ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest Advice And Critiques By Katrin Küllenberg

Posted by Admin on June 8th 2018

Judging a wedding photography contest, such as the ISPWP, always means a big challenge because after the results are announced there will usually be some controversion why some images got awarded and others not.

I think it is a good idea to have the judges comment on some photos and explain why they seemed special compared to the rest. Of course, there were four judges, each with her/his own tastes and preferences which will create diversity in the evaluation of artistic approach, genuine ideas and technical quality.

For me, having to judge in categories, sometimes was a blessing in disguise: At least it gives you a certain guideline what to look for in an image (and, yes, first mistake of still quite a few photographers: some photos are entered in the wrong category!). But some categories are really strong and I was allowed to only pick a maximum of 20 images. I often had to dismiss some I had picked out in the beginning because there were so many good ones still to come.

Getting Ready is one of those very competitive categories. Some of my favorite photos were the ones where you can see alot of things going on at the same time.

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - Getting Ready by Horacio Carrano

(Image by Horacio Carrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina wedding photographer)

This one is like a stage: the (window) curtains are opened and you think: " And here the story begins!". There are so many little scenes, your eyes are wandering around, imagining what all these people are thinking. But, still, a picture like this needs a central point of attention, a "diva", and that is right there with mom in the middle, being not very thrilled about her hair. She is the lead figure and sets the tone. And you know that all those stories will come together in the end, becoming one drama.

Starting your wedding reportage with an image like this one will get every viewer hooked.

As I am a huge fan of street photography, I love it when it finds its playful way into a wedding.

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - Ceremony by Michal Jasiocha | | Warszawa, Poland

(Image by Michal Jasiocha, Warszawa, Poland wedding photographer)

A lot of couples are focusing so hard on creating THE perfect day, so a picture like this provides some comic relief to a lot of pressure. It is also a brillant joke on what has now nearly become a "must-have"(?) image for a lot of photographers: the couple shot as seen from a guest's mobile phone. This photo is almost perfect but for one thing: I would have liked it even better if the photographer had chosen a different aperture. Unfortunately, this way the couple is almost blurred out and for this reasonthe image may not be playing as an important part in their wedding story as it should be.

One of the most difficult categories to judge is Humor because people are so different in what they consider funny.

For me there were way too many staged/fake photos in this category. I don't really like those in-your-face pictures with people sticking out their tongues, grabbing each others butts or worse. This seems so deliberate and boring and most of the time I feel rather embarassed for the couple.

Therefore I am very happy that one of my favorite images did come into second place although there is no one smiling in the picture.

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - Humor, by Laurentiu Nica | Laurentiu Nica | Craiova, Romania

(Image by Laurentiu Nica, Craiova, Romania wedding photographer)

What interests me in this one is the almost tragic but heroic figure of the dancer. His face is showing exactly my own question when I saw it:"What on earth are they doing and how did he get into this?"

The composition and light are perfect. The image incorporates the other dancers to underline that this a show dance. There is the motion of the female dancer's blurred hair, contrasting his apparent motionlessness. He seems trapped in this situation and between her split legs. What was supposed to be sexy and daring is shown to be utterly absurd and this is where I find the humor.

One of the very best images in this collection has scored 1st Place in Decisive Moments (with all this quality around it is simply impossible to decide on a single BEST image).

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - The Decisive Moment, by Carlos Santanatalia, Zaragoza, Spain

(Image by Carlos Santanatalia Photography, Zaragoza, Spain wedding photographer)

The best pictures make you feel with the people in it, and here you are completely in the bride's shoes. You share the surprise, shock  and pain all at the same moment. Her head is tilted and shows the tug on the veil and her eyes, wide open and bright, lead us right to the culprit. 

This image shows how important it is to have context in your photos. A close up of her face might have been funny but leave us clueless. This one tells a whole story - and I really feel sorry for the guy who does not seem to have much of a clue about the mess he is making.

To show how differently you can approach a category and still be very convincing, I picked two images from the Bride and Groom category.

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - Wedding Day Brides and Grooms, by Richard Howman, Bristol UK Wedding Photographer

(Image by Richard Howman, Élan Images Ltd., Bristol, United Kingdom wedding photographer)

What I love about this is how full of  joy and natural it feels. Of course, it is unfortunate that her foot is cut off but on the other hand it is the closeness of the photgrapher that makes the image so intense. If he had stepped back it might have been technically perfect but spoken less to our hearts. I don't know if they were just such a relaxed couple or if the photographer told them his best joke to crack them up - even if it is posed their heartfelt happiness makes us forget everything else.

Whereas the former one appealed to my emotions the next one appealed to my eyes.

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - Wedding Day Brides and Grooms, by Nikhol Esteras Roberts, Oaxaca, Mexico wedding photographer

(Image by Nikhol Esteras Roberts, Oaxaca, Mexico wedding photographer)

This one is the complete opposite. One look at it and you notice how much planning went into creating it. And because she planned it so well it succeeds. It is not a quick moment of happiness but composed like a piece of art. The squares all align perfectly, the color blocks resemble an abstract painting, there is a reduction to to form, color and light. 

Maybe it is not so much an intimate portrait but I like that the photographer tried to give the couple a subtle connection by having the groom turn his face to her side as if he was trying to listen to her sing or speak.

Fianlly, something completely simple: Detail

Personally, I am not very keen on taking detail pictures. I think it distracts me from all the interesting moments that are happening around me during a wedding day, but I admire those photographers who can create something meaningful from inanimate objects.

ISPWP Wedding Photography Contest - Wedding Details, by Helado Weintrob | HeladO Photography | Tel Aviv, Israel wedding photographer

(Image by Helado Weintrob, HeladO Photography, Tel Aviv, Israel wedding photographer)

It is beautiful to use the idea of the "Kinder Surprise" sweet for the ring. It is so simple but still a skilled composition with the box and the chocolate egg half opened, the limit to three colors , the background which also associates chocolate and, of course, to top it off, the instructions one always finds with the DIY toy in the box. Sweet and straight to the point! You can only use this idea once but the photographer did it to perfection.

Personally, being a judge was such an amazing experience because it showed me so many things that are possible in wedding photography. What I value the most is how it made me think again about my own images and how I see the world through my camera. There is a lot I learned by looking at all these great images and it made me grateful to have a job where I am allowed to see so much beauty every day!


Katrin Küllenberg - Düsseldorf, Germany wedding photographer

Katrin Küllenberg, Düsseldorf, Germany wedding photographer.
Katrin is a multi-award winner with the ISPWP, and served as a contest judge for the ISPWP Spring 2018 Wedding Photography Contest

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