Sending out good vibes and wishes to everyone sweltering across Australia this week in the hot, hot summer. Here’s a greeting and some ‘coolth’ from a photo shoot I did in London a few weeks back.
It’s that time of year again when Australia’s top professional photographers gather to have their souls ripped open and hopefully revel in awards glory. The Australian Professional Photography Awards, correct title the “Canon AIPP APPA’s”, start tomorrow.
As every man and his dog these days seems to be picking up a camera and declaring they are a pro photographer, so too are they attaching the label “Award Winning Photographer” to their shingle. Problem is, many photography awards out there are dead dodgy. One wedding based organisation seems to give it’s awards solely to people who give them money. Other competitions declare every entrant an award winner. There are other great photography awards and competitions out there like the Epson International Pano Awards, The Olive Cotton and HeadOn, but the APPAs are the awards most professional photographers turn to in order to see how their work stacks up.
Entering the APPAs means you are messing with the big boys.
This year I am a little extra nervous. Actually, I am a lot extra nervous. If my images score highly enough, I will gain the title Master Photographer. They are great photos and I don’t think I could have done any more. I’m really proud of the work I have entered. One image is from Paris, two were taken in Berlin and the final image is from Bali.
As much as all wedding photographers think they are going to be the best photographer for every client who walks in their door, it’s a fact of wedding photography life that not all photographers are suited to photographing all weddings. So choosing the right photographer is super important. After the reception is over, the dress cleaned and packed away, you are home from the honeymoon and all that’s left are the photos. Photos that will be with you for a lifetime. Photos that hopefully you have made into an album that will become a treasured family heirloom for generations to come.
So how do you choose the perfect photographer for you?
I’m here to tell you it is fairly straight forward and comes down to 3 simple things. The 3 P’s. Personality, Pictures and Price.
Each of Personality, Pictures and Price have their own importance depending upon your circumstance but regardless of your budget the least important is Price. So I will start there.
How much you can pay for a wedding photographer varies enormously. How much albums cost also varies enormously. And so too does the quality. In wedding photography I believe you definitely get what you pay for.
Cheap photographers can be tempting but bear in mind the reason they are so cheap. Largely it is due to them being new to the industry. They are therefore likely to be using cheap camera gear unsuited to the rigours of professional demands and also unlikely to have backup equipment. A lack of experience also means they may be unable to deal with unforeseen circumstances, tricky lighting and a myriad of other problems. Then the images themselves may not be up to standard.
I see it time and time again where a bride hires a cheap photographer – and they actually like their photos – but if only they had paid a small amount more, they could have an astonishing better collection of images and a much better album. There are many photographers locally who will shoot a wedding with a cheap album for far less than it costs me just to have made one of the high quality Queensberry albums I supply. I know those cheap albums are a false economy too. I have had samples of them fall apart and images fade within a couple of years. The albums I supply will last long after anyone I shoot has passed away. They are forever and therefore the extra cost is well worth it. Please don’t let price be your primary consideration when choosing a photographer. Sure, it’s a factor, but don’t let it be the main one.
And that brings us to pictures.
What is the work like of the photographer you are considering? Look at complete albums of an entire wedding. Exact copies of what the bride and groom got. Not a selection of a handful their best work. These photos are forever. Simply put, do you like the work?
When looking at a photographers work, a quick tip or two. Avoid imagery that is super highly photoshopped. Avoid the trendy Instagram look. Trust me, you might love it now, but in a couple of years time it will be dated and a sad trend of the past. Classic strong imagery without the need for gimics is always in fashion. Have a look at this photo from the wedding of Jackie Bouvier and John Kennedy. It’s 60 years old this year. It’s beautiful, it’s classic. It’s a photo that could have been taken yesterday. It’s what I strive for in all my wedding photography.
Here’s one of mine. I was raining, the light was tricky, there wasn’t much room to move and I love that shot. It will be beautiful forever.
Then again you might hate this and really want the super photoshopped imagery – fair enough. There are plenty of photographers out there that will do that for you.
I cannot stress enough how important personality is. If the photographer is in your budget and does great work you love but you don’t click, don’t hire them. Simply put, the photographer is going to be with you for the better part of your wedding day. They should be the type of person you would love to have hanging around. Someone you would go to the pub with. Someone you’d have over for dinner and some laughs. Over the years I have made solid friends with a bunch of people whose weddings I have photographed.
I photograph the weddings of great, gorgeous, wonderful people. They are great, gorgeous and wonder because I think that way about them. A couple of times during my career as a wedding photographer I have met couples that I didn’t feel that way about and have simply and politely told them, “Sorry, I don’t think I am the best photographer for you”. It’s not them, it’s me. We’ve got to click. I’ve heard horror stories about personality clashes during weddings mostly because the couple decided to get a cheap photographer and they didn’t really get along.
Of the three factors of Price, Pictures and Personality, I think the single most important thing to consider when choosing a wedding photographer is personality. Regardless of how good the photographer is, if you don’t ‘click’ it will be reflected in the photos. And within a few months of the wedding the extra you might have to spend is quickly a thing of the past. But the photos are forever.
I hope that helps you in choosing the perfect wedding photographer for you.
Just thought I’d drop in a quick note about the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP). The AIPP was established in 1963 with the twin objectives of:
As the AIPP says “nearly 50 years after our inception, using an AIPP accredited photographer is still the best assurance you can get that your chosen photographer is a professional, skilled in the art of photography.
If you want to be sure you are using an AIPP accredited professional photographer…..look for the logo!”
The Australian Professional Photography Awards were held over the weekend and I am pleased to say I picked up some bling for my photos. I received 2 silver awards and one silver distinction.
Points from these awards are used to progress my professional photographer qualifications to Master Photographer level (it’s so annoyingly close, but still so far away). My fourth image scored what some people call a bronze award but they don’t count in this instance. I like the image still and probably would have still entered it. With a different panel of judges, I may well have picked up another award.
This image was awarded a Silver Distinction:
No award for this image but I still love it:
Every year the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) publishes a book showcasing all the award winning photographs from the previous year. It’s sent to all members and was delayed a bit this year. I’m stoked the book has just arrived. So proud to have my work featured alongside some of the best photography in the world. I’ve also just realised I now have 10 of these books. That means I have been mixing it with the best photographers in the world for over a decade.
My work as a photographer is therefore nicely standing the test of time and continuing to evolve. Looking back in old books it is amazing to see to the continued development of photography and photographic skills. The raising of the bar of excellence is so profound that imagery produced only a few years ago would fail to win an award today.
I’m happy to say I just picked up a few new photography awards at the NSW AIPP Professional Photography Awards.
I wasn’t able to attend the awards judging in person but they were streamed live over the internet. The added bonus of that situation was that my parents were able to see the judging process, experience how difficult winning these awards are and were standing at my shoulder when my images came up to be judged. And I have to add, watching your photography being critiqued remotely, is not any easier than having someone pick the yes out of it in person. I did however have the pleasure of yelling at the judges when I thought they were completely off the mark and didn’t ‘get’ my images.
I got a silver award for the following image. It was taken after a trip on my father-in-law’s yacht. I knew I wanted to to get this image even before I set sail. The weather was overcast with rain patches. The kind of weather most people would say is terrible for taking photos. Good thing then that I’m not most people.
Another silver award came via an image I had taken during a group photoshoot called Eucalypse. I came to the day not knowing what to expect or exactly what I was going to shoot. But when I saw the location and the models with the costumes they had I knew exactly what I wanted to produce. It was a photo envisaged as an homage to the alcoholic, suicidal Captain Willard in the movie Apocalypse Now.
The next image gained me a silver distinction. Ironically I took it in the midst of the judging of last year’s Australian Professional Photography Awards. I was inspired and skipped out on a presentation that just wasn’t doing it for me. I just went walking and took photos. The image shows a building competing with nature. It’s as if the built clean and crisp environment is winning and the ragged tree is in decline. Thankfully for me one judge understood my image. He was able to convince the other judges what the image was about and had them bump my photo from a silver to a silver distinction. It’s great when you get a judge in your corner.
Unfortunately the judges didn’t ‘get’ my other images scoring them in the ‘professional practice but not awards standard’ range of marks. A different panel of judges on a different day and I may have scored a few extra awards. Got good feedback on one of the images though and have already put that in place for the national awards later this year. Fingers firmly crossed for those awards.
Here’s one of the images from my shortlist of wedding photos that I will be entering in a series of Australia’s most prestigious photography awards. The NSW professional photography awards close in a week and I am desperately trying to make the deadline but still haven’t finalised my shortlist of images. I still have three photographs to cull from the list. I have decided this one is a keeper.
Although this is obviously a beautiful photo of a bride, the images I will be presenting are not all about wedding photography. I’ll also be entering some portraits, commercial, architecture and landscape images. Depending on which images win awards, I will make my selection of photographs for the Australian Professional Photography Awards, the Canon AIPP APPAs.
These awards are the best of the best. They showcase technical photography talent, creative vision and Photoshop skill (sometimes I think a bit too much emphasis is on the Photoshop side of things, but am hoping for a backlash this year and return to simple, clean, creative imagery).
It’s that time of year again where I sit back, look through all the work I have produced over the past year and try to select images to enter into photography awards.
It’s difficult and frustrating. I normally end up being super critical and kick myself that my work isn’t up to scratch – and then a pile of images similar to the ones I reject end up having everyone go bananas over, with numerous awards given to them. Ironically, stuff that I would have simply deleted because I don’t like it, invariably grabs the attention of judges. Bah.
The idea of awards is to showcase the depth of talent and skill of the photographer, so it annoys me when someone enters a bunch of very similar images that all do well. I love to see photographers who push the envelope and do a range of different things. It may be within the same category like weddings or landscape but I like to see individual photographers showing off all their skills rather than honing in on a niche.
Controversy reigns supreme as photographers work to the letter of the law regarding the rules, rather than the spirit of the competition. Photoshop skills become more important than photographic skills. Snide comments, bitchiness and anonymous posts on Twitter encourage, enliven and enrage. It’s a circus.
Do clients care? I doubt it.
Does it improve my work? Possibly.
Is it worth the time and expense? Maybe.
So why bother?
As a solo photographer I work in a bubble. I think my work is great. Entering competitions is my way to benchmark my work. See how it stacks up against the best of the best. So it’s time to select work for three competitions. The International Pano Awards, The NSW Professional Photography Awards and for me the big one is the APPAs (The Australian Professional Photography Awards).
This year I have got a shortlist to sort through consisting of landscapes, wedding photography, portraits, architectural photos and other commercial work. Time to take a big breath and jump in the deep end.