If you knew there was a super-cheap, easy way to get professional feedback on your photography, would you do it? What if that opportunity not only included the ability to see how other photographers approached similar projects, but also happened many times a year?

Yes, we’re talking about photo competitions, and yes, you should try entering them for self-growth. But Kristi Odom taught me a few new ways to use your entries to make your work better, starting today!

A wedding and nature photographer based in northern Virginia, Kristi carries the kind of excitement about improving her shooting that brings me back to my early days just learning photography.

“When you’re in school for photography you get so much valuable critique,” she says. “When you leave school there’s just not a lot of that.” She knew she had a lot to learn, though, and for a couple years out of school she grew a lot on her own initiative.

But then the growth started to dwindle. She loved shooting, loved the work – shooting music for a few years, then weddings. But she started to recognize some problems.

First, in an all-digital world, time moves more quickly than with film, where you had to conserve frames to make sure you had enough if “The Moment” happened – and to make sure it didn’t happen while you were changing rolls of film (or, heaven forbid, running back to your car for emergency supplies).

And then there was what she heard from people – friends, clients, colleagues. It’s a social tendency, really: “People are so fast to give you compliments. So, you get this false sense of being a fantastic photographer when you’ve really got a lot to learn,” she says.

It’s one thing to have friends and colleagues give critiques of your work, and entirely another to find out what strangers think – strangers with more experience, different perspectives, and whose job is to be brutally honest about your images.


With not much cash – not enough to take another workshop or seminar – Kristi discovered photo competitions, which is where she “found the critique I was looking for.” It cost her around $30 to enter, and for that tiny cost, she got a “master class” in making her own images better.

Read tomorrow’s Part 2 Post to find out which contests Kristi entered and how you can benefit by entering them for self-growth too!

 

About Kristi Odom

Kristi Odom has a background in travel and nature photography that she brings into destination wedding photography. She has photographed weddings around the world including Ethiopia, Australia, Ireland, Thailand, amongst other locations. Her adventurous side tends to come out in her shoots; may it be shooting a wedding in a blizzard, on top of a castle in Ireland, or along the edge of cliffs.

Kristi’s work has been seen in Times Square, RollingStone’s website, National Geographic’s website, Eco-Beautiful Weddings, United With Love, Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Kodak’s website, amongst others.

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