Prints That Win: The Beauty of Innocence

For photographic craftsman Kimberly Smith of Muskogee, Okla., a hobby that started as a way to document the growth of her family through scrapbooking turned into a full-blown career. “I really was looking for a better camera to take better pictures of my kids. It turns out, not only did I find a better camera, I also found my passion,” she says.

Once Smith decided to pursue photography, she began looking for classes or other educational opportunities. A friend of hers suggested she reach out to Shannon Ledford of Broken Arrow, so that’s just what she did. “When I showed her my work, she said she could tell that I had a good eye,” Smith says. “She was so encouraging to me and my craft.” The two women bonded over photography and became fast friends, with Ledford inviting her to conventions, to her studio and into the lab for experience and training.

Nowadays, Smith has embodied the role of mentor to up-and-coming local photographers, saying, “it’s important to me to be able to inspire and encourage others, even if it’s as simple as going to their social media posts and commenting on the talent that I see.”

Attending conventions is still part of Smith’s routine, along with classes and competitions – affectionately known as the three C’s – making her a perpetual student of the art. Of competitions, like the Sunset Print Awards, Smith says, “they push me to do better. With every competition, I improve and they make me stronger.” She stresses that learning what to do or not to do and finding new ways to be creative are some of the most important lessons to be garnered from entering competitions.

During a recent Southwest PPA show, Smith had a few entries and was excited to see how the judges would rate her various prints. She was delighted to find out that her first image to be judged – “The Beauty of Innocence” – received a score of 100.

Thinking back on that particular portrait session, Smith notes, “a serene 1-year old is not necessarily something you would expect to have at the end of a photo shoot, but at that moment, the little girl just had a look of curiosity and a calmness about her. I could see the artistry in the shot and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to capture the image.” With the soft light coming through the window and the white jumper, she decided the image would be even more striking as a black and white.

Once the editing was complete, Smith worked with Red River Digital, an Oklahoma City based company that provides printing services for local artists, to ensure the print was competition-ready. She knew she wanted to use a thick art paper so that she could distress the edges of the print, adding a classic feel to the modern print. She decided on Sunset Hot Press Rag 310g, which gave her just the look she had envisioned for her winning entry.

Smith understands that her drive to compete, her desire to learn and willingness to share her knowledge contributes to her success. “In the end,” she says, “our memories and photographs are all we have. Enjoy life and capture it.”

Prints That Win: Prepare There’s Trouble

Award-winning master photographer Terry Blain was not always telling her story from behind the camera. She spent the past two decades traveling all over the country looking for interesting people to capture; however, in her early days as a model, she was the one who was captured on film. One day, after a particularly uninspired photo shoot, she realized that she would have set up the shots differently, had she been the one taking the pictures.

Utilizing her experiences on both sides of the camera, she has a self-awareness that helps her envision the best way to optimize the lighting, the setting and the model to strike the right tone and properly tell her story. “Putting the models at ease and making them comfortable is the best way for me to get the most flattering shot,” Blain says. “Often, I want to accentuate and flatter the highlights of the scene while downplaying the low-lights. I’m lucky enough to have experiences on both sides of the lens to help me clearly communicate this to my clients.”

Prints That Win: Ambers Anticipation

During her junior year in high school, Abbie Thomas fell in love with life behind the lens while taking a photography class. She always knew photography was in her blood – thanks to her grandfather – but once she started getting hands-on experience in class, she knew this was her calling. At age 17, a friend asked if she would photograph her wedding. Without any experience, and only a high school’s class worth of training, she borrowed her grandfather’s camera, loaded it up with black and white film, and shot her first wedding.

“It was the first time I’d been able to capture a wedding from beginning to end,” Thomas says. “Sitting down with [the bride and groom] after everything was over was amazing, to see the joy on the bride’s face … I just knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Years later, her wedding portraiture work has evolved into award-winning art. For the Sunset Print Awards, Thomas submitted her PPA Northeast winning photo “Ambers Anticipation.” Thomas was inspired by the amber waves of grain when entering the portrait into competition. This wedding shoot was especially personal to Thomas: She used to babysit the bride, Claire, when she was just a girl, and she captured Claire’s youthful exuberance in her senior portrait.

When Claire got engaged, the family knew that no other photographer would illustrate the day the way Thomas could. She was given free rein by the bride to do what she does best: witness the wedding day from beginning to end. To have played an integral part in so many highlights of Claire’s life, Thomas wanted to ensure that everything was perfect at the wedding.

Prints that Win: Photography in the Twilight Zone

Michael Zerivitz, DDS is a Deltona, Fla.-based dentist who’s had a lifelong fascination with photography. Though his photography is a sideline to his successful practice, Zerivitz has been practicing photography since high school.

Award winning photographyThat continual practice, plus the help of his professional photographer friends in the Orlando area, helped make Dr. Zerivitz a distinguished award-winning photographer.

“I set photography aside after college while I raised a family and started a practice. Then I went to back to school at Daytona State College, which has a great photography program, and started getting together with mentors in the Orlando area,” says Zerivitz. “I have some really good professional photographer friends who have a group called the Portrait Artists Group and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join them. I have to give credit to my friends and mentors in the Orlando area who have helped me become a better photographer.”

Zerivitz was recently honored with a Distinguished Award in the Architecture category and a LexJet Sunset Award at the recent Florida Professional Photographers convention for his work entitled Twilight Zone.

Zerivitz captured the image while touring the Israeli Supreme Court building. A certain passageway with windows lining the corridor leading to an interior courtyard caught his fancy so he stopped and took a frame. Later, the image caught his eye again.

Though it’s not the type of shot he usually takes or enters in competition, he did some minor adjustments to it in Photoshop and Nik Software to make it more high key and had the image printed by photographer Tim Kelly.

“We mounted it and matted the print, and then hand-cut the deckling along the edges. There was a little exit sign that was visible in the corner we took out, but other than that it’s a straight shot,” says Zerivitz. “I call it the Twilight Zone because it reminds me of the opening of the old TV show. I think the judges liked the monochromatic image with tones that are all in similar ranges.”

Despite his busy schedule fixing and fine-tuning teeth, Zerivitz is pursuing Certified Professional Photographer and Master Photographer degrees and had one of his images accepted into the PPA Loan Collection this year. Last year Zerivitz was among the Top 10 Florida Professional Photographers and was Photographer of the Year in his local guild.

Here are some of the stories (Prints that Win) of other LexJet Sunset Award winners:

Printing to Win with Sunset Photo Metallic and eSatin Inkjet Media

Bridging the Realism Gap

Something Old, Something New

Old West Shootout in the Southeast

Bridge over Water

Walking the Lonely Street

The Artisan’s Workbench

The Perfect Image with the Perfect Paper and Laminate

David Ziser Wins Sunset Award for Print on Sunset Photo eSatin