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Opinion | Helpful hints from a photo editor at Mother Jones Magazine
mark murrmann
Jan 19, 2019
The Director of Photography at Mother Jones Magazine shares helpful hints for photographers.


  Consider the medium in which you're pitching work. 
Establish a relationship. 
Working is long-term. 
Yes, there are exceptions to all of these points. 
This is beyond the basics of, spell the editor's name correctly.

Director of Photography at Mother Jones Magazine

Be Selective when Tagging. Carpetbomb tagging an editor in every photo you've ever posted on Instagram is typically not an effective way to pitch your work/yourself to them.
Respect the Story. Are you pitching a story that is important to you? Do you want it to get published? Pitch it with a little respect to the story – a Twitter thread doesn't cut it. Tagging a photo editor in a Facebook post doesn't either. Neither does a text message.
No texting. Does the editor work at a magazine with a staff? Unless you hear otherwise, it's is probably best to email the editor at If you find their personal number on their personal website (some editors freelance too), it's not a great idea to drop them a text to see if they got your photo essay proposal that you sent a couple hours ago.
Share your work. Do not send an email to ask if an editor wants to see your work. Just send it. They're expecting it. Happens every day, all the time.
Put your name on it. If you make a photo zine – or any other kind of promo – put your name on it, especially if you send it to editors without any note or return address or anything to indicate who it's from. And while you're putting your name on your promo, may as well add where you're located and some contact info. The "but I'll travel anywhere" doesn't really cut it. It's helpful to know where people are currently located.
Expect to get paid. Do not pitch a story and tell an editor you don't expect to get paid for it. You should always expect to get paid for your work. If you feel comfortable giving your work away for "exposure," let the editor broach that. But DO NOT offer you work for free right out of the gate.
Show specific projects, not a walkthrough of your website. While meeting someone face to face is always good, if you meet with an editor and just show them your website, you’re wasting your time and theirs.
Know what the Magazine recently published. If a magazine just did a large story on a particular subject, they most likely won't be able to also use your story on the exact same subject.
Know who you're pitching to. Are you a lifestyle photographer who shoots happy white people running through golden, sun-drenched grasslands, and you sometimes dabble in yummy food photography? While it's good to be open to all kinds of photography, you're likely not a photographer we can work with. Don't get bent outta shape about it; and definitely, don't argue with the editor.
A warning before shocking us is advised. Are you taking naked pictures of vampires drenched in "blood" in bathtubs? A NSFW warning would be welcome. Also, HARD PASS.
Give the editor time to respond. Following up on pitches is good, but give the editor a little time to get to it. A week or more is good. And rest assured – if you send a story and the editor likes it, they're going to get in touch.
It's all about perspective. Don't take everything a photo editor says as gospel. They're all opinionated, they're all busy. Some are kind and constructive; others are grouchy and some are just assholes. Use common sense and take everything a photo editor says with a grain of salt.
Remember editors are human. Do not pitch stories via social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), particularly if you don't already have a relationship with the editor. If you feel inclined to do so, DEFINITELY don't do this when it is 5 a.m. where the editor lives. Not every editor silences or turns their phone off at night. Being woken up early by a Facebook messenger pitch is a quick way to get your work rejected.
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Mark Murrmann is photo editor at Mother Jones magazine. Mark came to Mother Jones in 2007 with a background as a photojournalist, working as a contract photographer with ZUMA Press. He studied photography at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and then in London as a student winner of the Alexia Foundation Photography Grant.

By Mark Murrmann
Director of Photography at Mother Jones Magazine
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