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2018 PFRE Photographer of the Year

Published: 03/12/2018
By: Brandon

Every month, since 2008, real estate and interior photographers from around the world have competed in the PFRE Photographer of the Month contest. Some photographers enter the contest to see how they stack up against their peers; others are looking for feedback and learning opportunities but in the back of many shooters' minds is the thought of competing to be named PFRE Photographer of the Year (POTY), a title that has been held by some of the most talented photographers in the industry. Over the years, the POTY selection process has evolved from simply selecting the individual who shot the best image of the year, to a more in-depth review of the entire body of work each photographer represents. After all, we are naming the PFRE "Photographer of the Year" not the "Image of the Year"

This years candidates for PFRE Photographer of the year are:

*NOTE* Photographers name links to their website, the month links to their winning image.

To help clarify what goes into choosing the PFRE Photographer of the Year, I've called upon a few of the distinguished PFRE jurors to share a bit about their thought process when making their selection.

Jason Roehner - Phoenix, AZ (Photographer of the Year, 2015)

As judges, we look at the PFRE POTM photographer's work as a whole. While we're all in this line of work as a business, I personally look for a photographer whose work makes it clear that this is a passion (at least I hope that's what helped me win in 2015 ha!). Often times, that's evidenced in a photographer who takes care in making strong compositions and is very proficient with color correction and editing, even while we all have to work fairly quickly in this field. I know I've spent my years in PFRE admiring the work of the Photographer of the Year winners who came before me like Barry Mackenzie, Ethan Tweedie, and Iran Watson, so I look forward to helping name the next person to wear the badge.

Ethan Tweedie - Hawaii (Photographer of the Year, 2014)

When choosing the Photographer of the Year, I do a deep dive into the photographer’s entire portfolio. I look at the technical difficulty of the images produced, composition, lighting, and attention to detail. I certainly scan images for sloppiness in editing, etc. Lastly, I look to see if the images look realistic and believable to the eye. Doing this evaluation really narrows the field and the winner will inevitably rise to the top. Nothing screws things up like a missed dust spot!

Tony Colangelo - Victoria, BC (Four-time Photographer of the Month and personal coach to many POTM and POTY winners)

I go through several considerations when examining a photo for any monthly POTM contest with a number of additional considerations when awarding points for Photographer of the Year.

For the monthly contests, good composition is by far, the most important thing to me. Indeed, if the scene is well-composed but is lacking in the way it's lit, jurors can offer commentary/input on how the photographer can work with that image in PS/LR to improve that aspect of the shot. However, if the photo is poorly composed, it can't be corrected in post. An image with poor composition-- even if it is lit perfectly -- will never achieve its maximum impact on the viewer. I'm also looking for a composition that shows off the best features (selling features and/or design elements) and for me, more often than not, this is achieved by leveraging focal length -- i.e., standing farther back and zooming in. After composition, I examine lighting. Specifically, I'm looking for the photographer to give indication of both the directionality of the lighting and ensuring that the lighting "makes sense"-- e.g., having shadows that are consistent with the the light source; non-conflicting shadows, and not appearing overly flashy. Finally, I look at the management of "core" editing practices like brightness, contrast/blacks, color, straight vertical lines (and horizontal, if applicable), sharpness, and other enhancements such as the quality of a sky replacement, among others.

When I run into a situation where two photos are evenly matched up, in terms of the scores I'm going to give, I break the tie by considering the degree of difficulty in executing the shot (on-site and/or in post.)

The Photographer of the Year contest is much different ... it is more than simply re-examining the winning photo(s) from the monthly contests. Other considerations come into play, almost all of which are subjective. First, I review the photographer's Flickr photostream, to examine the images posted over the past year. Then I spend a good chunk of time on the photographer's website, where I'm looking for excellence, of course, but also consistency (i.e., does an image stand on its own and does it contribute to the photographer's "visual brand" as well.) Finally, a major factor for me in awarding my POTY points is the extent to which the photographer contributes/gives back to the PFRE community (e.g., posting images, regularly commenting on others' photos etc.)

Julie Mannell - Seattle, WA

On one hand, I think there is an argument to be made for basing it solely on the strength of the photographer’s winning image(s). If that were the case though, I’d be inclined to call it "Real Estate Photo of the Year." But since the title is "Real Estate Photographer of the Year," I think that implies both a body of work and a certain degree of professionalism.

With that in mind, I’d take into consideration all of the things that encompass a true professional i.e., entire body of work, their website, their approach to photography, etc. These are some of the questions I ask myself when selecting Photographer of the Year:

  • When I look at their website portfolio or their work on social media sites, how consistent is the level of quality?
  • How often do I say "Wow!" when paging through the portfolio images?
  • Do they have a recognizable style/aesthetic?
  • How professionally do they present themselves as a photographer through the content of their website and social media (to the extent that they participate in social media)?

And this is where it becomes most subjective I think: How strongly does their aesthetic resonate with me?

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