The journey from image to magazine feature

Keen to secure more media coverage for your garden? Find out some of the ways in which magazine features start life

Deputy Editor of The Garden, Phil Clayton, is often asked how gardens come to be featured in the magazine. Here he explains three routes that can lead to the publication of a feature.

Magazine spread about The Trentham Gardens1. Speculative photo sets

By far the most common route is through a professional photographer sending us an up-to-date photo set of the garden.

There is a widely held misconception that we are able to spend time visiting gardens around the country, along with a photographer, for inclusion in the magazine. Sadly we do not have the resources for such bespoke photography. Instead we usually rely on a network of photographers to find and visit gardens for us.

Photographers then send in their photo sets for our consideration. We receive around 25 photo sets a month; we have space for one or two per month, depending on the issue size. As a result, we have to reject the vast majority of what is sent to us.

What causes us to reject sets? All sorts of things. The quality of the photos and indeed the garden does come into play, but the usual reason is down to the editorial mix of the magazine. We need to ensure a balance and avoid having too many large gardens, too many themed gardens, too many gardens from a particular part of the country, too many gardens with similar planting or a similar style, or too many gardens representing a particular time of the year. All these concerns can come into play.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. Image: Matt Pringle2. By recommendation

Occasionally a garden will be recommended to us by readers or other contacts. This on its own will not be enough for us to commission our own photography - the financial risk is too great. Sometimes, however, we are able to send photographers out on a speculative basis.

This does happen occasionally, perhaps a couple of times a year. Occasionally we do get to a garden through a roundabout way - indeed I visited lovely Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens and Nurseries in York with a photographer for the first time this year, to see and shoot a collection of geraniums we needed for a feature on these plants. 

Clive Nichols leads a photography master class3. Bespoke photography

Very occasionally we do commission our own photography of gardens. This happens if we are 100 per cent sure of a garden (one of the team will have probably visited the garden, usually in our own time), know exactly when we want to run the article and are confident we can make use of the images more than once. It also happens if the piece is to be part of a series in the magazine.

Phil's top tip

Inviting photographers to come when your garden is looking its best is the best way forward. Photographers will send their work to a range of different publications so even if one does not pick the garden up, another might.

Few publications will run a feature on a garden without a good professional picture set. Even if we know for sure a garden is quite brilliant, what we need is to see the pictures that will form the article - we can then move forward in constructing the piece around them.

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