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Tips and triptychs

Since the analogue photo shop first opened in 2018, Splendid Photo has become synonymous with creativity in Wellington. Its managing director and Capital Photographer of the Year judge Sean Aickin has been snapping Wellington for decades longer.

As entries continue to fly in for CPotY, Sean drops some top tips for those still finessing that perfect frame.

What inspires you about photography? I most like the ease with photography. It’s easy to get started. But don’t get me wrong it is near impossible to master, which is what makes it so fun. You can be a casual smartphone photographer or a “serious” photographer with all the gear. Both groups will get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

What do you hope to see when judging the CPotY entries? Something I haven’t seen before. I’ve lived (and photographed) in Wellington for over 20 years and so it’s always refreshing to see an image and think “where the hell was that taken?” only to find out it was shot on Cuba St!

What category do you think is the most challenging and why? Triptych. One image is hard enough but to get three that are good? Ouch. In my opinion a good triptych is a series of images that tell a complete story. With the three images you leave less up to the viewer to interpret. And each image must be able to hold its own, hence the most challenging category.

The mobile category is for the smartphone photo-taker. How does traditional DSLR/ Film photography differ from this type of photography? This is a great question. I think it’s about mindset. When you leave the house with a large camera you are, typically, setting out to take photos. So you’re looking more, you might be more aware, you might look up or down much more than usual. Whereas with a smartphone, you always have it so you may not think so much about photos. BUT with the smartphone always being on you, it’s there when you need it. I’m quite excited about the category.

The focus of CPotY is the raw frame over compositing or digital editing. How do you make sure your shot has all the information it needs to stand-out? This is tough. It depends, on the shot and what you want to tell. For me I like to leave people guessing, so it’s a lack of information that I like to look for. I think a good image stands out for a variety of reasons. With the wide array of judges I think it will be very difficult to please everyone and I’m a huge fan of “If you like it, damn what others think!” you have to enter the photograph that you like the most. Go with your gut! If the judges like it too, bonus!

Does equipment play into the quality of a photograph? NO. We’ve seen amazing shots on a disposable camera and terrible shots on Hasselblad cameras.

Some entrants may be getting into DSLR for the first time. It can be quite a daunting prospect at first, what are some tips for newbies? Shoot plenty. Like all new techniques, experience is the key. Go out and shoot in changing weather, look at what the light is doing around you. Take note of where the sun is, where the subject is (can be inanimate or a mate), what the shadows are doing. The beauty of digital is you get instant feedback so take your time, look at the feedback and change settings on your camera. You’ll be surprised by the effect these can have on the image.

How do you stand out as a photographer in a media landscape this saturated? I think it’s like Steve Boniface (another CPotY judge who featured in the latest issue of Capital) said, you have to develop your own style. But also try and approach things from a different angle.

What’s the last photo that really stopped you in your tracks? Oh man, I see sooooo many images. Oh, actually the Mars Rover Perseverance landing! That’s amazing!

Splendid’s been a creative hub for locals for the last few years, what brings you the most joy about working with film? I think I like the delay. It’s not an instant gratification, so you appreciate it a little more. At least I do. I also prefer having a finite amount of images to take. With a digital camera I take a LOT more!


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