Behind the Magic - Creating an Award Winning Photograph | Cocoa Beach Photographer

July 16, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Harry Potter Quidditch Amelia Island NAPCPCreating an Award Winning Image | Child PhotographerCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography
I have been a member of the National Association for Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) for about 5 1/2 years. I can still remember how excited I was to find out that my membership application had been accepted. This organization has been one of the biggest factors in helping me grow in my craft and in my business. I remember first hearing about the image competition and thinking of how much it would mean to me to gain that industry recognition for my photography. I knew I probably wasn't ready right away but I submitted images anyway and got feedback to help me grow. It became one of my goals and I eventually got better at going through my images and looking at them with different eyes. You see, an image that I love of my son or even a client or an image a family loves from their session isn't necessarily going to win an award. They may be beautiful, cherished images, but to be an award winning image, it needs to not only be well composed, exposed, etc, it needs to also stand out and grab the viewers attention; a viewer who doesn't know the subject. 

In 2017, I received my first award in a NAPCP competition, the first NAPCP Inspired Gallery and Print Competition, and it was a first place. I was shocked and so happy to have met my goal! And to make it even better, I found out on my birthday that I had won. It was an amazing feeling. The print competition consists of three themed categories to encourage creativity. The top 100 images are displayed at NAPCP headquarters and judged for the final round that determines the winners, followed by a gallery event. I also had one image make the top 100 in 2018 and two images in the top 100 in 2019. 

But I still hadn't placed or merited in the digital competition, and I really wanted something in that one as well. Plus I hadn't placed again in the print competition so I couldn't help but wonder, did I just get lucky with that image or could I do it again?

I was incredibly honored to find out earlier this year that I had received a Recognition of Merit in the child category for the 2019 NAPCP International Image Competition! This competition is designed to recognize the world's most successful child photographers in 9 categories; each image being judged by a panel of experts on impact, technical merit, composition, and creativity. And while I didn't place in the top 3, even a merit in this competition is amazing, especially in the child category which tends to be one of the toughest to place or merit. I know that all the years I've been submitting images and getting feedback to help push my skills to be better has helped so much. And I will still work towards a top placing image and continuing to elevate my art. When I push myself creatively and learn from the competitions I enter, I can see how it also makes my everyday work better for my clients. 

I thought it would be fun to show how I created this image from conception to reality as it is one of the times where I had an idea in my head and I wasn't there to just capture life as it is like I do much of the time. So if you're interested in hearing how this image came about and what went into creating the final image, keep reading!


Conception to Reality. In 2018, I started reading the Harry Potter series to my son. He fell in love with them, wanted to know what house he was in (he's a Ravenclaw) and then wanted to be a Hogwarts student for Halloween. I was also working on my 100 Day Project of photographing my son and his dog and wanted to do something fun for the final image. I photographed my son in his costume at a wooded park and used a photo of his dog running with some photoshop magic to create an image of my son creating a Patronus of his dog (you can see that image at the bottom of this post).

Last year, he still wanted to be a Hogwarts student but to wear his quidditch robes. I had already thought about how fun it would be to create more Harry Potter inspired images, including one of him flying on his broom, so this was a great opportunity to create another magical image for him. For this, I knew I wanted somewhere with open sky to really create the feeling of flying. Other than the beach, I couldn't think of a great place to do this until I was introduced to an out-of-the-way park on Amelia Island on the river. It's basically a small open field with a small bench right in front of the water. It. Was. Perfect. I knew I could have him jump off the bench and shoot from down low to get him with just the sky behind him and give him the look of flying on his broom. He had a snitch with "invisible string" that I imagined my husband would just toss up from the side and I would be able to just capture my vision in one image, knowing I'd have to take a whole bunch of shots to get it all together. Well, that's not how it ended up happening.

There was a tree on one side so we started with him jumping off the other side while my husband tossed the snitch. The light was to my son's back, though, so not the best. And the snitch was not ever in the right place. I did get a clear shot of the snitch that I knew I could easily cut out the snitch and apply to the final image. 

Harry Potter QuidditchCreating an Award Winning ImageCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography

I also noticed when reviewing the images on the back of the camera that I was really losing the beautiful clouds we had that afternoon since the sun was so bright and I really wanted to include the clouds and really help that feel of being high in the air. So I decided I would need to do the sky separately and do more in Photoshop than I had originally planned. I adjusted my settings and took a photo of the sky that captured the sky with the clouds. 

Harry Potter QuidditchCreating an Award Winning ImageCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography

I pulled the image into Photoshop and removed the tree branch and the bench and decided to crop off the bottom but leave the width to help portray the expansiveness of the sky. This was then the background for my final image.

Harry Potter Quidditch | Amelia IslandCreating an Award Winning ImageCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography

We did several runs of jumping off the bench to get the best flying action shot. It took some practice to make sure my son jumped forward but also high and with his feet up like he was actually flying on the broom (instead of with his feet straight down).  It helped if he got sort of a running start instead of jumping straight off the edge. This is the series that led to getting the shot I used for him flying on his broom.

Harry Potter QuidditchCreating an Award Winning ImageCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography

Harry Potter QuidditchCreating an Award Winning ImageCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography

Harry Potter QuidditchCreating an Award Winning ImageCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography
You can see the snitch in the photo above that I used is off in the tree and not really in focus. We were still hopeful I could get the shot with the snitch in it, but alas, it did not happen. It as least gave him something to reach for which I wanted for this shot. 

Ok, so I talked about getting the sky set for the background above and mentioned the image I used for the snitch that I cut out and put in the sky. Since the sky in the image fo my son was mostly blown out, it wasn't too difficult to cut him out and put him on the sky image. Mostly. If you'll notice, the broom isn't solid like in the movies... it's actually made of sticks and being that I was taking it from a bright sky and putting it on a darker sky, this part was what took me the longest. I had to get out as much of the light sky around the broom sticks as possible without loosing the actual sticks. I also lightened that area of the sky a it on the background to help it blend in better. As a final touch, I added some wings to the snitch. I love how it turned out and am thrilled that it won an award. I also love that my son loves it too and asked for it to be printed huge for his room. 

Harry Potter Quidditch Creating an Award Winning Image | Amelia Island Child PhotographerCopyright Kimberly Tank Art & Photography


If you've made it all the way through, thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading how this photo came about and was put together. 




Kimberly Tank Art & Photography

Want to preserve your child's or family's story with beautiful photographs? Contact me for information on scheduling a session!



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Kimberly Tank is an award-winning professional photographer in Rockledge, FL, servicing Brevard County on the Space Coast in Central Florida (including Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Satellite Beach, Merritt Island, Viera and surrounding areas). Using natural light and custom on location sessions, Kimberly Tank specializes in photographing families from babies to seniors and commercial clients, both on land and underwater; providing an exceptional customer experience and helping save you time and preserve this chapter in your life's story. Kimberly Tank is a proud member and ambassador of National Association of Professional Child Photographers.

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