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Rules of Engagement: 12 Tips for Submitting to Editors

*All beautiful images styled by Joy Thigpen

When it comes to submitting work to editors, there are a number of tips that will improve your chances for publication, keep you in the good graces of editors, make you stand out, and make it easier for editors to feature your work. Most established photographers who are published on a regular basis have these rules down, and it makes them much easier to work with—so if you are looking to start off on the right foot, these suggestions should help.

1.     Don’t be afraid to submit!!! I’m often surprised how many weddings I see that go unpublished. That said, if you are just starting out, be prepared for rejection—it can take a while to really get a hang of things. Don’t get discouraged if your submission is not accepted. As your work and weddings improve, so will your rate of publication.

2.     Submit with purpose! Publications work hard at trying to define a style for themselves. While most editors love anything really lovely, do your best to identify which weddings fit best for the publication.

3.     Use the right format! The two most preferable methods for submitting your photos is either a link to your own blog post or web size images in a zip file. This might seem obvious, but you’d never believe how many photographers have sent me up to 12 emails, all in a row, each with five high-resolution images in them. Awful! When it comes to online publication, editors rarely need anything wider than about 700px, so size down your images before sending them. I once spent two hours opening and resizing ridiculously huge images (yes, I was on an old dinosaur computer, but still). It’s such a huge pain. Make it easy for editors to throw your images into a post and send them at the right size.

4.     Name your files correctly! When naming your file folders, do editors a HUGE favor and name your folder with your name and the couple’s name. Everyone saves their files as “Archive” or “GreyLikesWeddings” or “Submit”. I’ll have like ten folders all that are named “Grey Likes Weddings” and I often can’t tell who sent over what. This sounds picky, but I’ve actually had weddings go unpublished because I couldn’t track down who sent me the images.

5.     The more the merrier. Send us lots of images to choose from. Often times, beautiful weddings and beautiful photography can go unpublished (or become delayed) because there aren’t enough photos to choose from. Every editor is different in terms of how many images they’d like to receive, but for me, up to 400 is totally fine!

6.     Orientation matters. Editors especially need to mix up photo orientation for their layouts, so you need to supply both vertical and horizontal images. Also, because most bloggers use a lot of diptychs, send plenty of vertical shots.

7.     Details, details, details! Your portraits should be no more than 20% of your submission. Send lots of pictures of details. If you have a few great shots of the bouquets, or certain details, it’s okay to include them all!

8.     Pick your post processing and stick to it! Don’t send us a big folder of images that have inconsistent processing. It’s a sign that may not have found your own personal style. When one image looks really saturated, and the next is sepia and the next is all vintage-yellow/pink, there’s no way those images will look good next to one another. It’s best if you find a way to express your style through processing and submit a cohesive look.

9.      Respect exclusivity! This is a huge one. Wedding blogs are dependent on supplying new content for their readers. For that reason, don’t submit something that has already been published anywhere else outside of your own blog, unless you very clearly state where and when the publication took place so the editor is aware. Also, submit your work to publications one at a time. Mass emailing bloggers makes your submission feel like an auction with the wedding going to the highest bidder and it’s extremely unappealing.

10.      Give editors a time limit. You want to get your work published and you certainly don’t want a big pile of awesome weddings floating around in unanswered submissions. However, it is terribly rude to submit to a blogger and receive an acceptance email, and then take back your submission because you submitted elsewhere too quickly. It’s also not okay to submit to a blogger on a Friday, and submit to someone else on a Tuesday because you haven’t heard back yet. Bloggers receive quite a few submissions and have to look through each one to consider not only the quality of the work, but the context of their publication schedule. To prevent the confusion, I think it’s okay make a note to the editor in each of your submissions (this may not necessarily apply to print editors, because you have to work with their schedule) that if you do not hear from them within X number of days (I suggest 5-10) that you will discontinue availability, withdraw the submission and submit it elsewhere. That way, every week or so, if you haven’t heard back from your first choice, move on to the next choice. Again, this won’t work for every publication, however most of the time, it will be very helpful, expedite your submission process, and will prevent you from getting in the bad graces of editors.

12.      Try online management! Two Bright Lights is a really great new resource created to respond to the need for photographers, editors and vendors to fluidly work together for publication selection. They have created an amazing service allowing photographers to upload their images to one site and select a list of publications. Editors are able to view submissions quickly, choose their selections, and, most importantly for photographers, automatically pass on submissions that aren’t right for their particular publication to the next editor in line. No resubmitting, tracking who you’ve sent submissions to, remembering to resubmit, waiting too long for a response…it’s all taken care of!

Following these tips should help get your started on the road toward publication.