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2021 Year in Review: Media and Awards

Folks, 2021 was a big year. If you follow my social media platforms, you've seen the session recaps, the tutorials, the personal breakthroughs. You've also seen the awards and media features I'll be rounding up in this blog post - but stick around! I'll be giving my own commentary on each piece; a bit of background on how these honors came to be.

Screenshot of the blurb regarding photographer Quinn Kirby for Grand Rapids Magazine's Featured Contributors blurb.

Just a few months after I began freelancing with Grand Rapids Magazine, I became one of the publication's featured contributors and received a quick blurb on the bottom right corner of the May 2021 Issue's Editor's Letter.

I began freelancing with GR Mag after sending a cold call to the editorial staff email I found on the publication's "Contact" page. Their "Employment Opportunities and Internships" page only provided information on unpaid internships for undergrads, so I decided to shoot my shot by attempting to contact someone about freelancing as a photographer on their team.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later an editor contacted me to begin the onboarding process, and I have been working with the publication every month or so since January 2021.

Screenshot of the Authority Magazine headline: "Quinn Kirby: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos"

One full-length feature arrived in the form of Authority Magazine's "5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos" series. This piece was fun because it got me thinking about the basics of photography again, and how making a good photo involves not only understanding your equipment and software, but understanding your subject and - as much as many of us hate to admit - yourself.

It was in this piece that I introduced some wisdom from my partner, Jacob Rivard, into the world. Before we began dating, he told me to stop being so hard on myself for resting. Because, after all, everything we do and see adds to our life experiences, and those experiences compost into some of our greatest ideas.

Remember to add to your compost bin.

Screenshot of the feature on Quinn Kirby for GoBankingRates' Small Business Spotlight Series: "This Midwestern College Grad is Already Making an Impression on the Photography World."

My favorite on this list: the GoBankingRates Small Business Spotlight. Although I have yet to be interviewed by a human being (every piece featured here involved typing responses to standardized prompts), that headline is not my doing. I am still incredibly flattered that I made some sort of fancy impression on whichever editor added that headline before sending it out into the world.


These first two pieces of earned media are thanks to the thoughtfulness of Dana Eble, one of my partner's college pals. Eble works as a public relations professional and passed the opportunities along as she found them. Thanks always, Dana; you rock.


Voyage Michigan

Screenshot of the Voyage Michigan feature on Quinn Kirby

This piece marks my first independent request for contribution (i.e. I have never worked with the publication, nor was this opportunity passed along). When I asked how Voyage Michigan became interested in my story, Editor Jessica Ramirez shared she found me via social media and wanted the feature to contribute to the online magazine's ongoing "Local Stories" section.

In my own roles as a journalist, I have sent so many "Hi, xyz, I'm Quinn Kirby with so-and-so publication and we would love to have your voice in this piece," emails that I neglected to anticipate how exciting receiving one of those messages could be. Thank you Jessica, for enlightening me.

Viewbug Awards

I began my membership with Viewbug in 2017. The site is a hub for photography contests curated by professional photographers that result in some big prizes (like camera bodies, interviews, publication, etc.) and smaller competitions run by members resulting in points that go toward fun little membership badges. I recently reached out to the Viewbug team to see what it takes to become part of that panel of judges, so - who knows? - maybe I'll be curating awards in the near future instead of competing for them!

I do believe the site has a referral program, so if this section piques your interest and you decide to join Viewbug, see if you have the option to mention who referred you when you sign up! You can find my account at QuinnKPhoto.

Let's get into it!

10,566 entries

Screenshot of the Distinctive Expressions Photo Contest and Kirby's Honorable Mention Image.

This award aligns with my creative goals in moving my business model toward providing photography services to creatives and entrepreneurs. I've begun taking on more commercial and editorial projects in the time since I completed this session, and I owe much of my confidence in those projects to this shoot.

Modeled and styled by Madison Vance, with makeup by Helen Dawson, this was the first session I curated as a business owner. Its first birthday took place a couple weeks ago, and I'm excited to add more creative projects like it to my portfolio in 2022!

This session took place in the bathroom of an apartment I shared with my partner and our roommate, Brianne, and when I tell you this bathroom was SMALL? I mean TINY. You can see what I mean and walk through how we executed the whole production here.

6,070 entries

Screenshot of the Capture Music Photo Contest and Kirby's Runner Up Image of Big Wild front man Jackson Stell at Breakaway Music Festival 2021 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My inner teenager was ecstatic about this one, since I spent many of my teenage years going to any and all concerts that popped up in my hometown and always wondered what it would be like to photograph the musicians on stage.

I created the awarded image at Breakaway Music Festival during Big Wild's set. Applying for media access was incredibly easy, and parties interested in photographing the festival should start searching for the application as early as March or April. Without a pass, you will not be able to bring your camera body onto festival grounds.

3,389 entries

Screenshot of the Wedding Bells Photo Contest and Kirby's Honorary Mention image. The image is the hands of two newlyweds, the wife's hand held by her husband's, to show the new wedding band.

This award came as a surprise because I am not a wedding photographer, at least in the sense that I don't advertise within the industry. Will I photograph a wedding? For sure. I will absolutely eat up that sweet sweet celebration of love. However, I try to only book three weddings or so a year because wedding photography is intensive (post-production alone takes 4-6 weeks!) and I want to make sure I make time to provide the services I advertise.

The awarded image features the coolest newlyweds... maybe ever? Heaven and Nick held a small wedding on Nick's mother's property and the ceremony featured a flower man in a very colorful vest in lieu of a flower girl. Family photos included an impromptu fake kidnapping of the groom and, although I would love to share my favorite feature of the wedding, I have sworn myself to secrecy. I know, I'm sorry.

If someone told me at the beginning of 2021 that I would have four media features published on my achievements by the end of the year - with two of those features in publications with national reach - I'd tell you to pinch me to wake me up. These pieces and awards have helped solidify my purpose as a photographer and business owner, and served as the final push in inspiring me to be more proactive in my media relations. Starting just a few weeks from now, I'll be reaching out to publications in Pittsburgh, PA, to let them know I'm on my way.

If you're an artist or entrepreneur in the Pittsburgh area and need to launch a product, project, create content, or update your personal branding, I'm your photographer. Visit my Stylized Sessions page to learn more about the base package, and email to schedule your free consultation!

Warmth and well-wishes,


Post header image by Hannah Holland Photography


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