I’ve seen it in my social media feed a lot lately, and it’s always said with such excitement: “I got published in Vogue.” It sounds fantastic and creates such a buzz for the claimant, but as it turns out, the photographer’s work didn’t appear in those slick pages of the well-known fashion magazine. No, their work appeared in a portfolio section of an Italian website called PhotoVogue on Vogue Italia (the Italian arm of the well-known magazine).

Well, what’s the difference?

There’s a big difference. PhotoVogue Italia is open to anyone who wants to submit images. It’s a portfolio section of a larger website and from what I can gather, features the work of thousands of hobbyist, amateur, and professional photographers from around the world, and the images are not published in the pages of Vogue magazine. The main place they appear are in this subsection of the Vogue Italia website. If you’re lucky, your work might get featured as the PhotoVogue photo of the day in the PhotoVogue subsection, and if you’re really lucky, your work might (but it’s highly unlikely) appear in the pages of Vogue Italia magazine.

How does it work?

You sign up online and submit a set of images. That’s it. It’s as easy as (maybe a little easier) signing up for Facebook or some other social media site and posting images to a gallery. The biggest difference is that someone from PhotoVogue Italia has to review your images and decide whether they’re worthy of being shown on PhotoVogue Italia. I don’t know the criteria for selection, and I have no idea how rigorous the process is, but I suspect that from the sheer number of photographers shown on the website that it’s fairly easy for images to pass muster.

The claim, “I got published in Vogue” happens most often when the review process is completed and a photographer gets images approved for the PhotoVogue section of the website. In other words, the photographer submitted images, they were approved by PhotoVogue, and now they appear on a portfolio page in a subsection of the Vogue Italia website. And while it sounds like you could go to the newsstand and grab a copy of Vogue and see that photographer’s work, what you’re really able to do is go to the equivalent of a Model Mayhem site (with a review board) and see that photographer’s work amongst thousands of other photographers’ work.

For most photographers, magazine publication is a big deal. There’s nothing quite like seeing your work on the glossy pages of an actual well-known, printed magazine. It’s a stepping stone of accomplishment that says you’re doing something right with your work and can really boost your ego and your career. However, it rarely happens by submitting random images to a magazine. To get published, you normally either have images that someone needs for an article, or you are hired specifically to create images for an article. Having done both, I can tell you that it’s a pretty straightforward process.

When Maxim magazine wanted to use my images of moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton, the photo editor emailed me and asked about licensing images for an upcoming article. I worked out the contract with Maxim and sent them my images. When Us Weekly needed images to accompany a weight loss article, the photo editor phoned and we discussed details of their needs. We worked out a rate and contract, and I shot the commercial set and sent in my finished images. It’s really that simple, and there’s not a whole lot of luck to it. You either have something a publication needs, or you have the skills necessary to fulfill a publication’s needs. Either way, there’s nothing random or left to chance about it.

A few final thoughts about PhotoVogue

There’s nothing wrong with the PhotoVogue section of the Vogue Italia website. It provides a place for photographers to showcase their work, and frankly there’s a lot of beautiful work shown in the PhotoVogue portfolios. It’s a great place to browse and get inspired. It’s also a nice spot to showcase your work to a larger audience, but let’s stop making it out to be more than that. Saying your images were “published in Vogue” when your images are accepted for the PhotoVogue site is misleading at best and purposefully deceptive at worst. You’re only softening the impact of the moment your work really appears in the glossy pages of a well-known publication. You’re hurting your real moment to shine.


Andy Armstrong is a master photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee. His commercial work has appeared in Maxim, Consumer Reports, Us Weekly, Hockey News, and other publications. To see more of his work, please visit http://andyarmstrong.wpengine.com.


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