My primary focus is automotive photography. I'll tell you how I got started from shooting in the local scene to now shooting for magazines, manufacturers, after market vendors, etc. This list is slated to include 4 more by the end of the year.
It's really not that difficult to get started either. There aren't "guidelines" or any "rules" to follow. You'll never get published that way. I'll get to that in a bit.
Sorry... I tend to get wordy. Just, humor me.
I started shooting for free about 3 years ago in the local scene. Yes, free. Why?
1. I needed to get a portfolio started.
2. I needed to get my name out there in the local scene. As I shot, people would share my name. Then I'd get a shoot from this person and that person.
3. Most importantly, I had to develop an eye. You already know there's more to automotive photography than just picking up a camera and snapping. The more I shot, the more my eye developed and the better I got. So I kept shooting shooting shooting shooting and shooting. And then a little more shooting after that.
So going back to doing it for free... I did it for free because it's easy to convince someone to do something when it doesn't cost them anything. In this case, they're only out a little time. I knew there would be a time when I could start charging for it, but I wasn't about to charge someone to shoot their vehicle while I was learning. Why charge for subpar quality? Well that's my outlook on it.
Like everyone else, I eventually started a Facebook page to showcase my photography and extend my reach further into the local scene. Obviously I would friend the people I shoot for and tagged them in the shots I posted. Just another way for friends of friends to see my work. As expected, I started getting contacted to shoot for more.
Fast forward a little and I started having shots featured on automotive blogs like Jalopnik and others. Jalopnik used a handful of my shots for their "Ridiculously cool wallpapers". Some of the aftermarket pages like JC Whitney, Stylin Trucks, Nitto and Toyo Tires shared my shots and used them as their profile images. Obviously they asked if they could and I happily let them without asking for a dime. Why? Because I was more concerned with establishing myself in the market rather than making a few bucks. I had, and still have, a full time job so I wasn't concerned about that.
(Keep in mind I'm still still shooting and refining my skills as much as I can)
Fast forward some more... JC Whitney and StylinTrucks (same parent company, but different divisions) are using my shots in their catalogs and I land a couple of catalog covers. Finally! Now I'm getting somewhere! Getting a company to share a shot on their Facebook page is easy. Getting them to use an image as their Facebook cover image is a bit more difficult, but getting them to actually print your images, especially a cover, is when you know you're doing something right.
The time eventually came when it was time to invest in my name a little bit. I spent some money on NICE business cards. I wanted a card that made a statement. I didn't want cheap paper cards. So I went to the company that manufactures gift cards for major retailers that you like know VERY well. This same manufacturer does the room keys for most of the hotels and resorts in the US. Yes, my business cards are gift cards and room keys without the mag-strip on the back. They definitely get people's attention when I hand them out. I always hear, "Man, nice card!". I had shirts and hats made to hand out to people as a "thank you" for letting me shoot their car, truck, bike, etc. I bought myself a work shirt and had my logo stitched on the front pocket and back to wear while shooting and to wear when shooting at car shows. Simple things like this worked and people started recognizing the logo and would approach me at shows and at other car related functions to schedule a shoot.
My big break came when one of my images caught the eye of the editor of one of the magazines I would eventually start shooting for. Some truck page I follow shared one of my shots and tagged me in it. The editor commented and said, "nice shot". I didn't know who it was at the time until I went to his Facebook page and saw who he was. I simply thanked him for the comment and said that I would love to work with him if he ever had an opportunity in my area of the country. We started chatting and it went from there. I ended up being sent to Houston for my first "real" gig. I ended up landing the cover and a 5 page feature. The rest is history and that's when I started charging for a shoot. I could legitimately say that I was an automotive photographer that is published nationally. If you want magazine worthy images of your car, truck, or bike...I'm the guy.
I currently shoot for 10 different automotive magazines. I recently added a popular bagger magazine for a couple bikes I shot. So that makes 11 different publications. If you go to my website, click the "About Me" page and you can see the names and the aftermarket vendors I work with.
If you remember I said that there are not "rules" or "guidelines" to follow when submitting images. If you want to waste your time reading those, be my guest, but it won't do you any good. There are a handful of easy ways to get in touch with the editor, feature editor or another member of the staff.
1. Find the Facebook page of the magazine that features something you have to pitch to them. Send them a brief message with two or three images of the car that YOU shot. Give them a line or two about the car and it's mods. Don't waste their time with junk...the vehicle itself or your photos. This is where a first impression can make or break it for you.
2. If Facebook doesn't work for you, go to their website. There are typically "contact us" pages where you can select the recipient. Obviously you'd choose "editor" as the recipient. Type the same brief message, but you may have to include a link to the images if you can't attach them.
3. Grab a magazine on the newsstand and open it up towards the front where it lists the editorial staff. Look for the editor's name. Figure out how to get in touch with him. Editors will typically write a feature here and there, but they will typically always write something about coming events or this and will at some point welcome input or other communication from the readers by providing an email address. ding ding ding, you have an email address.
I hope I provided you with some helpful advice. Take it with a grain of salt if you want. Feel free to send me a PM with questions and we can go from there. I don't mind helping you along your way. Best of luck.