“The world’s best wedding photographers”– Wedding Photography Select
It’s like I’ve always said: I’m a good photographer, but clueless when it comes to writing blogs, marketing and generally everything else that’s required to succeed in wedding photography. I have to remind myself to publish my achievements, and although I’m blessed to win a lot of awards, (now) I don’t know what to do about it when they come in. I see a lot of my colleagues jump into auto-pilot; first comes the Facebook post (queue 100+ likes), and then the blog, which usually gives thanks to the awarding body and wishes everybody well.
Of course, I’m also grateful to the people who run the awards, and I always wish the world the very best, so I’ll say it now and move onto the thing that really on my mind.
I’ve hinted in the past that I’m feeling a pull away from awards, and the only reason I entered (and won) these images in Collection 45 of the Wedding Photography Select Excellence Collection was because the admin asked me to participate, for free. Would I have been involved had it been paid? No. In-fact the last time I entered was six rounds ago. You can see my winning photos in Collection 39 here. I don’t want to come across as biting the hand that’s feeding; I’m very grateful for freebies, and it’s not a dig at WPS, this is more of a broader commentary about the position we (the wedding photography industry) have got ourselves in.
I would imagine that the wedding photography awards industry has become lucrative, and off the top of my head, I can think of around 15 different sites that offer accolades. Each making claims to rewarding the best, and some even holding values just as photojournalism close to their heart. But with more awards popping up each year, when is enough, enough? I don’t think I’m there and clearly, I still keep a toe in the water, but with every month I’m getting closer to packing it in.
I would suppose it’s a strange time to write about my feelings on awards, at the same time as publishing four winning photos, but it’s been playing on my mind for a long time. Also, I don’t want to take anything award from these four incredible weddings; I’m happy that each of these photos has received recognition.
Entering substantially fewer awards has saved me hundreds (of pounds). Still, more importantly, it could have also improved my ability to tell stories. (huh, how does that work!?) Throughout 2019, on some occasions, I’ve stopped myself from focussing on big grand statements like epic portraits and backlit flash pictures and concentrated on telling the story in more intimate ways. I might have seen an incredible sunset and persuaded my couple to follow me up onto the hill. Whereas now, in contrast, I’m less inclined to interrupt, especially if they’re deep into conversation with a guest who might have travelled hundreds of miles to attend. It’s an arbitrary example, but hopefully, you catch my drift. I’ve chosen to become ever more present in the moment and document more of what’s in front of me, rather than thinking about the creative opportunity that’s just around the corner.
I know what you might be thinking. Can’t both be done? Shoot the moment AND win awards? Yes, of course. A lot of what’s happening is striking a more careful balance and working out how to be a better version of myself. If I see an incredible sunset, I’m not ignorant to it, but wouldn’t it be better if I could catch kids playing in the light (completely unchoreographed) rather than move them along to make way for the couple. It’s a shift in the way I’m thinking.
And then there are awards. I’m slowly coming around to the idea that awards on individual images aren’t necessarily the best indicator on a photographers ability to tell the story of an entire day. Awards are a superb way to celebrate hard work and achievement but can a single image be a good measure of anything other than the ability to curate and carefully edit 1-2 images per wedding out of thousands?
With all the above said, I am proud to have collected 4 in this round. As with all WPS collections, it features some fantastic work from fantastic creatives, and winning one would have been an achievement, four is phenomenal. When the email arrived, it said: “We do not just give these awards away and only around 3% to 5% of images make the final list.”
If the odds of winning 1 is an average of 4%, then (by my shaky maths) the chances of winning 4 are around 1/1600 (feel free to fact check me and let me know if I’m wrong!) The numbers blow my mind, and regardless of how I view awards longer term, it’s a significant achievement. I’m feeling rather proud of myself.
To see more of my wins from Wedding Photography Select, check out my dedicated landing page, and if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.