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One Young Artist, One Grand Prize, 200 Lego Photos (and Counting)

Picture this: You take out your camera, round up a few Lego Minifigures, and create a well-lit image of a vacuum sucking them up. You upload it to a contest on a whim, close your laptop, and then forget about it. A few weeks later, you get a message saying that you won the grand prize: a brand new camera, a gorgeous SIGMA lens, and a slew of other amazing prizes. WHAT!!

You just did what every artist in the world dreams of… creating art for YOU and seeing it pay off in a big way.

This is the story of 16-year-old Megan Mitchel, who recently won the grand prize in the Rocky Mountain School of Photography 8th annual High School Photo Contest by submitting the image below. [All of the images in this article were created by Megan Mitchel.]

The first step – doing what you love

“This year I didn’t feel like I had any photos that were worth entering,” Megan said. “I never would have thought that my Lego photography would win!”

Megan’s quote reminds us that we’re usually our own worst critics, and that creating impactful art might just mean that it impacts you. When you make imagery that you love to create, your passion shines through and resonates with others, too.

“My setup for this shot was quite simple actually! I used wooden skewers and poked them into the carpet in our living room to elevate the Legos off the floor,” Megan said. “I then set my camera on the ground and used a remote shutter to take the photo. I held a light with one hand and the vacuum in the other and took the photos. It was a lot of multitasking! I wanted to make sure the photo was bright so I experimented with moving the light at different angles.”

Whether you’ve been interested in photography for a day or you’ve been obsessed for years, you probably know this feeling: the moment you create something you love. This artform has a gravity all its own. It pulls you in. It makes you think. It makes you create. It teaches you about the world. It teaches you about yourself.

Photography can be whatever you want it to be. A hobby. A career. A side gig. A meditative practice. But the root of it will always be the same: the art of seeing.

Learn about the High School Photo Contest by RMSP

By the way, I’m Sarah, Assistant Director at Rocky Mountain School of Photography. I’m part of the team that put on the High School Photo Contest that Megan won. We are a group of people with a passion for helping photographers build fulfilling careers with their photography skills. We do this by providing excellent technical instruction and practical industry guidance. But the real definer of a successful career? That’s each student’s personal drive, their grit, their own dedication to their goal, to their art.

One way we strive to cultivate that crucial excitement and joy for photography is through our annual High School Photo Contest. It’s a huge deal, really.

Every year, roughly 10,000 high school students from across the United States and Canada enter our contest for a chance to win a fantastic array of photo gear prizes, RMSP program credit, and some serious bragging rights.

Our contest is one of the few that is exclusively for high school photographers, and it’s an awesome opportunity for young people to stretch their skills, push themselves to create more intentionally, and potentially win a sweet, sweet box of goodies.

Of course, it also builds awareness for our educational programs that help photographers craft the job they want around the art they love. It’s all a way to bring more beauty into the world!

SIGMA partners with us on this endeavor to get more young people creating art by sponsoring our contest and providing a stellar lens to our grand prize winner. This year, the winner took home SIGMA’s best-selling prime lens ever, the iconic 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art!

The best thing about this unique photography contest is that it encourages student artists to create work they’re truly proud of, work that connects and inspires and wows. Plus, it’s free to enter!

What this contest means for the winner

“[Winning the contest taught me] to never think that you have no chance of winning! I truly never thought that they would pick my photo, so when I won It was an amazing experience,” Megan said. “Winning the contest was an amazing privilege and opportunity and it has boosted my confidence in my photography immensely!”

Megan, the 2023 grand prize winner, consistently creates elaborate Lego scenes that she builds in her home, outdoors, and anywhere she can. Her winning image was chosen because it demonstrates not only an interesting and unique concept, but the execution of the image was clearly extremely thoughtful and intentional.

“Coming up with new ideas is a large part of my photography,” Megan said. “Sometimes I don’t have a set idea so I might look at my Legos and see what I can come up with based off of what I’ve already shot or haven’t shot. When I have an idea that I like, I will then figure out what I need to do the shot. Most of the time I do my photos outside in the woods, so I’ll grab the necessary gear and head outside. If I need to do the shot inside, such as the vacuum photo, I need to get a little more technical with things like lighting and setting. When I have my shot set up, I’ll then take the photo; usually I play around with perspectives, focal lengths, things like that. I’ve probably taken around or over 200 different Lego photos!”

To read more about Megan’s contest experience, head on over to the RMSP blog.

Every year, photographers like Megan and all of the young people who submit their best work have consistently demonstrated incredible creativity, passion, and dedication to growth. We at RMSP are grateful to be able to offer an avenue for their work to be seen, and to be able to award a lot of amazing gear to the winners.

Learn more and get involved!

Rocky Mountain School of Photography offers two immersive, experiential photography programs: Professional Intensive for aspiring pros, and Summer Intensive for avid hobbyists. We also have a growing catalog of Online Courses and an active YouTube channel with a growing community of subscribers.

Want to save some money while learning more about photography? SIGMA University also offers discounts on SIGMA gear to students enrolled in eligible higher education programs.

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