Do you know that feeling when you have the best news ever? Something you have been working hard for and wanting for a long time? I certainly do after last weekend :)
Ever since I joined The Guild of Photographers I started entering their Image Of the Month competition. When I attended my first awards dinner with them I received my first Photographers Bar in the Newborn Category. Now that is a distinction, which is hard to achieve as it is awarded only to photographers who have successfully had images assessed by a panel of judges from the Guild over the course of a year and attained a score evidencing an exceptional level of professional skill and consistency (yes, I have copied this from the certificate as there is no way I could explain it better in my own words :))
Achieving the Bar was great but that night I decided that what I really want to achieve is to be in the Top Ten photographers in the Newborn, Baby and Maternity Category. The Top Ten is determined by the number of points you collect over the course of the year (3 images entered per month). Your images get judged and scored, so it isn't just one great image. It is consistently delivering great images. Let me tell you... It is not easy! I have been awarded many Bronzes and High Bronzes over the years since that first awards dinner. I have achieved 8 Photographer's Bars now (I have been entering two categories, Newborn and People).
When I went to the awards evening I knew I had enough points for Two Photographer Bars (taking me to my 8) and I also entered the print competition which gets judged the same weekend with live feedback from the judges. I was absolutely over the moon when my printed image came runner up in the competition and thought my weekend could not get any better. Well, little did I know!
The Image Of the Month competition is hard work at times. I am always planning in the back of my head what kind of images I would like to take, what kind of images I would like to enter. I always ask my customers in advance if I am ok to use their images on my website and if I am ok to use them in competitions. Not everyone says yes but I am super grateful to customers who do allow me to do so. After all it must be great to see an image of your little one win awards :) The results of the competition come out on the 21st each month and I am grateful for my family and friends putting up with me on that day. There are times when I am overjoyed and excited. There are times when I go : fair enough... and then (and I am ashamed to admit to it) there are times when I am super grumpy, complaining, whining and crying. I also swear that I am NEVER entering again as it is pointless and if the judges cannot see my brilliance then obviously why should I bother :) This passes and by the 22nd I am already thinking what am I going to enter this month and often once I have calmed down and look at my images again I can see a technical or editing error that cost me points :), I often have mentoring sessions with The Guild judges, I am a part of a buddy group where we try to help each other spot errors in out images before entering them in.
So I start fresh, enter again and wait... Why do I do this to myself? Because it pushes me to be better. To be the best I can be. I don't think my customers care if their baby has straight fingers in the photo, or if the wrap is draped the wrong side of the light, or if there is a tiny cloning error on the floor. But I do. Entering the competition has trained my eye. I adjust things as I go and when I see them. I judge every pose and every image as it would be judged in the competition looking for ways to improve. I am proud to feel that I can deliver exceptional service and quality of images to my customers at my studio in Cheam.
Back to the Awards dinner though :) It is always such a great event celebrating achievements of people you get to know through the Guild and friends you get to make over the years. Photography can be quite a lonely business and these events are absolutely amazing. Plus you get to dress up and wear make up, which is not something I get to do for newborn sessions :)
After winning the runner up in the print competition and receiving my two bars I was really happy so when it came to the Top Ten Photographers in Newborn, Baby and Maternity category for 2021 being announced and my name got called I literally could not believe it! You can see my dazed face as I collect my certificate. I spent the rest of the evening pinching myself and smiling as this has been my dream for so long!
I am so grateful to my family and my husband for their support over the years but I am also really grateful to all my amazing customers for their support, for choosing me and trusting me with their babies and their memories. So many of my customers come to me time and time again as their families grow, they feel like friends now, and I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of their journey. I am seeing babies grow, become big brothers and sisters, I see them starting school, I see them at my Christmas sessions and I am thankful to have the most amazing job in the world! I am also very lucky to be a member of the Guild, it feels like being a part of a family and I have made so many friends through the Guild and learned so much.
So what is next? Well...I am already planning which images to enter this month :) I have a project in mind and I am hoping to pass my Craftsman Panel with the Guild this year and I am most definitely planning to do all I can to be in the Top Ten again :)
Thank you for all your support!