October 2023

Hi First name / everyone!  You may be wondering why newsletter #40 is coming just two weeks after #39. The reason is; I am toying with the idea of increasing the newsletters frequency to twice a month. While I could just bulk up every months newsletter, I like the idea of separating subject matter, and ideas. While I am still not sure I have the capacity to do this every month (as some seasons are busier that others), I would love to know whether this is something you would like me to do more of? Please let me know!
- William
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The reason I wanted to send out two newsletter this month was that there are a few exciting things I want to share. First up, The South African Photographer of the Year is now open for entries! With some amazing prizes up for grabs, it is not to be missed. After an amazing first year with over 4000 images entered, we are so excited to see the entries for 2023!
Entries are open to anyone around the world and there are so many categories to chose from. This year there is even an “Africa” category, for those who have taken images further afield! 
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Last month I was thrilled to have an image Highly Commended in the renowned Bird Photographer of the Year Competition. It was a massive honour to be acknowledged in this competition, which continues to be where I have found most success in competitions.
As many competition are now opened for entries, I wanted to take a moment to talk about competition success/failure, and my top tips for entering competitions. While I have had varied success in over the years, I thought it may be of value to share a little bit of what I have learnt so far. I hope it inspires you to enter competitions, or at the very least, be more self critical of your photography.
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Black and White - Highly Commended 2023
Don't enter a photograph of a leopard in a tree!
This isn't about the leopard, or even the tree! It's about entering images that we've all seen before. As an example, every judge has seen thousands of leopard in tree images, in fact they probably have hundreds of them! So to win with an image with that subject, you not only have to be better than any other similar image, you also have convince the judges to find it interesting… this highlights my second point.
Be different
Unique images attract attention! That doesn't always mean different images win awards (as photography is so subjective) but it does mean your images may stand out from the pack. If judges are going through hundreds, if not thousands of images, why would they pick yours? That is an important question to ask before you enter any competition!
Trust what you love
At the end of the day, you have to love your own photographs. Don't spend hours trying to analyse what judges are looking for. Trust you gut, trust your style, and don't be dejected if others don't see your vision. Your photography is for you, and if it does well in a competition, thats just a bonus!
Bonus tip
My final bonus pointer, is that you do not have to photograph something rare or “never before see behaviour”. The following images are my awarded images over the past 4 years in the Bird Photographer of the Year. Notice a trend? They are all of very common and largely overlooked subjects! Proof that it is creativity over subject matter that does well!
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“lockdown” Karoo Prinia - Urban Birds - Silver Award 2021
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“Contrast” White-fronted Plover - Black and White - Commended 2020
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"Desert Nomad" Pied Crow - Birds in the Environment - Commended 2020
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"Guardian" Cattle Egret - Best Portrait - Bronze Award 2019
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“Fire run” Helmeted Guineafowl - Bird Behaviour - Commended 2019
Entering competitions is an amazing way of being self critical of your work, but, with over 50,000 images entered into some of the large competitions, and often as little as 15-100 images awarded, the statistics are not in your favour. It is really important to remember that competition success or failure isn't a reflection of your skill or creativity. Photography is subjective, and as long as you love your images that is all that matters!

Thank you as always for reading and I cannot wait to hear what you think of this months newsletter! The next newsletter is coming soon, so make sure you have signed up!