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: Samson

poltorzycki_04_29_15 samsonPlymouth, Mass., photographer Stephen Poltorzycki may have only gotten serious about digital photography over the past few years, but his knack for it has certainly come into focus, as he recently won the Sunset Print Award in the “The Fine Art of Photography” show, organized by the Plymouth Center for the Arts. His winning image, “Samson,” is pictured at left.

“I took photography somewhat seriously in college, but life took over and I didn’t pursue it,” says Poltorzycki, a self-employed management consultant. “When the digital age dawned I decided it would be fun to get back into.”

He joined a local camera club and started studying photography technology and judging criteria. Once he stared entering competitions, he saw the best success with still-life images like “Samson.” The image was part of the club’s challenge to capture images that showed symmetry.

Prints That Win: Spiderwort


When it comes to photography and print competitions, a lot of contestants go for unusual subject matter to try to catch the judges’ eyes. But Lakewood, NJ, photographer Steven Yahr takes a different approach.

“The subject matter in my competition prints is always very simple,” Yahr says. “When I do workshops, I tell photographers that the hardest things to photograph are the things we see every day. You become immune to them.”

So when he walked past the spiderwort plant with the vibrant, violet blooms on the side of his house, a floral he’d bypassed day after day, he knew he’d found his next subject. “I have quite a few of them in my yard,” he says. “So I blocked the light and used reflectors – the same as you would do for a portrait.”

With a little Photoshop help to add a bit of contrast, “Spiderwort” earned Yahr the Sunset Print Award during the PhotoNorthEast Image Competition, held in Woodcliff Lake, NJ, earlier this month.

Yahr works as a contract wedding photographer and has competed in print competitions since 2000, although he’s been a member of his state’s PPA affiliate since 1993.

“I held off competing for quite a few years,” he says. “I was just observing other people’s work and asking a lot of questions. I tell other photographers: Don’t get discouraged. Try to hear what judges have to say. The critique is more valuable than score itself.”

Although weddings are his bread-and-butter, Yahr says his competition pieces are inspired by the work of artists, rather than other photographers. However, when photographing his competition subjects, he uses his portrait know-how, and vice-versa.

“It’s the same principles – the lighting has to be correct, and you need an unobtrusive background,” he says. “The same things that make portraits work, are the things that make still lifes work, too.”

Yahr paired the vulnerability of the delicate violet petals and the gentle highlight on the yet-to-bloom buds, with a dramatic black backdrop and double violet stroke border, to create his striking, winning image.

Award-Winning Self-Portrait Shows What It Means to Have a Photographic Eye

Photography is a form of creative visual expression.  So when photographer Taylor Horne wanted to visually express how he views himself, he created this strikingly original self-portrait of the artist as a young man. In fact, his self-portrait is so eye-catching, that it won first place in the student print competition conducted by Antonelli Institute of Art and Photography near Philadelphia. One of the prizes Horne received was a $500 gift certificate from LexJet.
“The story behind my self-portrait is simple,” says Taylor. “It is a more physical representation of my logo, which is an eye with the aperture replacing the iris.”

“This is what I will be doing for the rest of my life and it is what truly brings me the most joy,” Taylor continues. “So the photo is to capture that story, literally as if I took a lens and shoved it into my eye. It is about how this is not a dream anymore, it is a reality and how there is no going back now.”

One goal was to give viewers a better idea of his passion for photography and my dedication: “I wanted it to be realistic but not over-the-top bloody. The blood is more beautiful, it’s more about the sacrifices you make to be strong in your craft.”

He chose the suspenders and styling of the photo to represent the ‘30s and ‘40s because he regards that era as a pivotal turning point for photographic technology: “Cameras started becoming more portable and handheld, and I think that the modern portrait was reborn.”