Becoming a member of the New Hampshire Professional Photographers Association (NHPPA) has been one of the best decisions I have made, not only for my business, but for my personal growth as a photographer.
Every year the Annual Conference includes the Print Competition. Members of the organization work hard all year to create images in hopes of obtaining a blue ribbon. My colleagues have been encouraging me to enter since I became a member, but I personally never felt that getting a blue ribbon did much to prove I am, or am not, a good photographer. I’m my own worst critic and know when I have made a stunning, or crap, image.
Then I learned that the event, although called Competition, is not a competition against other members. It’s an opportunity to get an honest professional critique of your work. You only compete against yourself. The merits you get only help yourself earn awards and credits. But, the feedback you get is priceless.
A month before the competition I learned that Ken Sklute was one of the six judges. Ken is a Canon Explorer of Light, and an absolutely amazing artist and great person. His images tell stories about his travels around the world. He has photographed everything from drag car races, weddings, landscapes and spent hours in -37 degree temperatures to capture the northern lights, to extreme hot temperatures to stand above an active volcano, and to earning the trust of the Amish to live with them and photograph their lifestyle. Here was an excellent opportunity to have a photographer that I admire look at my work and give me an honest critique. I couldn’t pass that up.
The hardest part was deciding what five images to enter. I finally choose these images based on the criteria and categories: Illustrative, Social Candid, Wedding, Commercial. Had I known more about how the images are critiqued I would have chosen a couple different ones if I wanted to receive five blue ribbons.
I really am my own worst critic, so I was curious if the judges would prove me right. And they certainly did. But, it turned out to be the best experience, ever. I commend all the judges for offering critiques without making it sound like harsh criticism, but then again, if you want to be a better photographer, you gotta leave your ego at the door.
After the Print Competition, the Conference included four full days of learning from talented photographers who shared their knowledge and experiences with us, including Jeff Shaw, Audrey Wancket, Darton Drake, and Ken Sklute, among others. An amazing weekend spent with members who are talented artists and great friends.
I am so excited and inspired to make 2013 a year of creating my best work!