If you’ve been following me on social media (or if you’ve been reading my blog), you’ll already know that I joined the Guild of Photographers last year. Even though I’m not a professional photographer, Guild membership does come with some perks that are also interesting even to amateurs. These range from access to professional mentoring and training at vastly reduced rates, discounts on tools and services, monthly competitions, and a great community where you can get constructive feedback from your peers.
And of course, in addition to the above, they also offer the opportunity for members to work towards three levels of qualifications: Guild Qualified, Craftsman, and Master Craftsman.
After a number of High Bronze, Bronze, and Classified scores in the Image of the Month competition, frustration started to set in and I decided to sign up to some professional mentoring. I was hoping to find out where I was going wrong, and where I could improve.
My mentor, Kevin Pengelly, provided some excellent insight into the judging process, and also encouraged me to not only concentrate on improving my competition scores, but in addition, look at getting qualified.
I hadn’t really considered this before, as I assumed I wouldn’t be good enough as I wasn’t scoring particularly highly in the competition. I also didn’t really see the value for a non-professional to have this kind of qualification.
Having Kevin explain things in more detail though helped me make the decision to pursue this after all. To be fair, it was difficult not to, as he was so complimentary about my work, it was the kind of pick-me-up and validation I needed at this point.
Whilst the Image of the Month competition is judged in line with international competition standards, the difference to the qualification panels is that the latter are judged as an overall representation of the photographer as an artist, or craftsman of their art. And Kevin seemed confident that my photos are good enough to achieve those qualifications.
So how does it all work…
For the first level of Guild qualification you’re required to put together a panel of 21 images which best represent your style and skills.
Whereas if you’re taking the qualification as a professional photographer, the 21 images must be a coherent set of the same genre (e.g. landscape, nature, wildlife, weddings, portrait, etc). Entering as an amateur, however, allows you to pick your best images of any genre, taken in the last three years.
Initially I had a shortlist of around 100 photos which I thought could fit the brief. I eventually whittled them down to around 50 and arranged another session with Kevin during which we discussed the pros and cons of my shortlist.
He provided some insight into what the judges would be looking for, how some of the photos could be improved further to achieve a higher mark, things he especially liked about some of the images, and things he did not think worked in others.
It was such an interesting conversation, and I was pleased to also pick up some Photoshop tips during our half-hour session. And I felt confident that I now knew which 21 images to choose for my panel.
Since all good things always come in threes, I decided to pick seven sets of three images, each belonging to the same style or type of photography:
Cities at Night
Vintage Train Scenes
With the visual part of my entry now done, all that was left for me to do was to write a purposeful brief.
Believe it or not, I actually found this a lot more difficult than picking the images to enter! There are no real guidelines as to what this brief must contain and what the judging panel is looking for (even though Kevin did give me a couple of rough pointers). So I went through a number of drafts of mostly mindless waffle (a bit like my blog posts, haha), before I settled on a very basic and honest summary of my photographic style and preferences, my reason for pursuing a Guild qualification, and my general aspirations in this field.
For my Guild Qualified panel I wanted to put together a set of images that hopefully showcases a variety of skills and styles.I’m first and foremost a landscape photographer at heart, as I love to spend my free time by the coast or in the mountains capturing nature at its best and most beautiful. Although equally, cities at night tend to draw me in too for similar reasons. I feel both require a lot of patience, creativity, and an eye for an interesting (hopefully not too cluttered) frame. However, I also like to challenge myself with different subjects every now and then, and I’m currently working on improving my skills for capturing moving subjects, such as birds.As an amateur, my reasons for joining the Guild of Photographers and working towards my Guild qualifications are to learn from professional as well as like-minded photographers to improve my skills and grow as a photographer overall. It is also a great incentive for me to put more effort and time into making photos, and validating my efforts and skills.
And that was it! Next thing I knew, I hit “send” and with that it was all down to the judges to treat me with kindness.
It took a week or so until I received an email from Sabrina at Guild HQ, congratulating me on my newly achieved status of QGP! Yay!
What am I going to do with this now? Honestly? I’m not sure yet. But what’s the harm in having it, right? For now, it’s validation that my photos aren’t that bad, and that it’s worth further pursuing this as a “hobby with benefits”.
And of course, I have already had the conversation with Kevin that I should now look at progressing to the next level, Craftsman. This does require a little more effort and dedication though, but it gives me something to aim for. So watch this space…
Update (April 30th 2020):
I just spotted my feature page in the Guild’s “Creative Light Magazine”, showcasing some of my images entered for qualification. It’s another nice way of the Guild to acknowledge and support their members’ skills, and I feel honoured to be mentioned amongst some outstandingly talented photographers.