At Fstoppers we love having our readership contribute articles to the site. There is a dedicated link on our contact page that makes it easy to send in your pitch. Your suggestion is sent to all of the Fstoppers writers and this gives you many opportunities for someone to find your pitch interesting and have it be published on the site.
Although I have been a staff writer here at Fstoppers for under a year, I’ve seen a lot of poorly conceived approaches for article suggestions. Let’s take a look at some actual solicitations and how they could have been approved. We will start with the obvious — don’t compromise the integrity of the site.
No matter how large your audience, Fstoppers is not interested in collaborating with you just so we can tap into that audience. Likewise, we aren’t interested in any sort of link exchanges or mention exchanges. What we are looking for is interesting topics that showcase the amazing ways you approach your craft. We are looking to share new techniques with our readers that can help them create even stronger images than they are creating now. Many of you instinctively understand that a brazen pitch to simply swap links would not be of interest to Fstoppers. You may not realize, however, that if your article suggestion is too self-serving, the writers may be wary of pursuing it because we aren’t interested in writing an advertisement for your photography business. Let’s examine the pitch below to see what was done correctly, and how the pitch went wrong. Starting the pitch by referring an article by Alex Cooke is good because it suggests that the person sending the pitch is familiar with the content on Fstoppers and is a genuine fan of the site. The person goes on to suggest writing an article that is related to Alex’s article. It is logical to assume that readers who liked the original article, will enjoy this one as well. The problem with the pitch, however, is that it is designed to promote one specific photography business. The person who sent the pitch has a relationship with that business and is attempting to use Fstoppers to drive more customers to that business.
Had the writer of the pitch spoken to several photographers and offered to submit an article on techniques that are working for top photographers in the wedding industry, it would feel more organic and be of interest to the writers and editors at Fstoppers. Or had they suggested an article titled, “How You Can Apply The Techniques and Tactics of Today’s Top Wedding Photographers” it might have been of interest to Fstoppers.
At the risk of being blunt, I will state that our readership is more interested in themselves than they are in you. They are intrigued by an article titled, “How You Can Create Amazing Images in a Rainstorm” because it can help them improve their craft. They are less interested in “How I Created Interesting Images in a Rainstorm”.
Recently we received an article submission from photographer Kristie LaRochelle who submitted a post she had written for her blog about her approach to industrial photography. I reached out to her and explained that the article in its current form was best suited for her blog and not the Fstoppers platform. I suggested I interview her to create an article with a broader appeal. Her submission wasn’t suited for Fstoppers, but I could create an article with a broader appeal if I interviewed her. That article was titled, “Five Shots You Need to Get When You Are an Industrial Photographer”. Below is another example of a pitch that reads like a commercial for one photographer rather than an actual article suited for an online photography magazine.
Often we receive a pitch that is simply too short for us to understand what makes this article interesting. Consider including a hook, or detail, that makes your pitch unique. A pitch that lacks a hook might read, “How I photographed 10 dogs to create a new portfolio.” One that includes a strong hook might read, “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 rig”, but that hook would be stronger if there was some additional information about the rig. The entire pitch is only 2 sentences. A sentence beginning, “This lighting rig consists of…” might have been enough to create interest in the topic so that a Fstoppers writer would make the effort to view the YouTube video. When your pitch is based on a video it is important to summarize the pitch in writing. Many YouTube videos require a time investment that I am not always willing to offer. Today it is common for a photography video to start with an introduction to the topic, which is followed by a sizzle reel style opening credit sequence which is in turn followed by yet another introduction to the same topic that was introduced at the start of the video . I will click away from any video that hasn’t gotten to the point after 45 seconds or so. Likewise, if the person speaking talks unnaturally slowly or if there is a loud music bed underneath the talking, I won’t watch the video. It is fine to include a video with your pitch, but make sure the main point of interest is explained in the text. Don’t simply send in a link to your video as your complete pitch.
While we all live on the same planet we are also living in our microcosm of that larger world. And in that microcosm, we have things that are common to us, but foreign to others. As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, terms like side control, x-guard, and seatbelt are common to me and I speak to dozens of people each week who understand what I mean when I use these terms. At Fstoppers, we receive pitches where the person making the pitch has assumed that we will understand the significance of the product, person, or event that they have mentioned.
In the pitch below, there is. A reference to an elopement photographer. I have never heard that term. Using context clues I can deduce that the term refers to a photographer who shoots people who have eloped 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 shoots elopements rather than weddings wasn’t relevant to the pitch itself.
In the pitch below, there is a reference to the Nikon Coolpix 990 but there isn’t enough information about the significance of this particular camera. It is good 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 period and was a big seller for Nikon. Or, maybe the camera was produced for only 6 months and gained a cult following.
If the camera was the most expensive camera of its time, then maybe that should have been included in the pitch. A stronger pitch for this article might read, “22 years later, A look back at the Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera ignored by the very users who would have benefited most from its features.” Or, “22 years later, a look back at the Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera that has features still missing from today’s pro models.”
It should be clear at this point, that the more specific you can be in your pitch the better chance you have the pitch is accepted. Note the vagueness of the solicitation below. The person is offering tips about landscape photography but there is no context. I don’t shoot landscape photographs, but I could write an article on that topic if necessary. My tips would be, to use a tripod, shoot at low ISO, take photographs at the ideal time of day, use a sharp lens, and experiment shoot at different angles. That article would not be very interesting because those tips are generic and could be applied to any type of photography.
To hook the reader the article needs to offer something unique or out of the ordinary that would be known only to an expert in that area of photography. A better pitch might be, “How to Take Better Landscape Photographs Without Using Expensive Gear” or “How Photographing Senior Citizens Made Me A Better Landscape Photographer.”
Here is another pitch that is so vague as to be pointless. There is nothing in the itch to entice the reader to click the link.
Let’s conclude with a look at a pitch that is well done. Below is an excerpt from that pitch and you will note that the solicitor understands that an article needs to have an audience. The pitch lists 4 different types of photographers who might find value in the article.
If you do make a pitch to Fstoppers, think of your audience first. It is 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 topic 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 keep coming up with 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.