Submitting for Photography Awards

International Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards

Submitting for Photography Awards

With the 2020 Awards in full swing and entries starting to roll in steadily, we thought it’d be a great time to catch up with the 2019 International Wedding Photographer of the Year Jeff & Cat of The Apartment Photography, for a chat about submitting for photography awards.

The Vancouver based duo took out the top spot in the 2019 International Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards, so they now have a one-of-a-kind badge of honour to market to their clients, along with more than $9,000USD of prizes for taking out the Highest Scoring Entry…oh and they won the Album Design of the Year Award (more about that coming your way in the weeks to come)

We asked Jeff & Cat to pen some insight into their planning and some how-to’s they apply when approaching Awards. We also asked Cat and Jeff to explain the process of their winning entry in a little more detail, and once you’ve had a read it will really highlight how to hit some of the Top 5 elements to achieving that Award winning image. And if you’re not already linked up with Jeff and Cat, be sure to head to their website for a great insight into the brand and workings if this always-chirpy duo –  and on their Instagram if you don’t already follow them.


Picking The Winning Moment with words to follow by Jeff Chang

(Jeff) This shot (below) is just for reference and it shows how the overhang of the building protects people from getting wet along a small walk-way below. When I first saw what the raindrops looked like against the dark dramatic background my heart started thumping with ideas.

After the ceremony was a short lunch reception so I didn’t want to bother our couple just yet.

Unfortunately the weather was so on and off that day that by the time it was appropriate to pull them away from the reception it had stopped raining and was even a little sunny!

First time my soul has died a little by seeing it stop raining on a wedding day!

Haha. Luckily for us, it started to rain again just before the end of the reception and we even got a little backlit sun in there too! We pulled our couple aside and got cracking.

Since I was so far away for the shot, Cat was doing most of the communicating from the side. She even got off a few choice shots as well!

Elements can always be added or enhanced, such as more rain etc, but expressions are priceless and fleeting in a moment, as we can see here between this frame, which is close but not quite hitting the heights the way the final image does below.

For us, it was the extra rain, the extra energy in Julian’s expression and the extra laughter in Pia’s face. Even the way they both have their arms up, it created smoother lines in their attire. A tiny detail but sometimes it only takes a feather to tip the scales.

How to submit for Awards, and how to be prepared when it’s time to get entering!

Submitting for photography awards has always been challenging for us, at times it’s felt like guess work, other times, an emotional roller coaster. But over the years we’d like to think we’ve honed in on what it takes to really stand out to judges. 

The first step to a healthy relationship with award submissions (and you will thank yourself for it in the future) is putting aside images throughout the year in a separate folder on your desktop. We simply call that our “favourites” folder. Whenever you’re editing or working on your images, if a photograph stops you in your tracks, makes you feel something, or you say, “god damn! That’s one fine photo!,” do yourself a huge favour and put that photo in your favourites.

“Create a ‘Favourites’ folder – Always have possible Awards

in the back of your mind”

Jeff’s the kind of person who walks into a store and can’t leave until he sees every aisle. “What if I miss something?” he’ll say. To that end, he’s the same person who will literally go through every Lightroom catalogue for any given submission period and go searching for award worthy images. It can take days, and given that we submit to multiple awards a year you can imagine how time consuming it can be.

“With our new system we can be instantly inspired and reminded of shoots and specific images that we might want to submit”

submitting for photography awards

Ask for opinions. Your emotional connection to the subject exists, strangers will see the image for the image and how it makes them feel in that viewing moment, use this.

When you’re looking through your gallery of potential submissions there’s a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost you have to remember the judges will have never seen these photographs before, they don’t know the people in them and are emotionally disconnected. This is probably one of the harder things we’ve had to do when choosing images to submit. To cut out our emotional connection to the couple and try to view each photograph objectively. Something that has helped us a lot in the past is asking our friends and colleagues to choose their favourites and we ask them “why they chose them?” You’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear their feedback and what about an image spoke to them.

“cut out the emotional connection to the couple and try to view each photograph objectively”

There are a few key things we’ve found have helped us when narrowing down images to submit. You don’t necessarily have to hit all the points but the idea is, you want to hit as many as you can with a single photograph.

  • Does the image tell a story or have a narrative?
  • Is the composition striking or interesting?
  • Is the image well balanced? Think about the ratios between subject, background, foreground, colour blocking etc.
  • Is there an “x” factor? An element we’ve never seen or a new perspective of a common theme?
  • Does the image evoke an emotion? Is it funny/silly, sad/heart-warming, romantic/intimate etc.

Like we said, an image doesn’t have to have all these elements but asking these questions help us focus on the photographs we feel confident in submitting.

At the end of the day, follow your gut, don’t be discouraged and keep submitting!! We might regret saying this one day, but it also never hurts to reach out to the judges after the competition and ask if they had any feedback about your work. Make sure to include the image(s) in the message. We’re more than happy to share our thoughts if you’re looking for creative feedback. Have fun and enjoy the competition!


Cat & Jeff are joining us as judges for the 2020 Awards, with judging to take place late in September. It’s so great to have two energetic minds with such a positive outlook and balanced shooting style that includes key candid PJ style imagery along with those more structured and set portraits. For more on the judges and info on the 2020 Awards head this way.

Much thanks from us to Jeff & Cat for sharing some of their thoughts and insights around selecting images for Awards and giving us a great insight into the capturing of the 2019 Winning image. See all the finalists of the 2019 Awards here

Here at IWPOTY we are also looking to extend on the idea Jeff and Cat have raised in their article relating to feedback on entries and we hope to hold a live hook up with judges to review and offer feedback to anyone interested post-results. Stay tuned.



IWPOTY Awards Curator

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