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.
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.
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.
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.
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.