Learn These Elements to Become a Master Photographer

Learn what to Look for when you are about to release the shutter

Whether you’re photographing Portraits or Landscapes, using the proper elements of composition can dramatically improve your photograph. Learn the proper use of composition and notice how everything comes together to carry the viewers eye from detail to detail.

Besides studying on your own and gaining experience through the taking of lots of photographs, becoming a member of a professional organization could drastically improve your photography and save you a lot of time.

It did for me. When I became a member of the PPA or Professional Photographers of America and also the WPPI or Wedding & Portrait Photographers International I was able to attend their annual conventions. Here I got to see & hear some of the world’s greatest photographers. Not only was I able to attend their programs, but through the years I got to meet and became friends with some of these legends. Some of them I still am in contact with today.

Besides giving me inspiration, I learned a lot by looking at some of the world’s most beautiful images that were on display and part of their International Photographic Competition.

Slowly, I began to put together what I had learned and started to enter print competition. Wow! what a brutal experience that can be. It was for me. If you think your photography is really great, and it may very well be, but if it’s not, be prepared to listen to comments and critiques from the judges that may not be favorable. To put it more plainly, I seen a lot of pissed of photographers walk out during the print judging.

PPA has their annual International Photographic Competition (IPC) as does WPPI’s Annual Wedding & Portrait Photography Competition. These competitions are where photographers from all over the world engage in fierce competition for professional bragging rights. Gaining a “Merit Print” can also help earn your degree. The PPA’s photographic degrees (Photographic Craftsman, Master of Photography and Master Artist) means you have met PPA’s standards of excellence and service. WPPI also offers Grand Awards, trophies, and even cash! The WPPI‘s highest honor is “Grand Master”.

During the PPA competition, a panel of judges from all over the USA selects the top images from the many thousands that are submitted yearly. The images are judged against a standard of excellence that consists of 12 elements. Next, these prints are further judged and some are then selected to be part of PPA‘s Loan Collection. These are the best of the best.

Here are the 12 Elements of a Merit Image from the PPA:

• Impact
• Technical Excellence
• Creativity
• Style
• Composition
• Presentation
• Color Balance
• Center of Interest
• Lighting
• Subject Matter
• Technique
• Story Telling

Much of these print competitions are open to the public, so anyone can learn from the critiques, anyone can come witness the live judging, in person or via online streaming, and anyone can come to Imaging USA and view the annual exhibit! Well worth doing.

See PPA photographic competition judge Dennis Craft give a critique of “Timeless”, one of the prints entered in recent International Photographic Competition

At first, some of my prints did not do very well. I got a little upset with the judging process. After all, what do the judges know? Later I found out that if you know that you have a really great looking award winning print and it does not do well in competition, enter that print again and let it be judged in front of a more intelligent panel of judge. That was what we used to console each other. However, sometimes it turned out to be the case.

Once I realized what my PPA competition prints were lacking and that I had to follow the guidelines of the 12 distinct criteria or elements the judges were looking for, I began to score and received several accolades from not only the PPA and WPPI, but also my local state photography organizations. I was also able to ask some of the judges for a critique and what I needed to do to improve my images.

The PPA, WPPI and my state & local photography organizations have done so much in helping me advance my photography, and for that I am truly grateful.

Once you learn more about your trade and challenge yourself to become better, I believe you can enjoy it so much more. It’s this passion that could turn your avocation into a vocation.

Look at this video and learn to stimulate your thinking when composing your photographs.