The 2016 Best of the Best Engagement Photo Contest – Interview with the Judges

Judges_Interview

Have you heard the great news? Our 4th annual Best of the Best Engagement Photo Contest is now open for submissions! You have until May 2nd, 2016 to enter your favorite shots. This year, we’ve got an all-star lineup of judges in place who can’t wait to review every image submitted. Our judges, Phil Chester, Samm Blake, and Hendra Lesmana of Cheese N Click Photography, are here today to talk photography, contests, and what they’re looking forward to seeing in this year’s submissions. Please enjoy and don’t forget to submit your work here!

Phil Chester – Portland, Oregon

Follow Phil on social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Phil Chester Headshot

What are you hoping to see when reviewing for the 2016 Best of the Best Engagement Photo Contest?

Ah, this is so fun! I’m looking for an emotional connection to the image. I’m looking for photos that make me feel something. It can be really easy to simply plop two people holding hands in front of a pretty backdrop. I want to see not only how the couple connects emotionally with each other but how they connect/interact with the environment. In an age where there’s so much talent in the photography community, especially wedding community, emotional connection to photos is the only thing that will make your work stand out from the pack. We’re supposed to be capturing true love right? I want to feel that.

PhilChester9 Photo by Phil Chester

What advice, if any, do you have for photographers entering this contest?

Don’t stress yourself out over this. While it’s easy to get caught up in trying to choose a “winner” — this should be fun. It’s like a hardcore portfolio cull. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your work simply by trying to pick the best of the best. You’ll see trends in yourself, things you love and things you want to improve upon. Which is awesome because that’s how we get better. It’s also how we get a grasp on who we are as photographers and what voice we’re reaching for. Select the images of yours that you personally connect with most and mix that with what your audience or others responded to best. Tie the two together and see what your selection looks like.

PhilChester2 Photo by Phil Chester

How can entering a photography contest jumpstart your career as a photographer?

Literally every single bit of online exposure gives your business momentum. The more credible links to your website you have, not to mention contest awards, the higher ranking your SEO will be. Which basically means, the more people that can find you, the more people can book you.

PhilChester3 Photo by Phil Chester

Does being a contest winner help your credibility with brides? Do you think you receive more bride inquiries as an award-winning photographer?

While I have never been a bride before, I do think couples looking for a photographer definitely get excited about booking someone who has won contests. I’ve also received inquiries where the couple found me exclusively through contests just like this.

Hendra Lesmana – Jakarta, Indonesia

Follow Hendra on social: Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram

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What are you hoping to see when reviewing submissions for the 2016 Best of the Best Engagement Photo Contest?

Photos with uniqueness, great emotion, and awesome light. Photos that I haven’t thought of before.

Does being a contest winner help your credibility with couples? Do you think you receive more inquiries as an award-winning photographer?

Absolutely, and it also has helped me to grow more as a photographer. I am receiving more inquiries as an award-winning photographer especially from couples who know me from my award winning images.

cheesenclickphotography_hendralesmana04 Photo by Hendra Lesmana of Cheese N Click Photography

What was your favorite image from last year’s Best of the Best Engagement contest? Why was this image your favorite?

Number 21 by Marco Narsete. This is a strong photo with emotion and great timing for the framing.

Marco Narsete of Narsete Photography

What advice, if any, do you have for photographers entering this contest?

Each competition is different, so learn what makes the contest you’re entering different, and it might help you understand what to submit better.

Samm Blake – Brooklyn, New York

Follow Samm on social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

SammBlake_Bio

What have you learned about photography contests over the years?

The best thing I have learnt about entering contents is how important it is to set time aside every year to review your last 12 months worth of work. To pick out your favorite images, to update your portfolio and/or make selections for competitions. Spending time reviewing my work in this way has taught me a lot and helps me identify where I think I am falling short. It encourages me to push myself forth, to try harder and encourages me to push myself in a new direction. Generally, I need a deadline to actually make me do this, so entering competitions can be the perfect exercise to make me actually stop, reflect and create a new plan of attack.

SAMMBLAKE_007 Photo by Samm Blake

What are you hoping to see when reviewing submissions for the 2016 Best of the Best Engagement?

I hope to see photographs that break the norm of what we normally see in engagement photography. I want to see a breakdown of the stereotypes and boundaries that engagement photography often gets. I want to see photographs that challenge (and hopefully changes) my way of thinking about engagement photography.

SAMMBLAKE_002 Photo by Samm Blake

What advice, if any, do you have for photographers entering this contest?

Challenge yourself to go through your entire collection of photographs and pick out images that really show off your unique way of seeing and photographing, what you feel most inspired by and connected to.

How can entering a photography contest jumpstart your career as a photographer?

Entering photography contents can help you get put on the radar and get your name out there and can help build your street cred, but ultimately the best thing it can give you is the process of regularly going through your own work, critiquing your own work, getting peers to critique your work, being hard on yourself knowing you can always do better. This is what will push new ideas forth and challenge the way you are currently doing things. This hunger for improvement will make you a better photographer no matter where you are in your photography career.

SAMMBLAKE_004 Photo by Samm Blake

Does being a contest winner help your credibility with brides? Do you think you receive more bride inquiries as an award-winning photographer?

I think it can definitely help, particularly when you want to raise your prices. Having some award-winning photographs under your belt can help validate yourself, which ultimately builds your confidence and that therefore helps sell yourself to a client more.

What was your favorite image from last year’s Best of the Best Engagement contest? Why was this image your favorite? 

This photograph by Chellise Michael is my favorite of the whole collection. I love the way the woman is making eye contact with the camera. There is something about her gaze I really like. I also really liked how Chellise broke ideas around what a normal engagement shoot means.. She really challenged my way of thinking about pushing engagement shoots into a more artistic collaboration between photographer & clients.

Chellise Michael of Chellise Michael Photography Photo by Chellise Michael … winner of the 2015 Best of the Best Engagement Photo Contest

Big thanks to our judges for their sage advice. If you’re ready to enter your work for this year’s Best of the Best Engagement contest, then head on over to our submission page. If you’re looking for more information about this year’s contest, check out our FAQ page, as well as the contest Official Rules. Best of luck to all who enter!

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