Your Chance to Become One of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars
August 16, 2023
Rangefinder is now accepting nominations for its 30 Rising Stars of Photography -- that coveted list of up-and-coming wedding photographers. Prospective photographers go through two application rounds – the first by nomination and the second by invitation only. (Scroll through to see images from last year's honorees.)
Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography is an exclusive list of 30 up-and-coming wedding photographers from around the globe. Applications are made anonymously by established members of the wedding industry, and the chosen photographers are asked to keep the honor a secret until the list is announced. This year, for the first time, wedding photographers are able to nominate themselves (link below).
Nominees must have been shooting weddings on a full-time basis for five years or less to be eligible for the competition. If picked from among the nominees, they are requested to fill out a questionnaire and submit 30 photos from their portfolio. This portfolio becomes the key to the judges’ ultimate decision as it must show promise for advancing and evolving the aesthetics of wedding photography.
This year, nominations for 2024’s 30 Rising Stars are open until September 1.
WHAT THE JUDGES LOOK FOR
Rangefinder looks for submissions that contain various parts of a wedding day—from getting-ready moments and first looks, to the ceremony itself and reception. Some wedding photographers only submit portraits, which is a big misstep. Judges want to see interesting detail shots, photos of the family and guests, and other in-between moments that complete the full picture of a client’s wedding experience.
The photos should also be sourced from more than one or two weddings, so that the judges can see a nominee’s demonstrated skill.
The exposures should be consistent throughout the 30 photos in a submission, and interesting exposure choices, such as double exposure or grainy photos should only be included as artistic choices and should not be due to technical flaws.
The judges want to see consistent style throughout a submission. It should be clear that all photos were shot by the same photographer. While that might sound basic, judges always encounter submissions with photos that don’t look like they come from the same creative voice.
Judges must look through hundreds of submissions, comprising 30 photos each, so to capture and hold their attention, the nominees should sequence their photos in an emotionally compelling way.
A good way to get outside input and emotional distance from photo submissions is for nominees to test their chosen portfolio of images on others. This can help the photographer get clarity on images that might have an interesting backstory but aren’t necessarily a photographer’s strongest images from an aesthetic standpoint.
THE IMAGES NOT TO SUBMIT
After the volume of wedding photography that the judges have seen over the years, they can often sense when a photographer is imitating someone else. Photo ideas sparked from others on social media that don’t carry much narrative weight are clear indications that while a photographer is exploring, they haven’t dedicated themselves to an original voice yet.
The inevitable wedding moments that are always emotionally stirring—like the look on a groom’s face upon seeing the bride for the first time that day—are classic moments of a wedding day that the judges have come to expect, but trendy visuals without a compelling purpose—like a dress hung on a tree branch or curtain rod, a bride holding a bouquet in front of her face, or a couple framed small amid a landscape—need to be original.
As a general rule of thumb, if the image idea is something the photographer has seen before, they should consider different ways of doing it.
Uncomfortable Posing and Disingenuous Expressions
Real, raw emotion is one of the keys to a submission. Because nominees are submitting photos from real weddings, not styled shoots, the judges want to see that they can react to the emotion of the big day and don’t need to force or recreate those moments for the camera.
Inconsistent Black-and-White Photos
Muddied and mostly grey images that are meant to be black and white will turn off the judges; it will demonstrate a lack of technical understanding. Using the full range from black to white is a skill that not everyone possesses. If black-and-white images are not your strong suit, Rangefinder recommends only submit color images.
It is not required to submit black and white images, and if they are shot alongside color images, it should be evident that they are all shot by the same photographer. When putting together their portfolio, photographers should play to their strengths.
HOW TO SUBMIT TO BE ONE OF RF’S 30 RISING STARS
For the first time, Rangefinder is allowing wedding photographers who have been shooting full-time for five years or less to self-nominate. Industry professionals and wedding photographers can make nominations via this online form by September 1.