Are you wondering what the secret sauce is to winning the Canon PhotoMarathon? If so, this article is for you. We speak with globally renowned celebrity photographer Justin Mott to hear what he has to say about all aspects of the event, from preparation to what the judges are looking for in a winning photo.  

EOS 5D Mark II | EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM | f/5.6 | ISO 640 | 1/500s

Let’s start with a short introduction about yourself.

My name is Justin Mott, I am an American photographer and I have been living in Vietnam for over 15 years. I own a commercial photography business. I have probably shot over 100 assignments for the New York Times throughout Southeast Asia, and I am also the face and judge of Photo Face-Off on HISTORY Channel sponsored by Canon.

EOS 5DS R | EF24mm f/1.4L II USM | f/3.2 | ISO 100 | 1/8000s

If you were to suggest what a participant for the CPM should bring in their camera bag, what would those things be?

If you are going to the CPM, you may have the tendency to bring as much gear as possible because you do not know what the challenges are. But you need to be light, you need to be agile. I would bring one camera and one lens. Bring an extra battery and an extra memory card in case things go wrong. You can bring a small tripod just in case something comes up and you want to do a longer exposure or you want to try something creative where you are in the shot. Bring enough gear but do not bring any gear that is going to weigh you down. Stay agile!

EOS-1D X Mark II | EF50mm f/1.2L USM| f/14 | ISO 320 | 1/500s

EOS 5D Mark IVEF35mm f/1.4L II USM |f/2.8 |ISO 400 | 1000s

How would you prepare yourself if you were a participant for the CPM?

I would mentally prepare myself for anything. Look at past winners but do not copy them. Think about why the judges like the wining images and add your own twist to it. The challenges are very diverse, so be well-rounded, be versatile, educate yourself on as many different disciplines in photography as you can and practice. Just be ready for the unknown.

EOS 1D-X Mark IIEF24mm f/1.4L II USM |f/1.8 | ISO 6000 |1/60s

What do the judges usually look for in a winning picture?

I have been to so many Canon PhotoMarathons around the region and have judged over 10 of them. Every judge is different, but I think some unifying criteria that all look for in a good picture are a good composition and beautiful light. We are going to make sure that your exposures are done well and that the photograph is technically sound. The element that is going to push you over the edge is the creative aspect; show us something we have not seen before. That could be through a different perspective, or different exposure, or by going somewhere that’s a little bit unknown.

EOS 5D Mark II | EF35mm f/1.4L II USM | f/1.4 | ISO 1600 | 1/40s

EOS 5D Mark II | EF35mm f/1.4L II USM | f/2.8 | ISO 1000 | 1/250s

This year we have a special dusk related theme. Do you have any specific tips that you can offer related to dusk shots?

Do not be in an area that confines the golden hour light. Be in an area that is going to be able to highlight that light, so find a good spot where you will be able to use that light and scout some places ahead of time if you can.

EOS 5D Mark IV | EF35mm f/1.4L II USM | f/5.6 | ISO 100| 1/2000s

EOS 5D Mark II | EF35mm f/1.4L II USM | f/11 | ISO 640 | 1/640s

Here in Singapore we have a photography community called EOS World. Can you share some thoughts on the benefits of joining this community?

I love EOS World because I think it really brings photographers together as a community and that is what photography is about. The beauty of it is we all have different ways in looking at things and have different opinions on photography. It is subjective but when we share these ideas we educate each other. EOS World brings together photographers from all different backgrounds, styles, professional, semi-professional, and amateurs.

EOS 5D Mark II | EF35mm f/1.4L II USM | f/7.1 | ISO 400 | 1/500s

EOS 5D Mark II | EF35mm f/1.4L II USM | f/3.2 | ISO 100 | 1/2500s

With the Canon PhotoMarathon just around the corner, keep Justin’s words of wisdom in mind as you mentally prepare yourself to snap the winning shot!

Check out more of Justin’s work at and Do not hesitate to reach out to Justin at if you got a photography question or need more photography tips!

Upgrade to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV  – versatile camera with a full-frame CMOS sensor boasting of a 30.4-megapixel image resolution, ensuring detailed depictions and beautiful tones perfect for the Canon PhotoMarathon.