Over the moon, delighted, flabbergasted, pure lured – I was feeling all of these things when, at the beginning of November 2021, I got an email saying that I had been selected as one of Rangefinder Magazine’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography. This is basically the biggest award in the wedding photography industry – to win it had been a dream of mine for years and now it had actually come true! I did a bit of a scream, and then sent Ciarán to the shop for a bottle of Champagne (the good stuff honey!).
I’ve been reading and following Rangefinder since I first started photographing weddings and have gained so much inspiration from them and the Rising Stars every year – some of my favourite photographers have been on that list over the years and so to now be included on it myself is a bit mind-blowing to be honest!
One key stipulation of the award was that until the official announcement was made on December 1st, I couldn’t tell anyone. Aside from Ciarán (who actually saw the email before I did!) there was nobody I could talk to about it, including the folks who had given their time and insight to help me pick my final submission. So I sat with it for a month, thinking about what it meant.
I won’t lie, awards like this mean something to me. We all like to say that awards don’t matter, and it’s true. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care about them, and external validation is a hell of a drug. It fades though, and then it comes back to where you find value for yourself.
I thought a lot about how I used to believe that if I ever won this award, it would be objective proof that I’m a good photographer. I’d look at the winners’ photographs every year and compare myself to them, and think “I’ll never be that good”. And then when I read the email saying I’d been selected, I was ecstatic of course, but then I started thinking I didn’t really deserve it.
I looked at the other 29 selected photographers and felt out of place – imposter syndrome got its mitts on me.
So I had to bring myself back to the days before I got that email. Back when I was going through years of work trying to choose just 30 photographs to represent me and my work (this is HARD by the way!). Looking at my work from the last few years and realising I was actually pretty proud of it.
During that process I could see how I’d gained more confidence in my style and approach over time. Despite my doubts over the years, I had gradually produced a body of work that felt true to me. And I realised the most important thing to me had been working creatively, and having happy couples loving their photographs.
How do we eliminate imposter syndrome? I haven’t a clue. I don’t think it ever goes away. I still have days where I’m convinced I’m crap, where I feel like I’ve lost any sense of creativity or perspective. I know I’ll continue having those days as long as I’m working, no matter what sort of external validation comes my way. It’s encouraging though that those days are becoming much less frequent.
My one piece of advice to other photographers: if you love a photograph, share it with the world. Try not to worry about the algorithm, the comments, the likes (or lack thereof). It’s so easy to get blinkered about what we feel we ‘should’ be doing to get attention from a business perspective, and forget that it’s often the work we might feel that’s a bit rough, raw, or weird on first glance that will stand out to us years later. I definitely still feel shy about posting certain photos, but I’ve decided to make an effort to show more of myself and the work that I love online.
Massive thanks to Jacqueline and Libby and everyone at Rangefinder for including me on this list, I can’t say how much it means to me. And huge congratulations to all of the other winners, it’s an absolute honour to be included among you.
And the biggest thanks of all is to every one of my couples over the years, you are all bloody wonderful.
Here are all the photos from my submission, and you can check out the rest of the 2021 winners here.
If you’re planning your wedding and like what you see,