How to get your photos into Vogue
and tips to make your personal photographs stand out
I’ve been a photographer now for about 3 years, mainly as a hobby, using the medium to tell stories about people I meet. I usually post my photos on Instagram maybe once every 3 months, not posting more is mostly due to laziness. The whole idea of photos for me is generally very fun, but after a while, I pondered on trying out photography as a “side hustle”, and so I set out to look for opportunities available to photographers. As you can already imagine, photography is one very hard industry to get into. It’s highly competitive and you’re competing against really talented individuals with years and years of experience. Whilst you might get a few wedding gigs if you’re lucky, getting into beauty companies or campaigns is one thing that could potentially be a frustrating process for photographers in general. Most of the time photographers will end up giving up on making a sustainable career out of it and end up getting a 9-5 job, to keep the passion for their chosen art form burning out. But one way to make your portfolio stand out in applications, from my experience is to be “vogue approved.”
Some years ago, Vogue Italia started a platform for photographers all over the world to share their photos. To be posted on the website, you need to get through their review team who have a very non-transparent strict set of rules to follow. One sure thing is that if your photos are photo vogue approved, that means your work is to a good enough standard to appear on industry-respected magazines hence submitting your Vogue portfolio could give you an extra advantage during your job applications. However, it's very hard to get into, since vogue doesn’t provide criteria or ways to make your photo stand out. Many talented photographers submit photos to vogue every Monday but are unable to fit into the aesthetic vogue wants. Through trial and error and a bit of research, however, I have been able to get 6 of my photos into photovogue over the past 2 years, so I’m going to show you how to do it!
What is photovogue looking for
A quick look at the photovogue website and you can see how crisp their images are, but most importantly, the images are very raw and usually evoke strong feelings. This is what photography is about, after all, being able to tell a story through your iPhone or camera lenses. So when you take a raw photo, make sure it’s a story that has a raw emotional quality to it. Photos of evocative issues like breastfeeding, scars, pregnancy, nudity, comparison between the old and the young are the type of photos you will find on the first page of photovogue. You can use a high-end camera but you could also use your mobile phone, the idea of the image is what counts the most.
Okay let’s get to editing
So you’ve taken that evocative artistic photo and now you’re wondering how to edit it to fit into photovogue’s aesthetic. Well from my experience, less is more when it comes to these photos! Photovogue selections usually have a very colour rich yet desaturated kind of look to it, if you’re not sure how to get this aesthetic the best thing to do is submit your photo in black and white. But to make your photos stand out more, try to increase the sharpness of your subject’s eyes.
Selectively increase sharpness
So to do this, you can use many different apps but I use photoshop. The first thing you want to do is load the photo into Photoshop, duplicate the background layer using the commands ctrl-J on your keyboard, or click on layer and choose duplicate layer from the drop-down menu. After doing this, you want to desaturate your photo and simultaneously select a mask and the “alt” key on your keyboard. After this, click on filter, then choose other, from other, choose high pass and increase by approximately 20. Change the settings on the desaturated image to overlay, click on the mask and by using the brush tool you can sharpen whatever part of the image you want. You can decrease the intensity of the sharpness using the opacity slider. Here's a quick video tutorial I created to explain this.
What this does is it allows you to selectively sharpen parts of an image as opposed to sharpening the whole image, if there’s a quality about the photo you’d like to draw attention to whilst keeping the rest of the photo as it is, this will be a very good way to do it. Sharpening the eyes, Cupid’s bow or even eyebrows can make a massive difference to your image whether you plan to submit it to photovogue or not. You could submit the photo to photovogue without editing it any further, as photovogue is partial to photos that aren’t heavily edited or retouched. Examples of my photos that got accepted by photovogue using this method are below. As you can see from the images, the eyes and the eyebrows are sharp giving the illusion of overall sharpness. I’ve done nothing else to them.
Submit your photo in black and white
Black and white photos with selective sharpening are also photos that are usually accepted by photovogue, though I’ve never used the white and black format in my submissions I’ve noticed there’s a large majority of photos on photovogue that follows this format. The good news? It’s so easy to edit! One click on photoshop or free apps like VSCO and you can easily turn your image into black and white. Make sure you sharpen the image first!
Desaturation whilst keeping vibrance
So you might have noticed the somewhat yellow undertone in the aesthetics of photos on the vogue website. I tried for so long to imitate this effect and at first, my submissions were rejected but finally, I figured it out. If you’re using photoshop, the first thing you want to do is sharpen parts of the image as advised in step 1. Then click on saturation/vibrance. Reduce the saturation by around 8 and increase the vibrance by a similar amount. The next thing to do is go on selective colour, reds and yellows are especially good for this, you can play around with the slides and see what looks best, I usually increase the cyan and yellow slides on both. To finish, choose colour look up and use the FUJI 250D filter, reduce the opacity and of course sharpen the entire image after.
Final before and after:
If you want to use VSCO to get a similar effect, you can try the G3 free filter, but make sure you reduce the intensity of the effect. I’d strongly advise using photoshop for the photovogue aesthetic. Below is one of my photos that got accepted by photovogue using the same method:
So those are three steps to get your photo on photovogue that I’ve personally tested over the years that has worked for me! You can play around with some of the steps and see which one gets accepted. It’s quite easy once you get the hang of it, but the most important advice I’d give is to start with a good base point - the photo itself.
For non-photographers who are just trying to edit their personal photos, here are a few tips to make your photos stand out!
Sharpening really does make a big difference when it comes to increasing the quality of your photo. Unlike professional photos, you can get away with sharpening your overall personal images using apps like VSCO. To do this, simply download the free version of the app and click on sharpen! Don’t go too crazy with this though as it tends to eventually give the image a weird halo effect, I tend to stay between 15-20 for a good balance. An example is below:
Vintage it out
So have you always wondered how to get that grainy vintage-looking photo you see on Instagram? Well, it’s actually quite easy to do using apps like VSCO and prequel. To do this on VSCO, load your photo into the editing suite and choose any of the coloured filters, I usually use the C1 filter as it just gives it a good base for a vintage-looking feel. Increase saturation by 5-10 and sharpen as explained above. Now here’s the important bit, you might have noticed that vintage-looking photos usually have grainy qualities to them. To do this, click on grain in VSCO and increase by 15-35. Doing these three steps will give your image a very filmy vintage look! To take it further you could also add a yellow caption to it, whilst you can do this on VSCO, you might have to pay for it. But a free app I use for adding captions to my images is Phonto. Here’s an example below:
Add sparkles or flowers!
Another unique way to edit your personal photos is to add the sparkle or flower effect! Doing this is actually pretty easy using prequel, it’s a free app you can download on your phone and it contains many presets to take your personal photos to the next level. To add sparkles to your photo, load your photo into prequel and choose the stardust preset. To add flowers, use the bloom effect! Voila! Your photo is sparkled and flowered to perfection. An example is below.
So whether you’re a photographer hoping to gain an advantage in your job applications by getting onto photovogue or you’re just looking for tips to enhance your personal photos, I hope you’ve learnt something from the above tips! Thanks for reading.
If you enjoyed reading this, please give my LBB submission “The waiting room” a read, it's a story painted in watercolour about the effects of addiction on family members and the person struggling with it, you might like it!
You can check out my full portfolio here
Have a nice day!