Why Every Photographer Should Compete


I have always felt like entering my photography into competitions would help me grow as an artist. There are many different competitions available to photographers that can help get their art noticed.

One of the most important ones for photographers is Professional Photographers of America’s International Photographic Competition. As a long time member of PPA I have always been a supporter of this competition. Having your work judged by your peers is perhaps one of the best ways for a photographer to learn and grow.

Choosing the right images to enter into any competition can be a daunting task! While PPA’s membership is primarily wedding and portrait photographers, the competition actually reflects all of the many facets of PPA’s members. There will be landscapes, commercial and food photography along with portraits, weddings and many other types of photographic art.

Photography has gone through so many changes over the last ten years and PPA members continue to be at the forefront of these changes and always pushing the boundaries.

I received my Master Photography degree from PPA in 2001. I have continued to enter this competition over the last 15 years. I recently received my Imaging Excellence Award. This is awarded to a photographer achieving 13 print merits over the needed merits for their Masters Degree. It’s that time again and I have been working to choose images for this years competition. Every photographer that enters hope for the holy grail of a ”perfect case”. This would be four merits and four loan prints, resulting in a Diamond Photographer of the year award. This is no easy feat! As with any competition, you can never predict what will do well. Opinions differ and what the Judges think will vary based on the make up of the panel.

Having the courage to enter competition can really help you grow as an artist. Developing a tough skin is a must for any artist. To see a sample of some of the images entered in to PPA’s competition go to or find PPA’s loan collection and showcase books on Amazon.


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Top 10 Favorite Wedding Images


Since I have been photographing weddings for almost twenty years it is a daunting task to choose only ten images that would be my favorite. As a disclaimer there are many thousands of wedding images that i have taken over the years and hundreds of them could be on this list. As  beautiful as they all are these are the ones I have picked! Of course I am a girl and on any given day I can change my mind. Enjoy!

This little guy was NOT enjoying being in tux. He was absolutely miserable and happy to let everyone know it. Sometimes these unplanned moments just play out right before your eyes… truly an all time favorite.


The bride and I were coming in from shooting some of just her when we open the door to this. It was so precious an unexpected. I fell to my knees for the best angle and literally within a second it was over. Apparently there was a bit of a sunburn issue and the most natural way to take care of the problem was to scratch it!


There are so many beautiful moments during a wedding. Cynthia had just been handed her bouquet for the first time and with out any direction form me she simply lifted it to her face for a quick smell. A perfect example of a caught unplanned moment that has always been on my favorite list.



This was one of the sweetest couples I ever photographed. They were so in love and ready to start their new life together. They LOVED taking pictures together and  would have done anything I asked. This was a quick  image that we have used many times over the years. Simple, sweet and FUN!


You can NEVER plan for a photographic moment like this. As the Bride and Groom left the reception they were coming toward me and stopped for a quick kiss. Serendipity was at play as a guest camera went of at the EXACT same moment as mine. I saw it happening out of the corner of my eyes and new there was a 50-50 chance it would ruin my image. Lucky me, God was on my side and  this was the result. Truly an all time favorite of mine.


I love a sexy bride and my friend, Ann, is a sexy girl! I was so honored to photograph her wedding, as Ann works in the wedding industry. While she was getting her make up done, I saw this and grabbed it. A true Marilyn Monroe moment. You go sexy girl!


There were so many beautiful images from Madyson and Billy’s wedding, to choose one was almost impossible.  Madyson’s chosen wedding venue very unexpectedly closed ten days before her wedding and almost EVERYTHING had to be rearranged. Mady was a trooper and got the job done. Her wedding to Billy was magical despite all of the craziness leading up to it. Madyson is very close to her father and this was a special moment between he two of them as they arrived to the ceremony in a horse drawn carriage. Truly the kind of moment every wedding photographer lives for.


Grady and Sandy were such a special couple. They had been together for ten years before they decided to tie the knot. There were so many special images from this wedding, but I have always loved this one. They are just enjoying each other and having so much fun.


This was truly a special wedding! The brides Mom had been very sick and passed away during the planning of the wedding. The whole day was just like a movie. Her Aunts were there to help her get dressed and there was nothing but love and support for this beautiful young couple. As the bride and groom exited the ceremony this was a candid image I captured. What i really love about this image is that it was taken over ten years ago but still looks as classic and fresh as if I had taken it yesterday. This was also the very first wedding I photographed almost entirely digitally. Thats was a BIG change for established photographers and I will always be grateful to have had such a wonderful couple to make that transition with.


I have always been fascinated by the way a new groom plays with his ring. I think I have enough fun images of this to do a book. Maybe another subject that would make a great TOP TEN! Of all of the fun moments like this I have witnessed this one is definitely an all time favorite. This groom was so sweet and had fun with everything about his wedding. Clearly that ring is not coming off anytime soon.


OK so you know I would have to pick an extra one. So here is number eleven.

Katie and Brian are an amazing couple. Their wedding was at the beautiful Cloisters in Sea Island, Georgia. I have been privileged to photograph their babies and extended family many times since their wedding. They feel like family, and truly building those kind of relationships is one of the best things about being a wedding photographer. Brian is a man’s man. He works in special ops and as you can imagine his groomsmen kept me hoping! But when it came to Katie, Brian was a big teddy bear. I LOVED this unplanned dip he pulled off beautifully at the end of the service. Take note grooms to be… This is how ya do it!




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FullSizeRenderMy friend Peter Lik is a world renown landscape photographer. In 2014, as President of Professional Photographers of America, I got to meet Peter while working on the presentation of his Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded him by Professional Photographers of America. We got to know each other and became friends during the process. I was so inspired by Peter. Not only is he an amazing photographer, he is a brilliant business man. His passion for the art of photography is unparalleled. It is pretty cool to be inspired by such a creative person. Throughout the journey of discovering the flowers and moving forward into a fine art genre, Peter has been so supportive and encouraging! We all need someone pushing us to take on a challenge and get outside our box, and Pete has been that for me! If you don’t know Peterʼs work you need to check it out. His landscape photography is absolutely amazing!

Find him at

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Big Tree Down

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It’s a sad day at Susan Michal Portrait Studio, we lost one of our beautiful big oak trees! :(

Many beautiful images have been taken with this tree as the backdrop.

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Headed to Engage Conference


I am excited to be heading to the Grand Cayman Island Monday to attend ENGAGE an innovative series of luxury wedding business events bringing together the wedding industry’s key influencers and thought leaders from around the globe to exchange ideas, network and be inspired to take their businesses to the next level of success. Can’t wait to get lots of new ideas and bring them back to Jacksonville brides!

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