Tag Archives: Mobile Photography Awards

HOW TO SUCCEED IN SMARTPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITIONS

With the upcoming Mobile Photography Awards competition taking place I was  asked by Tommy Wallace to do an interview with him about smartphone photography competitions. Below is a copy of this interview.

Brendan, I want to thank you for this opportunity. Will you briefly describe your involvement in mobile photography contests?

I’ve been a judge on a number of them now over the past few years. It is great to be on the other side of things after being an entrant before. I guess having been fortunate enough to have won in the major mobile photography competitions (MPAs, iPhone Photography Awards and Mira Mobile Prize), the organisers invited me to judge in these competitions. It’s been a great experience, and also one that comes with responsibility to ensure the best images get the recognition they deserve.

Would there be any advantage to try to guess what a certain juror is looking for and submit photos according to his/her tastes?

From my own experience I know how hard it is to put together a series of images to enter a competition. The selecting is easy. The hard part is deselecting. The thing about the MPAs is that Dan Berman (founder) assigns categories randomly to judges. So, it is very unlikely that I would get the Street Photography category. Also, speaking personally, but I am sure it is the same for most judges, I would be hesitant to select an image which people might feel was very similar to my own style of photography unless it was a stellar shot that could not be ignored.

I probably will repeat myself in this interview, but I really believe you’ve got to go with your instinct on these things and not be guided by what you think judges might like. I know I have entered competitions thinking a particular judge likes a particular style, and entering accordingly. It never works out.

How important is the storytelling aspect of submitted photos in contests?

Photos are springboards for stories. Strong images will connect in a way that the viewer can enter the image and allow his or her imagination to build on what is presented.

How does composition figure into selecting a photo for submission?

Hugely. A technically perfect photograph cannot compensate for a poor composition, but conversely a dynamic and engaging composition can overcome technical flaws. For me, photography is always about composition, story and the moment.

How daring should a photographer be when it comes to originality? Should all caution be thrown to the wind or is it good to exercise discipline according to the “rules” of photography?

I am not really one for rules. Rules can stymie creativity. Again it comes back to trusting yourself. If you are an experimental photographer and entering the MPAs, there are categories there just for you like Digital Art/Photo Illustration, Visual Effects and The Darkness. I think it is a good idea to check the winning shots in the different categories from previous years to get an idea of the types of images that can fit.

What do you find are the most common mistakes people make when entering smartphone photography competitions?

Well, the biggest mistake, one which surprisingly does happen, is to enter an image that is not shot and edited on a smartphone.

Others would be when you have three killer shots of the same person or the same location, but all in essence just variations of the same, don’t enter the three. You are diluting your chances, all three will not be selected.

Take some time to check previous winning shots in the different categories to see if your shot is a match in type. Often entrants will post photos that just do not fit the category. In saying that I must commend Dan for ensuring high-quality images entered in the wrong category do not get looked over.

Do you believe it is helpful to get second opinions about what to enter?

Definitely, but ultimately you’ve got to trust yourself.

So let’s say I go to someone for confirmation of my photo selection. Who would you recommend I seek out?

I have a couple of people who I would trust. My wife is probably the best judge. A simple nod or shake of the head does it for me with her. I would say to reach out to a photographer friend who will be honest with you, but ultimately go with your guts and enter what you feel are your best shots.

Brendan, you’ve been extremely helpful. To finish up, if there is one most important tip you could give someone entering a smartphone photography contest, what would it be?

Prepare for disappointment. You probably are not going to win. I know that sounds harsh, but it is the truth.

But here’s the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.

I guess what I am saying is competitions are great if you do well, but they sure do suck if you don’t. Photography should not be a competitive pursuit.

My advice to anyone entering a competition, be it photography or not, is to always get back to why you do it. You will find that the answer is because it’s fun. If it’s not then give up. Find another hobby.

Brendan, I want to thank you for giving us all a better idea of how we can remain passionate about our smartphone photography and remain focused on what is important at the same time. I know I’ve certainly learned so much from you in this interview and I’m sure many others will as well.

Thanks to Tommy for doing the interview. Hope these tips help you if you are entering a photography competition. Trust yourself! 

 

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, Interviews, iPhone, iPhone photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Mobile Photography Awards 2014

Hobbies are fun and is there a more fun hobby than photography? Is there a more fun form of photography than iPhoneography (iPhunography)? I don’t think so! And like all hobbies competition forms a part of it. Competition allows us to learn; allows us to set goals and work towards achieving them. Sure, we can’t all be successful and we all can’t be winners, but to paraphrase the old adage – we might not achieve our dreams, but in trying to we achieve things otherwise impossible. 

I entered the international Mobile Photography Awards (MPAs) in 2013 and was really pleased to get two Honourable Mentions (HMs). (click on here and here to see them.) I wrote:

This is a competition I really like. It is exceptionally well-organised and there is so much quality in the winning images and those which received honourable mentions. Mobile photography is innovative and has real momentum. There is a thriving mobile photography community and some extraordinary people driving it forward with passion. Daniel K. Berman, the founder of the Mobile Photography Awards, is one of these people. The MPAs, I believe are helping photographers to emerge and to gain recognition. And also, the competition is inspiring photographers to learn, to experiment, to innovate and to have fun.  You can read the full article here.

While I was initially disappointed and felt like giving it all up, I realised that it was quite an achievement to get two HMs and that I should be pleased with myself. I was, and I set about trying to improve as a photographer, trying to improve with the iPhone as a camera. I set myself a target to win a category in the 2014 MPAs. Unfortunately, I did not win a category and have to say I was (and still am) very disappointed not to have. However, I got six HMs across four different categories. This was second in number only to the winner, Shel Serkin (more about this great photographer later) who got seven HMs. I should be pleased. I am pleased, but I want to improve even more and is it shallow of me to want to gain recognition, to win something? Perhaps. Not all of us can be like Vivian Maier, however.

Reading what I wrote last year, still holds true:

And there is the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.

So, once again, I start off on this dream. I find that now I am more aware of what I want to see, how I want to see it and how I want to shoot and with this I am building a more coherent body of work. But I keep coming back to the same thing; the fact that I love photography. I am deadly serious about it, but it is such fun.

If you have some time, click here to review the different categories in the MPAs. There is some stellar photography there. And then take some time to review the work of the Grand Prize Winner – Shel Serkin. Shel is a street photographer based in New York. Shel’s work has always made me stop, examine and admire. He appears to connect with those he photographs, even though most are candid shots, and reveals something in them that in turn connects with ourselves. If you follow Shel’s work, you will see that he gives the characters in his images names – Wendy, Moe, Chloé, Jonah. In doing so, this, with such clever ease, sparks your imagination even more and you find yourself constructing much more than you can see in the given image. Shel is a true artist. Here is a gallery of 50 images of his I put together a few months back. Enjoy! 

 

Here are my images which received the HMs in the competition.

Faint heart never won fair lady

Faint heart never won fair lady

This was taken in Tokyo last year. You can read more about the image here. This received an Honourable Mention in the Street Photography category.

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God will send a sign. When he does, be ready.

 

This received two Honourable Mentions. One in the Street Photography category and one in Architecture category.

iPhunography

iPhunography

This, taken in Korea last year, received an Honourable Mention in the Architecture category.

With each step

With each step

This received an Honourable Mention in the People category.

In and out of consciousness

In and out of consciousness

This received an Honourable Mention in the Black and White category.

My Little Angel

My Little Angel

And there are always the disappointments – how did this not win!? 🙂

Kiss the future….

Posted in iPhone, Street Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

A short film

Out of the blue a few weeks back I got a tweet from an RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) filmmaker, Glen Mulcahy asking me if he could direct message me. He had been looking through the Mobile Photography Awards website and came across this image of mine which won an honourable mention in the annual awards. Seeing my surname, he guessed I must be Irish and he googled my name, found my Twitter account and got on to me. He wondered would I be up for making a short film about my mobile photography. I was really surprised, but I could not let such an opportunity pass me by.

Glen is a pioneer in mobile journalism and gives training courses on how to shoot and edit using mobiles as a news-gathering platform. He has trained over 140 RTE Staff and also delivered training courses around Europe and the Middle East for various TV networks. He told me he wanted to make this short film using only the iPhone and video editing apps (Filmic Pro and iMovie). I was intrigued and excited.

We arranged to do the shoot over two days. Glen and I met in my workplace on the Wednesday evening and after a short get-to-know each other chat, he filmed me as I was teaching (a big thanks to my students for agreeing to be filmed). We were a little anxious about weather conditions for the next day, but thankfully the dreaded rain held off and we were able to get out and shoot around the city centre on the Thursday morning. It was a great experience for me to see a professional filmmaker in action. Glen had a great eye for angles and an overall vision for how scenes could be reconstructed in editing. Escaping a short shower, we took shelter in a nearby cafe and it was fascinating to see how creative and adept he was using only an iPhone and the video editing apps of Filmic Pro and iMovie. I have since downloaded the two apps and have been messing around with them, but I am still in awe at the dexterity, speed and skill that Glen displayed as he cut and edited the short segments we had just filmed near the Nano Nagle bridge that crosses the River Lee near the iconic St. Finbarre’s Cathedral.

We moved on from the cafe to shoot around The English Market and French Church Street where I was lucky to get one or two good shots. I had been anxious that Murphy’s Law would strike when we were out filming and that I would not be able to get anything good when I needed to.

During the time we spent together we had some very interesting conversations about photography, art, advances in technology, travel, and life in general. We had arranged that once we had completed filming in the city centre that we would head to my house to film the interview part. In conversation about photography and how I feel about it,  Glen had said to me a few times – “that’s what we need to get on the interview – you need to talk about that.” However, when the camera was on me and it came for me to actually talk about myself and my photography, I became a little tongue-tied. Only natural, I guess. It was the first time for me in front of the camera. However, seeing the end result I don’t sound too bad. And all in all, I am very pleased with the film. It is a film shot and edited by a professional using only the iPhone. It is exciting to have been part of Glen’s pioneering work. 

You can watch the video below and there is background to the film here. Hope you enjoy getting to know a little more about me, about Cork, about my iPhone photography. I am very grateful to Glen for showcasing my work. You can follow Glen on Twitter here. 

Posted in iPhone, photograph posts Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Mobile Photography Awards

Last Wednesday, the results from the Mobile Photography Awards (MPAs) were announced. This was my second time entering the competition. Last year, I did not place. This year, I got two honourable mentions for the photographs below. This is a competition I really like. It is exceptionally well-organised and there is so much quality in the winning images and those which received honourable mentions. Mobile photography is innovative and has real momentum. There is a thriving mobile photography community and some extraordinary people driving it forward with passion. Daniel K. Berman, the founder of the Mobile Photography Awards, is one of these people. The MPAs, I believe are helping photographers to emerge and to gain recognition. And also, the competition is inspiring photographers to learn, to experiment, to innovate and to have fun.

Photography is a hobby for me. I remember reading something from Eric Kim (I tried to find the quote, but couldn’t) where he said that as a hobby photographers bring more passion to it than professionals whose income depends on it. Eric Kim talks a lot of sense and his Street Photography blog is, for me, one of the very best blogs on the net. I have learnt so much there.

And you know, he is right. As a hobby, it is about fun. And a lot of fun involves competition. By nature, we are competitive. We contrast what we can do and how we do it with the things others do and their methods on a constant basis. Photography is a fine example of this. I have learnt more from the photography of others than from my own photographic practice. Viewing and studying the images of others’ feeds and informs my evolution in what I want to see and how I want to see and present it. This learning can be considered a derivative  of competition. When I see and admire photographs, I want to be able to shoot like that, but I want to put my own stamp on it. I aspire to get to the level of expression these photographers have. It motivates and inspires me. It gets me competing if you want, and the process of imitate, assimilate and innovate begins. 

I do not agree with those who are against competition in life; those who say it is not good to foster a competitive spirit in children. I don’t agree. We need to learn to compete, to learn to win and more importantly to learn how to lose. Along the way, we can discover the fun, the enjoyment, the satisfaction that comes from pushing ourselves, from wanting to realise potential.

I have entered a few photography competitions now, about 5 in total. In hindsight, the hardest part is selecting the images to enter. I have learnt that it is best to trust my instinct on this. A hard thing to do. In submitting images, I find I am trying to second guess the judges and I try to enter images that I hope they would like. Then when the results are revealed and I learn I did not win, I tend to feel guilty and regret putting in images that I connected with.

And there is the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.

What a hobby photography is. What a community has sprung up in the past decade. Am I right to think that before photography might have been an often- lonely and solitary pursuit? Now, with all the social media sites for photography, there is a vibrant community sharing and learning.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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A new week

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