And just like that, it’s that time of year again. Our annual wedding photography contest is here. There’s nothing we love more than being able to see all of the beautiful wedding photos submitted by photographers from around the world. Whether you’ve submitted before or this is your first year, there are some things that we believe you should know. But rather than tell you them ourselves, we figured, why not ask our talented judges to share their insight?
We’re so excited about this year’s three judges. Joining us for the 2023 Best of the Best Wedding contest are Mic Panic, Brittany Boote, and Henry Tieu. They’re three photographers we respect immensely and who have made a lasting impact on the industry. That’s why we knew they were the perfect people to turn to when we decided it was time to share tips and tricks for entering a wedding photo contest.
What makes a wedding photo stand out as the best of the year to you?
Brittany Boote: I call it the “scroll-stopping” factor. An image or a portrait that manages to capture emotion, while also being dynamic and interesting as far as composition, lighting, and technique. When all the key elements of “feeling”, artistry, intention, and overall vision combine to create something truly engaging. The kind of shots that just stop you & you think to yourself, “Woah. That is simply excellent.” While jaw-dropping locations and iconic scenery can do some of the heavy lifting, there’s always room for those outstanding images, I think simplicity has its place as well, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Henry Tieu: As a wedding photographer myself, I admire the kind of dedication we wedding photographers have towards not only our art form but also our clients. Wedding photography is so different from any other kind of photography. It is the only place where you have to really excel in multiple facets: sport, documentary, fashion, photojournalism, landscape, abstract, etc. I do think that there’s one aspect of wedding photography that is important regardless of what style the photographer is: capturing emotions. A wedding photo that stands out as the best of the year would be the one that makes me stop, think, and consider the lives of those who are in the photographs. I’ll be on the lookout for photos that hold stories and portray emotions.
What do you want to see in the submissions? Is there anything you hope not to see?
Brittany: I’ve always been drawn to big, thoughtful, show-stopping compositions myself, but I am really excited to see some “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of moments happening. The kind of magic that unfolds during the unexpected. Images that could be viewed 100 years from now, and still hold true to a story or moment that can never be reproduced. I’ve always found those shots so powerful and moving. I would also love to see photographers being a bit brave, and taking risks with interesting light, maybe some daring portraiture that breaks a few rules in really beautiful ways.
Henry: As a judge, this opportunity of viewing thousands of photos is also a great way to learn more about the wedding world and about photography itself. I am hoping to learn through viewing the submissions. I am hoping to learn about the diversity in the kind of weddings being photographed around the world. I want to learn about the creative use of light and composition to tell a better story. I want to learn about breaking the rules of photography to create art that is unique.
There isn’t anything I don’t want to see. I wholeheartedly believe that photography is an art form, and it is very subjective. I want to keep an open mind when it comes to being a fair judge for this contest.
What is your process when it comes to selecting images to submit to contests?
Brittany: I expect as I begin to look through, it will feel very intuitive. As I narrow down, I plan to take my time to really navigate the moment, the composition, the emotion, and the intention behind each image. What I do know for sure is that it is going to be VERY difficult with the amount of amazing photos that are submitted every year. I absolutely cannot wait to get to see them all!
Henry: Submitting to contests is actually a really amazing way to look through your accomplishments and reflect. With how busy life gets, how many of us get to really sit down and review our work after a whole year of hard work? It doesn’t matter if you have won contests with those photos or not, it is truly a huge accomplishment when it comes to successfully capturing and delivering important moments for our couples. You should pat yourself on the back for that. And now, look through your work again, acknowledge the hard work you’ve done and where you are. It’s the only way we can move forward
For me, when it comes to selecting images, I’d look through every gallery I’ve photographed this year. Within them, I’d select photos that represent:
My style of photography
Honest and emotional moments
Wildly incredible light and/or composition
Those three criteria above usually would leave me with photos that are different from what people might have seen every day.
What advice do you have for photographers who are submitting their work for the first time?
Brittany: I think spending time to perfect the image is important. If it’s a fabulous photo, but the crop is off, or there is something distracting or pulling away from the focus & the heart of the image, don’t be afraid to adjust what you need to bring it to life. Take your time with your submission. You know that photo you snapped and couldn’t wait to rush home to edit it? Think about those shots. The ones that really excited you & reaffirmed your purpose in documenting these days for your clients. Whenever I would narrow down shots to submit, I would look at my image and think, have I brought this image to life the best way I can? If I can answer that with conviction, I feel ready to add it to the collection.
Henry: Being a wedding photographer in a digital age is such a vulnerable thing to do. You create art and then share that with the world without knowing what might come your way. And now, submitting your art to be judged can feel so overwhelmingly vulnerable. I do think vulnerability and bravery share one thing in common: breakthrough. This breakthrough is what artists need in order to reflect, to learn, and to grow. It is scary yet so fulfilling. If there’s one piece of advice I could give, it’s please don’t be scared to share your talents with the world.
Can you share one of your favorite wedding photos you’ve taken? What makes it your favorite?
Brittany: This is incredibly difficult! I strive to create work I’m really proud of every wedding. I’m always learning something new, and refining my process. My approach to photography, in general, is always evolving, and changing, and I fall in love with a new technique or way to anticipate a moment all the time. I have one favorite image probably from every single wedding that I would want to share.
While I have so many organic moments that I love, I chose this portrait of my bride Gabrielle. I have a deep love for portraiture, so when I can capture someone that really honest about their sense of self, and feels very intentional, I become really energized by that. Gabrielle is an Interior Designer and lover of architecture. I wanted to capture her in a way that really enveloped her within the architecture around her. I set up this shot as if I was shooting the space, the interior, and the architecture, while still thoughtfully directing the composition to focus solely on her. I loved how simple, and intentional it was for her. Every wedding, I try to challenge myself to create something so special and new for my couples. I want them to have something very personal, and unique that really honors their identities, not only together but individually.
Henry: This is a hard question for sure. It truly is hard to pick a favorite, but if I have to pick only one, this double exposure right here is something I’m so proud of. I captured the bride’s getting ready moment, and I love the emotions in her body language, it was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. It’s the longing to see her husband and to share her vows. I used that image as the first layer for the double exposure to show the 2nd image, which is the landscape where they shared their vows. It is my personal favorite because it is a summary of everything that I stand for with my photography: documenting emotions and landscapes while not forgetting the importance of creating art while doing so.
Do you have any final words for contestants hoping to win this year’s competition?
Brittany: First, be proud of yourself for having the courage to enter. It’s not an easy thing to sit down and dissect your own work. It’s actually quite difficult, honestly. Don’t overthink it (easier said than done!). The “wow” factor that we might be seeing, is so much different than the “wow” factor your client feels and sees, and at the end of the day, you’re the best of the best to them, and that’s really what we do this wonderful work for!
Henry: One final word: We are often our own worst critics. The thing about being an artist is that we tend to judge and compare. We suffer from imposter syndrome. We might go from the highest high of immersing ourselves in the wedding day and document moments that words can’t fully express, but then we also go from the lowest low when we dissect our work and compare it with others. Have fun with this process, and submit your work. Your art is worth it!
A huge thank you to our judges for taking the time to answer our questions about entering a wedding photo contest. We know they’ve got a lot going on, so it means the world that they gave us insight into what they’re looking forward to with this contest. We cannot wait to see what is submitted. And, with that, it’s time to share your work. Have a wedding you’re obsessed with? Submit it now!