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How To Create Competition-Winning Images For Photographers

How To Create Competition-Winning Images For Photographers with Andre Brown

At the start of our photography careers, making money and doing what we love is usually the primary focus. No one is thinking, “I want to become a photographer so that I can win awards.” At least not me anyway. In fact, I remember my first time sitting in on judging for an image competition back in 2017…

The room is dark and filled with people. It’s standing room only. The room is illuminated only by a light box which is surrounded by the judges as this is where they view the prints, and a projector is used to display the images to the onlooking audience. The next image is announced by the proctor as the image handlers place the print in the lightbox. The proctor changes the image on the projector for the audience to see and… BOOM! Myself and a few around me are blown away. This was one of the most amazing images I’d ever seen. I probably exclaimed, [1] “Jeez, that’s insane!” because that sounds like something I’d say in that instance. One by one, the judges move in closer to the print to get a better look at the image. One or two even go back for a second glance. After a few moments of deliberation, all of the judges enter their scores and the proctor reads the overall score of the image… “Image score: 76.”

76! A seventy frickin’ six! If you know me, you know I didn’t say frickin’. For this particular competition, a 76 is on the low end of what is considered to be “standard practice.” This image, which was one of the best I’d seen at the time, was considered to be average at best by the panel of judges. You could only imagine how I felt about my own work in that moment. Needless to say, by the time I’d left that competition, I’d come to terms with the fact that I would never be the kind of photographer that would create work that would win awards. And the truth is, in that moment, I was totally OK with that. I was OK with not winning awards because that was never a goal of mine. I was only concerned with making a nice living for myself.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the score of 76 along with the scores of the other images I’d seen in the competition subconsciously provided a shift in my perspective. We’ve all experienced something in our lives that at first glance seemed amazing but upon further inspection we realized it wasn’t what it seemed. Kind of like the idea of shooting weddings for $1,000. When we dig deeper we can see the flaws in the concept and see what we can improve. Then those $1,000 weddings become $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, then you’re well on your way to being a bona fide Cincotta.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the July 2022 magazine.