It’s a good idea to query first. On event coverage, make sure we don’t have someone else covering the event. For motorcycle articles, it’s good to see if the ride meets our needs at the present time. Send a sample picture or two of any suggested chop feature. Different is definitely better. There are lots of bikes that look alike out there, especially in photographs.
In all cases, know your market. Be familiar with The Horse Back Street Choppers and the market we serve. This is most easily accomplished by reading several issues of the magazine. Don’t waste your time writing about or photographing events or bikes that don’t fit our market. The Horse features mostly traditional choppers and bobbers. High dollar trailer queens won’t get a second look.
Our readers are extremely savvy when it comes to motorcycles. Most of them build their own choppers/bobbers and they do as much work as possible themselves and with friends. They live and breathe bikes, so you’d better know what you’re talking about.
Following are some guidelines for articles and photographs. Adherence to these few suggestions will increase the likelihood of your submissions being accepted and published. Please send all contributions and queries to:
The Horse magazine
English is the language of the land. We prefer articles with proper grammar, punctuation, and structure. Remember that you are writing for a general national audience of 150,000 bikers or more, so make the article easily understood. Get a good paperback writers’ handbook and style manual and keep them by your computer. Strunk & White’s or Webster’s are both excellent.
Get your facts right. That includes spelling of names and places. If you cover an event at Famoso Raceway, don’t call it Fomosa or Formoso. Run a Google check and make sure you have it right. When interviewing a bike owner about his motorcycle, make sure you get the correct spelling of his name and anyone else that helped on the build.
Most word processing programs have built-in spell check and grammar check. Use it. It won’t always be right, because it won’t recognize some of the words and names you’ll use (like Edelbrock or Ariel) until you enter them into your own personal dictionary. At least the program will flag a possible discrepancy and give you the opportunity to fix it. Spell check also will not catch the wrong word spelled correctly (right, write, rite; to, too, two).
Give your story some variety of words. Get a thesaurus if you need to.
Keep to the subject. If you’re writing an article about Joe Blow’s 1938 Knucklehead, there should be no more than a passing reference, if any at all, to other bikes he has owned or built. Those can be the subjects of other stories. Likewise, if you are writing about a bike event, the readers are more interested in the event itself and what happened there than in what time you left home to get there, how late your buddy was (everyone has a late buddy story), or how much green mold was on the walls in the Hell Motel you stayed in during your journey.
Include captions for your photos. Captions help the reader decide whether to read an article or not. They also can give some much-desired information. Our readers really seek information about other people’s bikes.
Proofread your work. Either have someone else go over it, or walk away for awhile and then come back and go over it with a fresh eye.
All articles must be in electronic format. Send it on a disk or e-mail it. Either one is OK. Don’t plan on an editor retyping your story for you…ain’t gonna happen! LEAVE THE CAPS LOCK TURNED OFF!
First choice for photos is high resolution digital. We need files that will reproduce at 300 dpi (dots per inch) in the finished size. That usually means you’ll need a camera in the 6MP (megapixel) range at a minimum.
Pay attention to the details of your photograph. Watch out for reflections on shiny surfaces like chrome and paint. We don’t need any pictures of you reflecting in a tank or headlight.
Pay attention to details of the photo subject, too. On a motorcycle feature, shoot pictures from every conceivable angle and of every detail of the bike. If text mentions a certain feature of the bike, there should be at least one picture of it. Shoot pictures of the engine, the paint, and details like taillights, forks, emblems and pinstriping.
Shoot some vertical photos. The magazine page is a vertical format. Vertical format pictures are better for full page and cover shots.
Include people in your shots. At events, get bikers and pretty girls. EVERY cover we have done recently has at least one picture of a pretty girl. EVERY ONE.
Shoot from several different perspectives. At a bike show, don’t shoot every bike from the same angle. Get down on your knees and shoot a few. Watch backgrounds, too.
People look better photographed at a slight angle. Such a view gives perspective. Have you ever seen a good driver’s license photo? No one has. It’s because the pictures are taken with harsh light and straight from the front. Even supermodels have lousy DL photos.
Speaking of light, most editors agree that late afternoon/early evening light makes the best photographs. It’s warmer (more yellowish) and has fewer harsh shadows. Slightly overcast days are good too, because the light is diffused. Again, it’s better for shadow avoidance. A little bit of fill flash helps with the shadows if nature isn’t cooperating. Practice some trial shots with and without flash on some cheap print film and get it developed at Wal-Mart. That will provide some cheap instruction on the use of fill flash.
Watch the focus. Make sure the camera is focused on the right thing. If you’re not careful to place your focusing grid in the right place, auto-focus cameras will sometimes focus on something other than the intended subject, such as on an engine head when you wanted a sharp picture of the air cleaner. Sometimes it’s best to turn off the automatic focus and dial it in manually.
Last but not least, enjoy yourself. Choppers are fun, so don’t take yourself or us too seriously. Include some humor and a little irreverence in your words and pictures.
Keep ‘em comin’.