How to shoot for a top international magazine

(The current issue of Monocle)

When I was still a newbie photographer, I really, really wanted to shoot for Monocle. I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to do (since Monocle was, to me at that time, the coolest magazine in the world). And I knew it would be useful for my budding photography career to shoot for such an influential publication.

The problem was, how do I actually get my foot in the door?

I remember thinking to myself at the time, “So many photographers want to shoot for Monocle. They probably already work with a whole stable of existing established photographers. Why would they commission me? And how do I even make them realise I exist?”

I decided on the simplest solution. I emailed them!

Hi David,

I got your email some time ago regarding the featuring of Casual Days, a magazine I published awhile back, on your Monocle radio show. Just wanted to let you know that the magazine is currently on hiatus, but if and when a new issue comes out I’d love to send you a copy!

Also, I am actually a photographer based in Singapore, working in and around Asia. Here you can see my portfolio of work:

And here’s a link to my photo project “Creative People + Projects” where I meet and photograph creative people I admire around Asia:

If your magazine should need a photographer in this region, and you find my work suitable, I’d be more than happy to help / collaborate.

Thank you and have a great day!

PS: Keep up the good work on The Urbanist! Monocle 24 is a breath of fresh air!


David got back to me and told me to email their photo department instead. And the rest is history. I have since worked with Monocle on many of their editorials in Singapore and Malaysia, and I have also been commissioned by their parent company Winkreative to work on bigger commercial projects.

One of the portraits from my personal project, Creative People + Projects, that I started early on before I became a working photographer

One of my commissions from Monocle – an advertorial of Singapore Airlines for one of their issues

Winkreative sent me to Okayama in Japan to shoot a project for Lexus

All the jobs above and more (and many thousands of dollars in income) came from my simple decision to ask.

Some lessons there:

(1) Sometimes the best solution is the simplest. To get a potential client’s attention, sometimes all you need to do is knock on their door.

(2) Before knocking on their door, though, you will need to already have a portfolio of work that suits the style of the magazine or the client you want to shoot for. To get that portfolio of work, you probably need to spend some time working for free, either on your own personal project or with smaller companies who are willing to let you shoot for them before you even have a decent portfolio. So go hustle!

(3) It’s not a catch-22. Big brands and companies are more willing to work with new photographers than you imagine. You don’t need to already be established, although, like I mentioned above, you DO need a good portfolio. And you can create that portfolio easily by shooting work that you want to be hired for on your own time. You want to be hired by Adidas? Shoot the kind of stuff Adidas puts out in its campaigns.

(4) One opportunity will lead to more opportunities. Because I shot for Monocle, potential clients who are looking for a similar aesthetic have stumbled upon my portfolio through Google. Or they might have read about me on the bio page of the magazine. Or someone might say to a potential client, “Hey, you know that photographer? She has shot for magazines like Monocle. She must be good.” Your credibility as a photographer builds from things like this.

(5) Apply the age-old adage of “Ask and you shall receive” to your life. You will be surprised at the opportunities that people are willing to give you.

Finally, in the spirit of this important lesson, watch this amazing talk by Amanda Palmer about the magic that happens when you have the courage to ask.

4 thoughts on “How to shoot for a top international magazine

  1. so true! I’ve been on the receiving end of looking at submissions and it really is just the quality of work that speaks for itself more than having a big name. And asking makes you so much more “discoverable.”

    thank you for sharing these posts! really encouraging reading this, as someone looking to do more photo work herself (:

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