Jeff Rayner recently won third place as the Photographer of the Year in the iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAWARDS). We sat down with Jeff to learn more about his winning entry and his photography.
If you’re not familiar with the iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAWARDS), this description is from their website:
It’s the first and longest-running iPhone photography competition since 2007. IPPAWARDS has been celebrating the creativity of the iPhone users since the first iPhone has inspired, excited and engaged the users worldwide.
Since then every year, IPPAWARDS has selected the best shots among thousands of images submitted by iPhone photographers from 140+ countries around the world. Winners are selected by the jury members in several steps and the Photographers of the Year and the category winners prizes are awarded.
Jeff Rayner is a British photographer based in Los Angeles. He has been there and working as an editorial photographer for the past 23 years. He and his partner run an agency that specializes in celebrity stories and photoshoots but also covers hard news events and in-depth features throughout the US.
How did you get started in photography?
“I was fond of art at school but couldn’t quite get what I could see in front of me to paper as well as I wanted. A friend of mine suggested I get a camera and try that. So, I bought an Instamatic camera and took it on a school trip to France. My friend took his father’s SLR camera and we both went out photographing the Eiffel Tower, all the other sites and had a great time. I was very excited upon my return to see my pictures but was soon very disappointed when my photos returned looking like they had been taken through a milk bottle!
“I asked my friend’s father why this was and learned the basics of a prime lens and being able to manually expose the pictures. That very week I started saving for my first camera which I still remember to be a Praktica MTL 5 B. After that, there was no looking back.”
This is very different from your professional work, how often do you get to just create what you want for yourself?
“I have very little time to do my personal work as my professional work takes up so much time. The last thing I want to do with some downtime is set up my lights and drag out my heavy pro gear. This is when I use my iPhone and can get some remarkable results with such a small tool.”
What motivates you to continue to create images?
“I think like most artists/photographers we see the world a little differently. I often catch myself composing a picture in my head even if I am at dinner or something and I tend to see things in a composition. Also, I just love creating a great image, which is the main motivation.”
How has photography changed the way you see the world?
“With my line of work, you get to see a lot of aspects of all walks of life every day. It exposes you to a lot of things and places you may never have experienced or visited. One day you are setting up lights for a portrait shoot in a Los Angeles mansion with a celebrity and the next you are hanging out of a helicopter shooting the world’s fastest machine gun for a feature.”
Tell us about the moment you captured your winning image
“When the virus began getting out of control here in Los Angeles and we went into lockdown, I started taking walks with my daughter every day to explore the local village and get some much-needed space and fresh air. It was during one of these walks that I spotted her jumping in the pool of light and thought the shadow looked great behind her.”
Was this image staged or random?
“It was a little of both I would say as she had been jumping in the street unprompted. When I saw the shadow it cast I asked her to do it again a few more times in the hope of snapping a nice frame. The way she almost looks suspended is what I love about this frame and that was just my daughter’s actions. I didn’t direct her on how to jump.”
What sort of post-processing did you use?
“I used to pretty much live in my homemade darkroom from the moment I found out about black and white developing and printing. I still tend to use the app in the same basic way as in a dark room so try and use dodge and burn techniques to keep it as simple as possible.”
Did you use the native photo app or something different?
“I used the Snapseed app.”
Do you feel entering contests like this helps your photography?
“No, not all. For me, it’s just a bit of fun.
Do you feel it’s important to photograph images and subjects outside of your professional work?
“I do believe I should be doing some more of the photography that I personally like. But, I am hoping more of that will come later down the line once work eases up a little later in life! I would love to get back into a dark room. Even if it’s a digital one.”
“It’s always good to push yourself and try other types of photography. Even if you end up not liking it at least you tried and know.”
What prompted you to enter the IPPAWARDS?
“I had posted the winning image on my Instagram account earlier in the year and someone mentioned in a comment ‘This should win an award.’ That’s actually what made me enter it!”
Is this the first time you’ve entered?
“Yes, it is.”
What’s one tip you can share for those who are creating with their mobile devices?
“Many photographers have a negative attitude toward mobile photography but it is what it is. You still require the skills of a photographer to produce a decent frame and sometimes it’s actually harder with a mobile device.
“I also have to say there are some images I take with a mobile device that I would find very hard to re-create with conventional camera gear. Mobile photography has its own feel and depth that cameras cannot imitate. The best tip would be to watch your background. I often look at my background more than my subject.”