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THE ARTISTIC GUILD OF THE WPJA: ENHANCING GREAT WEDDING IMAGES

Wedding photojournalists are artists. That’s the idea behind the Artistic Guild of the Wedding Photojournalist Association ([AG]WPJA) — photojournalism’s dedication to straightforward documentary photography notwithstanding.

Photograph by John Schnack, California

Photo by John Schnack, California

Established in 2005, the [AG]WPJA is both a refuge and a platform for dedicated wedding photojournalists who also happen to be masters in digital photo enhancement. It’s also a showcase for the finest artistically enhanced wedding photography in the world, not to mention a great Web destination for the bride and groom seeking something special.

Photograph by Kori Hudson, Arkansas

Photo by Kori Hudson, Arkansas

"I love the angle and the reflection. I might have toned down the hot spot on her shoulder and opened up the background just a bit. All the elements here are needed but being dark makes it a bit busy and harder to read. If the darker areas were just a tad brighter, the image would be stronger."
- Seth Resnick

Photograph by Julie Ambos, Florida

Photo by Julie Ambos, Florida

"Love the light and the composition and, in this case, the vignetting at the top helps. May have toned down the white dress just a tad to get a bit more detail but again, another really nice image."
- Seth Resnick

Photograph by Deborah Kates, Illinois

Photo by Deborah Kates, Illinois

"The bride’s eyes, expression and hands say it all and it is a really nice shot. I like the tone but I am not thrilled with the textured filter, especially across the gentleman's coat and the upper right hand corner. It works well on the left side of the frame but not so great on the right side."
- Seth Resnick

Unlike the WPJA, which has strict guidelines limiting photo manipulation, the [AG]WPJA encourages and fosters creative image enhancement in post-production, giving members an opportunity to “stretch out” and achieve their full creative vision as artists. “Today, since most images are shot digitally, virtually all images are adjusted in Photoshop, Lightroom or a similar product. So technically Photoshop automatically plays a part in the process,” explains Seth Resnick, [AG]WPJA contest judge and founder of D-65, Seth Resnick Photography, and Pixel Genius.

At the same time, David Roberts, WPJA founder, wanted to separate the two distinct schools of thought so traditional photographers could continue to enjoy their own platform and reach their own devoted audience. “I’m a purist to the bone, and I have done my very best to keep manipulated images out of WPJA contests,” he explains. “And that’s why we created the [AG]WPJA — to weed out manipulated images from the classic WPJA contests while creating a venue to foster and recognize this form of artistic expression. Members who enjoy digital enhancement can now develop their skills and display their work through the Artistic Guild. They can channel their creative efforts parallel to the WPJA, not against it or over it.”

Artistic Guild contests are held quarterly. Members submit images via an online uploading system, and judges then rank the top 20 images for each category, providing comments on all their choices.

CREATING IMAGES THAT SING

The [AG]WPJA reflects the principle that there is a time and a place for photo manipulation. Most photographers working in the digital medium do not hesitate to apply digital darkroom techniques to their photos, though the degree to which they manipulate them depends upon their intended use. “Today the quality of how one uses Photoshop is just as important as the days of working with silver halide in a darkroom. A poor print was a poor print. Digital images need to be processed correctly. I take all of this into consideration when making choices for a contest,” says Seth.

Preparing photos for the [AG]WPJA involves a different process than regular WPJA contests; and it offers a distinctive thrill as well.

IT STILL STARTS WITH A GREAT IMAGE

Pixel-pushing power only goes so far. A great original image is still the essential core of any manipulated photo recognized by the [AG]WPJA. “Ultimately for me the image must be a striking one, and Photoshop should be deployed to make the already great image even better. Photoshop should enhance an already dramatic image or, in the case of compositing it, should help create drama with existing components,” Seth explains. “This is not simply a matter of right or wrong, but there is a lot of subjectivity involved as well.”

— by Michael Roney for The Wedding Photojournalist Association