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I never actually believed I could win a photo contest.  In fact, when I submitted my first photos to a stock agency called BigStock Photo back in 2009, I wasn’t too surprised months afterward when they still hadn’t sold. 

Three years later, having signed up to receive the Breakfast Stock Club newsletter, I decided to give this “photo thing” a try.  I submitted over 150 photos to five agencies in 2012 and began selling a photo here and there, but nothing significant enough to write home about.

Somehow I allowed another three years to pass before finally hunkering down in 2015 to learn what this was all about.  After all, I had seen people join BSC long after I had, and they were already earning a nice side-income.  If they could do it, so could I!  

Using Great Escape Publishing’s updated guide to buying the right camera, I researched what type of SLR was best suited for me.  I even visited the local camera store to test the weight and feel of each camera in my hand.

After saving for six months, I drained my account and purchased a Sony A7 mirrorless SLR.  This little piece of hardware has become my best friend and goes practically everywhere with me.  

In less than one year, I have taken thousands of photos—so many that I am backlogged on editing by three months!  My 2015 accomplishments not only included adding more photos to my stock library, but also being accepted to Shutterstock, shooting headshots, and earning money at my first family photo session.

When Great Escape Publishing released the 2016 Photo Challenge, I knew I had to send in a submission, combining all I had learned in the past year.

Knowing the submission needed to be a series of three variations on the same theme, I brainstormed local attractions, tried shooting different angles, experimented with distances and lighting—yet nothing seemed to be working the way I planned in my head.

Luckily, I had already arranged a photo shoot with a military friend of mine to show various clips of transitioning to civilian life.  Photo challenge description in hand, I walked in knowing it would be the perfect opportunity to try something new.  

We utilized every combination we could think of to include shots of the military uniform and business attire, scenes both indoor and outdoor, on the couch and in front of the mirror.  With poor indoor lighting and cluttered backgrounds, I was forced to try something different—viewpoints I never would have considered under what I deemed “perfect” conditions.  Because things didn’t go exactly how I planned, I ended up with something original and creative on my camera.

After re-reading the photo contest description, I narrowed down my options to three specific photos showing little snippets of the military transition to everyday life—pursuing higher education in preparation for a new career, replacing the uniform with a business suit, and receiving a folded-up U.S. flag in honor of retirement from the military.  

Great Escape Publishing's $1,000 Photo Contest

Although I had many other shots and angles to choose from, these three photos struck me as clearly showing the theme of military transitioning.  So I pressed “send!”

By submitting my photos to the contest, I allowed myself to be vulnerable.  But I also allowed myself the opportunity to actually win!  

For me, winning the Great Escape Publishing Photo Challenge 2016 is a huge stepping-stone into my photography goals this year.  I can honestly say my confidence level is brimming as I witness myself taking a giant leap from photo novice to contest winner.

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Next in this success series: Read how Michael started building a healthy retirement fund from his photos.

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