Shooting Challenge #25 (The Message) -- The Winner Is...

By Martin Snelling on at

To co-incide with the 60th anniversary of the forming of the Samaritans charity, our most recent Shooting Challenge was all about 'The Message'. The challenge was quite straightforward; create a photographic poster that captured the essence of a charity of your choosing. The criteria was that the poster must contain both images and text created by you.

However, the promise of a charity donation and a Sony SmartWatch 2 for the winner couldn't get the majority of our Shooting Challenge fans off their arses and out making photographs that really would make a difference. Perhaps the challenge was too difficult, too time consuming, or just a bit too controversial to get you snapping away? So to the six of you that did enter, four of whom actually read the rules, I thank you.

In the words of Connor MacLeod, "there can be only one!" and this week's winner is... Andrew Wilson for his RSPCA charity poster, which you can see above.

I liked the low-key photograph of Sergio the rabbit, combined with the straight-talking no-nonsense message that rabbits have feelings too. I also liked that Andrew had clearly thought about the messaging; explaining that it formed part of a wider campaign that would feature other family pets outside of the usual cats and dogs.

Here are some words from Andrew on his photograph:

"The Idea:
Originally I wanted to expand the idea I had into a series of images (hamsters have feelings too, cats have feelings too, snakes have feelings too, etc) but I sort of ran out time and animals I could photograph. The idea for this message is that most people give dogs and cats a lot of time, but rabbits are often left out in the cold (literally) as childrens pets, only played with in summer and barely fed and watered when it turns cold outside. Rabbits are surprisingly affectionate and are bursting with personality, as long as they aren't cooked up in tiny hutches, freezing, lonely and hungry in forgotten parts of the garden. Rabbits have feelings too, and people sometimes forget that. Animal abuse (or any type of abuse for that matter) is particularly heinous as it's an active thing, it's a choice someone made and it's completely preventable."


"The Charity:
I chose the RSPCA as they are a blanket organisation for any sort of abuse against any animal, they have gotten some bad press recently but I have sympathy as they do what they can with what they are given, raising awareness as well as trying to house and rehome abused animals, and not just the cute ones."


"The Photo:
The photo itself is of my little man, Sergio; he is far from abused and gets free run of our back room almost every night with plenty of fresh water, hay and if he's good, treats. I've never done any low-key photography before, I've seen it done with animals to great effect and knew it would suit the mood of the message, so I got to work. I originally tried to take a photo of him while he was playing but he got bored of the camera really fast and refused to stay still. After a while he got tired and hopped back to his hutch for a rest, I got the shot by setting up my camera to shutter priority mode of about half a second, lowering the ISO, manually focussing (because it was too dark to auto focus) and taking a shot. As I wanted a low-key effect I lit the bunny from the side using an external flash (I only have an ancient Hanimex X140 flash I got with my old Olympus Trip) which I had to fire manually after hitting the shutter release button. I did all of this with my 18-135mm IS on my 20D, free hand, no tripod, as Sergio likes to move around a lot; it was quite challenging."


"The Message:
After getting the shot I made some fairly heavy modifications to the brightness and contrast from the RAW in photoshop, using the burn tool to darken parts of the background. From there I played around with the text, adding my own tagline and using an subheading from another RSPCA campaign. For the logo I used the correct colour but sort of reimagined the logo for the modern day. I kept the main tag line the biggest as this "campaign" is designed to raise awareness and make people think about their actions more than anything; raising money to help mend broken bones or reverse the effects of malnutrition is all wall and good, but prevention is better than cure and this sort of thing shouldn't be happening in the first place."

Well done Andrew; please email us your address so we can arrange delivery of your SmartWatch 2. We will also be making a £50 donation to the RSPCA on your behalf.

Hearty slaps on the back and firm handshakes to the following:

John Burns -- Stay Safe at Sea

George Phillips -- There is Always Light at The End of the Tunnel

Spencer Hart -- Every Child Deserves a Family Christmas

Go check out our Flickr account where you can see all of the submissions, including the disqualified ones. Thanks again to everyone who either entered or thought about entering. There will be another Shooting Challenge next week; the subject of which will be *.C.* -- so get guessing.

Martin Snelling is a Hampshire-based photomatographer. He tweets here, Flickrs here, and does his website stuff here.