Meet the 2020 Best of the Best Photo Contest Judges

BotB 2020 Tien photo

With 2020 coming to a long close, we announced our Best of the Best Photo Contest. We are incredibly excited about the submissions we’ve already seen. Submissions for the 2020 Best of the Best Photo Contest are open now and they will close on November 23rd. We are thrilled to see what you captured through this crazy year! 

We have assembled a team of industry experts—the team at Junebug Weddings and our panel of judges—to help us choose the winners. These aren’t just any judges. They are the folks behind incredible images that consistently take our breath away. Behind these lenses are Joel & Justyna, Phan Tien Photography, and Avonné Photography.

In anticipation of the contest, we sat down with all our judges to find out what they are looking for in the best, and to provide any helpful insights and tips for photographers hoping to win. Scroll down to get advice and insight from our three amazing judges.

What Makes A Photograph The “2020 Best Of The Best” Photo?

Avonné Wants Real Essence In Photos 

In her opinion, Avonné says “Any great photo is one that portrays the real essence that is present in the scene; a narrative of sorts. You want to capture how it actually happened, how the subject (s) actually felt, and/or how the ambiance actually looked. I think a great photo should make you feel something and in most cases a re-enactment of how you felt in that very moment.”

Phan Tien Wants A Wow Effect

“A photograph that gives a wow effect and keeps us stay for a while to learn about the story. At first glance, it is a perfect blend of a powerful moment of the couple and a great location with good lighting.”

Joel & Justyna Want An -X-Factor

“A really good photograph combines any combination of 3 of the elements of light, composition, timing, subject matter, perspective, intention, but a truly great photograph has the power to elicit a heightened intellectual, emotional – or both – response. We describe it as that “X-factor” – something that can’t be repeated, ever again.” 

joel justyna photo 2020

Photo by Joel & Justyna

What Makes A Destination ‘Stunning’?

Avonné Is Looking For Uniqueness in 2020 Best of the Best Destinations

“I think what makes a destination stunning is the uniqueness that place holds. Show me a place that isn’t what you normally see where you are, or the culture that is prevalent there. Every place I have seen over the years has its own stunning factors—whether that be the sunsets over the horizons, people in that region, or the different architecture that lives there. That’s the absolute best part of destinations.”

Phan Tien Is Looking For Views and Cultures 

“As a destination photographer, I am frequently asked for this question. And to me, a “stunning” destination has a breathtaking view of or a different culture from people living there. Sometimes we need to travel slow enough to see these stunning things.”

Joel & Justyna Are Looking For Expertly Captured Differences 

“We all of us have ingrained in our collective DNA places, vistas, ideas that we consider beautiful or stunning (the ruins of an old castle on a desolate island, shrouded in mist during a pink and purple sunrise, for example). We think that as wedding photographers, we usually find the places that look the most dis-similar from our own normality as stunning.”

Describe What You’re Hoping To See In Submissions

Avonné Is Hoping To Feel Photos

“Emotion. I’d love to see photos that capture the real essence of people or an atmosphere and not just the pretty, epic shots. There is so much beauty in raw, emotive imagery! I want to feel!”

Phan Tien Wants To Travel Through Images 

“I am hoping we can travel through your photos! This is a difficult time for travelers around the world but you can show us the beautiful places and stories in the region where you are living. It may be usual for you but special for us!”

Joel & Justyna Are Hoping To Experience The Moments

“Moments. The inimitable. That split-second where some truth is intentionally revealed.”

What Advice Do You Have For Photographers

Just Do It, Says Avonné 

“Take the leap of faith and just do it! Take a moment and sit with your images and ask yourself these things, 

  • What do these photos say about me and my brand?
  • What do I have that people haven’t done before?
  • How can I stand out? 

These photos should represent you as an artist. So take your time. We all have photos that we were trying to be artsy or emotive on, and while our clients may not understand them, these photo competitions are the perfect time to use those!”

Shout About Your Work, Says Phan Tien

“It’s time to shout out about your work! Be loud! We are a family in this community and would love to see work from everyone and support each other. Winning this contest can get you referenced not only on Junebug and Photobug but also on many other popular platforms like Buzzfeed or HuffPost. Use your images to fight for that extra exposure.”

Submit What Speaks To You, Say Joel & Justyna

“We remember everyone who judges says this each year  but often forget what won in previous contests. Forget about what you think will do well. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so if you feel strongly about an image, it’s already a winner. Submit the shots that speak to you. Trust your instincts.”

2020 botb judges photo

Photo by Joel & Justyna

What Advice Do You Have For Photographers Looking To Shoot More Destination Locations?

Photographers Should Travel And Shoot

We love the simplicity of Avonné’s suggestion, “The best advice I can give is just Travel and shoot! Hoard you a few dresses in your closet and take these dresses with you to your destinations and do model calls. Opportunities arise out of just photographing things and people in different locations and showcasing them everywhere on your social media, and websites. You will always attract what you put out.”

Keep That Travel Fire Forever

Phan Tien’s suggestion is similar to Avonne’s and we’re sensing a theme. He suggests 2020 Best of the Best photographers, “Always keep that travel fire in your heart and show people you are a pro traveler with all your skills and experiences. Make them trust you 100% to travel with you! It’s even more important during this time with unpredictable obstacles.”

Take Risks, Stay Positive, And Keep The Focus

Joel & Justyna have been there. Their advice was too perfect. “We’ve pondered this question ourselves back in 2014 before we had photographed any destination locations. Like, “Hey, how can we make this happen? How do people DO that??”. We still don’t quite know what the ‘key’ is or if there is any, to begin with. We ended up meeting people along the way, took some calculated risks, and stayed positive and focused while continuing to hone our photography but kept our focus on our local market.” 

phan tien photo 2020

Photo by Phan Tien Photography

Any Other Advice You’d Like To Share For 2020 Best of the Best Competitors?

Be Unapologetically You

“Don’t be afraid to be different. Be you and showcase what you’ve always wanted to because you never know; there are always like-minded artists just like you. Also, do not get discouraged if you aren’t chosen for this list. Keep being a light, keep pushing, and keep shining your artistry to the world!” -Avonne

Showcase Your Passion

“Show us your passion when selecting the photos. It’s time to get ready for the great adventures when the world opens again and this contest may be a start!  All the best everyone!” -Phan Tien

Stay Motivated And Enjoy Every Step Of The Journey

“Awards and accolades are awesome and help motivation, but we never thought of them as validation—that’s important because there are a lot of bruised egos that take to forums when they don’t feel recognized by their community, looking for company. It sucks to put your work (your soul, really) out there and receive nothing but chirping crickets in return. We can’t tell you how many contests we used to submit to, just to receive that in return. Let it motivate, not discourage. Also, know that there is no “there”. None of us will ever arrive, so enjoy the journey.” -Joel and Justyna

Thank you to all of our judges for their helpful insight and advice! Best of luck to all of you showcasing your talents in this 2020 Best of the Best Competition. If you haven’t submitted already, head to our 2020 Best of the Best submission page and be sure to check out the winners of last year’s Best of the Best competition

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