I get asked about submitting to publications a LOT, for obvious reasons. We all want to see our work published. It’s awesome. However, it’s very frustrating at times. The biggest problem I have seen is that people are very focused on getting their work published in one specific publication and that’s it. They send their best work to said publication and wonder why they keep getting rejected. Here’s a very common wedding photographer example:
Many people want to get their work published in The Knot because of how well known it is. We’ve been published with them three times. However, we have sent them at least seventy submissions. I finally got on the phone with the editor one day after getting a very generic email rejection. I wanted to know what I was doing wrong because it was pointless to keep sending them submissions I thought would be published when it wouldn’t happen. For those of you that know are work are most likely familiar with the couple photos and portraits. Those really gorgeous, well lit, sometimes fun, sometimes romantic photos of the couples. Well, that is exactly what the editor told me they did NOT want. They said our work was amazing, but it came down to details. They want to see rooms with a maddening amount of detail, amazing bouquets, and more. They very rarely use portraits of couples. Thinking back on when I bought my copy of The Knot magazine when I was getting married, I remembered what I was looking for. Cool venues, flowers, and all the things that make weddings pretty. I wouldn’t have wanted to see countless shots of couples, regardless of how beautiful they were. It makes sense. After this, we had three weddings published. They wanted to publish three others, but the couples didn’t want them published, so that couldn’t happen. In the last year, I have submitted what I know they want, only to be rejected. The reason? I may have the details and all that, but there is no longer anything unique because unique things only are unique so long before they become mainstream and end up in every wedding. Burlap and Mason jars, I’m looking at you. Again, makes sense.
You have to be willing to look at publication submission through the editor’s eye, not your own. The magazines are not working for you, they are working for their business. Take a look at what you are shooting and look at who is asking for it. Whenever we shoot an LGBT wedding, we submit to LGBT focused publications, such as Equal and Forever, Gay Weddings, and more. I wouldn’t call it an easy submission, but it’s easier, as you already have something they are looking for. When we shoot a destination wedding or engagement session, we look for publications in the city that we shot. We were published in print in a small Santa Monica paper once after doing an engagement session at the Santa Monica Pier. We shot a wedding in Curacao and were published in a French magazine that had focus on the Caribbean Islands for a few months. That was cool, although I can’t read the magazine. Regardless of the publication, your name is out there and so is your work.
There’s also the fact that there are some weddings that publishers will not want and I can spot them the second I get to them. You could have the most beautiful couple on the planet, but if they are getting married at what publications would consider a subpar venue, or don’t have real flowers, or there are not enough unique details. It’s not even worth the time to try to get it published. On the flip side, you could have all the details be perfect, but if the couple isn’t magazine friendly looking (which differs with the publications), it won’t get published. Which, in my opinion, sucks. First off, if you’re a bride, you look beautiful on your wedding day because you’re all excited and happy. I feel that the, much like other industries, there is a lot of pressure with weddings to have yourself and the wedding itself look a certain way. We’ve told so many couples that if there is something that isn’t important to them, they shouldn’t have it in their wedding just because people say they should. We’ve said that about ourselves. There have been a few weddings we have done where it was incredibly obvious that they got a photographer because they just thought they had to and it was a waste of our time because they didn’t want any photos aside from what we would randomly shoot.
Overall, publications are a real hit or miss. They have a considerable amount of variables, tons of people submitting to them, and more than I have even found out about. The key is not to take it personally when you are rejected. Instead, learn from it, either through research or just directly contacting editors like I did. Editors will tell you what they want. They don’t sugarcoat things. So if you are looking to be in a specific publication, do exactly that. Get on the phone and speak with them directly.
Preferred vendors are one of the greatest things ever. What are preferred vendors? I have found that the definition differs depending on the industry, but it’s the people you network with in the wedding industry enough to have them refer you to clients. One of the best types of preferred vendors in this industry is a wedding venue. We are on the preferred vendor lists of numerous venues in the Midwest. Why is this a big deal? Because when people are getting married, they typically book a venue first. If a venue refers us to them as an ideal photographer and are able to also show them photos we have taken at their venue in the past, couples have a tendency to look at our work. We have booked multiple weddings this way.
This is another huge aspect of this business – networking with everyone else. During a wedding, we network with everyone while shooting. We work closely with venues, wedding planners, hair and makeup artists, DJs, videographers, florists, and more. There are even a couple of catering businesses we work with as well because you just never know. Once a couple gets their photos, I send batches of photos to all their vendors with the right to use them online. Why do I let them use them without paying us? It’s free advertising. Would you rather someone pay you a one time fee or would you rather they refer you to all of their clients? Again, it is always up to you, but you can’t buy advertisement and recommendations like that.
Click HERE for Part Four regarding working for yourself.