WPPI Photo Competitions Inspire Growth and Creativity

May 29, 2020

By Arlene Evans

© Lester Miyashiro

Many photographers used the time they spent at home during COVID-19 to hone and inspire their creativity, documenting their own families and shoring up their brand. What have you created during your time at home or gone back into your files to re-edit or finesse? Have you considered entering any of these images in a WPPI photo competition?

It’s a great way to review your work and see which images are most relevant to your brand. With 32 categories to enter, you have the opportunity to showcase many different areas of your work. And our judges are committed to providing constructive feedback for each image they review (with an option for an audio review).

[Read: WPPI Prizewinners Dissect Their Print Choices]

The First Half competition is the first in a series of three WPPI Awards, including Second Half Online and The Annual: Print, Album and Filmmaking competitions. The points accumulated after entering are part of our Honors of Excellence program and every year we honor the entrants who have reached the next designation at the WPPI Awards Ceremony at our show in Las Vegas.

WPPI Photo Competition winner Lester Miyashiro won first place in 2019.
Lester Miyashiro won First Place in the WPPI Honors of Excellence Awards in 2019.
© Lester Miyashiro

Take, for example. Lester Miyashiro, a wedding photographer based in Hawaii and Japan who won First Place in the WPPI Honors of Excellence Awards for Pre-Wedding Division – Model Bride or Groom Alone Non-Wedding Day in 2019; he’s also reached the Master of WPPI designation.

“I can wholeheartedly point to the WPPI competition as the single most important step in my growth as a photographer,” he says. “The experience of having your work judged by industry leaders and educators is undoubtedly nerve-wracking but essential for reaching your full potential. The feedback you get is invaluable if you want to aspire to get better at your craft.”

[Read: Advice From Master Printmaker Rocco Ancora]

Photographers may not be aware that the WPPI competitions also include a Filmmaking Division with two categories available to enter into: Open Short Film (non-wedding related films) and Wedding/Engagement Short Film (engagement, elopement or wedding films). Films must be 5 minutes or less and should be driven by a compelling narrative using technical and creative production. Filmmakers have found that competitions are important to their creativity, as Amber Baird, speaker and judge for WPPI, makes the point: “As wedding filmmakers it’s easy to get stuck in the rut of doing the same thing over and over getting good results. Submitting to a competition like WPPI pushes us to break out of the norm, push boundaries and really create something exceptional. This evolution is important in elevating the industry as a whole.”

Amber Baird gets inspired by submitting work to WPPI.
Amber Baird says submitting to a competition like WPPI helps push boundaries and break from the norm. Photo courtesy of Amber Baird

Gary Hughes, who has been a judge for numerous competitions including WPPI, shared this with me: “Every judge has their own way of evaluating images, but one of the things that always moves me is storytelling. Anything that draws you in and invites you to think about what you are looking at more deeply can improve the score. Even something as simple as a standard studio portrait can impact me greatly if it has even a single extra element that enhances the narrative.”

Kelly Brown won a Grand Award in WPPI The Annual in 2020 for her newborn submission to the competition.
Kelly Brown won First Place/Grand Award in the WPPI The Annual Competition for Portrait Division – Newborn. © Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown, a WPPI speaker and Grand Award winner from Australia, also competes in competitions worldwide and explains why it’s important for her to enter: “It’s not about entering to compete against other photographers or for the trophies (even though the trophies and accolades are nice) but to push myself creatively and to continually be inspired by other photographers,” she explains. “Not to mention the advice and feedback from judges, which isn’t always fun to hear at first but when accepted for the constructive feedback it is, is always educational. By having my work judged by leaders in our industry, it helps me produce the highest level of work that my clients deserve.”

[Read: What It’s Like To Be A WPPI Print Competition Judge]

So get inspired! Look at the work you’ve created, decide what you’re most proud of and enter the First Half Online Competition. Deadlines for submissions are June 23, 2020 and July 7, 2020 for the extended deadline. Good luck and stay safe and healthy! And don’t hesitate to drop me a line and let me know what you want to read about in my next column!

Arlene Evans is the content director for WPPI and the Photo Group. Previously, she was head of the photography channel at CreativeLive, and before that the Director of WPPI. Email her at arlene.evans@emeraldx.com.