Bird Landing on Bride’s Head Wins 2023 International Wedding Photographer of the Year Contest

Bird perched on bride's head during wedding photo

Overall winner and Single Capture Winner, Tara Lilly – Tara Lilly Photography
“Mikaela + Mitch held an intimate mountaintop wedding in Whistler, Canada, on the unceded territory of Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh & L̓il̓wat7úl First Nations⁣⁣⁣. We took 4×4 jeeps up to an alpine meadow, home to a number of animals, including whiskey jacks. (If you’ve visited Whistler in the winter, you may have seen these small birds entertain skiers waiting in the lift line by landing on their ski poles held in the air.) Just as Mitch began his vows, a curious whiskey jack swooped in and landed directly on top of Mikaela’s head. Mikaela’s shock, surprise, and laughter were not enough to dissuade this bird from his perch. “I’m Snow White!” Mikaela laughed.”

A small bird coming in for a crash landing helped win Tara Lilly the title of International Wedding Photographer of the Year. The Canadian wedding photographer beat out over 300 of her peers to rise to the top of the competition. The precious image of a whiskey jack landing on the head of a bride is a lighthearted look at the couple's go-with-the-flow attitude during their wedding in Whistler, Canada.

For her efforts, Lilly is taking home a prize pool, including a share of over $3,000 and products from award sponsors. In second place, Italian photographer Carmelo Ucchino captured a couple's romantic first dance as water cascaded from the ceiling. The dramatic black and white image also won the Dance Floor category.

Over 1,700 images were submitted to 11 categories that show the creative range of possibilities when it comes to wedding photography. “It was an absolute joy judging so many diverse entries and the quality of imagery was off the charts,” shared judge and photographer Dee Kampe, who won last year's contest.

“I was drawn to the winning entry for its perfection in capturing this chance encounter,” she continues. “It’s joyous, uplifting, and makes me grin from ear to ear just looking at it. There’s pure, unfiltered emotion, there’s surprise, there’s the unexpected. It encapsulates the emotions and narrative that runs through an entire wedding day in a single frame.”

This year's contest was more successful than ever. Now in its seventh year, the International Wedding Photographer of the Year saw an increase in entries, showing that the world is back on track when it comes to celebrating these important life moments. Scroll down to see more of the winners and check out all of the finalists in the official gallery. And, if you are in the market for a wedding photographer, you can search the contest's database to find a talented photographer in your area.

Here are the winners of the 2023 International Wedding Photographer of the Year contest.

Couple dancing at wedding as water falls from the roof

Overall Runner-up and Winner, Dance Floor, Carmelo Ucchino
“Such a sweet and in love couple that involved me passionately. The simplicity of a refined wedding in Sicily with many facets, from the very romantic one between the two spouses to the very exuberant one in the post-prom party. In this photo, water actually falls from the roof in an almost surreal context, it is a dance floor where the bride and groom do their first dance together. I remember with amusement the slippery floor after prom. A few slips and lots of laughter to liven up the story of this wedding even more.”

Overhead photo of wedding party

Winner, The “I Do” Crew / Group Shot, Jeff Tisman
“The funny thing about this photo is that I did it once before with another couple at this particular venue. The first time the photo had eight people. This couple wanted the same shot and said Jeff do you think you could fit all 16 of us?
I said there is only one way to find out. “You all get in and we’ll find out”. And in they went!”

Bride and groom scaling a cliff

Winner, Epic Location, Aimée Flynn
“Being huge climbers, it was super important for these two to climb in celebration of their elopement. In this moment I was turning around to find a new vantage point for photos when I heard, “Oh, Spiderman style!” from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw, well, this, and then frantically started taking photos. It’s wild to think I had very little to do with the set up of this photo and that this was genuinely just the two of them having fun.”

Aerial view of bride and groom lying on a jetty

Winner, From Above, Ben Lane – Tinted Photography

We started our day super early with Marianne and Jeremy to catch the sun rising across Lago Di Braies. Later, they would say their vows to each other, surrounded by the indescribable peaks of the Italian Dolomites. But in between was this moment. We had the jetty to ourselves; the lake was dead calm, the row boats still in their moorings. It was a perfect time for these two to take a moment and just relax with each other.”

Bride and groom dangling on a rappelling line

Winner, Break the Rules, Traci Edwards
“When planning with Gillian + Josh it was clear how much climbing was a part of their relationship. Their first date was on a multi pitch trad route and they got engaged on an epic sport route in Moab. The main things they wanted to be a part of their day: warmth, time to enjoy, climbing, beer and star gazing.
Immediately, I started thinking about how can we create epic star photos that could also embody more of who they are and what they want out of their elopement experience. I pitched the idea to them for a night time hanging rappel down the middle of an arch for star gazing. They loved it!
Logistically, photography wise, this wasn’t going to be easy. Hanging rappels, no matter how hard you try, there is lots of subtle movement. With practice, holding our breathes and some help from passing cars we pulled it off – a night time hanging rappel under the stars – captured for years to look back on and remember the moment, the stars, the hanging in the air with each other before becoming married.”

2023 International Wedding Photographer of the Year

Winner, Couple Portrait, Aimée Flynn
“When you get a little bit of weather and combine it with off the charts stoke, magic can happen. Not 40 minutes before this photo was taken we were all being pelted with rain, sleet, and snow. The nice thing is that in places as wide open as the desert, you can see often see weather approaching… *and* you can see when that weather will clear, making for the prettiest and moodiest sunset ever. There was so much joyful shrieking as this couple scrambled over the rocks, wind whipping their hair and clothes. It was chilly and windy, but these two had the time of their lives embracing their (very epic) wedding day.”

Black and white white photo of bride and groom against Palazzo del Rettorato in Siena

Winner, Black & White, Fabio Mirulla
“I remember very well that day, it was a very hot summer day and the couple was walking in Siena (Tuscany), in one of the most interesting streets, with ancient buildings and narrow streets that lead to Piazza del Campo, which is perhaps one of the most beautiful squares in the world. We were talking just right before starting the photo session when I turned around and saw that there was a cone of light projecting this very strong shadow against Palazzo del Rettorato. I immediately took the chance to play with frames to create something different, a strong geometry totally in contrast and discontinuous with the usual aspect of the city which is a purely medieval town with its typical bricks. The success of a photo sometimes is being in the right place at the right time and this was definitely the case.”

Bride and groom in the forest under the moonlight

Winner, LIT, Van Middleton
“I was fortunate for this image in that a lot of things aligned. There was a full moon that was tracing a line right between two beautiful big old trees near the wedding venue, I had a couple that was super excited to be involved in a few outdoors night-time creative photos (while their friends were partying hard inside!) and I was also sharing the day with a videographer James Alexander, who was running with a large LED spotlight that I begged and borrowed. I didn’t think my speed lights would be quite right for this type of shot, because I needed something steady and more controlled that I could also light up the trees a bit with. This shot was taken at Worrowing Estate, an amazing venue with beautiful forests all around, which was another stroke of fortune!”

Solo portrait of a bride in India

Winner, Solo Portrait, Shankhesh Jariwala.
“There is a very interesting story behind this picture.
So while capturing bride solo portrait I saw this painting on the wall which was hanging little higher I instantly created the story in my mind about the painting.
I asked bride if she can stand on the little table with those high heels on and she trusted my vision and agreed to do for her perfect bridal portrait Heads off to her That’s how we captured this beautiful portrait of her.”

2023 International Wedding Photographer of the Year

Winner, Engagement / Non Wedding, Julian Zeman
“Steph and Matt are both marine biologists’ and got married in the Cook Islands. It was only fitting they merge their passion for the ocean and their love for each other with an underwater photoshoot. On the day of the shoot, we were greeted with a bit of wind, which made the waters a tad choppy. Determined to get the perfect shots, we decided to venture further out than usual. My mate John, who owns the fishing boat we went out on, took us to one of the fishing fads – a spot with crystal-clear waters, perfect for our shoot but definitely not a spot for anyone scared of deep water. There’s always a bit of a current, and naturally, on a windy day, we’re dealing with it being choppy, but Steph and Matt were incredibly graceful.”

International Wedding Photographer of the Year: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the International Wedding Photographer of the Year.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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