Just a few overall notes/thoughts. I am curious how many people took photos and then submitted them as they shot them? Meaning, what they saw as the borders of the photo through their view finder ended up being the actual borders of the finished piece. I think there is a tendency to do all the composing in camera (and some photographers insist on working this way – in the name of purity or some such) and feel like the photo is done. That’s ok. But the great thing about photography (and esp. digital photography) is the opportunity to hone your vision after the photo is taken… really experiment with the variables (at the very least cropping). One thing I found myself doing in judging this competition is holding up envelopes (scraps of paper, twizzler wrappers, etc) to create a movable visual border around the image on my screen. You would be amazed at what a low budget tool can do for an image – a poor man’s cropping tool. To this end, I think it is important to remember how much of photography works… a photographer might take hundreds (thousands) of photos of the bug or flower or baby or giraffe each with a slight (sometimes unrecognizable) difference. Then there is an extensive editing process – trimming down the source photos to a more digestible number. THEN there is a process of thinking about different crops of the remaining photos. Some photos might just feel better than others, some might have technical advantages. (better focus, light, etc) Then one particular standout photo (with the chosen crop) is selected (let’s call this the “content”). Finally there is often another step involving tweaks with of exposure, color, etc (let’s call this the “values”). So, when you see that photo hanging on the wall or in that magazine, or affixed to that billboard, it feels like a great photographer snapped one off and nailed it. While this is sometimes the case, more often than not the process is (somewhat) as I described. The reason I think this is an important thing to remember is that it alleviates the pressure to take that “great shot” and fres you to really experiment, take risks.
I don’t expect anyone to take hundreds of photos for the “best friend” contest, but maybe instead of taking one shot of your desired subject, perhaps you could take 2. (or 5 or 10) Shoot the subject from above, shoot it from the ground on your belly. Shoot it from behind. Shoot it partially out of frame. Shoot it with your camera catty-wampus. Sometimes the great shots don’t reveal themselves until you are reviewing your shots. Give yourself lots of opportunities to be surprised.
On a separate note, I found it interesting how people interpreted the assigment – some seemed to be taking an actual photo of their actual best friend. Others took a more symbolic approach and tried to capture friendship within the content of the image. Still others seemed to be revealing something personal about themselves.