Tips + Techniques

How to Get Weddings and Portraits Published in a Major Publication

December 21, 2018

By Brienne Walsh

You’ve been working hard as a wedding or portrait photographer, and you’ve amassed a portfolio with images that you think are good enough to be shared with more than just your clients. You want to get published, but you wonder what the editors at top publications might say about your photographs, whether they are shot for the people who hired you or were created on set with vendors. But how do you reach out, and what exactly are editors looking for?

Here, members of the masthead divulged their best practices in catching their eye and hooking them on your work.

The Photo Trends That Editors Have Seen

wedding newlyweds food truck photo what magazines are looking for
Nic Williams’ interest gets piqued when she sees a wedding that looks relaxed and personal. Photo © Forged in the North

Rebecca Crumley (Senior Director of Real Weddings at The Knot): Blush was a thing for so long, but now we’ve seen that blushes have merged into blue, silver and other forms of pastels. The whole rustic barnyard wedding is over. Now it’s about industrial chic with a bohemian twist, like weddings in warehouses or breweries. I’m also seeing a trend toward gothic—deep reds and blacks paired with moody photography. I’m seeing the sign “Till Death Do Us Party” everywhere.

Nic Williams (Senior Visual Editor of BRIDES, Condé Nast Traveler, I believe we’re nearing the end of the “Pinterest wedding,” possibly because of brides wanting every aspect to be personalized to reflect the couple, versus wanting on-trend items (R.I.P. mason jars). That said, I’ll forever be a sucker for a dog in a bridal party and mini versions of food.

[Then again, here’s “Why Pinterest Could Be the Best Promotional Tool for Wedding Photographers”]

I think brides want something that feels authentic (overly used buzzword!) to them. As the viewer, you get a better sense of who this couple is and often see more genuine feelings between them. One of my favorite weddings we ran this year was a summer camp that was rented out by a couple, a multi-day affair with photographs of bonfires, daisy-chain making, canoeing and spaghetti dinners. It looked both relaxed and fun, with so much heart. I immediately wanted to be friends with the couple and wished I was there.

Heidi Volpe (Creative Director of Vogue India): I’m seeing more drone imagery and drone video.

wild floral arrangements wedding photography trend for magazines
Greta Kenyon is noticing a gravitation toward isolating and capturing impressive and wild floral arrangements. Photo © Dawn Thomson Photography

Greta Kenyon (Founder and Editor of Together Journal): Right now, it’s all about bold, dramatic, rich colors. Brides are choosing tones other than cream or white, as well as neon lighting and magnificent floral and foliage installations.

Amber Marlow (Photo Submissions Editor of Catalyst Wedding Co.): Couples are focusing on personal touches. They’re getting married at the restaurants where they met because they know the food will be good. I’m also seeing couples change outfits from the ceremony to the after party, even in low-budget weddings.

Kirsten Palladino (Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Equally Wed): I’m seeing much more greenery on a grand scale, such as walls of succulents or tropical plants. Not only is that a trend in wedding decor, it’s also an intentional choice by the photographer to coordinate their portraits in front of stunning backdrops.

[Read how to “Scout Locations You’ve Never Been to as a Destination Wedding Photographer”]

dark and moody colors for wedding photography editing
Rebecca Crumley is open to all kinds of photography styles, but she hesitates to publish photos that are too dark should they not print well. Photo © Bek & Addison

The Submissions That Editors Want to Publish

RC: The style needs to feel cohesive from the beginning to the end. At The Knot, we try to offer something for everyone, so we look at weddings that cover geography and are shot in all different styles: romantic, documentary, lifestyle, moody. We’re always happy to work with first-time photographers. The one thing to note is that if you’re submitting work to be published in our print publications, we need fresh, daylight-balanced images. I’ve noticed a trend toward moody, dark photography, which can be tough for print—the images end up looking muddy.

[Read up on “The Potential Traps of Following Wedding and Portrait Photography Trends”]

NW: I’m always on the hunt for images that are emotive and tell a story, images that aren’t overly filtered and have an interesting sense of composition. I’m done with the excessively warm and saturated preset I see everywhere on Instagram! Photographers that have their own style and are consistent are the ones we continue to go back to again and again.

HV: The wedding industry is very big in India. We just dedicated an entire issue to Sonam Kapoor’s wedding—she’s a Bollywood star. I’m looking for a photographer with a range of work that includes portraits, lifestyle, still life, environmental portraits and an ability to shoot groups. Intuitively, they need to be able to recognize moments in the most unobtrusive way, letting the authenticity of the moment unfold.

environmental photo shot at green wedding for magazine
Kenyon particularly looks for images with a fresh, modern, cinematic look for Together Journal, especially those shot with only natural light. Photo © Bayly & Moore

GK: At Together Journal, we like very modern, cinematic, documentary-type photography. A vast majority of the images we publish are shot with natural light inside and outside. I want to look at quite a clean edit, one that won’t have any strange colors that don’t look natural.

AM: If you take portraits during golden hour, you can be guaranteed to get a great shot, but if you have talent on the dance floor, that’s what I want to see. At Catalyst, we really seek to be a platform for people of color and interracial couples, and for members of the LGBTQ community. We actually don’t post many straight white couples. We also try to be size-inclusive, and we try to accept weddings where the people getting married are differently abled. We try to avoid the typical “Barbie and Ken” look.

[Read up on “A New Wave of Social Networks Making Diverse Photographers More Visible”]

KP: How did the day of the wedding or engagement go? What emotions were evoked during the getting-ready, the first look, watching each other approach the altar or chuppah, the vows, the first dance, the toasts, the send-offs? The stars are the pictures where you feel the love radiating from the images. I love filters as much of the rest of us, but I prefer images that appear raw. For me, the overexposed and the deeply dark and moody has to be done by someone with an incredible skill set or else it just doesn’t work.

Amber Marlow says Catalyst tends to not publish straight white couples. Photo © Vivian Chen

The Best Ways to Get in Touch with Editors

RC: A lot of photographers don’t understand that our concerns are practical. We’re looking at what we published in the last issue, if the item they’re photographing will be available, and if the vendors are reliable. We’re putting images out there for readers to take inspiration from and reproduce. Everything has to be attainable. For print, we also look for a lead image that is vertical and has room for copy. Along with being eye-catching, there needs to be negative space in the image.

Send pitches to:

NW: I find a lot of one-offs through Instagram, honestly. I’m constantly checking my Discover page, and I have a secret IG account where I follow a few hundred photographers. Tag us! Be persistent, yet also consider the publication you’re submitting to and if the wedding is consistent with the types of weddings BRIDES publishes.

Send pitches to:

Signe Vilstrup isn’t a wedding photographer, but she capture photos with a narrative arc. Photo © Signe Vilstrup/Courtesy of The Vogue Wedding Book 2018, Styled by Priyanka Kapadia

HV: Put a book together with a great narrative arc and make sure you have looked at the publication you are submitting to so you can see how your work may fit into their environment.

Send pitches to:

GK: When I see a photographer submit a gallery with 700 or 800 images, I want to lie on the floor! Be able to edit your submissions down to 20 to 40 quality highlight images. Also, use professional photography gallery software. My favorite by far is Pixieset.

Send pitches to:

AM: I judge the photos first, and then if they seem appropriate for Catalyst, I read the pitch. We also want to hear from the couple themselves about their story. Occasionally, something will fall through the cracks, so I appreciate when someone says, “Hey, I never heard back from you,” or, “Hey, this was never published.”

Send pitches to:

[And here’s “Why You Should Be Labeling Yourself in an LGBTQ Wedding World”]

KP: Study yourself and your work and really know what you have to offer—and why it’s different than your competitors. Then set about making that connection with the editor. Be courteous and friendly always, and hone your pitch to something specific, such as a collection of wedding rings photographed in nature or five first-look photos that will steal your heart. Always have high- and low-res optimized versions of your photos, free of watermarks and other graphics, at the ready when you submit. And get back to the editors as soon as you can. They’re overwhelmed with emails and submissions so they may be slow in response, but when they’re ready to communicate with you, they’re on a tight deadline. If you don’t respond as soon as possible, you might miss a valuable opportunity.

Send pitches to:


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