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Wilderness Photographer of the Year judge Stephanie Vella gives her tips to help you improve your photography.

GRW: As a judge in the Wilderness Photographer of the Year awards what are you looking for in a stand-out image?
I am looking for an image that tells a story, something that can convey the mood and emotion of a scene through the composition and creative choices made by the photographer. Images stand out when they have a unique perspective which evokes emotion and helps draw your audience through your scene and subject.

GRW: Name a common mistake that photographers should avoid?
I feel a common mistake that is made is that photographers compare themselves to others. You should always look to others work for inspiration, but not to compare. It's so important to create your own style as a photographer, something that is uniquely yours. You can always continue to grow, change and adapt your style but it is important to be shooting for yourself and try to create images that are distinctly yours.

GRW: Is it important to tell a story in a photo?
Absolutely, it is the key to creating a great image. A story can be told in a photo in a variety of different ways through composition, shutter speed, focal length, camera angles, lens choices and more. These are all creative choices you can make that can impact your images. Always think about how each of these will effect your shots and the message you are trying to convey. The most impact images are ones that can evoke emotion from the viewer, and you have the power to create that emotion for someone through your work.

GRW: What’s the best time of day to shoot in the wilderness?
It really depends on the scene and the subject you are shooting. Morning and afternoon light (sunrise/sunset) is usually the most popular time of day to shoot due to the softer tones and beautiful colours you can get at those times. The time of day and even the time of year you shoot will all have an impact on your scene. If possible, its always good to plan ahead so you can hopefully get the most out of your images, however nature can’t be controlled and sometimes can’t be predicted either. Sometimes you just need to work with the conditions as they are and utilities your other creative choices to adapt to what you have in front of you.

GRW: How important are polarising filters?
For me, a polarising filter is one of the most essential items in my kit. 99% of my photos will be taken with one, especially when shooting around water or anywhere with reflections and glare. Your eye is always drawn to the brightest part of the image, so if a wet rock is creating a harsh glare, the viewer may look there first and get distracted even if its not part of your leading line drawing your audience through your composition. There are of course exceptions where the glare or reflections could be used intentionally in your images, so its always still about creative choices.

Click here to enter the Wilderness Photographer of the Year comp.

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