When It's Not Worth Listening To Relatives: Sergey Semyonov On Professional Contests

Sergey Semyonov during the master class held as part of the World Youth Festival
Sergey Semyonov during the master class held as part of the World Youth Festival

How to become a successful photographer and confidently win photo contests? It is important to set a goal and consistently go towards it. Listen to the recommendations of professional photographers, for example Sergey Semyonov, who constantly works on the jury of Russian and international photo contests. As part of the World Youth Festival, he held a master class and shared his experience.

Sergey Semyonov is a professional photographer and director, CEO and lead photographer of the world-famous AirPano project, a member of the Union of Wildlife Photographers and the Union of Photographers of Russia. He works in the genre of artistic landscape, does aerial photography, panoramic and 360-degree photography, as well as makes documentary films in virtual reality format. During his time working in photography, he visited more than 100 amazing places on the planet.

It should be noted that in 2012 the AirPano team became the winner of the media grant of the Russian Geographical Society. Moreover, Vladimir Putin supported the initiative of AirPano to conduct an aerial survey of the Moscow Kremlin. The project has been implemented.

At the beginning of his speech, Sergey Semyonov noted an important nuance: contest photographs are a separate category.

“Yes, relatives may like a picture, but it cannot be sent to the photo contest. Unfortunately, a work that is popular on a social network will have minimal chances of winning. Therefore, to participate in a contest, you should purposefully take photos or select them.”

It is necessary to carefully study the rules of the organizers, which give a detailed description of the categories and technical requirements for the works. Most likely, small-sized images will be rejected, and for photos with a logo or name, the author may be disqualified. What is the reason for such a tough stance? Judging takes place anonymously, and such inscriptions may be a clue for the jury members.

“Photos should be of high quality: sharp, well-exposed, compositionally balanced. For example, many people like oversaturated images. They can certainly look good on a smartphone screen, but the jury will never rate them highly.”

The uniqueness of the shot is very important. It is not necessary to repeat the shots taken by the winners of previous years. Even if it is a very good picture, the jury will not accept it, at least for the reason of avoiding monotony among the best works.

During shooting, it is necessary to carefully ensure that the picture is clear, free from visual noise. And if this cannot be achieved with the help of framing, then the photographer should, as they say, remove unnecessary objects from the frame manually.

You, at least, should get rid of unnecessary items at the stage of the shooting process, rather than at the processing stage. The jury members pay very close attention such manipulations, that’s why excessive fascination with the graphical editor can lead to a ban.

The most attractive photo contests, according to Sergey Semyonov, are those in which participation is free, and the prizes are very solid. For example, "The Most Beautiful Country", which is held annually by the Russian Geographical Society.

At the same time, you should avoid little-known (and simply strange) photo contests the organizers of which set themselves only one goal: to collect good works for free, so that they can then use them for their own purposes.

As part of the master class, Sergey Semyonov conducted a portfolio review, and all participants saw what the work of a member of the jury of Russian and international photo contests was like. The speaker commented on the work and gave a final assessment: whether to accept it or not. In fact, everyone witnessed a mini-photo contest. The audience was delighted and did not let Sergey Semyonov go for a very long time after the end of the event.

Vladimir Neskoromny