WPPI Bridal Party Award Winner
Susan Stripling Photography

WPPI Bridal Party Award Winner

Ah, kids in the bridal party. While it might seem like an incredible idea it can often backfire, ending in a flower girl who rebels and won’t go down the aisle or a ring bearer who weeps his entire walk to the front row. For every princess-like ballerina of a flower girl there is one sobbing and tearing out her floral crown in the bathroom. 

Luckily, at this 2011 Boston wedding, the children in the wedding party were a pure delight. Funny, sweet, and appropriately sassy, the kids were hilarious from start to finish.

This image was taken right before the bride and groom signed their ketubah. The kids in the wedding party were sitting on chairs surrounding the room and were just goofing off. 

I sat in front of them, and at first they were totally playing for the camera. I didn’t engage them, just sat and observed with the camera to my eye. 

Eventually they got bored of hamming it up for the camera and just started interacting with each other. That’s when I knew that I had my shot. 

When taking a picture of multiple people interacting the picture gains its’ power from the actual interaction of the people - every person in the frame has to do something compelling. 

I love the look on the face of every single child in this photograph. 

This image received a score of 80 in the Wedding Division Bridal Party/Family and Friends category of the WPPI 16x20 print competition in Las Vegas. 

This score indicates that the image shows a good standard of imagemaking, a score I felt was a bit low (don’t we all feel our competition scores are too low?) but the image still hung in the gallery at the WPPI convention and I was proud to see it hanging amongst the work of my colleagues and friends.

I used to run a wedding photography education blog called The Dynamic Range.  I wrote a series of reviews of my experience with prints in the WPPI 16x20 Print Competition, and I wrote a write-up of this particular image!  The description of the judging process, my score, and how I felt read as follows:
A category that doesn't get a lot of interest at the WPPI 16x20 print competition is the Bridal Party category.  It's a category that I find fascinating, because it encompasses anything involving the bridal party. It doesn't have to be a formal, posed portrait.  It can be anything that shows this important group of people on a wedding day.
This image received a score of 80. This means that it's "above average...good standard of professional skill, creativity and technique."  It just barely squeaked above the 76-79 range of "average...average professional skill and technique."  A score of 80 also gives you a silver award, and a point towards your Honors of Excellence ranking.
Currently, I have 40 points towards my Honors of Excellence, making me a Double Master of WPPI.  I need 50 points to make it to Triple Master, and currently there are only four Triple Masters of WPPI.  There are only fifteen photographers with Honors of Excellence higher than mine.  Will I make it to Triple Master in 2015?  No way, I just can't possibly score that high in just this year alone.  But 2016?  That's do-able.
What does this even MEAN, anyhow?  To clients, it means nothing.  They don't know about WPPI, usually, and the difference between a Double or Triple Master is basically meaningless.  Might it be somewhat impressive that you have a cool-sounding award?  Sure, of course.  But I don't do this for clients - my clients out there, you know that I'll work hard for you whether I have an award or not.  Did any of you hire me because I'm a Double Master?  I highly doubt you did!  
The only thing that awards and fancy standings can really do for you is to increase the trust your clients have in you.  On my website, I have the American Photo Top Ten, some Junebug awards, some Best of the Best's, a bunch of WPPI wins, an Epson ad, and some other super fancy-sounding things.  A bunch of other photographer also have similar fancy-sounding things.  Please don't think that those things will get clients to hire you.  All they'll do is be part of a fancy resume that backs you up.  Your work has to win clients first, your genuine care and customer service are also equally important.  All the awards in the world won't book you weddings if your clients don't trust you, trust your work, and know that you'll care for them and their day - and beyond.
The awards are great for SEO, they back me up with some great accolades, and they look pretty cool.  Just don't think they'll actually save, fix, or jumpstart your career!
But I digress.  Back to the print - why did this image score well?
1.  It's technically really, really good.
2.  Every person in the picture is doing something compelling.  I try to think of it as this : if you remove everyone else in the image, is that ONE PERSON doing something interesting enough to stand on their own?  In this image, everyone has great facial expression.
3.  The moment is real, and believable.
4.  The print is beautiful.
Why didn't it score higher?
1.  There just isn't enough THERE.  It's a great moment, but it's not more than an above-average capture.  It's a great moment for the clients, a wonderful picture in their gallery, and clearly I love it since it's featured on my website.  But to be truly stellar, the moment has to be MORE than just "there."
2.  It didn't require extreme skill to capture.  The light was even, the room was easy, and the children were darling on their own without help from the photographer.
Sometimes I enter knowing the print will "hang."  It will score over an 80, hang in the gallery, and get me a point towards my Honors of Excellence.  I used to enter images that I knew would never WIN, but they'd do okay.  I don't really do that anymore.  Now when I enter, I enter to WIN.

Keywords: Boston (18), Domenic Cambio (6), Rentals Unlimited (6), The Intercontinental Hotel (6). 1/160; f/2.8; ISO 1600; 24.0 mm.