Ask Anything

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back home and are getting adjusted to the eastern time zone from being on the other side of the world and it’s tough! Our bodies don’t know WHAT we’re telling them to do. So please forgive this late Friday post because my body thinks it’s 10pm and not 10am! Weird! Anyway, I realized after posting about recent features yesterday that there were a lot of questions about publishing and submitting work. So today’s post is dedicated to answering those FAQ’s!

Before I begin listing out the questions, I have to preface this post with a disclaimer. Getting PUBLISHED is NOT the main way we market our business. I don’t depend on huge features and big time magazine publications to bring me business… I focus on the client experience and building up my personal brand more than anything else! So that affects the way I view submission rules, risks and the process as whole. Some photographers have a drastically different marketing style and it works for them! They need to always work with big name planners and get big name publications to accept their work and that’s how they get more business. This works GREAT for some and not so great for others. For me, I get WAY more exposure and great word of mouth marketing from blogging my weddings super quickly and having an incredibly fast turn around. So you just have to decide what works best for you. Is it better to hold off on sharing your work because you’ll get more exposure from a feature or do you want to build an audience and reputation by being an efficient blogger? I’m not going to say there is a right or wrong way because there isn’t. However,  blogging our weddings the Tuesday after we shoot them has done nothing but catapult our business growth!! Features are just icing on the cake when they happen! So! Now that I have explained how we view features and submissions in regards to marketing, I’m going to answer these FAQ’s!!

Kaitlin asked : Do you alter your editing for the blog you wish to be featured by, and whats the fastest way to curate a gallery to send over….as in how to pick the most powerful and important images to really capture what they are after?

My personal opinion is to never change MY style just to get accepted somewhere for a feature. If a bride did find me via that publication, they would expect my style to look like that and that wouldn’t be the true Katelyn James!! :) So I don’t alter my editing style but I can see how this would seem ideal since big name publications seem to only love the “film” look right now. I don’t think it’s worth it to change my style just for a feature. And to be honest, if you have INSPIRING content, they will accept it anyway if they REALLY want it! I actually blog my weddings super fast and use the BLOGGED images for my submissions. So my “Katelyn’s Favorites” folder that I curate for a blog post really has a TON of different purposes…. one being my collection of submission images.

Aislinn asked : When is it too late to submit a wedding?(i.e Shoot the wedding in March, is August too late to be submitting it;especially if you’ve been rejected multiple times)

Normally publications aren’t very interested if the wedding happened over a YEAR ago. If you’re submitting to a less popular blog or magazine and they really love your content, they may make an exception for you! Notice I didn’t say “If they like your IMAGES”… it’s not all about image quality, it’s more about CONTENT. Think about it, anyone can show off “pretty” pictures, but these publications THRIVE off of NEW IDEAS and INSPIRING work. If they just publish a “pretty picture” that isn’t unique in any way, they won’t experience any pinnings, shares or viral scenarios. I would say March to August is definitely not too late. However, you have to know WHEN to submit. If your March wedding was winter inspired, publications aren’t looking for WINTER content quite yet (well a few are, but not most). Blogs and Magazines look for different content during different seasons. Magazine’s are looking FURTHER out than blogs. For example, the local Knot just had their print deadline for their SPRING magazine in 2015! So that means they were looking for fall and winter content in EARLY 2014. Your March wedding may need to be submitted in January in order to be in front of editors at the best time. Every publication is different. Pay attention to when their issues come out, follow them on social media and use Two Bright Lights to get submission deadlines. TWO BRIGHT LIGHTS is the BEST way to submit and then re-submit if you get declined! I highly recommend giving them a try!

Sara asked: Do you ask your couples the questions your favorite publication want answered before the wedding so you have it ready to submit? Or do you ask couples to answer the questions when you’re ready to submit? ….does that even make sense?!

Yes that totally makes sense! So no, I don’t ask couples about where they want to be featured. This is poor expectation management. You have NO control in this situation and so it’s VERY risky to get their hopes up about being featured. I will only mention “getting published” DURING a wedding day after I have seen the details and style of the day and I KNOW I can get it picked up somewhere. I would never say “Oh we are SO submitting to Style Me Pretty!” because only about 20% of our submissions to them get accepted! What if I asked my bride “Where do you want to be featured?!” and then there wasn’t anything unique about their day and I can’t get even their TOP 3 publications to even consider them…. talk about an experience killer! Also, most brides are not educated at ALL about what it takes to be featured. Every bride thinks their wedding is the most beautiful day EVER and deserves to be in a magazine. However, the reality is that editors aren’t looking for “beautiful”, they are looking for “inspirational”. Also, I have a questionnaire that my clients fill out before their wedding day and that provides most information we need for submissions. If the publication needs more, they can send them their own questionnaire.

Nicole asked about : Researching what publications are right for that wedding when there’s thousands of blogs!

This is a tough one! You have to do your research. I wouldn’t submit a rustic backyard wedding to the Black Tie Bride! :) Two Bright Lights has an editorial description for every publication that they work with and that is very educational! I would recommend reading through those listings and really researching what your favorite publications are constantly featuring to get an idea of where to submit each shoot or wedding.

Stephanie asked : Most have been asked but where, when, can you post before submitting, and main rules!

Every blog and magazine is different. Martha Stewart weddings can hold on to work for over a YEAR and you wouldn’t be able to even share one shot on Facebook and neither would your client. This would NEVER be ok with my brides. Being in that magazine is a huge sacrifice. If you want to be on Style Me Pretty, they would prefer that you don’t even blog it yourself but it’s not mandatory. Every wedding that we have had accepted was blogged on our own blog before it was on SMP. If you’re trying for an exclusive magazine, you should probably hold off on sharing images on your own blog and facebook. If one of your shots goes semi-viral or gets pinned a ton, that magazine isn’t going to be interested. However, then you have to weigh the pros and cons. If you blog that wedding instead of getting it in a big time magazine and it gets a TON of exposure with direct traffic back to your site, isn’t that worth more than having a magazine on your coffee table? I’ve been featured in a dozen magazines and I can honestly say that I’ve NEVER had an inquiry from any of them. It was all just a “status” thing. I like seeing my work in print! However, I don’t submit for print because I want to book weddings, that’s just not how my business works. So, all in all, this is up to you. If you publish a wedding on your own blog and share to facebook, that diminishes your chances at an exclusive publication…. but it maximizes your exposure in other ways. Imagine having a GREAT wedding that people will LOVE and yet you don’t share it immediately because you want it to be in print. You submit it, wait for several months and then it’s not accepted…. you just lost all of the marketing and excitement that you could have had if you had blogged it immediately! So for us (and this is JUST our opinion)… we would rather get maximum exposure from our own audience and THEN try for publication.

Lisa and others asked: Do you use Two bright Lights or just submit on your own? If you use Two bright lights how do you set up your gallery and decide which images you will submit?

Yes, I use TBL all of the time! We actually upload EVERY wedding just in case we find a spot to submit each one. It’s easy and it’s also a great way to share with vendors! Like I said previously, I use my BLOGGED images to create my TBL galleries! Also, it’s important to share that Style Me Pretty has their own submission process and so that’s the only submission process that differs from our Two Bright Light system!

Linda asked : I’m so curious on this topic! Do you need a release signed by the people in the photos? How do you even get started! Ugh. So intimidating!

Yes! Everyone should have a release of some sort in their contract if their are regularly sharing images on Facebook or on their blog. You don’t need a separate release for submissions. Just make sure your contract is well written and states that you have the right to use images for promotional use and advertising needs. I recommend using Two Bright Lights to get started!! :)

Angela asked : Some sites like style me pretty request 80/20 details/couple when submitting is that a good rule of thumb for most submissions if they don’t have guidelines clearly stated?

Yes! Brides follow blogs and buy magazine for inspiration… not to just see pictures of pretty brides. So even though we LOVE our portraits, we know that they aren’t what is going to get us featured. The details and overall style of the wedding day is what will catch an editor’s eye!

Benandsophiaphotography asked : Besides weddings, When we photograph, we focus on the couples and their emotion and realized we don’t photograph much details other than the ring. Do we need to photograph lots more details at every session for it to have a greater chance to be published? If so what are some tips to consciously think about details during a session.

If you’re wanting to submit an engagement session, I do think it’s beneficial to photograph more than just the couple and their rings. I try to think of it as photographing elements that show off not just the couple but the setting. It’s better for my blog post and it definitely helps submissions! I normally shoot these extra detail shots while the couple is changing!

Misskerrilynne asked : How do you process through which publications to submit to? Also, how so you time the release of images on your blog in relation to their release?

Great question! It’s a tough one though. If I shot a beautiful fall wedding, I know that I may not be able to submit it to a magazine until the following spring because that’s when magazines are collecting the content for their fall issue! I don’t have a set system, for this. Every wedding is a different situation. Blogs will take content that is season appropriate but some are pickier than others. I would really pay attention to what your blog of choice is blogging currently to know what they are looking for. If you have a fall wedding you want to submit but your publication of choice is only showing off winter wedding inspiration, you’ll have to want a wait until they need fall content again!

Ok I’m starting to combine questions now because there were a TON on Instagram: 

What are editors looking for?

Unique details, fresh style and any new ideas in general. It doesn’t matter if a wedding is “pretty”… it has to be unique and inspiring in some way, shape or form. Editors want shots of details and they would prefer that they are photographed in an editorial way (no distracting backgrounds, great light, simply & styled). More info about shooting details can be found in one of our MINI-GUIDES here! 

What is the best way to find publications in your area?

Ask around to other local photographers, do your research… if you’re in a city and have been in the industry for a year or so, you have probably heard of your local blogs and magazines by now. It doesn’t hurt to google this just to make sure you’re not missing something!

What is our submission workflow?

I blog weddings the tuesday after we shoot them and as soon as the blog post is up, we upload the blogged images to PASS to share with vendors and TBL for submission! It’s simple but it works!

If I’m only shooting a few weddings a year, should I pay for TBL?

For only a few weddings a year, that may be a stretch. They have a free trial but I wouldn’t invest if you would only be using the platform once or twice. I would just submit those weddings manually.

How do I get portrait work accepted for popular print magazines?

This is a tough one since I’m not in the portrait world. Also, it’s hard to find publications to submit portraits to in general…. unless you’re a fashion photographer or are shooting for ads. I would definitely recommend contacting a photographer who is constantly having their portrait work in print and ask them how they do it! I’m just a wedding photog these days! :)

Stacey asked : I feel like the amazing popular blogs such as style me pretty only publish popular “in trend with editing” photogs. While I’m excited to be published anywhere is there a trick I should add to my workflow for being published with these aka holy grail blogs. :

Yes, it’s very frustrating that digital work with “clean” editing style isn’t considered by editorial right now. Editors love the look of film and I love it to! However, it makes it very hard to get digital work accepted. There isn’t a trick… however, there is a certain way to shoot details that creates more editorial content. Find out more from our Mini Guide in The Collection! I also recommend reducing the “yellows” and the green primary in Lightroom if you’re wanting your images to be a little milder in their color tone.

Alicia asked : How do you keep submissions organized for print vs blogs? Seems like so many print publications want physical material (USB or other) and aren’t on TBL. Gets confusing sometimes and deters me away from submitting to print, even though I would like to be doing so a bit more.

So I may be a bad person to ask this because a lot of our print publications that have happened recently were submitted through TBL or we were approached for the features. We have also had several weddings submitted to print by the planner. I would recommend having a first, second and third choice for each wedding that you think has editorial potential. I would start with BIG print options and then move towards some blog options. The only two blogs we submit to that are not on TBL are Wedding Chicks and Style Me Pretty. So for the most part, we’re submitting everything via TBL…. even print! This is especially easy since The Knot’s parent company has partnered with TBL now!

Katie asked : If there is a wedding magazine local to your area that has used your work before, how often is it ok to submit again?

I think this depends on where you’re wanting to submit. If you’re going for a super exclusive blog, this may be a little tricky. If you’re wanting to submit to a blog that pretty lenient rules about exclusivity, I think it’s totally fine to submit a month or so after the local magazine is on the shelves.

How do you decide who to submit to and do you have an A B  and C option for each submission if they doesn’t get accepted on the first try?

I try to pair the style and location of the wedding with the best publication. For example, if I was shooting a gorgeous farm wedding in Maryland with stunning details, I would go for the local Knot because Southern Weddings doesn’t normally look at Maryland weddings. My biggest decision is always whether or not we want to submit to print or a blog. I tend to submit to blogs over print most of the time because there is more return from a blog publication. SEO is SO valuable… having your name printed in the crease of a printed magazine doesn’t really do you much good when it comes to bookings. However, it does give you butterflies to see your work in print! As much as I love magazine features, blog features have a lasting effect on our online presence and so I normally go after big blog features first! And yes, I normally have a first and second option for submissions and I’m always prepared to be rejected. I get rejected ALL of the time… but all that anyone ever sees are my acceptances! Submit submit submit!

Is it best to share images with vendors before or after publication?

We Like to share images with vendors ASAP… it’s just our way of doing it… but it works and they LOVE it! This ensures that our work is used on their site and on their instagram inside of pictures they took on their iphones!

Mrsjohannamama asked : How do I know if I can still submit a wedding a) if it’s been more than 12months b) exclusive vs exclusive… if I have put ~5 images on my blog, does this mean it’s disqualified? c) a few brides have simply said “we met through friends at a party.” And that’s all they give me. Do I have to have a ‘love story’ for each wedding submission?

I wouldn’t submit a wedding that happened over a year ago to a big, exclusive publication. That’s probably not going to go over very well. You can find out if a publication is exclusive in their submission guidelines or on their TBL profile. If you put 5 images on your blog, you shouldn’t be disqualified. If your brides are not really into the whole “wedding blog/magazine” world, this may be harder for you to get information. I normally let the publication contact my couples for questionnaires and that tends to get them more excited about filling out the questions!

Whew! I hope this helps! I’m off for the weekend! :) … Well until tomorrow’s wedding of course! :) Be sure to check out our online store, The Collection for more resources!! :

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

Tyler + Abby | Engaged A Washington DC Capitol Engagement Session

This shoot was supposed to happen about a month earlier on the exact day that leftover rains from a hurricane swept through Washington. I’m so thankful we rescheduled! Our reschedule date was absolute perfection! The temperature, the glow, the locations…. it was beautiful! Tyler and Abby’s outfit choices were wonderful and the leaves were full of color and still hanging on the trees.


When Michael and I were in our early years of dating, I would go on trips with his family for Thanksgiving and summer trips to West Virginia and I spent time with his cousins! “Bri-Bri” was so little! He’s the youngest of all of the cousins and it’s crazy to think that he’s old enough to be getting MARRIED! He’s actually older than we were when we got married!! We have known Shannon for years and we were THRILLED when we heard that Brian had proposed because we always hoped that would happen!!!


Brian + Shannon | Engaged Virginia Arboretum Engagement Session


KJ Student Spotlight November 2020

Maybe it’s just me…. but I feel like this fall is FLYING by! It seems like just the other day that I was sharing about three more KJ Students who are doing amazing things in their businesses! Well, this weeks marks the beginning of November and I have three amazing students to introduce you too!!!


Nikhil + Paige | Engaged A South Congress Engagement Session

This session is beautiful… if I do say so myself! It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, it’s full of joy and it’s also LONG! It’s a lengthy post because I just had so many favorites and I absolutely loved my time with these two last week! Paige, like a lot of our brides, is a photographer herself! She’s talented, full of life, energetic and creative. I felt the pressure to take this location that she knows well and make it look fresh and knew to her!! Nikhil is an audio engineer for Apple (which we think is fascinating!) and despite hardly ever wearing a suit, he wore one for Paige and made all of her outfit dreams come true!


I’m so excited to share this final 2020 Wedding with you all!! It’s a special one! We photographed this beautiful wedding day on our own 10 year anniversary! Ten years ago on this day, we were celebrating in my parent’s backyard under a massive white tent too! This was my brother-in-law’s baby sister’s wedding day and celebrating with the Malizia family was such a treat! They are a family MADE for weddings!


Samantha + Evan Private Estate, Backyard Wedding


Nick + Katherine | Maternity Oatlands Historic Home and Gardens Portrait Session

Well, I realize this isn’t normal for KJ! I don’t shoot portraits these days but this session was my first non-wedding shoot with my new Canon R6 and I’m obsessed with how these images turned out! It was the most perfect evening for this early fall shoot and the light was incredible!




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A wintery boston wedding

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