Having your clients find YOU can be more than a wish list item! By Tonya Malay Photography

During this time of year, it’s all about holiday wish lists and gift giving. While many of the gifts on our list are items that can be beautifully wrapped and placed under a tree, we know that there are plenty of things that can’t be wrapped. For instance, wouldn’t it be SO nice to have potential clients find you and not the other way around?

Getting published is one of the best ways to attract new clients, helping them fall in love with your work and find YOU. Just ask photographer Tonya from Tonya Malay Photography! With over 69 features in 2015, driving approximately 10-15% of her business, Tonya can attest to the successes of getting published with Two Bright Lights. This holiday season, we want to help you cross that target off your list and help your publishing goals come true! Keep reading to learn more.


Why do you want to be published? How has getting published helped your business grow?

“Years ago I was browsing on the internet and I came upon a photographer’s website from California. On the photographer’s about page he had listed all of the magazines in which he had been published. I was so impressed, and thought to myself, if I’m this impressed, his potential clients must be impressed too! At that moment, I knew that I wanted to dedicate time to getting published so that I could elicit that same response from potential clients who visit my website.

Wedding photographed by Tonya Malay Photography
Tonya Malay Photography

With that goal in mind, I went ahead and signed up for Two Bright Lights and I’ve been using your platform ever since. Having the ability to market myself as a published photographer has added a level of credibility and value to my brand, and many clients have mentioned my features when hiring me. So in a nutshell, getting published is something I focus on to impress potential clients. It shows that Tonya Malay Photography is good enough to get published and hopefully separates me from the rest of the competition that isn’t getting their work published.”

Since you’ve started using TBL, have you seen evidence of clients finding you because of your published features?

“Yes I absolutely have! I have a lot of clients that come to me and mention that they’ve seen a feature of mine on an online publication and reached out to me because of it. If I had to guess, I would say that at least 10-15% of my business is a direct result of clients who have found me from a publication feature.”

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?

“Before I even start a submission, I make sure I have all of the vendor information and their corresponding websites and I also make sure those vendors are in the Two Bright Lights database. But that itself is getting easier by the day because more and more people are joining TBL. Those two tasks are the most involved parts of crafting the submission so I make sure to start there first. Then I begin to pick my 150 photos that I’d like to include in the submission and I perfect those images. Overall, I try to be as thorough as possible and make sure I have everything before I start building the album. This method allows for the album creation and submission processes to go as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”

Wedding photographed by Tonya Malay Photography
Tonya Malay Photography

Do you have a method that you use to target your submissions? Do you research publications ahead of time?

“I actually have a lengthy word document to help me with this part of the submissions process! When I first signed up for Two Bright Lights, I went through every publication profile making notes and listing them in order of who I would have the most success with to those I shouldn’t even bother submitting to. And every time I get a rejection on a submission I make note so I can keep track of the feedback and trends of reactions to my work. When I learn there’s a new publication on TBL I go ahead and research their profile page and then add them to my publication list accordingly. I think this is the easiest system for me since I can tailor the list to how the publications are actually picking up my work- not just marking my favorites or ‘dream” publications.”

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?

“To be honest, I just don’t submit those weddings for publication. If I show up to a wedding and see that there is no way that I’m going to get it published then I just don’t worry about it! That won’t affect how I’m going to shoot that wedding because I always give my weddings 150% no matter what. But there are going to be times when you show up at a wedding and instantly know that there is no shot they’re going to get published. When that happens, there isn’t anything I really can do. If the material isn’t there for me to capture you can’t really fix that- and that’s okay!

For weddings that are heavy on the details, my second shooter (who’s actually my son!) is the one that makes sure we capture all of the detail shots in between catching the candids and the portrait shots. He makes sure to capture the detail shots from creative angles and we both make sure to capture everything that we’ll need later on for a submission. Before the actual event, when I go over the timeline with the couple, I make sure we have time scheduled so that we can get the detail shots. I don’t want to go to a wedding where we have such a tight timeline where we can’t get those detail shots because they’re so important.”

Wedding photographed by Tonya Malay Photography
Tonya Malay Photography

What do you recommend to first-time submitters- what’s the one thing they need to include in a submission?

“It’s all about the details! I’ve been tempted to submit some beautiful couples portraits at some gorgeous locations, but if that couple did not invest in pretty details for their ceremony and reception, they will not get chosen for publication. Publications also love candid and natural moments more so than posed portraits. I always include a few portraits, but mostly submit details and candids.

I would also recommend that you be sure to include as many vendors as you can in a submission and try your hardest not to skip or miss anyone. Vendors want to be credited for their work and helping them get published will only expand your network and boost your reputation. So having all the vendor information is a MUST.”

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?

“When I get a wedding published, the first thing I do is blog it. Then I share the feature on my Facebook business page. I email the feature to all vendors involved, whenever possible, in the hopes that they will share the feature on their social media outlets as well. I’m a bit lazy with social media and tend to binge post. I’ll fall behind, and then catch up. Right now my social media presence is fairly minimal and I’m doing just enough so that I don’t fade away into obscurity. Honestly, I really need to be following advice regarding social media rather than giving it!”

Wedding photographed by Tonya Malay Photography
Tonya Malay Photography

So let’s backtrack a little bit…how did you get started as a photographer?

“I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was 10 years old. My father was a very talented amateur photographer, and I inherited his passion for photography. My parents owned a photo lab and portrait studio and by the time I was in college I was already photographing weddings for friends on a non-existing budget. Those weddings snowballed into word of mouth referrals and within two years I was able to support myself as a full-time wedding photographer.”

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?

“I was not expecting the need for very thick skin, and I wasn’t prepared for the rejection. While this career is very fulfilling, it can also be defeating at times. Rejection is never easy, and it’s so difficult not to take it personally. Did they not like me? Was it my work? Price? Style? Losing a wedding can really make you question your self-worth and talent. I handle it much better now than when I first started, but rejection is definitely the one aspect of this job that is truly difficult to get accustomed to.”

What inspires you and your work? What’s your favorite part about shooting weddings?

“What inspires me is also what pushes me, the desire to always be better than I am. I am never truly happy with my work. As I’m editing my images I am criticizing everything: I could have shot this from a different angle, I could have posed this just a bit differently, I wish I had a little more flash on this image, etc. I don’t think I will ever truly feel like I have mastered perfection, but will always be chasing it!”


Only 40% of wedding professionals get published – join them in becoming a submissions rockstar! Two Bright Lights makes it fast and easy to get published and costs less than $15/month. In just three quick steps, you can submit your work to more than 400 magazines, blogs and websites, including The Knot, POPSUGAR, Brit + Co, MunaLuchi Bride, Every Last Detail and more. So what are you waiting for? Sign-up today at twobrightlights.com

Photos courtesy of Tonya Malay Photography.

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