In the past 12 months we have had everything from owls to cars and cameras on the cover, so who can blame us for taking a break and handing the task of shooting the Christmas one over to you, our readers.
When we choose a cover picture, we generally look for a portrait-format shot – although if the quality is high enough we are not opposed to cropping. If the image features a model, we tend to look for eye contact (although there’s a great example of when to break the rules in Elena Paraskeva’s ‘Snow Queen’ image). It’s also imperative that there is enough space for the magazine ‘furniture’ – masthead, coverlines and graphic devices – that we use to describe what is in the issue. Busy images with lots of detail are generally unsuitable as they make text difficult to read.
While the picture must be striking and sum up our brand values, it must also have ‘shelf shout’ – that something that makes people want to pick up the magazine and head to the tills with it. Defining what exactly this ‘something’ is can be tricky, but AP has had more than a century of covers, and using this experience, we think we know our audience pretty well.
As a result, it’s always slightly nerve-racking when we hand this job over to somebody else – in this case, you guys! But, as ever, you have risen to the challenge. This year we received 1,436 entries. Pictures ranged from the sublime to the downright ridiculous – you know who you are! Landscapes, animals, portraits, Christmas decorations, and even a pair of giraffes walking down a street wearing Santa hats were submitted.
The overall winner was Adrian E Mortimer with his snowy image of a robin.
The AP winner: Adrian E Mortimer
“To be voted the winner is a shock – albeit a pleasant one! I am grateful to all of the team for voting for my picture. To be on the front cover of the world’s oldest photography weekly magazine is a real honour.
“My interest in photography began in about 1970 when a friend showed me the basics of black & white developing and printing, and it has grown ever since. My passion has never wavered, and I now use digital equipment, computers, Photoshop, Nik Software, etc. I have never been more than an enthusiastic amateur as far as photography is concerned – I don’t think I am skilled enough to be a professional, nor did I ever aspire to be one.
“My early working life was in the hotel-and-catering industry, but after getting married I left the trade and worked in the timber industry until my retirement at 67 a few years ago. I now have more time to devote to my hobby, which is something I didn’t always have while working.
“The winning image was taken in my back garden in February this year. The robin was a regular visitor and I was determined to get some good close-up shots of it if possible. I used my Fujifilm X-T1 with a 50-230mm XC zoom, which, although from Fujifilm’s budget range, is capable of recording some amazing detail.
“I set everything up, switched on the camera’s Wi-Fi remote feature and connected it to my smartphone. I then went in to the kitchen, where it was warmer, and controlled the camera from my phone. I fired the shutter when the robin appeared on the perch I had set up for him. Obviously there is some hit and miss with this type of photography, and you need a lot of patience, but when you get a good shot it’s all worthwhile.
“I usually do some basic post-production work in Photoshop or with Nik Software, which I particularly like, but I try not to overdo it. The snow in this shot was added on my computer – I just thought it gave the image a more seasonal appearance, which fitted the brief for the competition. My wife says that I am obsessed with robins; I have produced a calendar with 13 different robin shots on it, so she might well be right!”
Once again we teamed up with Photocrowd and PermaJet, but we also welcomed a new supporter in the form of Billingham. The overall winning image (as judged by the AP team) graces the cover of this issue and the winner receives a Billingham Hadley Pro bag worth £200 (www.billingham.co.uk) and an A3 print of the finished design courtesy of PermaJet (www.permajet.com). The winner awarded by Photocrowd (www.photocrowd.com) receives an A3 print of their image, plus £100. The AP winning image was shot by Adrian E Mortimer, and the Photocrowd winning image was shot by Adam Cunningham-White.
“This has all the elements of a classic Christmas scene, but the post-processing lets it down a little” – AP comments
“The colours and mood of this bokeh shot are spot on, but it’s a little one-dimensional for a front cover” – AP comments
“This minimalist shot is wonderfully composed and well executed, but it’s more winter than Christmas” – AP comments
“This was submitted as a landscape format shot, and while it’s a lovely picture it loses some of its magic once it’s cropped” – AP comments
“Visitors to Photocrowd loved this shot of a reindeer herd migrating, but it doesn’t quite work in the portrait format” – AP comments
“It’s a scene we all dream of waking up to on Christmas Day, but it works better as a classic landscape shot than a cover” – AP comments
“This image is proof positive that you don’t always need eye contact in a portrait, but it struggles to carry the cover text” – AP comments
“It’s great to see another wildlife image in the competition shortlist, but this hare looks a bit confrontational!” – AP comments
“This is a classic winter scene, composed well, but the lighting feels a bit fierce in the sky and flat elsewhere” – AP comments