The weather was hot,
rainy, rotten. The assignments were almost
sadistic in their demands and
The competition was at the highest level of the
all-around-photographer food chain. Yet Michael
Soo prevailed. With his victory in Pop Photo’s
Photographer of the Year 2005 Shoot-Out, this
32-year-old software engineer from Cupertino,
California, proved several things:
You don’t need to be a pro.
You don’t need the most megapixels.
need to know the territory. Photoshop won’t clinch
it for you.
|Wing It: Michael Soo
Brought his own props, including butterflies. He
took one from the case and put it on the model's
shoulders. "Are you okay with that?" he asked.
"No!" she groaned. But with $5,000 and the title
on the line, he kept it there.|
Wielding an 8.2MP Canon EOS 20D, Soo beat two
full-time pros—Andrei Jackamets of Howell, New
Jersey, and Mike Peters of Verona, New Jersey,
both 45, who were armed with a 12.4MP Nikon D2x
and 16.6MP Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II,
As Soo showed, capturing the title of “The Best
Shooter on the Planet” takes creativity, technical
skill, and determination. In the three-day
shoot-out, held in the scorching heat of mid-July
Manhattan, the competition was fierce; the
assignments, often grueling; and the photos taken
by all three competitors, excellent.
Soo, Jackamets, and Peters were the finalists
in this first-annual event, which was announced
this past March. Photographers of all stripes were
asked to send us four shots in specific
categories; our editors selected the top 10
entries. Those 10 portfolios were posted on
www.PopPhoto.com, where you, the readers, voted.
The top three finishers were then invited to the
all-expense-paid Shoot-Out, competing for the
$5,000, winner-take-all Grand Prize, as well as a
$1,000 assignment to shoot the cover of Pop
Photo’s December issue. More than 800
photographers from around the world entered, and
35,764 votes were cast in the online balloting,
with Jackamets, Soo, and Peters finishing in that
The shooters arrived in New York knowing only
that they would come to the Pop Photo office each
morning for three days and draw their assignments
out of a hat. What these tasks would be, they had
no idea. They soon discovered that Pop Photo’s
editors had come up with assignments that were, as
Jackamets put it, “diabolical.” (See the
accompanying boxes for details.)
As the photographers hit the mean streets of
New York, where the July temperatures rose to the
mid-90s, it was clear that each had his own way of
operating and his own style.