Thoughts on (some) photo contests

I am almost done with my Iowa State Fair submission. It was a hard choice, and I am not particularly happy with myself and what I can show for last 12 months. Trying to get some ideas and perspective, I looked through the booklets from last two years, checking what kind of images make the cut. And something struck me. I had this thought before, looking at the images in National Geographic Your Shot section. I decided to try to verbalize what I noticed.

So what those two contests- State Fair and Your Shot have in common?
Well, they both are really popular and open to photographers at just about every level. From children playing with parent’s camera and stay-in-home moms shooting children playing outside to seasoned pros, working on personal projects to keep their juices flowing. And simply as that, many of those images which win those contests can be classified as snapshot. What do I mean by that? I mean that those images are not thought through for composition and story. They did not require days of scouting or months of preparation. Did not require tripod. They are just a lucky shots. Somebody happened to be at certain spot with a camera, when it happened, and click, here is the winning image. They for sure have one quality of good image- their uniqueness in catching atypical situation in just this great light. I think they are not, however, the result of creativity on photographers part. It is just a pure luck. You think I am exaggerating? Take a look yourself, and think, if you can repeat the shot and how would you approach it. In most cases, you would not even have any idea where to start.

All I can think of to be able to create such winning images is to get this lucky. To expose yourself to as many unusual situations as you possibly can. Simply by taking the camera with you all the time and having it ready to shoot. Hoping that when the situation worth clicking happens, the light will be perfect and you will remember to put your main subject off center. Or, why bother cropping in camera. After all, you will need to make 11×14, and there is no way perfectly composed 4×6 image will fit into that, anyway.

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