A perfect 400 print case

So I had a lot of people really like my entries this year and in competition the District judges scored all four of my prints as a perfect 100 which has only happened twice in history. They also did really well in PPA's International Competition - below is the press release for those portraits!

Ben Shirk of Shirk Photography was named a Diamond Medalist during Professional Photographers of America's 2015 International Photographic Competition. Shirk’s work will be on display at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 10-12, 2016.
A panel of 43 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from nearly 5,200 total submitted entries. The level of the award is determined by how many of those four images receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Loan Collection, which is displayed at photographic exhibitions, conventions and other photography events. Shirk was named a Diamond Medalist, meaning that all four of his merited images entered the PPA Loan Collection.

Shirk also set records in district competition this year with all four of his Photographic Open prints receiving a perfect 100 score. Only two other people in history have had a perfect print case. In competition Shirk was awarded First Place in Portraits, First place in Wedding, and First Place in Illustrative, the Canon Par Excellence award, The Kodak Gallery Award, and the Best Print Award from Sunset-Lexjet. Shirk was also named 2015 North Central District Photographer of the Year and Iowa Photographer of the Year by the Iowa Professional Photographers Association.

I was challenged to create an all in camera image because so much of what I have done before has had a lot of post processing to them. Besides a slight bit of toning, this was all created in camera. Thanks to the beautiful model Rose Couch for modeling for me!!!

I photographed this model (Twig Noir) while hanging out with some friends in Wisconsin. She has some amazing costumes so I created an image in my head as I was photographing her and then created this entire scene later on the computer. It is play on Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of hearts. Much of the wrought iron fence is hand shaped to inlay lots of hearts. The castle in the background was pieced together from Images I took in Ireland

I photographed this in my studio about an hour before I shot Mirror Mirror. It was originally going to be an all in-camera shot also but I decided to add more hair later. I spent a few days gathering old books and melting candles all over them. You wouldn't believe how much work went into getting the candles just right. There are lots of little details (like in most of my images) I even included a half eaten brown apple core, unwatered dead plants, dead flowers, and if you notice the binding of the book near her elbow is titled "knots" - which in my head aided in her escape later from Rapunzel's tower.
a cool shot of one pile of books that was part of the scene I created 

a detail shot I took later to allow me to add more hair 

I don't know which image I spent the longest on - there is certainly a ton of time invested into each but this one has been haunting me for awhile. I was unsure of who I wanted the subject to be but I could see the scene. From the door, to the door's frame, the sign, the words, the light, each and every element that you see was photographed separately and placed into the scene, then shaded, highlighted, toned, corrected for perspective and in some cases drawn to match.


The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI)  holds their annual convention in Las Vegas every year.  They also host a very prestigious print competition where photographers from around the world enter their best work.  This year I placed in the top three in four different categories. Here are my winning portraits!
football, team, sports, poster, football poster
Titled "Turf War"

Titled "To Fetch a Pail of Water"  

Titled "Twisted Dreams"

Titled "The Last Menagerie"

Team Sports Posters

We have been cranking out a bunch of team sports posters again and having a lot of fun with them!  Teams come into our studio to be photographed on green screen then we extract them and create an awesome scene around them.  Eventually the posters get turned into layered photoshop templates that can be reused for other teams around the nation.  If you are a photographer you can see some of our designs and options for photographers at http://shirkphotography.com/for-photographers/distance/.

The girls had a bunch of fun having a mud fight at the studio to get ready for their photoshoot!  I had them do a cool action shot then created a bunch of mud splashes around them to give it a cool mud volleyball look.

This has some special meaning - It is meant as a tribute to Boston College's #19 who lost his life in the World Trade Center Bombings helping to rescue others.  He always wore a red bandanna.  ESPN did a cool story on him that you can view on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWKPjSirbcU.  The poster was sent to Boston College and also  Welles Crowther's Mother  who loved it.

Created from a scene I captured in Ireland at Giant's Causeway - this is a real place!
 This is already a template on our website.

The coach came up with this theme but I had to do some creative thinking to come up with a background.  Sometimes that is the hardest job is just figuring out what to do with their theme.  


Double Diamond International Awards!

I really should blog more, there are certainly a lot of people that check it out each day but running a business, making happy clients, and spending time with family certainly takes up a lot of time!  Keep an eye on my facebook and instagram for my most recent work!

I have been honored with many state and national awards but really haven't taken the time to post anything so I figured now might be a good time to at least mention some recent ones.   I was recently honored with some very big awards.  PPA (Professional Photographers of America) holds an international competition each year.  There are two main categories - Photographic Open and Master Artist.  You can enter up to four prints in each category.  A panel of jurors then judges the prints.  The best of the best are accepted into a "Loan" collection. It can be very difficult to get a "Loan".  This year all 8 of my entries were accepted as loan  Only four of PPA's 27,000 members have done this in the 140 year history of the organization.  Getting four loans in any category qualifies one for International Photographer of the Year status. 

I am also excited because this year I will be speaking at PPA's annual convention in Nashville which attracts around 10,000 other photographers.

This first image was from a senior session. Her mother had seen my work and wanted an ethereal art piece to display in their home. We printed this as a 60" canvas and it looks unbelievably stunning!   If you look closely there are lots of other little elements that can be seen like a V of geese and a small farm and silo in the background.  I love little details that help create a story!

My 2nd International Photographic Exhibition Loan Print. Titled "Turf War" It was originally created for Union Football but as I was putting it together I realized that I couldn't see the individual players well enough for what the parents were going to want so I ended up using another idea for the team poster. I really loved the uniqueness of this version though so I took some extra time later to really bring the details together.

My 3rd International Photographic Exhibition Loan Print. Helping me achieve International Diamond Photographer of the Year status. The image was titled "The Last Menagerie" I photographed the carousel while exploring an abandoned amusement park alone (it was actually quite scary) The animals were photographed in a zoo. At the time I was disappointed I didn't get any real action from any of them but they were certainly perfect to use for this composite. 

My 4th International Photographic Exhibition Loan Print.  I created this for a bride who had a Vera Wang wedding dress.  For me this image is one of my greatest prides because the entire staircase is hand drawn.  I was jealous of some of the amazing venues in Europe and wanted to see what I could create.  I used an image I found for inspiration and drew the starway.  It took many days but was a great study in light and shadow!

One of my Master Artist international ward winning images. Inspired by the super popular series "Game of Thrones" - I called it "Throne of Games". In the Master Artist Category they ask you to show some of the elements that were used to create the image. Each element of the throne was photographed separately and then layered together to create the throne. The room and steps are hand drawn. The ref is my father who I added a long grizzled beard to in photoshop. No hair and makeup required! This was originally created for a cheer team showing off all the sports from their school in the throne but they "didn't get it" so I had to remove the throne - Oh well, whatever it takes to make a client happy!
I created this poster for Bettendorf Swimming last year and it was one of my international award winning images in the master artist category. The elements below are what I used to create the poster. The pirate ship was hand drawn.  I really wanted to draw a pirate ship so I came up with this scene but didn't figure out a motto until the team actually arrived.  I think "Surrender the treasure, we're here for the gold" is a pretty great motto!

Another of my international award winning images in the master artist category. I created this awhile ago for the Wilton track team but only four prints are allowed in the digital category and I create many many posters each year so unfortunately some get left behind.  The elements that I use for my posters are generally places and things that I have photographed before on random trips and have stored away in a library of many thousands of images.

My fourth international award winning image in the master artist category. I created this for Bettendorf High School. The poster that I created for them the year before also won many international awards. Need to start my brain thinking for this years poster! 

  Many of my images are greatly inspired by paintings and drawings both past and present.  I have always had a fascination for “Raft of the Medusa” by Theodore Gericault since my art history days in college.  Giving that a modern, tough, sports twist - I created this sports poster but always wanting to push myself further I decided to add an underwater scene so I added some sharks that I had some images of from a trip to the aquarium then hand drew a pirate ship (I really like pirate ships)


Senior Portraits

Well, we are in full swing for senior portraits and have been creating some pretty awesome stuff.  Sam came in last week and we had his portrait session in the morning and then we were able to show him his portraits in the afternoon and place his order.  His mother had also brought her older daughter to us a few years back for senior portraits.  They are a very artistic and fun family!  Sam's mother is a big blogger and brought along her camera to capture some fun behind the scenes shots.  Anyone interested in a senior session should certainly read over her post to help you get an idea for what you will be experiencing!!

Sam is a fanatic about old trucks so I took him to a field full of old trucks!


Just a few of my favorite sports posters from the year.

We have a lot of fun creating awesome images and we can be especially creative with sports teams because they are normally looking for a Hollywood movie look with lots of special effects.  Here are just a few that we did this year!  The first 5 are from a calender we created for the University of Iowa Dance and Cheer teams!

This softball poster has been a favorite for softball teams around the country and is offered as a template on my website http://shirkphotography.com/for-photographers/distance/

This won a bunch of big awards and is also now a template on my website - http://shirkphotography.com/for-photographers/distance/

This was meant to be a small tribute to our fallen hero's in the hopes that it will inspire a new generation to learn more about Iwo Jima so that those hero's memories will live on

Shaydee Stark Senior Session

Shaydee is a senior at Indianola High School. Shaydee is an All-American Cheerleader and was chosen to be a Shrine Bowl Cheerleader! It was so fun to photograph Shaydee because her personality was easy to capture through the lens... her outfits were fun and outgoing!

We started Shaydee's Senior Session across the street from the studio at Wilton's historic Candy Kitchen! It was cool to incorporate a small town feel into Shaydee's senior portraits.

Didn't even realize the writing on wall said "made in the usa" until I later looked at the back of the camera.

A cool vintage look with Shaydee's homecoming dress.

                      No Photoshop!!! Just some really good lighting and a lightroom preset!

 Thanks Shaydee for being so great!