What makes you a professional photographer? It's a lot more than owning a good camera and having all your friends on Facebook tell you how great your pictures are.
A professional photographer studies the art of photography and strives to improve his or her work all the time by taking classes, attending conventions and entering professional print competitions to have their work critiqued. Well this weekend all of that comes to Elkins. As the immediate Past President of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia, my last duty is to plan and host our fall convention, and of course I chose to show off my hometown of Elkins to my colleagues from around the state. This town is so beautiful and holds uncountable photographic opportunities without even getting in your car, so it was a natural choice.
On Sunday and Monday, around 50 of the state's best photographers will come to Graceland Inn and Conference Center to try to improve their craft. The print competition will be hosted on Monday morning and most of these photographers, at least the brave ones, will have their work judged using professional standards by judges who have met the national qualifications of the Professional Photographers of America. The judges will be brutally honest, but fair in judging the contest.
If you are a regular reader of my column, you are probably also interested in improving your photography. I know some of you have been entering some of the local photo contests lately, and I've got some advice to help you improve your work and get better results in photo contests. First, look at your work carefully and ask yourself some questions. Is this image in focus? If not, throw it out and go take another one that is in focus. This is pretty basic, but you would be surprised how many images are simply out of focus and that is unacceptable by anyone's standards.
Is this an interesting image and does it have impact? If your picture is boring and doesn't make you say "wow," go out and take another one that does. That's a little harder to do. Try a new angle, a different time of day; just use your imagination to release your creativity. If you follow these two tips, you should see a massive improvement in your pictures.
Our print competition is not open to the public, but I can assure you that our judging panel won't be seeing any out of focus images or any that don't make you say "wow." So be on the lookout for an unusual amount of photographers around town this weekend, and be sure to smile.
(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a Master Photographer, Certified Professional Photographer and past president of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia.)