31 Days / day 4 – submitting work for websites and magazines

So, this past weekend I’ve been decorating for spring for HGTV.com  and Christmas for FOLK.

Two different seasons in the wrong season… sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?

Submitting your work to magazines or websites is a wonderful way to land added exposure for your blog. Not to mention the mere thrill of seeing yourself in print!

However, magazine or online submitting is a different ballgame from blog posting. When you are faced with a real deadline, your project MUST turn out at some point. 🙂 Forget about the “I’m only going to show it when it turns out” thing. This is the real deal. You make it happen and on time.


Now know, being featured in a mag vs. writing for one are also different. Features are where you submit the work you generally already have done. (but not always) Writing for one is creating new projects to submit based on their desired theme and deadline schedule.

And it’s all over the map in regards to how it works. Some compensate you, others don’t. They all desire different specs for the photos and writeups. Regardless of which you take on, it’s a very worth while experience and one most of us dream about.

I’ll admit I’m always thrilled when I land a feature, whether it’s on someone’s blog, online publication or printed media. And no, you never get use to it. 🙂

I thought it would be awesome to hear from a pro on the topic. Miss Mustard Seed aka Marian is a freelance writer for HGTV.com (with over 60 tutorials under her belt) and a monthly contributor to Cottages and Bungalows magazine (DIY Essentials column.)

And she happens to be my friend. 🙂 So… here she is!


How did you land being in magazines?

First of all, I submitted some of my work to a magazine (BHG) when I first started blogging and was politely shot down, so I let it go.  I figured that I would wait until the time was “right.”  Little did I know that magazine editors and book publishers and TV producers and PR firms and marketing managers scour blogs for ideas and talent to feature.  I soon found out that they will find you


me – I have been approached for every feature I’ve been in thus far just from sightings off my blog. The exception was a feature I submitted to Signcraft magazine. And the good news is, once they use you, may continue to follow you closely and chances are good they will call again when they like what they see.


Off season decorating… it’s a trip! How do you get in the spirit of it all?

Yes, it’s bazaar and it’s really mean to my kids when I’m setting up a Christmas tree in October!  It’s taken some getting used to and I’m not sure I’m even fully used to it yet.  I’ve been snapping summer shots in April and had to work PSE pretty good to get my lawn to look green.  I’ve had to use acorn squash and preserved leaves for fall shoots in the summer and I recently had to clip evergreen branches from my neighbor’s yard to stage a Christmas shot in September.  Since I’m decorating for the holidays year round, I really don’t want to decorate when the real holiday or season comes around (except Christmas.)  The up side is that it really pushes me creatively and if I ever “retire” from this work, I’ll have a great stash of handmade holiday décor (like garland made from three dozen hand-blown, painted and glittered Easter eggs.) 



me – At first I found it difficult to dive into Christmas while doing the shoot for FOLK in between cooling off in the pool on those hot summer days. But once I pulled out all the accessories and started, it really did feel like any other season. Turning on Netflix while working away on a time consuming project didn’t hurt either…



Are you a tweakahoic when it comes to staging, photoshoots and photo editing? How do you know when to quit?

Some shoots take longer than others and sometimes I’ve had to set things up two or three times because the first round of photos just aren’t working for me or my editor.  I’ve learned to keep things handy until everyone’s happy with the shots.  Most of the time I’m pretty efficient, though, because I have great “vision” when it comes to formulating in my head what will work in a photo.  I can go right for the accessories I want, put them together, take the pictures and then edit.  I’ve also purchased several great “action packages” to make the editing go a little faster.  After editing thousands of photos, I know the look I like. 


(done with a point and shoot)



me – I did a reveal on a recent project complete with a photoshoot  3x over because I just couldn’t seem to land the look I was ultimately after. Know which one I personally liked the best? The first one. 🙂 However generally, I seem to be able to know how it’ll turn out and get it right the first time. I just tweak until it works.



I’ve noticed you use your entire home as a photo studio. How do you deal with the constant flux… and mess?

This is the hardest part for me and a “must” for our next house is a room with great light just to use as a photo studio.  That may sound excessive, but when you have to rearrange your furniture several times a week (at the expense of your hardwood floors and your back), you would understand.  All of my furniture is on sliders, so I can scoot things around myself and I have certain go-to spots.  This helps keep the chaos manageable.  I also use all of my “props” in my house to avoid the need for a “prop closet.” 


me – I use my outdoor patio for most of my photo shoots. It houses a plastic corrugated roof that allows diffused light to penetrate through. I’m also building a photo studio in a sun room downstairs so hopefully during this series I’ll get to that. As for mess… my place is in a constant state of staging mayhem due to having to leave things undone to head for work. Ultimately it always gets picked up and submissions are sent on time. Since I LOVE doing shoots, the mess for the short term is totally worth it!


What advice would you give a novice wanting to submit to magazines on a reg basis?



My first advice would be to take pictures for your blog posts like you are submitting to a magazine.  This takes a lot of time, but readers (and editors) are drawn to eye candy and quality content.  This is how your blog will get noticed.  My second piece of advice is to be thorough and professional.  Even if it’s a non-paying opportunity, do an excellent job.  Give the editor more than what they ask for with several “beauty shots” to choose from, have it proof-read multiple times before submitting, and be flexible to meet their deadlines and requirements.  If you’re given a specific format, stick to it.  If you’re asked to redo something, redo it right away.  If you’re a professional and a delight to work with, you’ll have to turn work away.

me – I agree. Pretend your blog is your resume and show the work the way a magazine would portray it.   Forget all the fancy settings, fades, sepia tones etc, just keep things crisp and clean. And make sure you’re shooting all your photos in high resolution. Create copies of the ones you desire to tweak (for blog AND submitted features) so you always have an untouched version to go back to should something go wrong.


Add anything else you’d like to say?

Just remember that you never know who’s reading your blog, so it’s worth the time to make it really good.  And, you’re polishing your photography and writing skills for when the opportunity does arise.


me – Hold your work against a magazine’s to see how you can improve. Basically what you put out there is all they know you can do. Do it well and you WILL hear from someone soon!

p.s. I worked up a sweat putting my photos next to Marian’s… just so you know. 🙂


Thanks for the great advice Marian!

And for making my blog look extra pretty today. 🙂

Is being in a publication a dream of yours?

Are your own blog photos ready should your call come?

All 31 Day posts to date are HERE.

Visit Day One for each listing HERE.

How to work with photos for magazines


How to photo edit in Picasa


My own mag features are clickable on the blog sidebar HERE.



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  1. This is great advice! I would really like to be in an mag someday, and I’m currently trying to get my photo editing skills to improve. I just have a point & shoot, so good lighting is a MUST! Most of my best shots are taken outside, as I work a full time & a part time job, so I’m often not home when the good lighting is around.

  2. Great tips! From this I think I should have my 15 yr old son take photos for my blog! Seriously he is really good and is teaching me how to use light and angles to make a photo more interesting. We have terrible natural light in our home and using the back porch is a good idea! Thanks girls!

  3. I just had a little conversation with Marian about this yesterday. LOL! I don’t have the decor currently for submitting to home magazines, but I do submit to the Cricut Magazines and just had some projects published in their Sept. issue and the most recent Holiday edition, as well as previous editions. Thank goodness they don’t use MY photos and I don’t have to write for them (except directions). I was totally thrilled to discover that my project made the Section Leader page photo in the Holiday mag! For me, that’s the next best thing to making the cover! LOL!!

    I have terrible lighting living back in the woods and my decor inside is dark wood and stone. That’s why most of my pictures are taken in front of my patio door that faces East. LOL!

  4. I’m going to say it again, Thank YOU! You are bringing out dreams that were long ago burried very deep. and even if they never come true it’s great to bring them into focus again! Practice, Practice, Practice! I guess it’s true When one door closes, look for a window to open!
    Thanks again (I guess one can never say Thank you, enough)

  5. Another great article in the series! As a graphic designer I’m so tuned into “production art”, since that is what I always did. Now that I have the time to be CREATIVE… I struggle with what that really is to me. (Does that make sense?)

  6. Loving this entire series, Donna! In fact, for some reason it didn’t come up up my blog roll and I went looking for it. ? – I’ve got a Nikon P100, which is basically just a starter camera that my husband bought me to take action shots of our boys in sports. Do I really need a $2,000 camera to get the kind of crisp, clean shots that you get?

  7. Laura, I won a photo contest with a point and shoot. 🙂 NO you do not need an expensive camera to get the shots. Just a decent one. I won a photo contest with my point and shoot.

    My plan is to write an ebook on awesome shots with a point and shoot so we’ll see if I can’t start that baby during this series! 🙂

    Donna

  8. That’s something I need to work on is my blog photos. I’m a photographer so I should be using my own photos. As of right now I am in the process of switching out lenses.
    I would love to be featured on (In)Courage which is a pretty big blog in my niche.

  9. BEAUTIFUL feature and great advice. You’re inspiring me to dream bigger. With a demanding job, I strive to find the time to step my blogging game up a tiny notch each post. I started knowing zippo about blogging. Learning that technology along with creating, staging, photographing and writing has been a kick. I love the creative process.

  10. I really think it would be a lot of fun to be in a magazine, but at the same time, I’d also like to be realistic about the time and expense. My husband thinks I’m a nut when he’s around while I’m staging things for a photo for my blog. So, I usually do all my shots while kids are in school and hubby is at work. I have been really working at learning my camera and getting better as a photographer – I practice constantly wherever I go now! My mom is impressed, at least! I learn, from my own pickyness, that a blog with flash photography and small pictures isn’t something I stay very long to look at. I want big, bright, beautiful pictures that catch your attention! So, I’ve been working to do that very thing for my own readers! Thanks, Donna!

    Becky B.
    http://www.organizingmadefun.com
    Organizing Made Fun

  11. Hi Donna, I appreciate all your tips, but I have one question for you. It seems as if I always have to compress or save pictures as lower quality files in order to get pictures to load up on my blog. (I still have originals on my computer.) Does this hurt my chances of being recognized by a magazine?
    Thanks, Janice

  12. Thank you girls for all these info…I better stop using the fade sepia and these kinds of tools and I will do my best to have a crisp clean photos…I still hate my photos eventhough I have a good camera… 🙁

  13. Maybe I was too spoiled as a child. But, I’m an instant gratification type of person. I REALLLLLY want featured in a magazine and I’m trying to be really patient and pump out great photos and great projects. sigh. It’s hard to just sit by and wait to be found. It really makes you doubt yourself. But, I want it so bad (and I love what I’m doing so much)…I’ll do just that. Thank you for the inspirational post, by my two most inspirational people 🙂

  14. Love the post, love the tips. Now I know why ALL of her pics look so amazing! I used to think she was crazy with all of that photography staging but now I know. Makes you wonder who’s looking at you.

    xo Lisa
    UrbanCottageDecor.blogspot.com

  15. Great tips! Your style is so appealing and your photos are gorgeous! I’m a jewelry designer and have had work published but I’ve never had to do the photos. This article makes me want to get out there and start doing decor photo shoots!

  16. Your style is so appealing and your photos are gorgeous! I really want featured in a magazine and I am trying to be really patient and pump out great photos and great projects.