What Makes a Publication-Worthy Inspiration Shoot?

A guest post by Southern Weddings Magazine.

Southern Weddings Magazine

In my last several years as an editor at Southern Weddings Magazine, I’ve seen an explosion of “inspiration shoots.” What once used to be just the province of magazines is now something routinely done by vendors across all categories and all experience levels! While overall this is awesome—as I think there are so many benefits to undertaking these sorts of projects—it has definitely left the market saturated. I turn away dozens and dozens of shoots every week for a variety of reasons, disappointing countless people in the process.

Photo by Davy Whitener Photo by Davy Whitener

Which is why it was truly extraordinary when a vendor team led by Justin Brown of The Happy Bloom not only had their recent inspiration shoot accepted by us, but accepted for PRINT. This has only happened a handful of times in our history; it’s truly rare and extremely hard to do because we have such specific things we are looking for in editorials. Most of the shoots you see in our magazine are conceptualized and executed by us and our hand-picked teams.

I wanted others to be able to learn from Justin’s success, so I asked him to share a few thoughts on what it took to get a shoot published in Southern Weddings Magazine sight unseen. I’ve added in a few of my thoughts in italics, as well! And though you’ll have to wait until November to see Justin’s gorgeous editorial in our pages, I hope for now you enjoy his tips as much as I did!

Photo by KT Merry Photo by KT Merry

Why put the time and effort into creating an editorial in a first place?

It’s a very good question that I’m sure a lot of people ask. Creating an editorial from the ground up is an opportunity to show your ideal aesthetic to the world—to show who you are, what you think, and what you love. It’s much like the fashion world: designers create fashion forward pieces that then trickle down to become the newest trends. It’s a photographer’s way of giving the world a glimpse of what excites them!

Justin is so right! In addition, if your work is shared by a publication your clients and future clients love and trust, you can not only leverage the power of their websites and social media, but by proxy you’ll be “vetted” by a source they love and identify with.

Photo by Davy Whitener Photo by Davy Whitener

What are common mistakes made when shooting for publication?

The biggest pitfall of editorials is the lack of story. I’ve seen so many beautiful shoots by photographers, but I’m often left with a list questions. Why is there a bride but no groom? Why did she decide on this location for her ceremony? Why is there an invitation suite but there are no wedding guests? It’s like having an amazing recipe, but you forget to add the seasonings that tie everything together into one delicious meal.

Justin is 100% correct with this one!!! In general, our readers just don’t respond to empty, soulless details (even if they are pretty). We are guiding them to have meaningful wedding days, and for us, that starts with stories. Through our editorials, just like our real wedding features, we give readers examples of how they can translate their own histories and idiosyncrasies into wedding day details.

What was your process for this shoot?

We worked on this particular shoot for almost a year. Yes, you heard that right: A YEAR. It seems like you see an editorial every other day and that they’re pulled together in days or weeks. I knew that if we truly wanted to turn an idea into a successful and publication-worthy shoot, it would require time and careful attention.

Before we did anything, we wrote a story. We knew the couple’s names, how they met, where they went to school, what their parents did for a living, and how they wanted to grow old together. Their story was right in front of us in black and white text. No photos. No Pinterest board. Simple, old-fashioned text that told a beautiful Southern love story. We knew then and there that we had something really exciting on our hands.

Photo by Eric Kelley Photo by Eric Kelley

Throughout the design and planning process, we actually met a total of three times with the core vendors of the shoot—design, flowers, paper, food, and photography. Every time that we met, we would see mock-ups of ideas and critique them. It was beautiful: vendors coming together, laughing, chatting, throwing ideas around—one of my favorite moments, and a true picture of collaboration! What was working? What wasn’t? What are we still missing?

Every design decision was questioned: Is this lending itself to our story? Is it necessary? Does this idea have a Southern heartbeat? If you know anything about Southern Weddings, that’s what they are looking for. By simply glancing at one image, can you see a story of Southern love begin to unfold?

Why Southern Weddings?

Know who you are. Know your brand. Know your audience. Know what makes you happy. Be genuine. Be honest. Try new things but always be true to yourself. We are a husband and wife team shooting almost exclusively in the Southeast. Southern Weddings has been a staple on our coffee table for YEARS. These magazines are torn and wrinkled because we use them for reference and inspiration almost on a daily basis. Every year we try to define our brand just a little more, and this shoot helped us do just that — we ended up with our best work to date showcasing a fun and family-centered wedding day with a Southern heartbeat. That is what we want for every wedding day, every editorial and even our own lifestyle.

If publication is a goal with your shoot, have an ideal publication in mind before you begin. Study the work they share INTENSELY—and then see if you can improve upon it!

Photo by Sawyer Baird Photo by Sawyer Baird

Thanks so much to Justin for sharing, and to everyone who has ever submitted your work to Southern Weddings! It means so much that you would share your time, talent, and resources with our brand and readers. I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with y’all in November!

P.S. Click here for our full submission guidelines for real weddings!

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