Sydney, NSW Australia Photographer
http://www.cloverimage.com.au/ email@example.com +61-467 506 675
I have been recently selected as one of the judges for The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP) competition. It was an honor to judge thousands of awesome wedding photos from all over the world.
The whole judging experience has been inspirational. By viewing those competition photos, I got to share so many wonderful wedding moments in different countries – parents, friends, kids, tears, laughers, funny moments, rain, snow and etc. Those photos represent a great job overcoming ordinary wedding works as “just record the day.”
Congratulations to all winners – the judging process is so selective that less than 5% of the images made it to Top 20 gallery. You guys are truly the best.
For brides who read this article, ISPWP is a great resource to find a professional photographer for your wedding –
For Photographers, please be reminded that photography awards are subjective, and so are the opinions below.
Essential Camera Technical Proficiency – As a professional photographer, I would assume you have already acquired necessary technical skills such as following:
Exposure – mastering Manual mode to accurately capture the desired lighting atmosphere rather than relying on AV or P – you might be laughing when you read this, but trust me mate, I have seen lots of so called “experienced photographers” using Average AV mode all day along.
Using Raw Format – rather than JPEG to obtain maximum (1) luminosity dynamics and (2) white balance flexibility.
Off Camera Flash – to create the photo not based on “what you see”, but based on “what you imagine.”
Now, let’s look further into the key elements to succeed in a photography competition:
Originality – In the 2014 summer competition, I saw lots of “back lighting rain” photos, some of them were really good, I am sure they would make the clients really happy. However, few of those images made it to the winner’s gallery. It is because they have almost the same setup (pose, lighting and background) as the 2010 winter winning photo above – copying a previous winner’s photo does not make you win.
My advice is to study, abstract and adapt the method, rather than copying the photo scene. If we understand the method as “backlighting makes the liquid stand out from the background,” why don’t we try this method somewhere else? Shown below are two excellent examples using a similar method, first by Emin Kuliyev (Emin Wedding Photography) – utilizing natural light, and second by Erika Mann (Two Mann Studios) – a wonderful backlit image.
Posing – “Whether it’s subtle look from the eyes, whether eyes are looking down, the shoulder going back, the subtle things makes a difference between a good photographer and a great photographer” – Jerry Ghionis, Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the World by American Photo Magazine.
I saw lots of bride and groom portraits within a beautiful venue, but ruined by a dull pose.
My advice is to look for or create the moment of love. Sometimes patience is the key to wait for the bride and groom releasing out their natural expressions; sometimes subtle instructions such as eye sights or hand gesture would help bring the photos into next level. Showed above is a great example by Ji Zhang.
Develop Your Own Style – Ben Chrisman, World Top 10 wedding photographer by ISPWP, American Photo Magazine, Rangefinder Magazine and a number of other organizations – is well known for his photography style – a unique combination of interesting perspective, silhouette, creative off camera lighting, and emphasis on foreground and reflection. Please note it’s his style that creates the stunning images and makes him succeed in the competitions, not some specific techniques. If you cannot see scenes differently, and use your unique style to capture them, why would couples pay you thousands of dollars for your work?
For example, in the contest, I saw lots of silhouette photos which put the people in the corner for no reason, and shooting through any subject in the foreground regardless of the whole composition sense of the image. In the long run, your style will make you stand out from other photographers, and help you become a winner in both competition and business.
Competition Rules – Carefully read them, and use those rules towards your advantage. Take ISPWP “Bride and Groom Portrait rule” as an example, composite images were forbidden in the past, but in 2014 the rules removed such limit. The image showed above could be disadvantaged in previous competitions if judges considered it as a composite image. However, it is considered to be a fantastic creative work in the 2014 competition, whether composite or not – the 1st place itself explains it all. (Editor’s note, the photographer confirmed this was not a composite image, which makes it even more incredible. But the author’s point is still valid.)
Choose the Right Category – Think what your image is truly about, and choose the right category. If a photo is right for several categories, I would advise you to choose the specific category over the general category. In my experience, general categories such as “Bride and Groom Portrait” would receive many more entries, and therefore be more competitive, than a more specific category such as “The Wedding Dress.”
Don’t Be Afraid of Re-entering a Photo –The painting “Impression, Sunrise” by Claude Monet did not receive a positive review at its first exhibition. So remember, art is always subjective. If you truly believe in your work, you can always re-enter it if it did not make it to the “Top 20 Gallery” in a previous contest.
Participation Is More Important Than Winning, Truly – To me, the most exciting thing about being an ISPWP member is education. I got inspired by viewing other photographers’ work, studying their method, and then applying the new ideas to my next wedding. The contest participation helps me to become a better photographer – Is my style enjoyed by the other wedding professional also? Or there are still things to be improved?
If the contest makes you a better photographer than you were last month, then you are already a winner in your career.
Wedding Photographer Contact Information:
Aries Tao, Sydney, Australia Wedding Photographer
Website: Clovergraphy | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: +61467506675
Sydney, NSW Australia Photographer