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Behind the Scenes with Rangefinder: Secrets to Becoming One of the 30 Rising Stars

Here at ShootDotEdit, we understand how important it is for you to stay relevant and up-to-date in the ever-changing wedding photography industry. Not only do we provide you with wedding photography post production services, we also love to share tips and tricks to help you elevate your skills and place your images in front of ideal clients. One way to share your images with larger audiences of ideal clients is to have your work featured in a publication.

Rangefinder Magazine is an award-winning monthly magazine for wedding and portrait photographers, and the official publication of WPPI. Every year, they choose 30 Rising Stars to feature in the magazine. Getting featured is a perfect way to showcase your images and encourage ideal clients to learn more about you. Today, editor-in-chief of Rangefinder Magazine, Jacqueline Tobin, is sharing what she looks for in your wedding work to become one of the 30 Rising Stars.

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Back in the 80’s, when I was right out of college and working as an editorial assistant at Photo District News, featuring wedding photography in the pages of the magazine was a non-issue. We just didn’t go there. Terms like “weekend warrior” and “amateur” were bandied about in reference to wedding shooters, and weddings were something photographers covered on the side but didn’t talk about. Then wedding photojournalist Denis Reggie’s image of John Kennedy Jr. kissing his new wife Carolyn Bessette’s hand came along and caused a sensation, even described by the Wall Street Journal as “the watershed image that transformed wedding photography forever.”

Image Compliments of Lucy Spartalis

So, what makes an image so impactful that it can alter the course of an entire genre of photography? For me, it’s an image that transcends all limitations and boundaries, and leaves me wanting more. It’s an image I can connect with, one that leaves me breathless and one that timelessly preserves the day’s moments and memories for generations to come.

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To be a great wedding photographer, you need to excel at all genres of the medium— including still life and tabletop, photojournalism, fashion, landscape, portraiture, and more. When it comes to Rangefinder choosing 30 super talented Rising Stars from around the globe, we look for nominees who stand out above the rest, and more than just one factor gets considered. Yes, it’s okay if you only shoot Indian weddings, or only do black-and-white film weddings, or only shoot fashion-inspired weddings….  Whether you are a niche shooter or run the gamut in looks and styles, we are looking for work that leaves a lasting impression no matter how you create it.

Recent Rangefinder honoree Gian Carlo describes how he looks at wedding photography and how he decided on what to submit for the 30 competition:

“I draw inspiration from the legends themselves—I like Elliott Erwitt’s wittiness, Robert Frank’s ability to capture stories with photographs, Garry Winogrand’s ability to break standard composition to focus on the subject, and of course, Henri Cartier Bresson’s ability to capture emotion and precise timing. They have all inspired me to push myself. What I find most interesting and exciting is trying to translate their work into wedding photography.”

Here’s my Rangefinder 30 “cheat sheet” mental checklist of what I (as well as the other judges) look for when poring over submissions:

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  • Emotion – Subtle or otherwise, I want to feel this wedding not just view it.
  • Consistency and Flow – Present your portfolio as a tight body of work that exudes your signature style, not only in individual images but throughout different weddings. Include only your strongest images…but if you can’t narrow them down, ask a photo friend to take a look with an objective eye.
  • Editorial Quality – Ask yourself which images will look best on a printed page. Print them out, lay them down and see how they work together and in different sizes and scales.
  • Sense of Humor – Quirky is unique and witty is clever. Either way, your work stands out when it’s different and original. Of course, we’re not saying all your images have to have a sense of humor. But if that’s what you’re going for, it needs to feel authentic and fresh.
  • It’s in the Details – It’s not enough to submit stunning portraits of brides and grooms, even from multiple weddings. We want to see a full range of the day—getting ready, ceremony and portraits, reception, etc.—and all the glorious details in between that make those moments even more special.
  • Trends – We’re not saying you need to follow trends, but if you do, they have to stand out far above all the other photographer’s backlit photos, overhead shots, casual family portraits, tiny couples dropped in giant landscapes, and so on. Be inspired by trends, that’s fine. But then put your own spin on them, or create new ones and you’ll really catch our eye.

During the judging process of the 2016 Rising Star submissions, we made the following observations: Photojournalistic and documentary-style weddings are more prolific than ever; detail shots are more artistic and innovative (meaning we saw far fewer wedding dresses hanging from tree limbs—thank you!); dark, moody scenes are oh so in; and gorgeous children are everywhere—as ring bearers, flower girls, dancing queens, and more. We enjoyed seeing so much range in the submissions this year and look forward to what 2017 has in store.

Want to know more about the Rangefinder 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography judging process? Email me at Jacqueline.Tobin@emeraldexpo.com.

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Those were some great tips from Jacqueline! What will you do this year to allow your images to stand out and attract ideal clients? Take a look at our free Pro Photographer Lighting and Posing Guide to discover ways to advance your skills and create images your clients will love. Grab it today!

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