With thanks to Samantha Jayne Photography for the image of me collecting my award.
The Photographers' Bar
This weekend, I have been away at The Guild of Photographer's annual awards dinner. I was delighted to be awarded the 'Photographer's Bar' in the Baby & Toddler category.
The Photographer's Bar is "awarded to photographers who have successfully had images assessed by the Guild over the course of a year, and have attained a score evidencing an exceptional level of professional skill and consistency".
Why do I enter awards?
I have always been competitive since I was a child (just ask my family who sometimes dread playing board games with me!). I don't see the awards as competing with other photographers, rather I'm competing with myself and trying to improve year-on-year; awards are one way of measuring this.
My goal in 2018 was to be awarded the Photographer's Bar and I am so happy to have achieved it. It was also my goal in 2017, and I missed out - being short by just one image. In fact, I achieved a higher number of award-winning images in 2017, but they were spread too broadly across different categories (as the Bar is awarded after achieving a certain number of award-winning images in a single category) - so in 2018, I decided to put all my effort into one category (babies and toddlers) and it worked!
Clients vs competition
Taking photographs for awards is quite a specific skill - every competition has its own rules and standards, and what scores well may be different in one competition from another. As you learn what scores well in a particular competition you can select images that are likely to fit those requirements.
The images you see awarded may not always be my (or my clients') favourite images, rather they are the ones that tick the technical boxes or requirements of that particular competition. For example, eye contact with the camera is one of the elements that often scores well in the Guild's competition, whereas my favourite images are often where kids are giggling and looking at mum and dad being silly.
I find the Guild competition can seek technical perfection, whereas I seek to capture real and natural moments - the two aren't always compatible. For example, a genuine moment of interaction between a family may not have perfect posing where all hands are in the 'technically correct' place; or a kid laughing uncontrollably may be slightly blurred, but it will be loved by the parents.
Sometimes it's possible to have everything - the technically perfect images, as well as the real moments and happy clients - but my clients come first, so I'll always prioritise keeping you happy and relaxed over refining an image for competition.
What the future holds
At the end of 2018, I said I would take a break from entering competitions, but after having a couple of months off (the Guild competition does not run in November or December), I felt refreshed and decided to enter in January. It's an emotional rollercoaster as you enter then wait three weeks for the judgement; it can be disappointing if an image doesn't perform as well as you might have hoped. As such, I haven't set myself any competition goals for 2019 and I may decide to take a break as the year progresses.
I'm keen to keep improving, however, and will soon be submitting a panel of work to be judged as a project for the next level of qualification by the Guild of Photographers - again this is a different kind of judging as it looks at whether you are showing a consistent style as a photographer, as well as how the panel works together as a set of images. Watch this space for more news soon!
Finally, I'd like to say thank you to all my clients and supporters. I mainly enter client images into competition (rather than shooting specific projects for awards) and I'm so glad that you trust me with photographing your families and capturing your story. I greatly appreciate that you agree to me sharing them so that I can enter them into competition. Thank you!
2018's award-winning images: