Sometimes, running your own business can be an emotional rollercoaster. There are highs and there are lows and then there are times when you just have to keep your nose down and work extra hard to be successful. Dana Cubbage from Dana Cubbage Weddings is no stranger to this rollercoaster and these stressful yet rewarding experiences. But with 70 published features in 2016 alone, it’s easy to gather that her mantra “good things come to those who hustle” is a good one to live by.
While Dana’s success on Two Bright Lights is largely due to her ability to create and submit fantastic albums, it also comes from her perseverance and motivation to just keep submitting! The potential for rejection and feedback from publications only fuels her desire to learn more about getting published. And we can confidently say that she’s mastered some excellent submission tips and tricks throughout the years. Are you wondering how to boost your submission success on Two Bright Lights? Or do you just need to read some words of encouragement? Don’t worry, keep reading to find all of that and so much more!
Why do you want to be published? How has getting published helped your business grow?
“There are a few reasons why getting published is important to me. Personally, I feel like so many people put their heart and soul into creating a fabulous wedding day for our clients. It’s not just me putting in the work. It’s the planner, the florist, the hair and makeup artists. All of these wedding professionals bring so much to the table on the wedding day and the photographer is the one who gets to document all of their hard work and has the evidence of their hard work. So for me, submitting and getting published is a way to acknowledge everyone that was on the wedding team. I feel that all vendors should be recognized and as the photographer I see it as my duty to submit and get published so everyone is acknowledged for their contributions.
But getting published is also important for my client experience. So many of my couples LOVE seeing their stuff online. It makes them feel really special knowing that their photographer took the time to submit their event. If their album is picked up, they think it’s so cool to see their day featured in a blog or magazine.
For me, early on, getting published was a necessary part of my business. Part of it was about marketing because you want your work to be seen and it’s a good way to get your work recognized in the industry. But more so it was an important piece for my vendor relations and for my client experience.”
How do you go about crafting a submission? What are some of the things you focus on when you are putting together an album and creating a submission?
“When I upload an album to Two Bright Lights I try to think about the publication where I am hoping to have it featured. I try to customize what I’m uploading based on the styles of work that publication is already featuring. But for the most part, it’s about the informational details and the detail shots.
Publications are always looking to feature detail shots, environmental shots, venue shots, candids of guests, bridal details (think shoes, rings, flowers), all that stuff. Keeping that in mind, I try to piece together a good story of the day. A smaller amount of portraits of the bride, groom, and the bridal party are required in a submission but after I include those images it then becomes all about the detail shots.”
Do you have any tricks that you use when shooting a wedding to make sure that you get the shots that you’ll want later on when creating a submission? What do you do if you’re at a wedding that’s low on the details?
“In the morning, I set aside about 90 minutes to photograph all the bride’s details while I have my second shooter capture the candids of the wedding parties getting ready. This time allows me to not only focus on those detail shots but it also gives me time to warm up for the day and get creative. I do I have a styling kit that I bring to every wedding. My styling kit has everything from ribbon to ring boxes to trays and stamps that I can use to pull together the bridal details. I also ask my brides to bring anything that’s fun and personal to incorporate in those images.
Schedule wise, the morning is more for the bridal details and the styled shots that you typically see in publications. But throughout the day I’m still working to get those detail shots to include in a submission. For example, during the wedding party portraits I make sure to get shots of the bridesmaid’s bouquets and the groomsmen’s boutonnieres. Other details like the ceremony programs or the ceremony set up are shot throughout the day as part of our overall workflow.”
What do you recommend to first-time submitters- what’s the one thing they need to include in a submission?
“For new submitters, I think that understanding who you’re submitting to is really important. I’d also recommend that you don’t get too discouraged when you are rejected by a publication for some reason. It’s important to remember that editors receive many submissions these days. Editors can get bogged down from all that they have to choose from so be sure to submit top notch work and be patient when waiting for your results.
But also remember that just because your album may not be a fit for one publication doesn’t mean that it’s not a fit for another publication. Keep trying and keep submitting! Find the publications where your album belongs because I promise you your work belongs somewhere.”
How has social media played a role in your business? Are you finding that couples are seeing your work on say Instagram and then coming wanting to book you?
“Social media is definitely a huge part of my business. I have outsourced some of it because I honestly just don’t have time to manage it all on my own. My sister helps me with Pinterest and she actually helps me with uploading things to Two Bright Lights!
For me, an important piece of my workflow is being able to outsource when I can afford to. It’s also the reason I’ve been able to keep growing my business and my business leads. Finding little things in social media that I can outsource was important because I know that there are parts of social that I don’t want to outsource, like Facebook and Instagram. I feel like my posts on those two platforms still need to be in my voice. But when it comes to uploading pins to Pinterest that’s something I can train someone else to do.”
So let’s backtrack a little bit…how did you get started as a photographer?
“I was always just a hobbyist. I didn’t get my first “big girl” camera until 2011. Once I got that I started teaching myself how to use it. Actually, I defaulted to using my dogs as my models! At that point, it was natural for me to become involved in the local animal shelters by taking photos of adoptable dogs. When I was volunteering at an animal shelter in Baltimore, Maryland, where I’m originally from, I became really good friends with another photographer who was actually a wedding photographer. I asked her if I could tag along to a wedding to see what it was all about and I did and I fell in love with it!
We moved to Charleston in early 2012. I had a full-time job in finance but I reached out to some photographers in Charleston, once we moved, and asked if I could come along as a second shooter. I began shooting at weddings every weekend. And eventually I thought to myself- ‘I hate my full-time job and I’m working every weekend for someone else but doing something I love. Maybe it’s time for me to take the jump and try to be a wedding photographer!’ But ironically, the day before I was about to launch my wedding photography website, I was laid off from my job. So starting my business really was something I wanted but then needed to make work!”
What’s something that you learned when you first started out? Was there a big moment when you learned a lesson that you would like to share with new photographers?
“The best piece of advice that I can offer is to be patient. It’s really hard when you’re first starting out and you see so many photographers that are successful and have what you want. It’s easy to think that just because you don’t have it yet, you’re never going to have it. You never quite realize just how much work it takes to get to that place. So just be patient with it – success will come in time. Put your nose down and work hard. I like to live by the mantra, good things come to those who hustle. If you work hard, you’ll get there.”
What inspires you and your work? What’s your favorite part about shooting weddings?
“I think that my own wedding inspired me to fall in love with shooting weddings. Originally, I thought that being a wedding photographer could be a cool job but I never thought it would be a job I’d want since it looked so stressful. But here I am!
My favorite part of shooting weddings is really the time I get to spend with my clients during their big day. Most of my clients do a first look and that’s my favorite part of the day. It’s filled with so much emotion and anticipation. And to see my couple when they get to see each other for the first time is just such a cool moment.”