It seems like the 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography competition is being kept a secret by Rangefinder. Perhaps that’s because the editors are collecting submissions for consideration by nominations from the wedding industry. Once the 30 photographers are selected in September, they will be asked to remain fully mothers for two months until the list is announced on November 1st.
The reasons for this coordinated announcement – aside from being more exciting – have to do with giving staff ample time to compile a gallery of all the winners’ submissions and write their biographies along with accompanying behind-the-scenes insights . share with the world.
Nominees must have weddings for five years or less on a full-time basis to submit to the competition. They choose 30 photos from their repertoire of wedding photography and fill out a questionnaire asking them about their style, gear and other demographic information. The designation 30 Rising Star depends entirely on a photographer’s work portfolio and shows that they hold promise for advancing and developing the aesthetics of wedding photography.
For the very first episode of her new podcast, The Bloom Seeker, which you can listen to on Spotify, YouTube or Apple Podcasts, wedding photographer Jasmin Neidhart, a 30-year-old rising star from 2018 in Germany, sat down with the senior editor of RF together. Libby Peterson to reveal the secrets behind the most prestigious wedding photo contest in the industry.
Tips to get noticed and nominated
Submit your work to wedding outlets
Sharing your work with various websites and publications is one of the best first steps towards a submission, according to Peterson. Since the 30 Rising Stars is a nomination-based competition, editors reach out to other industry editors, art directors, photographers, and wedding tastemakers for suggestions on who to invite to submit work.
Peterson looked back at Rangefinder’s Photo of the Day series to remember whose photos she enjoyed that year. She often finds photos posted on Photo of the Day on Instagram and looks at images tagged @rangefindermag and work photographers share directly with her at [email protected]
She also looks at featured photographers on the Wedding of the Week series, she says. (Outstanding weddings with interesting backstories can be submitted for review to RF editor-in-chief Jacqueline Tobin at [email protected])
Submitting one of these series is “an easy way to get on our radar for the 30 Rising Stars,” says Peterson.
Email to the editor
RF editors can also nominate photographers for the competition. In fact, many of them come straight from the editors, after those photographers emailed them directly expressing their interest in having the contest considered. “And that’s perfectly fine just to show us your portfolio,” says Peterson.
Although requests for consideration in the contest can be made year-round, editors officially begin searching and collecting nominations in June.
What the judges are looking for
Peterson says they’d like the submissions to include different parts of a wedding day – from the prep moments and first looks to the ceremony itself and the reception. Some wedding photographers only submit portraits, Peterson says, which is a huge misstep. The judges want to see interesting detail shots, photos of the family and guests, and other in-between moments that complete the full picture of a client’s wedding experience.
The photos should also be from more than one or two weddings, Peterson says, so judges can see a nominee’s proven ability.
The exposures should be consistent across the 30 photos in a submission. “If there’s something interesting about an exposure,” explains Peterson, like a double exposure or a grainy photo, it should be “an artistic choice, not a technically flawed choice.”
The jury would like to see a consistent style throughout the submission. Says Peterson, “We basically want to go see it and know that all of these photos were taken by the same photographer.” While this sounds like a simple point of criteria, the editor notes that judges always come across submissions with photos that don’t look like they were from the same creative voice.
Peterson points out that judges will have to go through hundreds of submissions of 30 photos each. To capture and hold a judge’s attention, nominees should sort their photos in an emotionally compelling manner.
The nominees often test their selected portfolio of images on others. According to Peterson, this is a great way to get outside input and gain the necessary emotional distance from photos that have an interesting backstory, for example, but are not necessarily the strongest images a photographer can take from an aesthetic standpoint.
DO NOT submit the images
Often times, judging from the volume of wedding photography that the judges have seen over the years, they can sense when a photographer is imitating someone else. Photo ideas triggered by others on social media that don’t have much narrative weight are clear signs that a photographer has not yet committed to an original voice while exploring.
[Read up on “The Potential Traps of Following Wedding and Portrait Photography Trends”]
The inevitable wedding moments, always emotionally moving – like the look on a groom’s face when he first sees the bride that day – are classic wedding day moments that the judges expected, but trendy images with no compelling purpose – like a dress hanging from a branch or a curtain rod, a bride holding a bouquet of flowers in front of her face, or a couple framed in small frames in the middle of a landscape – must be original.
[Here’s why “Innovations in Wedding Photography Aren’t Coming From Wedding Photography”]
As a general rule of thumb, Peterson advises, “If you’ve seen it before, think of different ways to do something and submit them.”
Uncomfortable posing and dishonest expressions
Real, raw emotions are one of the keys to a submission. With nominees submitting photos of real weddings, not styled shots, the judges want to see that they can react to the emotions of the big day and not have to force or recreate those moments for the camera.
Inconsistent black and white photos
The judges eliminate cloudy and mostly gray images that are supposed to be black and white. it will show a lack of technical understanding. Using the full range from black to white is a skill not everyone possesses. If black and white images are not your forte, Peterson recommends submitting only color images.
“We say in the submission process that you don’t have to submit in black and white,” she says. And when submitted alongside color images, they should look like they were taken by the same photographer again.
“We only had some photographers submit in black and white, and that’s fine,” says Peterson. “Just play with your strength.”
Hear from Jasmin Neidhart in our first webinar, Creativity in Quarantine, alongside 30 Rising Star alumni Quyn Duong and Caroline Tran as they share creative projects and tips to stay centered and connected. Join the conversation on April 24th, from 12:00 PM to 12:30 PM EDT.