Meet the photography masters judging Huawei’s NEXT-IMAGE Awards 2021

The world’s largest smartphone photography competition, the Huawei NEXT-IMAGE Awards, are in full-swing, with entries pouring in inspired by 2021’s theme of “Better Together”. With an easy entry mechanic and over 70 chances to win, amateur smartphone photographers and visual storytellers alike are set to light up the competition for a fifth consecutive year.

To help inspire budding photographers as they submit their photography to Huawei’s NEXT-IMAGE Awards, we’ve sat down with two of this year’s incredible judges to get their take on the awards and to hear about their top tips to achieve mobile photography excellence. Read on to find out more about more about what Canadian extreme sports photographer Reuben Krabbe and Pulitzer-winning photographer and founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography, Liu Heung Shing have to say.

As with many mobile photographers, extreme sports photographer Reuben Krabbe says that: “I didn’t get into mobile photography, mobile photography got into my life.” He began photographing in the years of flip mobile phones and later, as the phones got better, he even began to use them in his professional work. He highlights that “it’s so important to have a good camera with you at all times, because you cannot orchestrate the real world, it plays out in front of you. So, when great moments arrive and you don’t have five lenses, the one in your pocket is the one that may capture your best image.” Founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography, Liu Heung Shing shares a story of how he first realised the potential of mobile photography while on a trip to London 15 years ago, which seemed a natural progression from his professional photography career.

This year’s judges also gave insight into what makes a great entry, with Reuben Krabbe saying he always looks for pictures that get an emotional reaction or make him look two and three times to understand, or challenge his worldview and assumptions. Pulitzer-winning photographer Liu Heung Shing said he always looks for one thing: “authenticity”. Sharing a similar sentiment, Liu Heung Shing also says capturing the perfect shot is “not just the colour, composition, facial expression, or construction of the image. It goes deeper than that, and speaks to people from different cultures – this makes photography truly unique.”

Understanding what inspires both Liu Heng Shing and Reuben Krabbe about Huawei’s NEXT-IMAGE Awards shows it’s truly the celebration of photography that fascinates them both. Expanding on this, Canadian sports photographer Reuben Krabbe says “the NEXT-IMAGE Awards is amazing because it draws entries from such a broad selection of the world. It’s not a competition for professionals, it’s not a competition for China, it’s a celebration of creativity in photography from anywhere and anyone in the world.” Liu Heng Shing’s involvement goes deeper, with his input even shaping the name of the NEXT-IMAGE awards, he is “really impressed by how hard Huawei worked on it and how they invited photographers from around the world to participate, to have conversations, and to share images.”

Inspiring amateur photographers to pick up their mobile phones and get out there, both judges emphasise that it’s not all about the gear. Reuben Krabbe shares the wisdom that “you can be the gear nerd, or you can work with the camera you have. Neither limit you unless you choose to be limited.” Liu Heng Shing says that he’s used several HUAWEI P Series phones and reflected that, because of the technology available across the range, “photographers can focus on capturing their inspiration without worrying about the technical aspect of it all.”

This year’s judges also share exclusive tips to inspire this year’s entrants to take their mobile photography to the next level. Reuben Krabbe acknowledges that “in photography, it can be hard to get unique and it is also sometimes hard to get simple.” He suggests mobile photographers work on “removing distracting elements until there is a single thing to see and communicate. To do this, use your zoom or your shooting angle to simplify the photo until it is easy to view and digest.” He also shares ways new photographers can capture more unique shots; “at a classic tourist viewpoint is there a way to capture the scene we see all the time, but to do it in a new way? Maybe the subject of the photo can change; it’s not the view, it’s how the tourists interact with the scene. Maybe it’s the children’s excitement. By adjusting the subject of the photo to include more, or less, than the normal photo, you can find exciting images in any place.”

Insisting that users discover the diversity and beauty of life, the NEXT-IMAGE Awards 2021 has 10 distinct categories to keep things interesting. Founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography, Liu Heung Shing says that of all categories, “it’s always the Daily Life category that impresses me most. The images we see are parts of the puzzles of our own daily experience. And I can relate to this category.” He is also fascinated by the Storyteller category, sharing that he thinks “it takes a photographer’s work to the next level as it lets the participant use a grid of up to nine images to tell their story. In most cases, when we look at many different entries, we not only look at the content that is captured, but also how the photographers layered the content – from the photographer’s eyes and from the audience’s eyes.”

Feeling inspired? This year’s Huawei NEXT-IMAGE Awards are open for entry now, with the deadline for submissions coming up on November 30, 2021. The most straightforward way to enter is by visiting the website to submit your images directly on the competition homepage. Alternatively, entrants can visit community page to enter via HUAWEI Community staying connected to Huawei fans around the world via the online message board, which is available in multiple languages.

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