When I left Virginia Beach to compete against the world’s greatest wedding photographers at the Intl. WPPI 16×20 Print Competition, my goal was to score an 80 on any of my entries to receive a silver medal.  This was truly a personal project that I always wanted to do while feeding my soul at the same time.  It was my first time ever competing on a platform of this level and truly a very humbling experience to say the least.  Having scored 75, 75,75 and 76 on my first four prints, I had one more chance to achieve my ultimate goal.  My mother always told me in order to achieve success you have to be willing to embrace humility.  So I’m sitting in this 20×20 room and suddenly my print is displayed for critique.  With the room filled with about 30 photographers waiting for their scores like myself, it was a very intense and powerless feeling.  So as the judges gathered around what was my only chance to score an 80, I looked at the bottom of the screen where you can see the judges inputting their scores.  I saw 82, 80, 78 and 76.  It was then that I felt I had a chance.  All of a sudden the moderator shouted out, “79!”

At first I was a little upset and dejected by coming so close to the silver award.  Then I realize how blessed I was for having this amazing opportunity to have my work scored by the best wedding photographers in the world and fell only a point short of my first ever WPPI competition.  It also told me that my body of work is not far off from receiving a silver or a gold in the very near future.  It was truly the most educational and humbling photographic experience of my career.  Some of the things that hurt my scoring was blown highlights, cropping, lack of detail in the blacks, photo retouching, etc.  JVS, a dear friend and one of the most sought after wedding photographers in the world told me that he loved the portrait of the bride getting tossed in the air and said a tight crop just showing the hands and of the groomsmen in a square format would have gotten me an 85 or better which is a silver distinction award.  I will be ready next year!

A few important pieces of information that I took away from this years WPPI competition is before you enter in a competition, get feedback from industry leaders who you admire and respect.  What you might think is a strong image could be average in the scoring process.  Be prudent in your selections.   Before you submit, read the WPPI guidelines and study the winning portraits from the previous year.  That way you can understand the mindset of the judges and see the body of work of what you are up against.  Be prudent in your presentation and talk to other photographers who have won and get feedback.  If you are not a professional retoucher, get this service outsourced.  Most of the winning portraits are masterfully done with impeccable highlights, superior blacks and overall tonal superiority.  But more importantly, just do it!!  By you competing, you are doing something extraordinary that your colleague photographers are not doing.  The only way you will get a voice in this industry is to compete with the best of the best.  Just like the Nike advertisement, “just do it!”

Special thanks to all of my clients and supporters who continue to make me the best photographer I can possibly be.  And hand salute to WPPI Show Director Jason Groupp, Melissa and Jerry Ghionis and their amazing team of judges for doing an extraordinary job in this year competition.  The tireless effort in the judges and Jason’s team working around the clock made this years WPPI a tremendous success!  #RESPECT!

BK2U4397-2AJ6A8269128-2BK2U0463-2BK2U0463-2Acristina and joe