Smile Politely

Champaign County Camera Club Best in Show photography contest winners

Check out these award winning photos by local artists. Also read the interview I had with Allen Wehrmann, a Champaign County Camera Club Member and event co-coordinator. 

Smile Politely: What is “Best in Show?”

Allen Wehrmann: The News-Gazette “Best in Show” is a the largest photo print competition in our area. It is geared toward amateur photographers within the News-Gazette’s general subscription area, but I believe basically anyone can enter, as long as they are not professional photographers.This year is the 15th annual competition.

SP: Who judges the photos?

Wehrmann: Judges are local professional photographers we pick. They are changed annually, although over the 15 years of the Best in Show, some of the judges have served more than once. This year, the judges were Larry Kanfer, L. Brian Stauffer, and Craig McMonigal. I can send you bios if you want. Larry is probably the most well-known, Brian is a staff photographer for the U of I, and Craig has been an instructor at the U of I and Parkland for years, now retired.

SP: What happens at judging?

Wehrmann: Well, for the last couple of years, a select group of club members views all the images (this year there were 513 photos) and make a deliberative effort to wean the number down by about 40%. The remaining 60% are viewed by the professional judges to determine the top three places in each category (plus about 10% of the number entered in the category are selected as honorable mention). There were eight competition categories this year: People, Architecture, Nature, Animals, General, Black&White, Youth, and Manipulated. The selection of the top three plus honorable mentions is a collaborative process with the judges discussing their favorites and ultimately coming to a consensus decision. For me, this was most informative – to see and hear the judges discuss what they liked and/or disliked with particular photos. It all comes to a head on Sunday, the 21st at 1 pm at Lincoln Square, when we present the winners and the judges discuss not only the winners, but a selection if images that they particularly wanted to show and talk about.

SP: What are the prizes?

Wehrmann: Collectively there is about $2000 in total prizes. Recall that only around 10% of all the images will receive a prize (either a place or an honorable mention), so this is a fairly exclusive group of images and winners should be justifiably proud!

SP: What makes a “good photograph”?

Wehrmann: That is a pretty subjective topic, and every judge and/or photographer is likely to have a different answer. To me, the image has to provoke an emotion or tell a story (or evoke a story or question to the viewer). Composition, light, color, contrast, subject all play a part. Plus the technical side of that, especially focus. Quite a number of images are quickly eliminated if the focus is not good (unless, of course, there is a reason for something that is not tack sharp).

SP: has a cell phone image ever won an award at Best in Show?

Wehrmann: I know a cell phone image won this year, so the answer is yes! And, cell phone cameras are getting better all the time, so we can expect more in the future, I’m sure.

SP: Where can people see the photographs?

Wehrmann: The images are already on display in the commons area at Lincoln Square Mall. They will be up all week and will come down immediately after the public critique on Sunday. Judging took place two weeks ago. 

SP: What is the Champaign Country Camera Club?

Wehrmann: The Champaign County Camera Club is simply a group of local photo enthusiasts that want to share their experience and improve their skills. The Club has been active for a long time having been founded in 1935. We meet every other week during the school year. You can learn more about the club on our website:

SP: What do you do during meetings?

Wehrmann: Our meetings include a variety of activities. This coming week, for example, we will be having a digital projected image contest, which is an internal club competition judged by three judges external to the club in four categories. Other meetings can include presentations by members on technical issues (such as HDR (high dynamic range) photography, use of selected software, or on-line photo sharing).

SP: Who should join the CCCCC?

Wehrmann: We encourage anyone with an interest in improving their photo skills to join! Many of our members are quite accomplished photographers, and many are just getting their feet wet. I joined the club after entering the Best in Show for a number of years and deciding if I wanted to get better, I needed to “hang out” with other like-minded folks. Annual membership is only $10 for the first year and $20 after. You do not have to join the attend our meetings! We meet in Room 1013, Siebel Center on the U of I campus, on Matthews St. just north of Uni High.

Black and White:

Eric Smith Photography

James Kirk Photography



 Stephanie Lamb Photography


Brandt Pence Photography

Tom Marriage Photography



James Kirk Photography



Tom Marriage Photography

Stephen Kemp Photography

Smile Politely photography staff picks:

Kim Crawford Photography

Contact the folks at CCCC to buy any of these prints. Congratulations to all of the Best in Show winners and the Smile Politely photography staff picks!

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