Nine years ago, Kentucky photographer Jennifer Palumbo’s first print competition was the stuff that would make most people put down the camera forever. But not Palumbo.
“It lit a fire under me,” she says. Her first competition photo was graded down from a 72 to a 68 for not meeting the competition’s “standards.” “I said: You just watch.”
Four years later she earned her Masters of Photography degree from the Professional Photographers of America and began winning competitions. This year, she brought home the Sunset Print Award for her cheery image, “Dipsy Daisy,” pictured above.
A former elementary school teacher, Palumbo took up photography after her son was born 16 years ago. “We decided that after we had children, I was going to stay home,” she says. “But in six months, I was bored, so I picked up a camera and started taking pictures.”
The hobby turned into a flourishing business, and the family opened a portrait studio, Baby Boo Photography, in their 1,700 square-foot basement, focusing on newborn, baby and high school senior photography. While she does enter client portrait work into competitions, her floral photography work stretches her creatively — and pays off.
Yet the winning “Dipsy Daisy” almost didn’t happen. “I wasn’t going to enter this year; I was in a down space and was just going to take a year off” she says. “But I decided to enter after I came back from Imaging USA and got some inspiration.” She had just two-and-a-half weeks to pull together 10 images for Photo Pro Expo. It was the middle of winter, so she had to venture to the grocery store for flowers.
“I put the flower in a vase and shot it, and it looked OK,” she says. Then I brought it into Photoshop and Corel Painter and painted all of it. I had just bought some new Corel brushes, and I liked the way it blended … I really liked the color balance on it.”
She had the image printed on fine art paper and matted it with yellow and green tones. “The colors completely set the flower off,” she says. “It makes it stand out a lot. White matting would have washed it out and drawn attention away from the flower.”
Palumbo says she encourages other photographers to get involved with PPA and print competitions as a way to grow as a photographer. “You just have to jump in and do it,” she says. “Check your feelings at the door and make it a challenge to learn more.”