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How To Become An Award-Winning Photographer by Sara Paolucci (Collection 5 Judge)

We’re honoured to have one of our recent judges (for Collection Five) – the fab Sara Paolucci (website / TiR:F profile) – write this piece for us today, where she explores her thoughts on judging, and tips for becoming an award-winning photographer. She also shares some of her personal favourite awards from the Collection. That’s Sara above, along with her own Reportage Family Awards, won in previous Collections.

One of Sara’s favourite Awards from Collection Five, by Kirsten Bethmann (USA) – Website / TiR:F Profile

Do you want to become an award winning photographer? Here are some tips for you (the ones I try to tell myself everyday ;))

1. Do not shoot having a contest in mind; shoot for yourself: shoot what you really love. Be present in the moment: if you are bored, if you are not connected with your subjects while shooting, the viewer will feel it.

2. Have always clear in mind what you want to say, and build your photo starting from it: how can I use light and composition to support my story?

Another of Sara’s favourite awards from Collection Five, by Orsolya Boncser (Hungary) – Website / TiR:F

3. Copy from the masters in the process of learning, but then be brave enough to experiment your own vision: what I have noticed while judging this round, is that I have found many photos similar to the ones which have already won a contest. A copy usually remains just a copy.

It’s ok to emulate the photographers you admire in the process of learning, but an award winning photograph is most likely to be something new, a new way of seeing and interpret reality. An award winning photograph is not only an extraordinary event which is happening in front of you: it’s the way you perceive it, interpret it and show it to the world.

4. Find inspiration outside the family photography world: explore when you can, read books, watch movies, be curious, build relationships with different people: everyone has something to teach us and a story that deserves to be told.

Another of Sara’s favourite Awards from Collection Five, by Stephana Ferrell (USA) – Website / TiR:F

5. Try to do something that scares you once a month: if you feel stuck in your creative process and work, doing always the same things will keep you stuck in the same place

6. Love what you do, do not give up just because you haven’t won an award, but take it as an opportunity to fight harder for the goals you want to reach.

Another of Sara’s favourite Awards from Collection Five, by Kirsten Bethmann (USA) – Website / TiR:F Profile


Thanks so much to Sara for these great tips!

If you enjoyed this feature, you may be interested in this one, too: ‘How To Make Your Story Submissions Even Stronger by Antonina Mamzenko (Collection 2 Judge)’.

Interested in joining us? There are many benefits in becoming a member, including 60 Reportage Family Award entries and 18 Family Story Award entries per year, an unlimited number of images on your profile, hours of exclusive educational videos, and much more. Apply to join us here.

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