Shutterstock's Viewfinder Challenge

Shutterstock’s monthly Viewfinder Challenge launched with a bang this summer, offering our contributors the chance to earn special recognition for their work and win cool prizes. In the first challenge, we asked you to submit work on the theme of “Celebrating Life,” and for Round 2, we followed it up by looking at “Local Holiday Traditions.”

Unsurprisingly, we once again received a ton of amazing entries, leaving our judges with the difficult task of selecting their favorites from the bunch. Read on to see the winning entries in each category — photo, illustration, and footage — and get reactions from the judges and the winners themselves.

We’re already in the process of making the final selections from last month’s challenge (“Think Green”), but if you want to get in on the action yourself, you can submit your entries now for Viewfinder Challenge 4: Real People.



Angel in the Sky by Helen Syerozhym

Angel in the Sky by Helen Syerozhym

What the Winner said: “At first, this started as a creative search, which led me to an angel with a trumpet. For me, it’s the angel Gabriel, a leader. Then, I had the picture: An elaborate process of preparing for the New Year holidays. The angel blows his trumpet, announcing that the “holiday” is near — let’s get going!

I didn’t think it was necessary to depict elves at work. Instead, I used fluffy sheep on a conveyor belt through the city. They end up in a bag for Santa Claus, to be gifted to children. After that, I added the small elements: stars, clouds, and a little color. I used a “classic” technique with the texturing on vector shapes and color manipulation. I think I managed to reproduce the fabulousness of the process of preparation for the Christmas rush.”

What the Judge said: “The high-contrast of this illustration evokes the feeling of the holiday winter season. A clean graphic style against the rough background texture, portrays the traditional symbol of an angel in a contemporary and fresh way.” – Tim Goldman, Image Acquisition, Illustrations


Mexican Day of the Dead by Claudio Giovenzana

What the Winner said: “Traveling in Mexico has offered me the opportunity to catch folkloric expressions that are unique to the country. The representation of death in Mexico is really different from the rest of the world. It’s a mixture of the pre-Columbian tradition and the modern influence of painters and muralists.

I shot this in Guanajuato, a beautiful town in center of Mexico. There are a lot of artists in the street dressed up as famous characters. This guy, Mario, has picked up the character of Pancho Villa, one of the most famous revolutionaries in the world, but represented as a dead man walking — a “skull with sombrero.” This is the particular touch of Mexican folklore, where the dead are often represented as a skeleton dressed up as a “Catrina” (Victorian woman in a long dress and wide hat) or other famous character.”

What the Judge said: “The Day of the Dead is a local Mexican holiday tradition that gathers family and friends to pray for loved ones who have passed away. Giovenzana did a great job capturing the bright colors of the costume and the painted face of the skull in low light. The way the light of the flickering candle plays off the subject’s face, in addition to the way the shot is framed with the wide circular hat toward the top right, makes for a beautiful image that captures the tradition and spirit of the holiday.” – Tom Spota, Director, Video Acquisition


Yi Peng Festival - Chiang Mai, Thailand by Tappasan Phurisamrit

Yi Peng Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand by Tappasan Phurisamrit

The Northern Thai festival of Yi Peng is one of the most visually captivating events of the season. Held in conjunction with Loi Krathong, a national holiday during which observers build tiny boats from flowers and banana leaves to float down the river, Yi Peng adds fire and air to the equation. Celebrants light paper sky lanterns, using the heat from a candle or flame inside to make them airborne. Released by the dozens, they create a spectacular aerial vision, complemented on the ground by additional lanterns decorating homes and carried by hand. Check out Tappasan Phurisamrit‘s portfolio for more images from the festival.

What the Judge said: “The unique perspective and deep colors in this photograph created an eye-catching and interesting composition. It’s a wonderful image capturing the splendor of a local tradition, extremely fitting for the theme in this challenge.” – Liz Lapp, Shutterstock Curator



Saint Peter's Square at Sunset, Vatican City by Matteo Volpone

Saint Peter’s Square at Sunset, Vatican City by Matteo Volpone


Little Boy Standing in the Snow by Irina Udalova

Little Boy Standing in the Snow by Irina Udalova


2013 by Ufuk Zivana

Want to see more great submissions from the “Local Holiday Traditions” challenge? Check out our lightbox featuring additional entries that caught our eye. Then be sure to submit your work for Viewfinder Challenge 4: Real People. Show us your best stuff, and you just might see your own art featured here in the very near future.