When you are searching for a photographer, is having an award winning photographer important to you as a photography client? I think to answer that, we first must define what is an “award winning photographer”.
For my purposes here, a legitimate award winning photographer has been recognized by their peers (other photographers). There are other “awards” such as those given for collecting a certain number of reviews or having the most number of online votes. But for clarity, “award winning” for this purpose means recognition for excellence in craft given to photographers by other photographers.
Important Elements for a Great Award Winning Photographer
Now, there should be many things that you are asking yourself when you are looking for a wedding photographer or portrait photographer. First, do they have experience? In this day and age, that is an extremely important question. So many people rely on photoshop and filters that the craft of photography is almost an afterthought if a thought at all. An experienced photographer has been practicing their craft for a longer period time, in most cases, than the average picture clicker. Some, including me, have pursued certain levels of expertise in professional photography organizations like Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), which have particular membership requirements, fees and print competitions (more on this below). There are other great groups that offer photography competitions, but these two are the biggies for me and will be my point of reference of this blog post.
Professional Photography Organizations
Both, PPA and WPPI, have extensive training and educational opportunities. They also offer professional print competitions. PPA allow digital entries. WPPI will only accept printed entries for their annual competition (this is my preferred approach since I am a huge advocate of professional prints and having your photographer complete their work by printing it) except for a few select categories.
An aside: a digital file is an unfinished picture. It is completed once it’s printed. Most photographers are more than happy to hand anyone the digital files and be done with it. It’s cheaper and easier for them that way. I discuss this more on my blog post about all day wedding coverage.
Attaining any level of success in either PPA or WPPI competition is challenging to say the least. Sometimes it takes years to achieve even a basic level of success. It is so daunting that most photographers will not subject themselves to it (I don’t blame them. I used to have hair before starting with print competition). But for those that do, you will see a level of expertise that is a above the average “professional photographer”. These photographers have perfected, as close as is possible, the fundamentals of photography. Light, shadow, composition as well as the ability to effectively tell a story in pictures. And so, they are recognized for it by their peers in each organization. Are there photographers with the same skill level who don’t participate in these competitions. Of course there are. Many that are A LOT better. But anything that offers you insight into your decision making will make that decision that much easier.
So, what does this have to do with you, the photography client. Quite a lot, I would say. If you really care about your pictures, you will want someone who is at the top of their craft, correct? Someone that is the best photographer in your area. The mere fact of participation in professional photography organizations shows that a photographer is actively trying to stay on top of their game and present themselves in a more professional manner. Those that have won awards are illustrating that they have not only honed their craft, but have taken it to a level that is recognized by their fellow photographers. Isn’t that what you would want, the best photographer that you can find? If so, you have answered the question of whether it’s important to hire an award winning photographer.
If I bring up any of my photographic accolades to potential wedding clients, it is to show them that I am always sharpening my skills. Pushing myself to be the best for THEM. That is what it is all about for me. Giving my clients that absolute best that I possible can provide them. Squeezing ever last ounce of creativity and skill out of my brain every single time that I pick up my camera. I would do nothing less. And I hope that they would expect nothing less.
Here are a couple of my award winning wedding pictures. You can also click to see my award winning wedding albums.