Being ‘Published” has lost all Meaning.

In the creative industries, more specifically, photography, styling, design, hair and make up etc. The term published literally means that your work has been featured in a publication of some form.

This term used to hold a lot of weight. Magazines were the leaders of the fashion and beauty industries, and they were very particular about who and what was featured in their publications. It was difficult to get published in any official capacity and was seen as a mark of success to have your work featured. Have a front cover on a magazine would have been a career goal to aspire to for a lifetime. 

So What has Changed in Publishing?

Being published doesn’t hold the same weight anymore. Online platforms, including social media have knocked magazines and publications off their pedestals and they are no longer the powerhouses that they once were. 

The online world has also meant that, what once would have been small local zines printed in the local post office on black and white, and handed round Universities by unwashed students, are now able to be produced more professionally, reach larger audiences and compete with large publications. The easy access to self publication also means that there is little or nothing standing in the way of anyone and everyone creating their own magazines. 

The Word “Published” Means NOTHING. 

“Published” in now just a Buzz-word used to convince people that a Photographer is successful, legitimate or accomplished. In a similar way to people using the term “Award-Winning” in the film industry, or “Not for profit” in business. These words are not lies… but they can be used to convey concepts which carry more weight than the full truth would. A Photographer who had an iphone picture featured in a local newspaper article about their mum could use the term “published”, and whilst it’s not UNTRUE, it does imply a certain level of achievement which is not fulfilled by the whole story. On this note, much to my shock, I have also seen several photographers refer to themselves as a “Celebrity Photographer” because they have taken a handful of candid celeb shots where the celebrity is CLEARLY just out and about trying to live their life and has been accosted by them…. And I don’t even mean like paparazzi shots… I mean like they had a selfie with a celeb in the street and they cropped themselves out of it for their portfolio. 

Paying for Publication

There are a lot of photographers who genuinely haven’t been published, and can’t truthfully say that they have. People don’t want to outright lie… they just want to stretch the thinnest of  truths as far as they can. So what do these photographers and creatives do? Everything has a price, right? 

Using one of the many “get published” websites , for around $100-200 you can guarantee yourself a front cover, or 6-12 image spread in one of the numerous “Pay per publish” magazines. There are absolutely no details on these magazines about readership or distribution, so it’s obviously not about people getting their names out there. Its just a way of paying for being able to honestly (and I use the term “honestly” pretty fucking loosely) state they have been published. 

By all accounts there are many of these accomplishments that can be bought for cold hard cash. I have friends in the film industry and it grinds their gears when they see “award winning” directors, who have obviously bought their award from an unscrupulous source just so they can say that they are AWARD WINNING. 

So, Published Photographer? Or not? How do I Know? 

First off, it shouldn’t matter either way whether your photographer is published or not. Not really. Unless for some specific reason you are requiring someone with contacts to genuine publishing teams, or you are requiring a photographer with a certain level of genuine kudos, the published status of your photographer with have little to know bearing on the success of your project. 

I have worked on major brand campaigns for big brands and retailers during my career, and I have had numerous image featured in magazines as advertisments for those brands and retailers (I don’t believe that technically counts.), but I don’t think I’ve ever been genuinely published in an editorial sense… and I could give a flying monkeys about it… and neither should you. 

But if you are genuinely wanting to know If a photographer has been published then here’s a few tips: 

  • Tear Sheets; clippings of the publications will prove that this person is at the very least telling the truth about being published published
  • Vague statements about being published are not good enough, if someone has been published in a high profile publications then they will include names and dates / issue number as proof.
  • If you don’t recognise the name of the publication, then it’s probably not a great sign. 
  • If you’re not sure, then you can check on the publications website to see what their submission guidelines are 

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