#FreeYourStory: a unique perspective

Creativity, impact and the power to tell a story – the winning images from a competition designed to find the next generation of visual storytellers.
A man wearing a pink sweatshirt holds a Canon camera to his face. The flash casts an orange light.

Creativity, impact and the power to tell a story – that's what all photographers hope to achieve with their images. The ability to show a unique perspective is the mark of a good photographer, and that's what Canon set out to discover through the hashtag #FreeYourStory and the competition associated with it.

To participate in the #FreeYourStory competition, young photographers were asked to enter photographs into two categories – The Mirror Selfie and Forced Perspective – and a panel of independent judges assessed the entries, looking for images that stood out from the rest. The competition judges whittled down the hundreds of entries to arrive at the winning images and a selection of commended images, which you can see below. You'll also hear the story behind each of the #FreeYourStory winners, and gain some insight from the judges: Canon Ambassador and portrait specialist Wanda Martin, Canon Ambassador, photojournalist and documentary maker Ulla Lohmann; and travel photographer, filmmaker and influencer Michael Gray.

The Mirror Selfie winner

A black-and-white shot of a child reflected in a window appearing as if she is part of a window display of puppets.

Karolina Dworzynska of Poland took this photo while visiting a fairytale village with her young family. She had just one chance to take the shot before her daughter got bored and ran off. © Karolina Dworzynska

"I couldn't believe that I was the winner of this category," says Karolina Dworzynska. "I've never won anything in my entire life and this was the first photography competition I'd entered."

"I love taking photos of children as they always give you genuine reactions, and you can always see the emotion in their faces. My goal is to freeze a moment in time so that later in life, my children can see how their childhood looked and enjoy those moments again. Unfortunately, I cannot experience that as I have only a few photos from when I was a little girl. Maybe that's why photography is so important for me."

Described by the judges as 'playful' and 'surprising', Karolina's winning black-and-white image was taken during a family visit to a fairytale village, where there were small houses filled with animatronic characters. "We stopped to listen to the story about Cinderella and I noticed my daughter's reflection in the window. She looked as if she was a part of the fairytale, so I seized the opportunity to take a photo. I tried to take a second picture but she got bored and ran away. So that was it. I had one chance and I took it."

A black-and-white shot of a woman reaching her hand out, reflected back in a mirror.

This image by Daria Liushnevska of Poland was a runner-up in The Mirror Selfie category. © Daria Liushnevska

A self-portrait of a man, crouching on a rock, reflected in a pair of hexagonal sunglasses.

This shot by Dominique De Laender, another runner-up, shows him crouching with his Canon kit, reflected in a pair of sunglasses. © Dominique De Laender

What the professionals say...

Karolina's intriguing take on The Mirror Selfie theme impressed the judges. "The mirror selfie is one of the oldest and most popular styles of self-portrait in photography – we see hundreds of them every day on social media," says Canon Ambassador and portrait specialist Wanda Martin. "I was experimenting with self-portraiture during lockdown, so I was really excited to see how others approached the theme.

"We got some very witty and creative visual solutions. Our winner is a beautiful black-and-white image, where the child's reflection merges into the universe of puppets. You can't even tell the two worlds apart, and we loved how the optical illusion creates a new reality."

The other judges agreed. "I had to look twice," says Canon Ambassador, photojournalist and documentary maker Ulla Lohmann. "There was an element of surprise, with the reflections of both the young child and the photographer – it's like old and new combined. The more you look, the more interesting it becomes."

"We hadn't really seen the use of a reflection like that," adds travel photographer, filmmaker and influencer Michael Gray. "We really enjoyed the precision in the way the child lines up with the height of the dolls. It really made the judges stop for a moment and question what was going on, and that excited us."

A black-and-white shot of multiple images of the same face reflected in a mirror.

Runner-up JoJanni Cosico of the UAE used mirrors to capture multiple images of his face. © JoJanni Cosico

A black-and-white selfie of a woman staring at the lens and holding a camera up to her face.

A more conventional selfie from runner-up Sepiso Dean Mwamelo of the UK, but an image with real impact. © Sepiso Dean Mwamelo

How to shoot your own mirror selfie

Karolina's picture shows how easy it is to make the most of everyday photo opportunities, once you tap into your creativity. How many of us walk past shop windows daily, for example, and miss the potential for a great shot? Technically, it's easy to take a picture like this, frame the reflected subject against a darker part of the scene and make sure that your camera is focused on the reflection rather than the background. The challenge is finding an interesting subject.

You don't have to plan a shoot or carry a heavy camera: keep the compact Canon Zoemini S instant camera in your pocket, and you'll be able to shoot more spontaneously and capture and create instant prints on the go. It's a great way to seize those fleeting family moments, with the camera's built-in mirror making it a breeze to take creative group selfies.

The black-and-white treatment that Karolina used for her picture ties the two worlds on each side of the glass together, enhancing the optical illusion. Try adding a filter to your colour pictures before you share them online or print them out. Download the Canon Mini Print app onto your mobile device from the App Store and Google Play and you can add on-trend filters, frames and distortions to create unique images, before printing them out on the Canon Zoemini S. For more inspiration, check out the #FreeYourStory hub.

Forced Perspective winner

A small boy wearing a hat and sunglasses claps as Turkish F-16 fighter jets perform a demonstration, leaving trails of red and white smoke in the sky.

The angle and composition of this shot helped Muhammet win the Forced Perspective category. © Muhammet Samet Yılmaz

Muhammet Samet Ylmaz has been selected as the winner of the #FreeYourStory Forced Perspective category, with this striking shot of Turkish F-16 fighter pilots displaying their skills. "I saw a boy proudly watching the show and this image immediately came to mind. I quickly chose a nice angle and pressed the shutter release."

Muhammet likes to travel and always has a camera with him. Doing so allows him to seize photo opportunities as they arise – which is certainly beneficial when it comes to fortuitous forced perspective photography. "When I found out that I won, I was so happy. At first, I couldn't believe it, so I read the email again and again", he says.

What the professionals say...

"My fellow judges and I really appreciated the personal element of our Forced Perspective category winner," explains Wanda. "As with The Mirror Selfie winner, it is an unusual family picture, but a very clever visual game."

"It's an image that everybody can relate to," adds Ulla. "For me the technique was one thing, but I was also looking for an element of surprise and storytelling, which this image delivers.

"I actually used the theme of forced perspective to challenge participants on one of my recent workshops, and I would encourage everyone reading this to try out both this and the mirror selfie theme, and challenge yourself to think differently with your photography."

Mike agrees: "I was hoping to see someone who could think outside of the box, especially with the whole situation the world's in right now. We had loads of entries which people had taken in their back garden, and I think it showed that you really can be creative anywhere.

"What we liked about both winning images was that they fitted the brief – the story and the emotion captured in the forced perspective shot really came through when we were all looking at it."

A silhouette of a man stretches a finger out as if he's touching the setting sun.

This silhouette by Forced Perspective runner-up Fattih Ekmen adds a new layer of interest to a beautiful sunset. © Fattih Ekmen.

A woman in sports clothing appears to climb a blue block, shot from above.

Competition runner-up Angelika Arkuszynska chose to shoot top down, giving the illusion that her subject is climbing a vertical wall. © Angelika Arkuszynska

How to shoot your own forced perspective images

Forced perspective is more about finding the right subject and the best angle to shoot from to line everything up than it is about getting to grips with camera controls. Be prepared to crouch or lie on the ground or take your picture from a high angle in order to create a convincing result.

Simple ideas often work best, so once you spot an opportunity, look for ways to exclude parts of the scene that don't add to your story. Try playing with scale: if you want to make a small subject look big relative to background details, then you'll need to get close with a wide lens or stand farther away and zoom in. You can even include yourself in the image – try reaching out one of your arms in front of the camera and appearing to interact with objects in the distance.

If you're sharing your forced perspective image and videos on Instagram, don't forget to use #FreeYourStory – we'd love to see your results!

Written by Marcus Hawkins

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