One Photog's Journey to the Ultimate Feature
A guest blog by Clark Brewer.
Getting featured in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings is no easy task. It takes time, just like anything else worth pursuing. Let me start by saying that I don’t think getting published is essential in building a solid, long-lasting photography business—but it definitely doesn’t hurt! And also it’s hard to beat that feeling of having your work recognized in print.
In my own experience I have found that sometimes it just takes the stars aligning for such an exclusive feature to work out. That’s what happened here… that and LOTS of patience, hard work, and perseverance. This is the story of my very long journey into the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings.
The moment after Maya & Trey left their wedding in a 1981 Land Cruiser, covered in balloons and streamers, I immediately thought to myself, “this one has the potential to be published somewhere great.” Then, I got my scans back from Richard Photo Lab. It was at that point I knew, without a doubt, that it deserved to start at the top, which is Martha Stewart Weddings. I emailed Bill Pyne at Richard, and wrote a glowing review for the lab's work.
My business is 95% referral based, and I don’t have a bunch of followers on Instagram. I rely on taking good care of my current clients and doing the best job I possibly can for them in hopes that it leads to more work. So far, after 10 years, so good. With that said, I still desire to have my work published, even if I don’t see one booking from it. There is something about seeing your work in print that will never get old. To me, the value in a major feature is simply validation. Having validation in this industry is the fastest way to moving up the ranks, starting to work with bigger and bigger planners and ultimately being able to demand a higher rate.
I had submitted to Martha before, and they have very specific guidelines on how they want the content presented to them with a limited amount of images for each submission so that they can quickly review. As a photographer, I gravitate more towards the work that I create with the couple or during the actual ceremony and less towards the detail shots. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful detail shot but in the end, I want to capture the essence and energy of the couple, their family and guests. That, to me, is the soul of the wedding day. Knowing this about myself, I ended up pulling in the wedding day stylist and overall designer, Lacy Geary along with the planners, Invision Events, to help me hone in on the absolute strongest details. This was a great decision. We collaborated and in the end we were able to all use our strengths to determine the strongest submission possible.
The wedding took place in April of 2018, and by the time I had everything back from the lab, edited, and ready to present to Martha, the timing was off. They loved the wedding, but they had already locked in a handful of weddings that would be included in the September 2018 edition, which was supposed to be the last print edition ever. Even if you visit Martha Stewart Weddings today on Wikipedia, it still states that the magazine moved to “online only” in 2018.
I, along with everyone else involved in bringing this wedding to life, was so disappointed. What were the chances things would fall into place like this again? The creative team was incredibly talented and passionate about their craft, the clients were beautiful inside and out, the venue was stunning, and the weather cooperated. But were the stars not aligning as much as I had thought?
At this point, Martha said that we had two options: run it online or wait until the New Year to be considered for print, with no guarantee that print would even happen. It seemed like maybe an online feature was the best we could do, but something in my gut said I needed to give print a shot. I felt like everything had been building up to this. Underneath every successful person is a lifetime of hard work. I don’t care how talented you are, you can’t create a sustainable business without putting in the work first. Just like any career, and especially photography, it’s not a sprint. To build something that will last takes the confidence to be yourself, to stop copying others and go out there and create work that comes from your own heart & unique vision. My lifetime of work had gotten me this opportunity, and I couldn't just rush through it.
So we decided to wait—it was June 2018. We waited for another seven months without ever sharing a single image from the wedding. This was much harder than I could have anticipated. Here we were with all of this incredible content which could help us book future business, but we knew with Martha we could lose our opportunity for it to be featured if it was shared. Thankfully, everyone was on the same page and held off.
During this season of waiting, I was also building a new website. My designer and I loved the content from this wedding so much and felt like it really complimented my color palette and felt very cohesive with the overall look I was going for. Designing a site and color scheme around many of these images with the understanding that if Martha picked this wedding up we would have to go back to the archives to find new imagery was challenging. I constantly second guessed the decision to push for print due to the fact that getting picked up was so unlikely. It’s hard to hold back when you want to promote your brand and show the world what kind of work you are capable of producing, but ultimately I felt that that sacrifice was worth it.
Come January 2019, we were super close to letting it run as an online feature when we got the news that they would be putting out another print issue after all! We were pumped and immediately submitted it for consideration. To us, this was a huge win to just get the chance to be considered.
I submitted this wedding to Martha three different times over the course of the seven months that we were waiting to get picked up. Once for the initial print submission that was too late to be considered, once for the online feature after the New Year when we thought print was dead, and then one last time when we heard that they were bringing print back. I did change up my submission a bit each time due to the fact that so much time had passed since I had looked at the submission so after seeing it again with fresh eyes, I would swap out a few pictures or lay them out in a new and more interesting way to help tell the wedding day story in a more complete way.
About a month later, I received an email stating that we had made it to the final round of considerations, and then a few days later we were told we had made the top five weddings that would run in the 2019/2020 print issue releasing in December 2019—a whole 21 months after the wedding date! It was a surreal feeling. I mean, of all the weddings in the world, they want to feature one that I photographed. It was pretty wild and I couldn’t have been happier for my clients and all of the extremely talented vendors that worked so hard to make this celebration what it was.
In an industry that seems so dictated by Instagram, blogs, styled shoots and editorials, my advice for anyone who is trying to make it out there (which I will always be included in this group—freelance life is a crazy hard, daily battle, but that is for another post) is to simply stop worrying about it. It’s not worth all the effort. Sure, Instagram likes and followers feel amazing. Even getting published in Martha Stewart Weddings is an incredible career milestone for me, but in the end it is just icing on the cake and is not something that will make or break my career.
So if you are out there and you are coming up the ranks and trying to gain traction in this crazy industry, have patience. Take it one client at a time and do an incredible job for that one client, then move on to the next one. Put your head down and treat people right along the way. Always stay humble and teachable, no matter how “big” you get. If you do that and do it well and with dignity, you are bound to flourish sooner or later.
Full Event Planning & Design: Invision Events – www.invevents.com
Design Concept, Styling & Creative Direction: Lacy Geary – www.lacygeary.com
Venue: Lonesome Valley – www.lonesomevalley.com, Blessing Ceremony Summer Chapel – www.thesummerchapel.org
Florals: Kelly Lenard – www.kellylenard.com, Sweet Stems, and Fiddlehead Designs
Ribbon & Silk: Silk & Willow – www.silkandwillow.com
Invitations, Day-of Goods: Paper Birch Designs – www.paperbirchdesigns.com
Catering: Lonesome Valley – www.lonesomevalley.com
Hair & Makeup: Claudia Mejerle – www.claudiamejerle.com
Cake & Desserts: Cream & Flutter – www.creamandflutter.com
Entertainment: Deans Duets – www.deansduets.com
Band: Emerald Empire Band – www.emeraldempireband.com
Photobooth: Slow Motion Photobooth – www.theslowmotionbooth.com
Rentals & Décor: Professional Party Rentals – www.professionalpartyrentals.com, CRUSH Event Rentals – www.crusheventrentals.com, Two Monkeys Vintage – www.twomonkeysvintage.com
Linens: La Tavola – www.latavolalinen.com
Face Painting: Joonie & Jake – www.joonieandjake.com
Childcare: Elegant Event Sitters – www.eleganteventsitters.com
Ceremony Arbor: Designed by Lacy Geary, Constructed by the Groom & his Father
Fashion Stylist: Lacy Geary – www.lacygeary.com
Bridal Fashion: L’Fay Bridal – www.lfay.com, Berta – www.berta.com, Christian Louboutin, Fallon, Sara Gabriel – www.saragabriel.com, Gabriella New York – www.gabriellanewyork.com, Lihi Hod – www.lihihod.com, Inbal Raviv – www.inbalravivbridal.com, Rene Caovilla, David Yurman, Vintage Galliano, Saint Laurent, Lana
Groom & Groomsman Attire: The Black Tux – www.theblacktux.com, David Yurman, Suit Supply, Cufflinks Inc.
Bridesmaid/Flowergirl Fashion: Daphne Newman – www.daphnenewmandesign.com, Badgley Mishka, Fallon, Vera Wang White