“Story Awards” are something totally unique to a strictly documentary wedding photography competition called, “This is Reportage.” I recently discovered this young group when its creator, Alan Law, requested I judge awards Collection Five. I saw it was a group that didn’t award anything posed or staged and immediately knew it was the one I had been waiting for!

The Story Awards in particular are such an amazing and novel concept. As competition photographers, it’s easy to get wrapped up in just getting that ONE award-winning image, but is that really what our CLIENTS care about? No. They care about how their day was documented as a whole! Now, finally, instead of being judged on just a single image, a photographer is judged on 15-20 images from one wedding. What better gift can we give to our clients than to document their day with the fervor it requires to get this many incredible documentary images all in the same wedding.

After pouring over This is Reportage award submissions for hours, I wanted to share seven little tips for how to select and submit photos for these extremely special Story Awards.

  • Follow the rules: This means NO staged or couples time portraits in the set. Even one photo in the set of 15-20 that breaks this rule will disqualify the whole set.
  • Start Strong: As a judge, I would click through no more than 3-4 images before moving on if I don’t feel they are strong enough, so make those first few shots count.
  • This isn’t Pulp Fiction: Make sure your images are in the correct chronological order. There were a few stories I clicked through to the end and then there were two more “getting ready” photos at the back or photos were generally out of order. It’s extremely difficult to see and judge “the story” this way and definitely hurts your chances.
  • Less is More: If you are going to submit 20 images, it should be because ALL 20 images are equally amazing. Even just a few weak images can drag down the entire submission.
  • Show Variety. If seven of the 15 images you submit are of the flower girl, even if they are amazing images, the only thing that tells me about that story is that you can take nice pictures of a cute flower girl. This doesn’t tell me how well you documented the rest of the wedding day.
  • Don’t get lost in that ONE picture. I noticed that a lot of sets that were submitted included one REALLY strong photo that was also submitted individually for a Reportage Award. However, the rest of the set didn’t even compare. I’d rather see 15 photos that are all STRONG than 14 photos that are just okay and one amazing one. Digging deep into the weddings you’ve photographed in the past, you might discover some of the best potential story award submissions are ones that came without that ONE photo you thought was award worthy in and of itself.
  • Have a clear story. If the story is of the entire wedding day, I want to see strong coverage of all parts of the day that are represented. It’s kind of weird to see ONE getting ready photo, knowing you were there for that, two ceremony photos and then all the rest reception photos. If the reception was the best part of the day, then make the story just about that and leave out the other photos.

Big thanks to David Scholes Photography for letting me share one of my favorite Story Awards from Collection Five (below) to illustrate this article. Now THIS is seriously some amazing documentary coverage!