I'm a published wedding and portrait photographer located in a small town outside of Charlottesville. In addition to capturing beautiful images, I love spending time with my family, am freakishly good at word games (Hey Wheelmobile!), love an ice cold can of Coke or Dr. Pepper, know every line to Hocus Pocus and can never pass up a Chick-fil-A waffle fry or a trip to HomeGoods.
Like 9,999 other photographers, I entered photos into this year’s Shoot & Share Photo Contest. The contest is held each year and is based on peer voting. It’s nice because photos are uploaded into categories with each photographer allowed a maximum of 50 entries and then once voting begins, they are randomly grouped into grids of four with voters picking their favorite among the grid. There’s no identifying data so it’s not a popularity contest, but rather based on the photo itself. This continues for weeks, with the photos not receiving as many votes kicked out every few days until the 12th round which selects the winners. There’s also a bonus “Best of the Best” round which lumps the photos into smaller categories to yield the best the contest has to offer.
Last year, I entered 50 photos in the contest, because why not. It’s free, it’s easy, let’s do it. I was really excited when one placed in the Top 30 percent. The photo is from Rhen and Erin’s Paynefield Farm wedding and was entered into the “All Dressed Up” category. It made it to the fifth round of voting and placed 1,426 out of 22,953 photos in the category.
This year, the Shoot & Share contest size grew from last year’s 225,000 photos total to 330,000 so making it to the fifth round of voting doesn’t quite equal the Top 30 percent depending on which category it is. Some categories have more photos than others which helps determine what place certain badges are. However, I only had one goal in mind when I entered my 50 photos this year and that was to do better than last year. I’m so excited to say I achieved that goal. I’m no way near winning, but I’m still super excited that I had a few photos make it to the final rounds.
Four of my 50 photos made it far enough to get badges with one in the Top 30 percent, two in the top 20 percent and one making it to the final finalist round.
Hitting top Top 30 percent was this one, featuring my lilac bush. It made it to the sixth round of voting in the “Details: Ring Shot” category and placed 2,237 out of 8,304.
Making it to the Top 20 percent of the “Just the Bride” category was this photo of Kristen in her stunning wedding gown. The photo made it to the seventh round of voting and placed 2,304th our of 13,834.
Also hitting the Top 20 percent, but in the “Details: All Dressed Up” category was this shot of Aubrey’s shoes and jewelry. It made it to the seventh round of voting and was 1,016th out of 6,395.
Aubrey’s shoes and jewelry were also my top placing image. I loved her details so much I couldn’t just choose one and I guess voters couldn’t either.
This photo made it to the final round of voting in the “Details: All Dressed Up” category and placed 507th out of 6,395.
I had lots of other photos I loved from weddings, portrait sessions and styled shoots last year that didn’t quite badge up, but I don’t love them any less. The contest is just a fun way to see what people are working on. I also like voting because it helps me define my style. I love detail shots and I also love really wide portraits where the people are in focus, but you also get a sense of where they’re at and what their surroundings are. I think sometimes we focus too much on just the subject and forget about the beautiful field they may be in or the lake behind them or whatever and those are the shots that make for gorgeous canvases later. I’ve definitely made it a point over the last year to include more of those in galleries and that’s something that came out of voting in the previous Shoot & Share contest.
The contest is held once a year typically beginning with open submissions in January. I definitely plan to enter again next year with the same goal as this year–do a little bit better than the last.