To celebrate the upcoming show PhotoPro , hosted by Kevin Kubota (www.twitter.com/kevinkubota) WHCC (www.whcc.com) is proud to announce their first giveaway ...
Michele Westmorland (a member of the iLCP) is from Seattle and specializes in capturing travel and cultural images from around the world. She is also known f...
A short slide show of the winnng images from the 2006 Microsoft Future Pro Photographer Contest for college students.. This year's deadline to enter is May 3...
This week, Bay Photo Lab is giving away NEW! intensiTiles™ - Up to $215.95 Value - Your Choice of a 3 Piece, Quad, or Trilogy Package Get creative with your ...
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001FOREK4?ie=UTF8&tag=husohdxrre-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001FOREK4 Digital Camera Reviews, Ph...
With the deadline for the British Underwater Image Festival (BUIF) approaching, judge Alex Mustard offers his top ten tips for succeeding in underwater photography competitions
wow with the judges and a BUIF winner
in 2007. Nacho used a compact for this photo,
it is not what you’ve got, but what you do with it
ordinary subject and uses perfect technique to
elevate it to art. Taken under Plymouth
Breakwater, it goes to show that you don’t
need exotic diving to win. Competitions are about
1. COMPETITION SHOTS ARE DIFFERENT: The golden rule is that not every good photograph is a good competition shot. Some photos are ideal for telling a story on the pages of DIVE, others make an attention-grabbing cover, others the perfect piece of art to hang on your wall. Competition photos have to impress at every level. They are a different breed of underwater image.
Winning pictures will stop judges in their tracks. An excellent example is Nacho Gil’s photo, the overall winner in 2007, with a silhouette of a boy and a pair of dolphins. It was a striking composition that was easy to understand, leaping off the paper and straight into first place.
One of the best ways to find your images that have this immediate impact is to tile 20 or so across your computer screen and look away, then look back and see which immediately catch the eye. These are usually photos with rich colour and contrast, and pleasing compositional shapes. If they get your attention, they will do the same with the judges.
2. THE X-FACTOR: The other key factor for success is to choose something that stands out from the crowd, that has that little something extra. A typical fish portrait or Red Sea wreck is just not interesting enough these days. Select images that have an extra dimension to impress the judges, such as a secondary subject (for instance, a shrimp on the head of a moray, or a model hovering over a wreck). Incorporating natural behaviour is another way to stand out. Photographs that have a degree of technical difficulty or use unusual techniques such as split levels, long exposures, off-camera strobes or snoots often do well. Judges like to reward photographers who have made the effort to do something a little different.
That said, the basic approach can pay off if you nail it. In 2008, Charles Erb won the British category with a simple portrait of a nudibranch, which was so perfectly executed and so exquisitely printed, we found it irresistible. Here, the ‘X-factor’ came from creating such beauty out of something relatively mundane.
3. NO PHOTOCOPYING: It is important to look at the winners from previous years to get an impression of the standard and the types of images that do well. But submitting a carbon copy of the previous year’s winner is not going to lead to success – even if you happened to take yours first! The impact will be lost.
Also, avoid entering duplicates of well-known underwater photos – especially one of the judge’s own signature shots – as these are likely to end up in the ‘seen it before’ pile.
4. PERFECT PRINTS: BUIF is one of the few marine photography competitions in which the entries are all judged as prints, so the quality of your prints is important. The most amazing photo will not win if it is not well printed.
It is possible to produce great prints either with a home inkjet photo printer or using a professional printing company. It is also possible to produce lousy ones. The best advice is not to leave it until the last minute – get your prints done early, so if they are not perfect, you have time to redo them.
Many poor images can be cropped, tarted up and made to look good on a computer screen, but prints are much less forgiving (which is one of the reasons we use them) and will show up poor shooting technique and overuse of ‘Dr Photoshop’, as Charles Hood puts it.
5. SELECTION DILEMMA: A common mistake is to enter images that you are emotionally attached to. Pictures that were difficult to take or came from an amazing dive are likely to be your favourite, but the judges don’t know the story behind them. Try showing your shortlist to friends, family or even colleagues at work. They can guide your selection without the emotional attachment. Enter your best photos, not the photos from your best dive.
One of the most reliable sources of advice is a regular underwater photography buddy. They can give you honest and technical feedback, which won’t always be complimentary, but is much more valuable than the inevitable ‘amazing!’ comments you will get when posting images on Flickr and Facebook. Although if you regularly dive together, confer to make sure you don’t enter very similar shots, as this will lessen their impact.
6. UNDERSTANDING THE JUDGING: When trying to decide which images to enter, it can help to consider how competitions are judged. These days, competitions attract hundreds of underwater photos, and, with the advances in cameras, the majority are very good. The first stage of the process is to cull the images, before a smaller selection is debated and discussed at length.
Culling is a difficult job, and the easiest reason for judges to reject a photo is a technical flaw: poor focus, poor exposure, poor printing or poor composition. Get the basics right and don’t give the judges an excuse to reject your shots before the business end of the competition.
7. READ THE RULES: I know it’s common sense, but before doing anything, read the rules. In every competition I am involved in, we get entries that are immediately excluded because they have not followed the rules. Macro shots in the wide-angle category, or overseas photos in the UK category (yes – we can tell the difference between a Canadian wolf eel and its cousin from St Abbs) will get your entry excluded. Even the most stunning animal portrait won’t win a category called ‘marine life with diver’ if it doesn’t have a diver in the frame! BUIF has minimal rules, but even then we still get prints that are larger than allowed. Read the rules, highlight the important bits and follow them.
8. RESPECT MARINE LIFE: Many of the subjects in competition photos are marine or freshwater creatures. Even if it is not stated in the rules, no competition wants to promote the harassment of wildlife. Do not take and enter photos that show stressed or ‘repositioned’ animals. Common transgressions are benthic species floating in the water column or creatures picked up and plonked on unnatural backgrounds. Judges who are underwater photographers will spot these straight away. And even if you make it past the judges, you run the risk of being named and shamed on the forums when the results are out!
Encounter shots between divers and marine life always do well in competitions, but these must always been on the creature’s terms, where the animal is clearly relaxed and choosing to interact (such as a seal biting fins). Photos should not show divers grabbing, chasing or riding on wildlife.
9. YOU MUST ENTER: I know it’s obvious, but you can’t win the lottery without a ticket. One of the most common reactions I hear from photographers after a competition is: ‘I have a much better shot of that at home.’ Well, the judges can’t give you first prize unless you enter! Entering BUIF is free – there is no excuse.
10. DON'T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY: By all means, take your photography seriously and strive for those great shots, but treat competitions in the spirit of fun. Judging will always be subjective, and even if you have amazing photos, you won’t win every time. I have plenty of images that have failed to win club competitions and then went on to win major international competitions. There is always an element of luck. So if you don’t win, it doesn’t mean your photos are no good. That same photograph may be top dog next time. Good luck!
Successful competition shots need a visual wow – something that makes them stand out from the crowd and impossible for the judges to ignore.
Unusual techniques, such as backlighting on this crinoid, can elevate a standard scene into a winning image. Being different will make your shots stand out.
Charismatic subjects such as marine mammals, sharks, seahorses and turtles will always appeal to judges. But you still need to photograph them well to win.
Commonly photographed subjects, such as anemonefish, give photographers a chance to show their creativity to the judges by finding new angles and ways to shoot them.
Black and white is another way to make your images stand out, but it will only be successful if the image works in black and white. If your picture leaves the judges wanting to see the colour version, it will be a failure.
The British Underwater Image Festival is now open for entries. To download an entry form and to see last year’s winners, go to www.divemagazine.co.uk/buif. The closing date is 20 March 2010.
Click here to see the winners from 2009.