The Secret to Landing Your First Magazine Cover

In 2004, living under the canopy of clouds in upstate NY, I used to wonder how models made it to the covers of magazines. It was a mystery to me and seemed like an almost impossible goal. Fast forward 6 years to 2010 and I had landed 12 magazine covers, all without the use of a manager, agent, or outside help. In this article, I’m going to teach you how it was done.

The two basic methods

The first option is to shoot with photographers who regularly get published. Go to a newsstand and pick up the magazine you want to be in. Flip through the pages and see who the photographers are. Next, contact the photographer and set up a shoot with the intention of having your images submitted to that magazine. The photographer may get pre-approval from the magazine to shoot you for a feature, or the photographer may shoot you on “spec.” Shooting on spec means the photographer does the shoot without pre-approval and submits to the magazine anyway, in hopes that they use the images.

The second option, and the one I used most, is to take matters into your own hands. Find the best photographer in your area, shoot the style of pictures you see in the magazines you want to be in, and submit them yourself. Go to the inside few pages of most magazines and look for the email or mailing addresses of the Editor and Chief or Art Director. You can also go to the magazine’s website and usually find the contact information there. Once you have the contact info, start introducing yourself and submitting your photos. I’ve even sent actual prints via FEDEX to art directors. Everyone opens an overnight FEDEX package, right?

Don’t be afraid of “NO”

Photographer: Armond Scipione

For every magazine cover I landed, there were sometimes up to 6 other magazines that passed on the same image. I used to submit a web size sample of my image to several magazines at the same time. Some editors would say no, others would say it’s not the right look, and still others wouldn’t respond at all. However, eventually I would get a YES!  I once sat on an image for a whole year before it was picked up for a cover. I knew it belonged on a cover and I didn’t stop until I got my yes.

As a model, you have to evaluate your goals. Do you want to make small amounts of money from beginner photographers paying you? Or do you have a bigger vision? Would you rather shoot with the best photographers, submit to magazines, and make a name for yourself? That’s where you have an increased chance of getting sponsors, contracts, and/or endorsements. Enlarge your vision.

When I was modeling, I got to the point where I wouldn’t shoot with a photographer who wasn’t up to my standards, no matter how much they paid me. To the contrary, I would seek out the best photographers and I was the one paying them.

Why did I pay the best photographers?

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Tamlyn Cosster

There are several reasons I paid to work with the best photographers.

  • Ability to pick which images are retouched
  • Being provided with both high resolution and web size images. High resolution images are necessary for publication
  • Ability to choose the looks/outfits/locations that I wanted and felt were best
  • Freedom to submit the images on my own to publications

***Always discuss your plans for the images with the photographer before the shoot. Make sure the photographer is ok with you submitting to magazines on your own. The photographers I worked with in the past were always happy to have me submit to magazines because it was more promotion for them.

***Always discuss with the photographer ahead of time the shoot details, such as high resolution images, and any other questions you might have.

Why did I not shoot with just anyone?  Even if they were paying me

Photographer: Armond Scipione;  Model: Karolina Wozniak

You have to protect your image at all costs. Look through the photographer’s portfolio and find their worst image. You could be their next worst image. You have to ask yourself, does the $200 you made from the shoot justify having bad pictures of yourself circulating around the internet forever?

Other disadvantages of doing TFP shoots and some paid shoots:

  • Photographer typically decides which images are retouched (not always)
  • Typically only web size images are given
  • Photographer usually shoots what he/she wants, which may not necessarily be exactly what you had in mind (not always)
  • Often you will have to sign a release that does not allow you to submit you images to magazines

As Robert Greene stated in his famous book, The 48 Laws of Power, “Despise the Free Lunch. What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence.”

I always found these principles to be true in modeling and in life. So many models refuse to pay photographers and expect to be paid or given a free shoot. In my opinion, they are missing a key step that I used to land 12 magazine covers.

Finding a photographer

How do you find the right photographer so you have images to submit to magazines?  The simple answer is, you have to find a photographer who gives you a finished product good enough to go directly on a magazine cover. These photographers are few and far between.

After my last cover as a model in 2010, I decided I had accomplished everything I wanted to on the modeling side. I needed a new challenge and I felt there was a gap in the industry. That’s when I began the journey over as a photographer.

Now, as a photographer, I offer my clients everything I used to want when I was a model. I deliver a polished, realistic final product that I feel is good enough to go directly in any magazine.

Please visit my Facebook page and contact me if you have any questions. I’m always happy to give advice from the lessons I learned over the years.

Disclaimer: The information that I provided above was just my personal experience over the past 8 years in the industry. There are certainly other ways to get published and accomplish you goals. Everyone has different aspirations and there is no right or wrong way. I only want to give others insight into how I accomplished my goals without an agent or manager.

Armond Scipione Photo

Armond Scipione Photo

Armond Scipione is a professional photographer based in South Florida. Before becoming a photographer, Armond was a successful model who appeared on the cover of many popular fitness magazines.

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