How to Get Your Photography Published in Magazines

Woman in a wedding gown

Wedding photography

This guest post was written by Lara White, whose photography studio has been published in over 70 magazines in the last five years.  Lara is a wedding photographer and has shared her experience specific to her trade, but almost all of the advice in this article is useful for photographers of all kinds.  I personally believe that most photographers are guilty of allowing their work to collect dust on their hard drives and don’t spend enough time trying to get their work in front of other people.  Hopefully many readers take Lara’s advice to heart and take a chance.  Here’s Lara…

Getting published is somewhat of a mysterious process for many photographers. It used to be for me too; I consumed wedding magazines and read the blogs daily, soaking up all the gorgeous and inspiring weddings, studying the composition to see what I could learn and how I could apply these techniques to my own weddings.

The first time we submitted a wedding, one of the images was published in a magazine. That was such a thrill and confirmation for us as photographers. Over the next couple of years, we had a smattering of images published here and there, but nothing regular. One year I set a goal to get more work published, and I began to really study and understand the process. The next year we were published in 13 magazines with additional online features. And it grew from there. In the last four years alone, we have gotten work published in over 70 magazines and many wedding blogs. Below are five tips that will turbocharge your submissions process.

Who wouldn’t publish a photo like this?

TIP#1: Mind the Deadline

Most magazines have deadlines for receiving submissions. The magazine’s editorial team works together to complete an issue, and they often work on issues several seasons in advance. Timing is everything. If you just photographed a gorgeous summer wedding in August, and submit in September, they will be considering that for their spring or possibly summer issue the following season. If you miss their deadlines, then you risk losing the window of opportunity because it may be an entire season before they would be looking for summer weddings again. At some point, your submission gets “stale” as the trends and color schemes have peaked in popularity. Create an editorial submissions calendar filled with due dates so you can stay organized and not miss any important deadlines. Wedding blogs tend to be more flexible with receiving submissions as they are producing more frequent content.

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TIP #2: Cull for the Magazine/Blog

When you are preparing your editorial submission, cull images specifically for the submission. You need to consider that the audience is not your bride. The personal images she loves are not going to have the same effect on someone who doesn’t know her. The audience you should cull for is brides in the planning stages looking for unique ideas and themes. Chose a dozen or so wedding highlights, perhaps 5-10 portraits and then the rest of your submission should be details. For the wedding highlights, choose images that highlight both an emotional highpoint as well as the unique surroundings. For example, if choosing between a close-up first dance image and a wider frame that also shows the lighting and chandeliers, I would recommend the second one, as you are able to get more ‘story’ of the day from the image that showcases the surroundings as well as the moment. Each magazine offers guidelines on how many images they want to see, somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-150 images total.

Image by Lara White

TIP #3: Details Please

If you want to know the way to a wedding blog or magazine editor’s heart, send them many batches of gorgeous, luscious details. It’s what they thrive on. Your submission should be about 75% details; the other 25% is portraits and wedding highlights. If you cannot grasp this concept, you’re wasting your time with submitting. Every editor I spoke with confirmed this; it’s all about the details.

How do you get more detail images? Start shooting more details. There are details at every turn; you simply must look for them. Shoes, rings, the invitation, single flowers in the garden, wedding programs, custom cocktails, signage, escort card tables, reception room, architectural details, lighting details, food details. The cake topper, long exposure of kids grabbing treats from the candy table, the dog’s wedding collar etc. Details are everywhere. Use downtime to find and capture details in creative ways. You can train your eye to spot details and capture them quickly if you practice. It’s also a good idea to capture important details in both vertical and horizontal orientations. This allows for flexibility in the layout.

Image by Lara White

TIP #4: Consistent Look

One of the things that editors see in the submission piles is a mixed bag of Photoshop styles. For example, if you use a desaturated action on a few favorite images, but do nothing to the rest, it’s not going to show well. The work might be great, but if the images don’t have a consistent look to them, it doesn’t make for a nice feature wedding. If you like your images to have a certain look go ahead and apply that to the entire wedding submission. However, be aware that certain styles will not appeal to magazines if the look doesn’t fit with their style and audience profile.

TIP #5: Submit

My final tip is quite simple actually. Submit. A lot. Repeat. The single most important thing you can do to increase your chances of getting published is to simply submit your work as frequently as you can. There is a reason certain photographers get published a lot; it’s because they submit regularly.

Finally, remember that it takes time and practice. Be patient with it, and continue to submit your work. The wait time can be anywhere from 3-8 weeks before you will hear back and often several more months before appearing in print. If you aren’t finding success, ask a mentor to review some of your submissions to help you figure out how you could improve.

Getting published is a process that takes a lot of time and patience with a dash of luck thrown in. If you follow these steps, you will be on your way to getting published or getting published more frequently. If you are interested in learning more, you can pick up my free ebook: Get Published: A Guide for Wedding Photographers.  It’s filled with step by step instructions on what editors are looking for, creating great detail images, how to set up a submissions process and tips and tricks to increase your chances. It’s everything I’ve used to get our studio’s work published in over 70 magazines and wedding blogs in the past four years.

What other advice or tips do have to share? Questions? Let me know in the comments below.

LOVE this shot!

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. says

    Don’t do weddings – yet I guess – I’m more nature, etc but I can still pull some useful info from this. Nice article. TY!

    and wonderful shots BTW :)

  2. says

    One of the things you can do to build up editorial coverage for any niche is to look for local & trade publications that would not have a budget for images or a good resource to get them. You might not get paid, but you can build up a portfolio and add to your prestige this way.

  3. says

    Another thing: find out—and follow—the magazine’s submission guidelines. What file format(s) do they accept? (JPEG, TIFF, etc.). What pixel dimensions do they require? Do they allow you to color correct or crop? How can you submit (CD, e-mail, etc.)? It’s possible they might even want to see prints. If they don’t give guidelines in the magazine or on their Web site, e-mail or call and ask for them. Following their guidelines makes their jobs easier, which is always appreciated. I know, because I used to work for a newspaper, and we often received file formats we couldn’t open or poor quality prints of art and photos…despite providing clear submission guidelines. This made us…well…not happy.

    For example: I submitted some images to a regional magazine this year. Their guidelines specified no color correction or cropping, but said nothing about tonal adjustments. I e-mailed them to ask about this, along with other questions and points I wanted to clarify. I received a very nice reply that answered all my questions (BTW, tonal adjustments were allowed). I don’t know if they’ll use any of my photos, but hopefully I improved my chances.

  4. says

    I absolutely agree with you Len. some magazines have procedures to follow, and so you should follow their guidelines to a T. It’s all about making it easy on them. I have found that if editors know you are responsive and easy to work with, they will come back to you with last minute requests, knowing you can be counted on.

  5. says

    I have to ask the obvious, especially since all other questions have been addressed. :)
    Are (most) submissions considered PR for the photographer and go unpaid by the magazine, or is there at least some financial kickback in it for the photographer? If there is, then where/how would you find out about the rate the magazine is paying?
    Also, just submitting images doesn’t quite cut it, unless magazines do not require a release to print?

  6. says

    Hi Michael, it really depends on the industry. Most wedding magazines do not pay, so the only gain is through the exposure. However, if you know how to leverage that exposure, it can be huge. Because of our submission system, our work appears in magazines every month. We are able to leverage that exposure into new partnerships that refer business, increased prices, greater demand for our services and even occasional celebrity weddings. All this together combines to create a sense of our studio being ‘the best.’

    The magazines usually do require a release, which they will send you if they want to print your images. Other times it might be part of their submission process.

  7. says

    Thank you so much! I’ve been wanting to start submitting my wedding photos for publication and this article provided such helpful tips.

  8. says

    Great Laura, so glad to hear that! Don’t forget to download the free guide (link is in the article). It’s 55 pages of details and tips. good luck with your submissions.

  9. says

    Thanks for the information Lara. Just wondering whether photographers submit to Real Life Wedding articles in magazines or is that only done by the brides?

  10. says

    Hi Rachel,

    Photographers can also submit to the real weddings features, and many do. Typically though the magazine will want the contact info for the bride, and they will interview her to get the background on the couple, the wedding planning etc. So whenever you submit, you need to ensure you have your bride’s permission first.

  11. says

    How many photos would you think is appropriate to submit for a magazine? I know editors dont want to be bombarded with 100 photos all at once, but what would you say is an acceptable amount? Thanks

  12. says

    Guilty of this line: I personally believe that most photographers are guilty of allowing their work to collect dust on their hard drives and don’t spend enough time trying to get their work in front of other people.

    It’s overwhelming to see if your photos appear on magazines. Thanks for the tips.

  13. says

    Good article and some great photographs.

    Submit; so important. @patrick very true – digital photography is great, but a hard drive really can be a gaol for photography. Thankfully email is a great way to get your pictures out and about – and hopefully in some magazines.

    @melanie – ten is usually okay; make sure they’re your best work.

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