- Tips for Taking Award-Winning Images and Entering Photography Awards
Not only have Steph and Maurice, from Two Blushing Pilgrims travelled the world photographing some of the most adventurous weddings, elopements and honeymoons of all time, but they’ve also won countless accolades and made it to the finals of last year's International Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards.
We invited the duo to share their top tips for entering prestigious competitions, including how to take award-winning photos, and what to consider before submitting your work.
First and most importantly, it’s important to become exceptionally competent with your camera. If you’re distracted with the basics of focus or exposure, you won’t have the time or energy to invest in being creative and innovative. Competency is best achieved by repetition – practice makes perfect! Shoot as many events as you can in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions. Work with different types of personalities and venues. The more you shoot, the more likely you are to create award-worthy photos.
With most forms of photography, it’s all about making your subjects comfortable in your presence. If you’re photographing an event, dress like a guest and be minimal in the camera gear you carry. Get rid of the battery pack and the flash in the middle of the day; you’re just drawing attention to yourself. If people feel relaxed around you, or even better ignore you completely, you’ll find more opportunities to capture real moments of unfettered emotion. Remember, knowing when to disappear is also important. Get the shot, then get out of their face!
My dad told me this when he gave me my first camera (a Canon 35mm point and shoot). At first, I thought this meant just using long lenses, but over time I have found huge efficacy in shooting wide and close to my subjects. The trick is to identify how many elements you can remove from the image. Great images are an artful balance of relevant content and empty space. So, get in close and start experimenting!
The more empathetic you are toward your clients or subject, the better you’ll be able to anticipate moments of true emotion and significance. By focusing on your clients or subject, rather than on creating “award-winning photos”, you’ll start to find that you’re naturally in the right place at the right time, and that’s when award-worthy moments will start landing in your lap.
With a little bit of communication and creativity you can nudge the odds of something brilliant happening in your favour. For example, why not start a photo shoot by popping a bottle of champagne open to loosen up your clients. If you’re shooting a wedding, talk to the bridal party as well as the couple – “Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome if one of the groomsmen lifted the groom up onto their shoulders!” Fire up the confetti cannons or give that disco ball a spin and get the dance floor pumping. Make your own magic happen and be ready to shoot when it does!
There are loads of great photography competitions to enter, but it’s important to choose the ones where winning would be especially meaningful to you. For us, the glory is in being recognised amongst the world’s best. Forget rubbing shoulders with your local colleagues and dive both feet first into the global comps with platforms that showcase the very best of the best – meaning your work will be judged alongside masterful images and innovative photographers.
Once you’ve chosen an aspirational competition to enter, it’s time to look at the other entries and see what you’re up against. Are your images similar to what’s been submitted, or do you have something unique, spectacular or unusual to add to the mix? Prepare a bank of images that are unlike the other entries and make sure they’re beautifully edited, visually striking, and memorable. Stand out from the crowd and you’ll almost certainly increase your chances of winning!
Try to look at your photos through the lens of a stranger. You might have a beautiful image from a favourite shoot, but is it really an award-worthy image? The measure of whether a photo is worth submitting is the amount of emotion it might inspire in someone who has no connection to the subject it portrays. Try to select images that convey a single, clear emotion, whether it be total joy, tearful heartbreak, wonder or awe.
What a great shame it would be to have your very best wedding image overlooked because it’s not resized to fit the submission guidelines. Or maybe you need to include specific details about yourself and your work, or file names/types, etc. Most photography competitions are very precise with the size and dimensions required – for lossless compression that doesn’t destroy an image, we love using JPEGmini Pro. Read the rules and make sure you do everything correctly so that your images get in front of the judges.
You might be a single-egg-in-one-basket kind of person, but when it comes to entering photography awards, you’re better off getting as many eggs in as many baskets as possible. Every few months, be sure to dig out the best of your best images and relentlessly submit them to every platform you’d be proud to be a part of. An image that’s ignored on one site might be lorded on another!
Canon Australia is proud to sponsor of the 2021 International Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards, which is currently open for submissions to both professional and amateur wedding photographers globally. Click here to enter and be in the running to win a Canon EOS R5 and imagePROGRAF PRO-300.
All featured images were captured by Two Blushing Pilgrims.
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