It’s All About Perspective: Game Changing TBL Tips from Erin Johnson Photography

Erin from Erin Johnson Photography is a without a doubt a publications wiz. When it comes to knowing each and every Two Bright Lights publication, she’s an expert. Her understanding of exclusivity policies and who’s accepting her style of photography has allowed her to target submissions and maximize each album’s number of features.

Erin’s determination to get published and dedication to doing her “publications homework’ earned her 89 features in 2015. But more importantly, her ability to look at getting published as a fun and challenging game has kept her motivated and on track to becoming a submissions rockstar. Interested in learning Erin’s other tricks to maximize submission success on Two Bright Lights? Well, keep on reading…

Why do you want to be published? How has getting published helped your business grow? Yes, getting published has helped my business and it is an important marketing tool for many reasons. One, it’s great for the client. When their album is featured, they feel like rockstars for the day. It also reassures them knowing that they hired a photographer that is worthy of getting published. So it not only builds credibility with your clients, but it can also build credibility with your vendors and fellow wedding pros. If vendors are working with me and seeing their work get published versus when they’re working with a different photographer that’s not getting published, it makes my rate of referral higher. And then overall it’s just great to know that your work is good enough to be put on other people’s blogs and publications.”

Erin Johnson Photography

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?My strategy for submissions starts before I shoot the wedding. It starts when I’m working with my couple to create a timeline for their wedding day. It’s important for us to make sure that timeline includes enough time to take detail shots. Our average time shooting a wedding is between 8 to 10 hours of shooting so we do have plenty of time to take those editorial shots throughout the day. Those shots are crucial because submissions need to be heavy on editorial. We take other photographs showing the emotion and family throughout the day but we make sure to get in those editorial shots as well. And we always have two photographers present to make sure every shot and emotion is captured.

Before we upload an album to Two Bright Lights we designate which images we know we want to include in the submission to make the process more efficient. The most important shots to include are those that are editorial and shots that create a consistent color theme for the submission. After we gather those images, we also throw in emotional images to give the album a human touch. Including those emotional images is important because other wise an album would just be pictures of cakes and spoons! Our goal is to showcase real people while also including those editorial elements.”

Erin Johnson Photography

Do you have any tricks that you use when you are actually shooting a wedding to make sure that you get all of those shots that you’re going to want later on when creating a submission? What do you do if you’re at a wedding that’s low on the details? “I think a lot of it has to do with the lens you use and the angle you shoot from. When I shoot a centerpiece, I use a longer lens like a 100mm. That will compress the backdrop and bring it in closer to the centerpiece. I also get down and shoot centerpieces from an angle rather than shooting from above. This allows me to put a glass in the front and other things in the back, filling in the frame to create a fuller look. It’s all how you shoot it and what lens you use can really make a difference.

Also, it’s important to note that I don’t submit every wedding that I shoot. Not every wedding has publication quality and that’s okay! And that doesn’t mean that I don’t take those weddings. It just means that they may not be submittable or can only be submitted to certain blogs. That’s why it’s important to know your publications so you can target your submissions based on the type of wedding you shot. For example, some blogs don’t care as much about the details shots and want more emotional pictures. So it’s about knowing how to make your albums work for you and the publications you’re submitting to.”

Erin Johnson Photography

What do you recommend to first-time submitters- what’s the one thing they need to include in a submission? Remember to shoot heavy on the details and to keep your shots really clean so the viewer can know what you’re capturing. For example, if you shoot the bouquet too close we’re not going to know what we’re looking at. Yes, it’s a flower but from what? The bouquet? The centerpiece? Photos that are ambiguous won’t be chosen for a feature but clean and simple photography will.

From a workflow standpoint, it’s important to do your homework. On Two Bright Lights, I submit my albums to exclusive publications first. We have our custom list of publications that I like to target. I’ve literally gone through every single publication in the exclusive category and made a list of the ones that work with my branding. So let’s say there are 100 of them on that list and I have 20 that I like and want to get published in. I then rate those saying here are my top ten favorites and then here is my second list of top ten favorites. I will then go down that list until someone features my album. But let’s say I go down the list five times and an exclusive publication doesn’t pick it up. In that scenario, I move on to non-exclusives because at that point I run the risk of the wedding getting too old to publish.

The overall gist of it is that I do my homework. There’s a ranking feature on Two Bright Lights that can help with this process if you don’t want to do it on paper like I do. I hear of so many people that sign up for it and then don’t want to put the time in. But it’s like anything else. If you manage a blog it takes time or if you post on social media it takes time. So you have to make getting published a priority in order to be successful.

Try to think of it as a challenge and not a burden. And to me, the submission process is kind of a game. Let’s be real, everyone is playing Pokémon Go so I try to look at it like that! It’s a game to me because I want to get published and I want to learn how to make the system work best for me and my work. You’re going to get rejected at times but I just think that there are so many things about Two Bright Lights that will help you grow as a photographer and business owner.”

Erin Johnson Photography

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? “Facebook is working really well for my business since it can directly reach our clients. We shoot a wedding, post 50 teaser pictures on Facebook and then all of the bride’s family and friends see it and get excited. So we actually see bookings from those social posts. But Instagram is a little different. I usually pick three to five pictures and feature them on our page. So far, Instagram has only generated “buzz” for my business and I haven’t actually booked a client from it. But it’s great for exposure and building deeper relationships with my vendors.”

Erin Johnson Photography

So let’s backtrack a little bit…how did you get started as a photographer? I’ve been a wedding photographer for almost 17 years and I started back when I was 21 years old. I went to college for a little bit, I got married at 21 and then I began working at a photography studio. My background is actually in art, not photography. In college, I was studying in studio art and I believed I was going to be some great painter or something. But I ended up getting hired at a photography studio as a painter. Back in the day, we had those black and white fiber based photos and then we painted rosy cheeks on them…remember that? Well, I was hired to do that job and from there I was exposed to photography. So I picked up a camera and started shooting.

Everyone in my family is an entrepreneur so that aspect was in my blood. And I saw photography as a way to make a living, not necessarily as an extension of my art. To me, it was a business opportunity before I saw it as artwork. After pursuing it from a business perspective, I quickly learned that it was an art form that I could really enjoy. And so the two became one and then my business grew from there!”

What’s something that you’ve 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 starting out? “To be honest, I’m a live and learn type of person so I think mistakes can be a good thing. But, I think one of the big things is to not be afraid of failure. You are going to fail but failure can make you into a better business owner and a better photographer. Obviously, we all want to avoid failure but sometimes experiencing it can have a positive impact on your life and business.”

Erin Johnson Photography

What inspires you? Why do you shoot weddings? What’s your favorite part about shooting weddings? “I think why I like weddings the best is because of the high stress that can come with them. I like having to think on my feet and shooting weddings really pushes me to the max. There is a ton of problem-solving when you’re shooting a wedding so I like the challenge of it and I like that pressure. Oftentimes, I find that my clients are the ones who are pushing me to the limit. If you get a super high maintenance bride it can be a challenge to meet her needs. I love working with high-end weddings and bridezillas and all that comes with those scenarios. It’s not like I get a ton of bridezillas but I do get hard brides that only want you to work harder when you’re already working your butt off. But I love that because it makes me work harder and grow as a photographer. It’s similar to my fear of failure- I don’t necessarily enjoy it but it makes be better in the long run.

But don’t get me wrong…I also love the happy side of weddings! Getting to witness those emotional aspects and heartwarming family interactions and moments. And of course, weddings are just so pretty and fun to photograph.”

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

Photos courtesy of Erin Johnson Photography.

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