I was recently voted Best Wedding Photographer in Montreal in the Lux Wedding Awards. It came out of the blue as I never even knew I’d been nominated but it’s always great to be recognised, especially since I only moved to Montreal recently.
The thing is I’m not really a fan of photography awards or competitions. I really don’t know how a photographer can be deemed the best at what they do when photography is such a subjective and personal art form. I know some people love my photography but I’m under no illusion that many won’t. And that’s fine. In fact, it’d be really weird if everyone liked my photos. People like different things. Not everyone likes Ed Sheeran even though he’s the most popular music star in the world right now. A lot of people really dislike Ed. I’m sure he’s fine with that though. Music, like photography, is something that’s totally down to the individual’s taste.
If somebody won the 100m race at the Olympics then we can probably say they were the best. On that day anyway. We can safely assume that the best chess player in the world is currently Magnus Carlsen. Magnus is the reigning world chess champion and has been since 2013. It’s not an opinion. It’s just fact. But who decides if I’m the best wedding photographer in Montreal? Am I the best technically? Definitely not. I’m no geek when it comes to photography equipment. And to say I’m the best wedding photographer artistically is totally down to the viewer’s opinion and personal taste. Some would judge my photography on whether it’s in focus and the colours are true to life. Others would judge the best wedding photos to be the ones that make them feel something emotionally. For me, I aim to make images that are different, but also creative in a way that evokes an emotion of some kind. I also love certain tones and have a distinctive style when it comes to my editing.
Think about this: the photo below of The Clash‘s Paul Simonon was taken by legendary music photographer Pennie Smith. It’s considered one of the best concert photos ever taken and was used on the cover of the band’s classic London Calling album. It almost epitomises rock n roll or punk rock in a single image. But… it’s out of focus. Does that mean it’s a bad photo? Some might say it does. Obviously, I’d be the first to disagree with them. It captures a fleeting moment in music history. Pennie was the only person to be in the right place at the right time and pressed the shutter at the perfect moment. It gives a sense of what the concert was like and has an energy and rebelliousness to it that perfectly represents The Clash. It’s a classic image that is part of history. But technically, it’s not perfect. Do we care? No. Similarly, if a wedding photo captures a moment and evokes emotion in the viewer then it’s a great wedding photo in my eyes. Even if it’s not composed perfectly or it’s out of focus.
Not long ago, when I was back in England, I was voted Best Wedding Photographer in the UK. That’s the only other time I’ve won an award for my wedding photography, and there’s a good reason for that. I never enter wedding photography awards or contests. I feel weird submitting my images into something that I don’t really agree with. The UK award was voted for by the general public and I had nothing to do with my name being one of the nominees. The fact that I won was absolutely great, don’t get me wrong, especially as it wasn’t decided by a panel of judges.
There are many wedding photography awards where the photographer has to pay to even enter. So the person who wins best wedding photographer is actually the “best wedding photographer who entered and agreed to pay the fee”. Not sure how that counts for much. Each to their own though. Any recognition is gonna benefit a photographer. And maybe the fact that they were voted the best wedding photographer in their area will instil some added confidence in their clients. I hope that my clients book me because they love my photos and feel some kind of connection with me as a person. That means they will trust me to do the best for them on their wedding day. They know I’ll give them a set of wedding photos that will transport them back into a moment in time, and hopefully, they’ll love some of them enough to display on their walls or in an album or photobook. If that happens, then my job is done.