FAQ : What Makes Good Wedding Editorial Photos


A few weeks ago, my lovely friend Rebecca Crumley emailed and asked if I might have photos she might be able to use for a First Look article she was editing. Rebecca has great taste in food, listens to awesome music, and is the photo editor for The Knot Magazine. When she’s looking for specific photos, she reaches out to a plethora of photographers and also makes requests via Twitter. If you’re itching to get published, follow her…she’s good peeps.

Ewww. Peeps…reminds me of Easter candy. I need to change the subject because marshmallow chickens creep me out.

I sent her a few First Look options and she kindly declined, but not without us having a conversation about what she’s looking for in relation to editorial photography. When Rebecca looks for an image to accompany a magazine story, there are a litany of considerations, most of which photographers are unaware (myself included). Below is a transcript of our conversation in case you’d like to learn more about editorial wedding photography. Just kidding. It’s not a really a transcript (more like a Cliff Notes version) because recording our conversation would’ve been creepy. Like Peeps.

J*: What’s the biggest challenges you face as a photo editor?
RC: Photographers take photos that are beautiful, but an editor also needs a photo that can be used as a full bleed photo on a page, reproduce well on a full page if needed, and doesn’t have distracting elements in the background (like guests making awkward faces – this happens ALL the time). This sometimes limits my options because while I might find a photo I love, it must also possess extra things a photographer might not be thinking of at the moment – “such as where will there be room for a headline in this photo?”. Another thing to take into consideration is that while The Knot Magazine has regional issues where we really pry our hearts on keeping the content to feeling local, some of our editorial features may use images that aren’t truly from that region. So geographically generic images work well to sell our editorial stories – features such as picking your bridesmaids, and photography …and by this I mean I can’t always use a beach photo (as pretty as it might be) because it’s too specific to a coastal region. Generic locations also work very well for illustrating points in our wedding books. But don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is specifically the beach photo I’m seeking to feel truly local to the scene – it’s just to point out that there’s a market for having “anywhere” type images.

J*: What’s something you wished photographers considered in regard to magazine design?
RC: What I’d love to see are more horizontal photos I’d be able to use for a horizontal full bleed (full bleed means when the photo comprises corner to corner of the page). This usually never happens because wide photos usually have the main subject(s) in the center of the photo, which causes it to fall in the gutter of the magazine. The photo will also have to be, roughly, 13×20 at 300 DPI in size and this combination of factors is usually hard to come by…but when it does happen, it’s like a magic moment.

J*: What’s something you wish more wedding photographers did?
RC: Every year there seems to be a trendy shot in the photo world, a photograph photographers seem to reproduce in mass quantity. For example, a few years ago, photographers photographed the bride and groom’s shoes as they stood next to each other. While the photo itself can be lovely, if a photographer is going to set up that shot, do it right. Think about what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to style the photo in way that shows professionalism. For example, adjust straps, clear the background from mess, unwrinkle the groom’s pants, make sure the shoes aren’t muddy…things like that.
This really boils down to taking pride in what you do. Taking the extra time to style a photo (like, reassembling escort cards to make the photo appear full) or cleaning up the shot will really enhance the viability of a photo.

J*: In regard to Real Wedding submissions, what advice do you have?
RC: I think it’d be best to break it down into three tips…
   1. Include the “Hero Shot” – This term was coined by Editor in Chief, Carley Roney, as the photo that will capture a reader’s attention and makes her want to be at that wedding. It’ll likely be showcased in a large format and acts as the theme setter from the start. The hero shot may be of the couple or a simple detail shot that’ll anchor the feature – it’s the first photo that catches your eye when looking at the layout. In design school we called it “hierarchy,” but I think “hero” is much for fun of a word!
   2. Tell a Consistent Story – Be sure to capture photos that reflect the day as a whole, not in distinct sections. For instance, photographers should try to tell a story of the church ceremony, couple portraits, and the reception in a way that blends with each other. Including environmental photos work well in tying the loose ends together, but be conscious of this from the start. The photos should convey a sense of space and push the vibe of the overall wedding. Pay attention to the light quality feeling consistent. I know it can be hard to match indoor – to outdoor color balance, but it’s such a massive shift in tone sometimes that flipping from one page to the next, images can potentially feel very disconnected to each other. We always want the images to drive cohesive qualities, and the more the images naturally go together, the better success we have visually telling the real wedding story.
   3. Capture an Overall Environmental Photo – This is the type of photo that showcases, say, the ceremony venue or the reception ballroom uninterrupted and without distractions. This photo is important because it reflects the style of the wedding, so be sure to stand in the right light and use a wide lens to capture the story in a single photo. These photos are often the hero shot!

Many thanks to Rebecca for allowing me to share our conversation…I hope it helps one other person the way that it helped me. If you’d like to read more about Real Wedding submissions, feel free to check out this previous article with Rebecca.