Railroad photography: Shooting for publication

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Friday, March 9, 2018

Trains Magazine has about 100 editorial photos in each issue. One of them could be yours!
Spring is right around the corner, and for most of us that means more time trackside with a camera. For better or worse, when you send an email to photoeditor@trainsmag.com, I'll be the first one that sees it. I get a lot of questions about specific images, which we often have no immediate use for. People, it seems, want to see the photos they've already taken in print, but don't want to give any thought to shooting for publication when trackside. That's a shame because a typical issue of Trains contains about 100 editorial photos. So, for everyone who never thought to plainly ask "How do I get a photo published in Trains Magazine," here's a quick guide:

1. Tell a story – The best photos often don't need a caption. The gleaming paint tells us it's a new locomotive. The landmark tells us it's a detour move. Use signs, landmarks, people, and other props to put railroading in context.

2. Be unique – A train photographed at a 3/4 angle at a grade crossing usually doesn't tell that desired story. Keep your eye out for unique compositions that lend themselves to print, too, especially vertical photos. To date, we have yet to publish a horizontal cover, so we always need lots of vertical compositions to review each month.

With about 50 contributors to each issue, there's plenty of room for new talent to come onboard!
3. Send only your best – Self-editing is an important skill in both writing and photography. We archive much of what's submitted for future use. If your name is attached to the better images in our collection we may also ask you for specific subjects in your area.

4. Leave the editing to us – It may come as a surprise to some, but Trains has a talented design staff that can process your images to match our printing specs. When you send a highly edited JPG image, or a photo with a watermark, we probably can't use it as-is, so it will be rejected for archiving. And if it's a photo that was requested, we'll have to come back to request a clean one for publication. Not good for anyone.

5. Include caption info – Yes, the best photos don't need a caption, but it's our policy to publish a caption with each image. So when you do upload those images at http://fileupload.kalmbach.com/contribute/, be sure to include full caption information in the comments field. It will help us understand what's going on and how we might best use them in the future.

To learn more about where to spend your time trackside, pick up our new Hot Spots special issue, available now for the 2018 railfan season.

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