Participating in a photo contest helped stimulate my creativity

The value of participating in non-authorised projects in a photography career is very high, and photo contests are a prime example of that.

In 2019, I am always busy and rarely take any photography work that is not a paid job, such as weddings, portraits, event work, etc. Big problem with this This is that nearly all of my photography efforts are aimed at customer delight, and there are very few opportunities to draw on my own ideas, which discourages me in the creative department. It wasn’t until I decided to enter a statewide portrait competition that I realized what was wrong with my approach and how important it is to nurture your creative side to keep yourself from falling apart. exhausted.

The contest I entered is open to anyone in Wyoming and is judged by photography icons Joel Grimes and Josh Rossi, among others. The only real rule is that you must choose one of the many “subjects” for your shooting idea. I chose the theme “Strange West”.

After befriending a local TV actor and model, I talked for a long time about my talents, exchanging ideas. I always try to be open to ideas in the creative process and his modeling experience helped us narrow down the right wardrobe for the shoot.

For the filming location, I searched for a common area that I liked, eventually finding a former polygamist farm that suited my needs. After getting permission to use the place, I moved on to writing some final details. We’ll draw a lot of inspiration from old 1960s Marlboro Man commercials, lube films and modern western cinema.

Using connections from my work on a TV series, I purchased a historically significant prop car that I felt fit the theme I was pursuing – a big body. Mercury in the 1960s. I was also looking for a location that would fit my concept. It’s a former polygamist ranch in Utah, so the “weird” thing is still valid.

No good project happens without some hitch and my full frame Canon DSLR wasn’t back from being repaired by the time the shooting date came out, but I recently bought the camera. its first mirrorless camera, a mirrorless camera. Fujifilm X-T20, although I have very little experience with it. I thought to myself if I were some kind of photographer, I could finish the shoot with just the tiny Fuji.

In the end, I was right. So yes, in fact, the success of this shoot will be what convinces me to pull the trigger on a top-of-the-line Fuji body, and eventually switch completely to Fuji, one of my favorite career decisions. mine so far. Being attached to the X-T20 for the duration of the shoot is what I now absolutely love, as my favorite lens—the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4. This combination was very small compared to my Canon full frame DSLR and the huge lenses I was shooting at the time. It was a strange feeling at the time, trying to put yourself in a competitive situation with other professionals while holding a camera that at the time still seemed like a toy.

But it is not a toy. The camera is amazing and combined with that lens, it’s a monster. I was able to use my strobe with it after realizing I could use a variable ND filter to keep my shutter speed within the flash sync speed range when shooting at extended mode.

With a very easy to use, albeit unfamiliar camera, and access to my lighting equipment, my model and I arrived at the designated location and began the process of creating a sequence. I planned to select the final submission from that series and aim to make each of them as good as possible using a variety of approaches.

The final image that won the contest had a simple and clear approach. I framed my model sitting in the driver’s seat with the window frame centered around him. I’ve set my strobe light from 45 degrees and facing down, and the sun is positioned in such a way that it will also create a rim light on my model.

Another successful shot in the series uses a silhouette aesthetic approach, evoking the feeling of a hot, dusty afternoon. Implementing it was simple, as I didn’t use strobes and just made good use of the EVF on the XT-20 to create the exact framing and effects I wanted.

After the light faded in the evening sky, I was planning to use astrophotography for one shot, so I created a 12-cell paired multi-level night sky panorama by using the very fast f/1.4 on the only lens I carry with me, my 35mm. Then I would capture that sky and stitch it into a photo behind the subject. This method of swapping the sky feels more realistic to me, since it’s the actual sky that night and not some random image pasted behind my model.

Finally, I tried incorporating matchstick lighting into a low-light scene to create a dynamic look for another option in the series.

After taking this series of photos, I carefully selected and edited them. Deciding which photo should be the final submission was not easy, but I am grateful for the photo I chose. Its simple implementation resulted in an extremely clear image, and I think that contributed to the eventual victory. I was quite shocked when I found out I had won and was very grateful, but the competition was fierce, with some of the other entries completely causing envy.

After I continued to get approval from the contest judges, those images were included in my portfolio. They often grab my attention as a photographer and are very valuable to me, especially when more than one client has hired me based on their approval of the photos. that photo. In the end, the whole effort led to many reasons why it’s a good idea to check in with yourself every now and then, and I recommend anyone to do the same.


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