Tag Archives: MPAs

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 2015

And with that it is all over for another year. The Mobile Photography Awards (MPAs) are done. A very-deserving winner has been announced – Jian Wang – a photographer whose work I was not previously familiar with. Entering the competition I had high hopes. I believed I had put together a strong collection of images across a number of categories and felt that this year I was in with a shout. Previous years, I had not that feeling. This year was different.

Back in 2013 I entered the MPAs and got two honourable mentions. More importantly, it focussed my attention. Sure I was enjoying photography as a hobby, but this competition provided a benchmark to assess my progress and a target to aim for. Here is what I wrote about entering the MPAs in 2013:

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.

And dream I did. 2014 passed. It was a a year I was lucky to get to travel to Asia again and this meant I was shooting intensively for the weeks I was there. I was honing my skills and working towards submission. The entry date arrived for the 2014 competition and I selected my images for entry. My goal was to win a category. I didn’t. I managed to get 6 honourable mentions across 4 categories, but no hiding it, I was disappointed. At the same time, I was very pleased for the overall winner, Sheldon Serkin. That is one thing about competitions – if you don’t win, but someone whose work you admire a lot does, it eases the disappointment. Read my blog about the 2014 MPAs.

Honourable Mention - Black and White category- MPAs 2014

Honourable Mention – Black and White category- MPAs 2014

Little did I know that a few short weeks later I would become part of something enormous on a global scale in the Apple Shot on iPhone 6 campaign. Definitely, it made up for missing out on winning a category, but you know, there is something about the acknowledgement of your peers, those who inspire you on a daily basis, that we need. 2015 would go to be magical for me. I won my first competition – the Mira Mobile Prize – and when I learnt of this, I cried tears of joy. It is true what they say about firsts. This was my first ever competition win and I have been fortunate to win a few more since, but none will ever compare to that feeling.

Mira Mobile Prize Winner 2015

Mira Mobile Prize Winner 2015

The year rolled on and the closing date for entries for the MPAs arrived. Selecting my images for entry was hard. I find the most difficult part of photography is not getting the shot, or editing. No, it is curation of images; trying to put together a series of images that allow for your vision, your interpretation, your style to strongly emerge is a challenge. In many ways, my wife is my best judge. Well, that is what she tells me. Leaning on her for advice, I finalised my selection and entered. The deliberation was over. Time to forget about it for a while.

I love and hate the way Dan Berman announces the results. He sure knows how to build excitement and tension. The first five categories were revealed. And I had won one! My Shibuya Night photograph won first place in the Street Photography category. I was thrilled. Street photography is my thing and to win in a category with so many other photographers whose work pushes me on was a real honour.

Winner of the Street Photography category (MPAs 2015)

Winner of the Street Photography category (MPAs 2015)

I saw in the first five categories to be revealed that I had got three other honourable mentions. I saw the winners of the other categories and said: “That’s it, David Ingraham will win this.” I am a huge fan of David’s work. He has his own unique signature. You see an image of his and you know instantly it is a David Ingraham. I saw Coco Liu win in the Water/Ice category and I felt the same thing. Here were two photographers whose work I adore. To win this outright, I felt, would be difficult.

HM in Street Photography category

HM in Street Photography category

Dan dragged things on. We had to wait another two days to get the results of all the other categories. While I went on to get another two honourable mentions in the People category (giving me a total of five honourable mentions), it was the images that did not make it that I focussed on. Funny, isn’t it how we seem to be drawn to dwell on the negatives. I began to believe this would not be my year after all. I began to hope it would be David Ingraham.

Finally, late evening yesterday the overall winner was revealed. Got to be honest here, Jian’s name was new to me, but his image  of the black and white umbrellas which got an honourable mention in the Street Photography category had stopped me in my tracks a few days back. What an image that is. I began to do ctrl+f on the category awards pages and search for Jian Wang. His images began to appear. Each one after another seemed to build on the previous one; connected in style and vision. Ya, I said, I can see why. This guy’s work is good. The more I looked at it, good jumped to great, and I began to feel less disappointed for David Ingraham and Coco Liu and feel that this is justified. Jian Wang is a great winner for the MPAs for 2015.

Jian Wang - Winner of MPAs 2015

Jian Wang – Winner of MPAs 2015

So, it is February 2016. The year stretches out in front of me. It will be a year of travel – a year filled with photographic opportunities. It excites me to think what images I might make between now and December when I come to enter the MPAs again.

A final shout out to Dan Berman for founding and growing the MPAs to what they are today – the best mobile photography competition on the planet. Also, a big congratulations to all those who won categories, honourable mentions and to those who didn’t or didn’t enter. So many people to mention, but this community we share is what pushes me to create and become a better photographer.

Kiss the future!

Sumi-Anna (Honourable mention - People category)

Sumi-Anna (Honourable mention – People category)

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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….

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