Photographer Ben Shirk isn’t afraid of a challenge. In fact, when considering what to shoot for this year’s print competitions, a friend dared him to created an award-winning photograph in-camera, rather than relying on his advanced Photoshop skills for creative editing.
The result: Mirror Mirror, pictured at left, which won the Sunset Print Award during the Professional Photographers of Iowa’s annual competition earlier this year.
“It took a great deal of planning and preciseness to get it correct,” Shirk says. “I had to get the wig, the eyelashes, the lighting, everything just perfect. It probably took me 15 hours to go out and get everything and get it all ready. If I’d have done it in Photoshop, I could have done it in an hour.”
He shot the winning image on a Canon 1D X, relying on natural lighting to get it just right. The final image was printed on a watercolor paper to “give it that artistic feel.”
When he’s not entering contests, Shirk runs Shirk Photography studio, where he specializes in high school senior portraits, sports teams and weddings. The images are filled with dynamic special effects that Shirk creates using Photoshop.
“I’m pretty well known for my work with Photoshop,” he says, which certainly played a role in his friend challenging him to create this digital-enhancement-free image. At the competition, he scored a 100 for the Mirror Mirror print — challenge crushed.
Shirk says he’s got serious about photography about 10 years ago, after his son was born, and he began entering print competitions six years ago. “Competitions offer me a chance to push myself harder,” he says. “Even in my every day images or client work, they help me to see those a little bit clearer.”