Getting Published: The Editors Speak
October 12, 2012 —
Experienced and emerging wedding shooters alike know the absolute best way to gain exposure is by being published, either in print or on one of the thousands of local and national wedding blogs that exist. No matter your market, there’s a publication for you—from “Newport Wedding Glam” (newportweddingglam.com) to “Marry Me Tampa Bay” (marrymetampabay.com), and all cities in between. But what are the sure-fire ways to get published? We spoke with six editors from leading wedding publications and blogs to ask how many submissions they consider, which photos are absolutely played out, and what gets noticed by their discerning eyes.
Perhaps the grand daddy of wedding everything, The Knot and theknot.com cover it all, and photo director Rebecca Crumley says that photographers are always encouraged to submit to the publication’s twice-a-year deadlines for print (organized by region), and rolling digital submissions.
“For blog submissions, we usually have an answer [back to the submitter] in two to three weeks; for print, we work six months ahead,” Crumley says. “Our New York print region runs about 12 to 15 features, and we probably get over 100 submissions per deadline. We look at geography, new venues and something that will speak to each bride whether her style is classic, vintage, etc. For print, we obviously want these images to have a really long shelf life; I want to make sure the trends still feel fresh six months from now. Online, it’s more ‘we like it, it’s pretty, let’s go.’ ”
But what is pretty according to The Knot? While Crumley ultimately wants images to reflect the magazine’s brand (hint: study it), weddings that make the cut typically have “a color palette you don’t ordinarily see, a clever theme or something that makes you stop,” she says.
For Crumley, who’s inundated with images, there’s a ton of overlap, so it’s the creatively composed portrait or shot with forethought that stands out. “I like when the detail shots have environment to them,” Crumley says. “I’m all about environmental portraits—the hills and the setting. It’s a good way to push the style of the wedding.”
Once you have the detail shots and unique angles, Crumley says there a few things to leave out of your submissions: “Feet; they were really big for a while, and if you do it well, great. But I’m sick of seeing bad execution of a cute idea.” The photo director says if you’re shooting a cliché subject, the trick is to make it special by using your own style. She also says that not thoroughly styling a shot or taking a detail shot without a clear focus is a pet peeve of hers. “The shot should be clean and pretty,” Crumley says. “A lot [of photographers] will fire off detail shots with things like crooked silverware—not straightening silverware is a flaw.”
As editor-in-chief of Washingtonian Bride & Groom magazine and fashion editor of Washingtonian, Kate Bennett is privy to multiple photographic influences. But for photos that get published, both in print and on Washingtonian’s Bride & Groom blog, “I look for the same thing that brides are looking for: attention to detail,” Bennett says. “I love the moments shots, whether it’s a candid of the flower girl or detail of the veil. I also like food shots, if there are beautiful hor d’oeuvres or drinks. Those detail moment shots are…almost like the artwork depicting the day and surrounding the main players.”
While wedding submissions tend to come “in crazy amounts,” Bennett says it’s photographers and wedding planners who best understand publication’s editorial component. “We’re only [published] twice a year, we feature on average 12 real weddings an issue and we [like to think] we’re the most important wedding magazine in the Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia area,” Bennett explains. While photographers’ typical first goal is to be featured in print, “for the weddings that don’t make it into the print edition, I try my best to at least get them up on our blog.”
What won’t get featured? “We get a lot of Washington monument shots that are pretty, but it gets old,” Bennett says. “I wish I could see more interesting backdrops or more interesting ways to shoot couples by those backdrops.”
Bennett says interaction between the bride and groom is also key. “When we look for a cover, we’re always looking for the couple with the most real emotion. Even if she has a beautiful smile, it may not work; we look at how [the couple] feels and how that comes through.” Bennett says that because Bride & Groom’s average reader tends to spend more than the national average on her wedding, the publication is something to which photographers often aspire. “Our brides are well-educated, working women, savvy about who they’re hiring and what they’re paying, so for a photographer to reach our audience is a coup.”
Brooklyn Bride’s editor, Vané Broussard, depends solely on submissions (mostly from photographers) for 100 percent of the weddings and engagement shoots she features; however, she only publishes a fraction of what she receives.
“While the name Brooklyn Bride may be a little misleading, the blog is really about modern weddings, so I’m really looking for unique spaces, very design-oriented, architectural, clean, etc.,” Broussard explains. “I love seeing white spaces like galleries with lots of pops of bright colors.”
And what has she had her fill of? “I’m really hoping the whole vintage wedding trend will come to an end in the future; if I never had to see another mason jar filled with field flowers, or a couple posing on a bale of hay in a barn filled with twinkle lights, it would be too soon!”
Instead, Broussard favors a photojournalistic approach over more posed submissions. With about 220,000 page views per month, Broussard says, “Blogs can really help drive traffic to photographers’ sites because it’s a direct link, versus when in magazines, the bride would have to remember to go to that photographer’s website after the fact,” Broussard says. “There’s also a bit more immediate gratification because you don’t have to wait months for a wedding to get posted as with magazine printing schedules.”
As its “about” section suggests, Classic Bride is “devoted to perfecting the artful mix of old and new to create a uniquely sophisticated aesthetic.” Editor Sarah Darcy, who started the blog in 2007, says about 65 percent of submissions come directly from photographers, in the forms of real weddings, engagement shoots or bridal sessions, but she typically only publishes about 25 percent of what she receives.
What kinds of shots is she looking for? “I always like to see the ‘full story’ of a wedding—from the make-up to the ceremony to the reception and send-off…I love when photographers include a write-up of the day from the bride and/or groom,” Darcy writes via e-mail. “I love to see emotion…photos where people appear unaware that a photographer is even there. A few planned shots are always nice to include, but it’s the mix that I always enjoy. I also have a soft spot for grainy film shots. There is something undeniably classic about film.”
When it comes to trends that are played out, Darcy says there are too many. “The jumping shots—I’m seeing less—but I had to put that out there because I just never understood that trend,” she relays. “I’m also really tired of dress shots where the dress is hanging in front of a window. I almost never publish these photos with the real weddings I feature. Ring shots are a close second; it’s so much more interesting to get those detail shots when the bride is actually in the dress or wearing the ring.”
With hundreds of weekly submissions for only 12-to-15 featured spots, the competition to be featured on wedding blog powerhouse JunebugWeddings is intense.
“We’re former wedding photographers and we have a commitment to publishing only outstanding photography…so the very first thing we look for in all submissions is the quality of the images,” says co-founder and executive editor Christy Weber.
Weber recommends that photographers do their research about Junebug before submitting, send submissions in the requested format, respond to questions promptly and be generally easy to work with. She also suggests that you “submit your weddings to one publication at a time. Most blogs and magazines have some sort of exclusivity policy, so if it’s clear you’re blanketing the industry and sending one wedding out to a bulk mailing list, most editors won’t consider it seriously.”
But what, specifically, are Junebug editors looking to see? In addition to flawless exposure, consistent processing and an artistic point-of-view, “We love photos that illustrate the couple’s story,” Weber says. “How did this couple create a wedding that truly represents them, visually and emotionally? In what ways did they follow their hearts? How did the wedding professionals involved help them bring their vision to life? We feel that our readers are looking for permission to explore all the things they’re day-dreaming [about] for their weddings in a uniquely personal way.”
While Weber says her editorial team loves to see the latest in digital processing, there’s also draw in the “old fashioned” technique of slowing down, composing and shooting a photo the way you intended the first time. “The zone system of creating images that include rich blacks and whites that still show their detail will never go out of style,” she says.
Vermont Vows, WellWed Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket, WellWed New York, WellWed Hamptons and soon-to-be-launched WellWed Maine & New Hampshire are a bevy of regional boutique wedding publications produced by Literati Creative Group. All these image-heavy titles, plus the blog (www.vtvows.com/blog) require stellar photography, and editor and publisher Krista Washburn says about 30 percent of the publications’ images are based on submissions, with about 20 percent of submissions actually being used.
“It’s market-specific,” Washburn says of the types of images she’s looking for. “If I’m working on the Vermont book, I want to see photographers tying in the local scenery—be it architectural, landscapes, etc.—a local element is key; a vintage farm tractor on the side of the road, or a classic Vermont barn, highlight the rustic-chic appeal that Vermont offers. Photographers should play into the strengths of wherever they are shooting.”
But there are plenty shots Washburn would rather not see when it comes to submissions. “Cake-in-the-face shots and hoards of people dancing don’t do it for us,” she says. “Those types of images aren’t inspiring and they lack detail that appeal to our viewers and readers.”
What does the reader, and Washburn, look for in images that run? “Details are always key. Sometimes it’s the extra effort of going in ahead-of-time to photograph the table top setting, and even moving a plate or glass to get the perfect centerpiece shot. Our reader wants to be inspired by ideas and what others have done—shots of the decor, invitations and bouquets, along with couple shots highlighting their stylish attire—that’s what they want to see, but also, that’s what I want to see. That’s what’s really inspiring.”
A Wider Net
If you’ve shot a killer wedding and know the images are worthy of publication but don’t have a specific publication in mind (or you want to cast the widest net), consider uploading to online publicity platform Two Bright Lights. Brought to our attention by WellWed editor Krista Washburn, who uses the site often, Two Bright Lights has more than 300 editorial partners (i.e. wedding blogs) that use the site when they’re looking for content. Here’s the process: content creator (photographer, videographer, vendor) becomes a member, uploads images to the portal and selects the magazines and blogs to which he wants to submit. Content publisher (blogger, print or web editor) is notified, combs the site for appropriate photographs that match the story he or she is looking to run, and Voila! A match is made and exposure achieved. Both free and paid membership options are available.
Trends, Trends, Trends
What trends in wedding photography have our editors noticed during the past three years?
They fill us in.
Photographers focus on the details and design of weddings now. The shoe shot is pretty much requisite. Years ago, it was a new and clever idea, now it’s just one of a huge list of shots to be expected (not sure if that’s good or bad). I’ve also noticed sun flares showing up more in wedding photos. Personally I like the effect, but I know many editors will disagree.
—Sarah Darcy, Classic Bride
I’ve noticed more storytelling. For a while it was just family wedding photos, then it went to photojournalism. Now it’s a hybrid where it’s a little of both—the trend to get the needed shots, but also storytelling. Brides are looking for more well-rounded photographers who can do both.
—Kate Bennett, Washingtonian Bride & Groom
We admire Elizabeth Messina, because she has pioneered a whole genre of romantic natural light portraits and details, and we love the intense, sexy images of Ben and Erin Chrisman, and the imaginative work of Jeff Newsom, who has pushed the envelope with his perspectives.
—Christy Weber, Junebug
The whole vintage trend was huge for a while, and it’s still kind of lingering, but going through different stages. There was a phase where Polaroid transfer was big, and a lot of people love images with a vintage wash. Now, I think it’s becoming the film, romantic look. I actually embrace and respect it because it requires craft and you have to know your film.
—Rebecca Crumley, The Knot
I think photographers are figuring out what bloggers are looking for with shots (i.e. lots of details), but at the same time, I’m seeing the same shots over and over. Pretty much every submission has that shot of the couple lifting up their respective dress/pants to show the shoes.
—Vané Broussard, Brooklyn Bride
Photographers are doing both still and cinematography with the same camera throughout the day, which is awesome in generating increased revenue. Also, the “first-look/before-I-do” photo of the couple seeing each other for the first time, pre-walking down the aisle. Couples love it, and it’s a great, emotion-filled shot for their wedding album.
—Krista Washburn, WellWed and Vermont Vows