Congratulations to Joe Lai of Taiwan for earning the title of MPI 2020 International Wedding Photographer of the Year. Check out what Joe has to say about his journey as one of the 2020 Top Winners.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in your photography career.
I have been interested in art since I was a child and have won many international children's drawing competitions. Through formal training in the fields of art and design, I developed an artistic eye and continue to absorb new ideas daily.
Even though I had the advantage of understanding camera equipment, it has not been until recent years that I began my journey in exploring photography more in-depth as a creative tool. It was not easy, through a period of trials and errors, I quickly learnt and becomes interested in portraits and wedding photography.
Over the years, I have won many awards internationally. Some of my awards have been from images I entered into IPA, PX3, WPPI, WPE, ND Awards, AsiaWPA, FAPA, EPA, Magiclens, Monochrom Awards, Monovision Awards, Chromatic Awards and now TOP Wedding Photographer with the International Image Challenge etc.
- What professional photographer or photographers influenced you during your photography growth and what was it about them or their work that influenced you.
Well, to really name the photographers who have influenced me I would have to say, Joe McNally, Erich Caparas, and Pore Ooi. To which I've only met Pore in person and only being able to admire Joe and Erich's work through the computer screen and books.
Instead of pinpoint a specific photographer who influenced me, through the observation, I would say the contemporary generations got influence more by social media such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest… etc., rather than just a single or a handful of photographers nowadays. This phenomenon reflects on one’s bibliography which you may have noticed that many are “self-taught”, which I am as well.
Social media influence me in a way that it’s like a tickle, and that tickle starts my inner desire of wanting to pick up a camera and really dig into this knowledge and technique in photography so I could create a spectacular image like the one I saw on social media.
I would say that social media awakened my desire for photography, and I learned the basics of structures through it. It got me prepared to get my foot in the door with the minimal required skill for the competition. After the initial step, the photography competition took over, it gave me the constant incentive to grow and discover the artistry of photography. Each time I join the competition I wish to surpass myself from the previous competition and absorb more of the latest creativity from the competition.
- What details do you believe make a strong photograph for a qualified competition?
“Detail” itself holds one of the highest standards in photography and creativity comes first. Nonetheless, long before you taking care of the details, you have to make sure your works have an impact, point of interest, aesthetic, and balanced. An image may be telling the story, it maybe have a strong emotion, it may arouse curiosity, but as a contestant, you have to convey this interest into a strong visual communication and tell the story to the judges and audience.
It may sound like an old text book cliché talking about the golden sections and such, but when you put it in practice it's a whole different ball game. This is also what I practice each time I click and capture my vision.
- What is your thought process when selecting images for competition?
Impact, point of the interest, aesthetic, details, and creativity.
- What camera system do you use?
- What are the top three software you use to complete the vision of your images?
- What monitors do you use to complete your work? Do you believe that a proper calibrated monitor is an important tool to the success of an image?
I am on PC and have a DELL monitor. As for monitor calibrator, this is a deep Ph.D topic especially if you are going to output your image to match the screen. I’m in no position to speak on this topic; however, I can tell you that I use X-Rite i1Display Pro.
- What title or titles did you win during the 2020 MPI Annual Awards and how has this inspired you?
With the MPI Annual Awards, I earned the prestigious title of MPI 2020 International Wedding Photographer of the Year (POY). From other competitions I had entered in 2020, I had also received the following,
- AsiaWPA – Placed in Top 20 Photographer of the Year 2020
- BIFA – Gold Award Winner
- EPA – Top three placement in several areas
- MIFA – Gold Award Winner
- One Eyeland – Placed #4 on World's Top 10 Wedding Photographers
- PPAC – Placed in Top 10 Photographer of the Year 2020
- WPPI – First-time winning a first place in a category.
- WPE – Earned the Master title
It was quite a fruitful year for me and I was overwhelmed by the number of awards I had achieved. I was delighted, but it came with the pressure too, which made me wonder how and what I am going to shoot next in order to surpass myself in 2021. Though I don’t have the answer to that and I’m anxious; nevertheless, I have to trust myself and so when I look back at 2021 I will be thankful for another small step I made, the effort I put in, the new ideas I tried, all that will have made me stronger for 2022. I want to see myself in constant levelling in the world of aesthetics so I know the future me will look back and smile at the now me, with a wink. (laugh)
9. Were you surprised when the winners were announced and you found out you had won one of the top spots in the MPI IIC Annual Awards?
I wasn’t, and I bet most of the contestants will say they were, and that’s because no one is as dumb as I am. (laugh) The story goes like this. On the announcement of nominees for Photographer of the Year (POY), my name was being placed at the top among two other contestants, which I mistakenly thought was an obvious implication that me being placed at the top must be the category POY. It wasn't until few weeks after the official announcement when I was browsing through the history of other contestants freely learned that I was wrong. The first person among the three does not necessarily mean category POY on the official announcement. After I sensed the fact, I had a cold sweat.
- What advice would you like to give to entrants of the MPI 2021 Annual Awards?
Among all other international competitions I have joined, I would say MPI is one of the rare competitions that takes feedback seriously. It is not just about getting the awards or not. MPI cares much about the growth of each individual photographer and values the importance of constructive comment over the instant gratification of getting the awards. Whether you are a veteran or newbie to the international competition I can assure you to look no elsewhere but MPI which you will have no regret.
Thank you Joe, for inviting us into your photographic journey. We wish you best for the 2021 MPI IIC Annual Awards as you pass on the title to the 2021 winners.
Check out Joe's short video below as he unveils his POY Winnings.