Two Photographer of the Year Nominations and The Societies Convention
Here in the UK there are four main photographic institutions, and each has a slightly different flavour. Some are geared very much towards full professional status and the achievement of a first level accreditation (Licentiate) is expected from their members (such as BIPP and MPA). On the other hand, The Royal Photographic Society and The Societies are open to all photographers and encourage qualification (but do not require it). Aside from acting as ‘governing bodies’ whose principal aim is to promote and maintain high industry standards, all of these institutes also offer a number of member benefits. Key to business owners and progressive photographers will be learning opportunities by way of seminars and workshops, which are subsidised for members and some are also open to non-members. I always encourage ongoing training, no matter how well qualified you may become. And when it comes to training in my opinion there is nothing quite like The Societies Convention which is held in central London each January.
The Convention covers several days and there is a dazzling array of classes to choose from, brought to you by many of the worlds leading professionals. I was honoured to be on the speaker register again but regretfully I had to pull out as I can only expect to have limited time at the Convention in January 2016. I highly recommend that whether you are a member of The Societies or not, that you try to get to this event. The classes are reasonably priced and top-notch in quality. And if you don’t fancy tuition then the trade show will keep you up-to-date on all the latest suppliers from photographic lighting to albums and frames. You can even sit in on the qualification judging – in fact this is fantastic if you are yourself thinking of putting together a qualification panel. It’s the perfect opportunity to get a really good idea of the (very high) standard you’ll need to meet in order to be successful, as well as gaining valuable insight into the judging process. Don’t underestimate the social value of these events – it’s a chance to catch up with friends and familiar faces, over a coffee or perhaps something a little stronger. Even if you don’t know anyone, we’re a friendly bunch and you won’t be on your own for long.
The Convention also hosts the annual Photographer of the Year Awards. This is an incredible competition which I’ve described quite a few times in some of my preceding blog posts. The membership of The Societies is plentiful and broad, with experts from every genre of photography represented in both the competition and the speaker lineup at the Convention. The gala awards dinner is consequently every bit as buoyant (err – raucous) as you might imagine. Over the years the awards presenters have been drawn from familiar names in photography and television. In fact Philippa Forrester presented me with my award in January 2011 when I won the title in the Pet Portraiture category.
Which brings me onto some very big news. With up to 20,000 entries over the year, I was bowled over to find out today that I’m in the final shortlist for Photographer of the Year in not one but two categories: Environmental Portraiture and Landscape. There are generally only between two and four final nominees in each category so it’s an amazing feeling to be on that shortlist. In fact it’s often said that a nomination is almost as good as a win. But you’ll never get that win, or that nomination, or that Gold Medal if you don’t enter your photographs in the first place. I know a competition like this (and others like it across the institutions) can be daunting, but if you don’t try then you’ll never know whether you’ll be successful or not. The experience in itself is valuable because we learn so much from every success, and we learn even more from our failures. My advice is to study previous entries carefully to give yourself a really good idea of the standard you need to meet. Then make absolutely sure that you enter your photographs into the correct category. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain.