The above video is a slideshow that showcases the 50 photos I submitted this year to Shoot & Share’s Photo Contest, a free, worldwide photo contest that is as fair and unbiased as its creators are able to make it. Rather than a panel of judges deciding whose work is the best, this contest’s winners are decided by the general public, many of whom are also the participants. If you’re unfamiliar, I’ll explain how this contest works from my perspective:
- Submissions: Once submissions open, participants are welcome to submit up to 50 photos to the contest, each into one of the 25 categories (The Wedding Couple, The Bride, The Groom, The Wedding Party, Guests & Reception, Wedding Details, Styled Wedding, Birth & Newborns, Babies & Toddlers, Kids, Teens & Seniors, Family Portraits, Maternity, People Portraits, Pets/Animals, Lifestyle/Family Documentary, Fashion/Styled Portrait, Engagement & Couples, That Just Happened, Emotion & Excitement, Passion Portrait, Share Joy, Personal Projects, Phone Photography, Travel/Landscape). Your photos, of course, have to be taken by you, family appropriate, photos from real weddings (unless submitted to the Styled Weddings category), submitted to only one category, never submitted to the contest in previous years, and without a watermark (to maintain anonymity). I carefully sorted through the wedding photos I had taken in 2017 and chose my favourites and images I thought might make an impact to voters.
- Voting: Once submissions are closed, voting begins. Anyone who cares to is welcome to vote in the contest. While voting, a grid of 4 photos submitted to a single category will pop up on your screen, with no indication of who the photographer for each of the photos were. You then click one image to vote for it. The 4 photos disappear and another grid of 4 photos appears and the process continues. This means that it’s impossible for a popular photographer to tell their friends, family and fans to go vote for their photos and win because they already have a large fan base. Over the month of February, there were 12 rounds of voting, each round lasting 2 or 3 days. At the end of each round, a percentage of the least voted upon images from each category were eliminated from the contest and the remaining photos continued to the next round, until only the very best images remained. I voted throughout the contest, but I tried to not vote too much, because not only is it addictive, it had me constantly comparing my work to others’.
- Results: After the 12 rounds of voting were complete, the Shoot & Share team released the results, announcing the Top 20 photos of each category, the grand prize winner and results for all of the photos submitted. Participants receive badges for photos that make it to: Top 30% of photos in its category, Top 20%, Top 10%, Finalist (photos that made it to Round 12; the top 3.1%), Top 100 of photos in its category, and the 20th through 1st place photos in each category. I anxiously awaited the results to be released, so that I could see which photos voters responded to and how many photos made it to some of the final rounds of the contest.
Last year I received 8 badges. My 2017 badges looked like this:
Last year, I earned 5x Top 30% badges, 2x Top 20% badges and 1x Top 10% badge. With the goal of doing better this year, I was proud to discover that not only did I earn more of each of the percentage badges, one of my photos earned a Finalist badge:
So, which photos won?! Let’s start with the Top 30% photos:
As a wedding and lifestyle photographer, I put my heart and creative soul into creating the most beautiful, genuine and personalized images for my clients as I’m capable of. I’m constantly pushing myself to be more creative, more technically capable and to create more meaningful, special images that my clients will cherish for a lifetime. It can be incredibly intimidating to share such personal work with the world, especially when you’re asking the public to judge your work, comparing it against thousands of other photographers’ work. It’s scary to know that total strangers will decide in an instant whether or not your best work is as good as another person’s. It can be incredibly difficult to not compare yourself to others in this kind of situation, especially when you see all of the beautiful moments others have captured perfectly and know that the best images you’ve ever taken wouldn’t stand a chance up against them. And though it can be easy to get down on your abilities as an artist in this type of situation, it’s also one of the ways that we, as artists, are able to drive ourselves to always push ourselves to improve.
Here are the photos that earned the Top 20% badge:
A total of 412,379 photos were entered into the contest this year. Over 124 000 voters participated from 130 different countries. Voters spent over 286 000 hours of cumulative time casting over 75 million votes during the month of February.
These are the photos that earned a Top 10% badge:
And finally, the photo that made it to the finalist round of the contest, ranking at 192nd in its category, Guests & Reception:
While this isn’t a photo I would typically showcase at the top of my portfolio, I love the genuine joy this image conveys. Finally, I’m so thankful to my clients for sharing their gorgeous wedding days with me. I have so much fun capturing these meaningful moments into beautiful photographs.