When it comes to selling magazines, fear is no longer just for horror movies. In recent years, many publications have been using the fear factor as an effective marketing tool—and not always on their covers. More and more, editors use Horror Photography events in their stories and inserts. The photojournalism industry has certainly taken notice. “There’s a trend with these types of images,” says Robert Kurson, president of FotoEvidence.com, an online marketplace for news, sports, and entertainment photography. “There was a time when editors wouldn’t use anything that wasn’t a straight-up image, but now they’re experimenting with all kinds of things.”
Why Does This Work?
While most people don’t want to see Horror Photography of death and destruction, something about them seems to make us pay attention. And maybe even buy the magazine. It’s hard to explain exactly. But people respond positively to photos like these. After all, if you were looking at a picture on the cover of Time or People showing some guy who’d just gotten his arm ripped off by a bear, would you pick up the magazine? Probably not. Would you read the story inside? Maybe. But probably not. Editors have been using the fear factor to sell magazines for years. Why do we love horror movies so much? We love them because of the fear factor.
What Makes a Good Horror Photograph?
The key is to take something that most people would find grotesque and turn it into art. Sure, a severed hand covered in blood might freak out some people, but it could inspire others. The same goes for pretty much any horror photograph. One of the most successful horror-related photos ever taken was of a dead body with its head removed. The photo, titled The Bather, was shot by photographer Francis Newton Souza in 1968. His image of a nude woman lying on a beach, whose face had been blown off, shocked the world. It sold for $2 million at Christie’s in New York City last year, making it the most expensive photograph. If this doesn’t prove that the fear factor can be used to sell magazines, nothing will.
How Can You Use This to Sell Your Photos?
If you’re a photojournalist, you’ve already got the perfect subject matter right in front of your nose: crime scenes and other horrific events. Consider writing a story around a particularly gruesome photo you’ve taken. If the editor likes what he sees, they’ll run the piece. While you may not get rich from doing this, you should still make some money. Even if you don’t get paid, you will gain exposure, which is worth something. And you never know how your work could be used in the future. By giving the editor a choice between several photos, you increase your odds of getting published. Of course, you’ll also need to edit them carefully to make sure the images aren’t too gory.
In the past decade, the popularity of the horror genre has exploded, thanks to television shows like Dexter, American Horror Story, and True Blood. This means more opportunities than ever to take great horror photos and sell them to magazines. Keep your eyes open for unusual stories and grab the opportunity when it presents itself. There’s no better way to make money and become a well-known photographer. One such horror photographer is Cory DeAn Cowley. Her work has made her famous in the industry. She’s not afraid to go after the big jobs. “I’m fearless about trying new ideas,” says Cowley. “And I’ve found that editors appreciate that.” Cory uses real blood and various other natural substances to create surreal scenes. The result is powerful imagery that sells.
Even though most of her photos are dark and disturbing, Cowley is happy with the response. Her work is recognized in the horror photography community as the best. “They say that one of the reasons people watch horror movies and read scary books is to feel alive, and I think that’s true,” she says. “It’s my job to bring that feeling to life through my photography.”
So why isn’t everyone doing it?
It’s not easy to get a hold of human blood, cow brains, or other ingredients needed to create these images. It takes a lot of time and effort to obtain the materials to create a truly terrifying photo. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you could find a career that pays very well. Cory DeAn Cowley, for example, charges thousands of dollars per image.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks
Horror photography has come a long way since the days of Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz. Today, you can shoot a beautiful portrait of a model holding a knife while wearing a bloody costume, or you can have someone screaming in terror as they’re running away from a monster. You choose. Remember the old adage: if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. So if you see an opportunity to do something different, go for it.
Yes, some people are turned off by the thought of taking horrifying photographs. However, if you do your research and decide to take the plunge, you could make a decent living. Not only that, but you could end up having your work featured in some of the most popular magazines on the planet. If you want to get started, you need to start researching. Look for horror photography contests or look online for the latest news. Once you’ve got a handle on what’s happening in the field, it will be easy to decide whether or not it’s for you.