Packaging for Submissions

Patience In Banff, © Mary Brock
Patience In Banff, © Mary Brock

Care of Images and Packaging for Submissions

During the course of reviewing transparency submissions for contests or editorial work, it becomes evident that most individuals do not actually know the best way to handle their slides or the packaging of submissions. Thus, we offer this short piece of advice in the hope that it will aid someone in getting their images published.

Care of Slides
The most important part of making any submission is not whether you win or lose a competition or whether a publisher or editor chooses your work for inclusion in their publication, but whether or not your slides actually arrive there and return home in good condition. Most of that is in your control. Care of the slides and packaging can make all of the difference in the world.

Clean labeled slides — Don’t send filthy or scratched transparencies. Not only does it make a very bad first impression on the individual reviewing the images, they are more easily damaged if they are laden with dust and who-knows-what. Look at the transparencies you are getting ready to send. If they have dust and other things on them, use an air bulb or canned air to blow the loose debris off. If they are still dirty, you will have to resort to more drastic cleaning methods. The best way to avoid dirty slides is to keep them in clean situations all of the time. Put them in slide sheets when you get them back from the lab — they will collect a lot less dust that way. Also make sure all of the slides you send are labeled with your name, address and telephone number.

Slide packaging — Loose slides do not travel well in the mail. They can scratch much easier or even become torn in transit. There are single clear plastic slide sleeves that fit snugly directly over individual 35mm slides (or other transparency sizes, too) and add to the protection while in transit and while being reviewed by other people. They are not necessary to be removed to view the slide, or even to scan it, and will fully eliminate the possibility of finger prints on the slide itself. The individual 35mm sleeves are #SS22B and come in packages of 100 for $5.10, 500 for $20.70 or 1000 for $37.20 from the Stock Solutions (online ordering of all photo transparency film formats at
With or without the individual slide sleeves, all slides should be transported in the “mails” in clear plastic (preferably archival) slide pages. If you are using the individual slide sleeves mentioned above, put the slide into the sleeve so that the seam on the sleeve is in the bottom back of the slide. Then place the slide into the slide page slot with the seam properly located and you will notice how easily it enters the slot. If the seam is located in any other manner, it will hang up on the lip of the slot in the page when inserted. Ease of handling will only endear you to the person reviewing your work.
If you are sending a full sheet (20) of slides, arrangement does count! Arrange the images so that they “face” the inside of the slide sheet. That is, animals should be facing the middle of the sheet and landscapes should “flow” toward the middle. Additionally, if possible, put the redder and most dynamic images in the corners to catch the reviewers attention right away. Make sure the first row is powerful, but keep in mind that everything should be strong — you will be judged mostly by the least powerful image you send. Thus, if you have 18 great images, do not add a couple of “also rans” to the batch just to fill the sheet. They will do damage, not good.
Once you have the slides in slide sheets, put the sheets between two pieces of stiff cardboard and put rubber bands from corner-to-corner around the cardboard to hold them together (this should take two rubber bands, each stretched from opposite corners and crossing one other). Do not use tape because it is difficult for the individual you are trying to impress to remove and the small impressions you make can make a difference (especially negative ones). Package everything into an envelope or box that is clearly of adequate size for what you are sending.

Sending Your Package — If the slides are important to you (and if they were not, why would you be sending them in the first place?), you should send them by some means that allows tracking of the package (i.e., Fed Ex, Airborne, UPS, Priority Mail, etc.).
You should also include an SASE for the return of the slides. That package should also be of adequate size for the safe transportation of the images. SASE means just that — Self (means you do it) addressed (you put on your address) stamped (again, you do it) envelope (adequate packaging included). Of the approximately 200 entries into this year’s photo contest, 39 came without self addressed return packaging. That worked with us, but it would never work with virtually anyone else, whether contest or editorial related. Examples of things not to do include, but are surely not limited to, sending your Fed Ex account number with no airbill or package, sending cash/check for postage with or without an accompanying package, sending the return packaging with no address, sending loose stamps in the envelope, sending a credit card number with or without packaging, etc., (you get the idea). It never seems that it would be hard to address an envelope when you send them that way, but believe me, 39 was a little painful and imagine how many large contest judges or magazine editors see all of the time. Most people will simply throw away your images if you do not comply. Don’t let this happen to you.

Moral — It would be a shame to spend all of that time in the field and make all of those great images, just to have them ignored, or worse yet, thrown away, because we didn’t take enough time to carefully package them and assure their safe return. Also, if acceptable to the receiving party, you can send well done transparency scans via the Internet and avoid most of the pitfalls (not everyone will accept scans).

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