in the itch to entice the reader to click on the link.
Let’s end with a look at a pitch that is well done. Below is an excerpt from that pitch, and you’ll notice that the lawyer understands that an article must have an audience. The pitch lists 4 different types of photographers who might find value in the article.
If you’re pitching to Fstoppers, think about your audience first. It’s fine if the article benefits you in some way, but always ask yourself, how would readers benefit from this article? Also, be specific in the subject that your article will address. Whenever possible, include a hook that will make the article memorable. And finally, don’t be discouraged if your first pitch is ignored. As you continue to pitch ideas, take a few moments to reach out to Fstoppers with a strong pitch. Eventually, you will find yourself contributing to this site in a meaningful way.