How to Get the Most Out of Entering Photography Competitions and What to Enter.
It's such an honor to be asked to share my thoughts and advice on entering photography competitions.
For those of you that know me know that I love to enter photography competitions. It’s not about entering to compete against other photographers or for the trophies (even though the trophies and accolades are nice) but to push myself creatively and to continually be inspired by other photographers. Not to mention the advice and feedback from judges that isn’t always easy to hear at first but when taken on board always educational. And to also know that by having my work judged by leaders in our industry that I am producing the high level of work that my clients deserve.
I have been entering print competitions for just over 7 years in Australia and internationally, and every year I get just as excited and nervous as the year before. I still remember the very first year I entered, the doubt in selecting the right images and then eagerly awaiting my scores to see if they were above or below standard professional practice in the jurors opinions. I liken it to the first time I picked up a camera and began to experiment. I just knew it was like nothing I’d ever felt before – there was a rush of excitement shared with a subconscious knowledge that I had discovered something that just felt right and everything changed after that.
If you’ve never entered before but have been considering putting your work up in front of a panel of judges I encourage you to do so. It not only pushes you to take your imagery that extra step further but to create something truly unique and it could possibly be your first step towards building a global audience for your body of work.
Selecting your strongest images to submit is no small feat. You have to seriously assess your overall body of work, a challenge that you may not have attempted previously. And while there is no formula to determine which images you should enter there are things that jurors look for when assessing images.
I feel very fortunate to have been asked to judge competitions all over the world, which has grown my knowledge substantially. For years prior to this I sat in the audience watching and learning, as every print came up in front of a panel of judges where they would give their review pointing out areas for improvement and acknowledging what worked I would soak every comment in. Even after studying photography at college I believe this was the best classroom I could have ever asked for.
What Jurors are looking for:
An image that grabs their attention.
Creativity and Style
Creativity that tells a story and style that’s defined by a certain genre or technique.
Composition should hold the judges attention and should prompt the judge with leading lines, alignment and lighting to look where the photographer intends them to look.
Image or Print Presentation
The overall finish of an image is highly important. Mats and borders should be carefully selected and never distracting. And paper choice can be critical as every paper stock is different and will impact on the final print.
Correct use of light needs to enhance an image and should be appropriate to the image and subject.
Colour balance should be harmonious in an image and can also create dramatic effects in an images.
This refers to the print quality, sharpness, exposure, mounting, correct use of colour and paper selection.
Posing, lighting, composition, ISO choice, lens choice and exposure should all be considered, in conjunction with technical excellence.
Story Telling and Subject Matter
Images should strike the judges attention, and draw them in to discover the message without distraction.
For me, it always starts with a gut feeling, sometimes I’m faced with a clients story and it’s my job to create images that tell their story, something with meaning and significance for them to cherish and other times it’s an idea – my imagination working over time to think of something that’s original and emotive. Images need to reach out and force a jury to pay attention. Whether it’s the subject matter, or a powerful composition, or incredible use of light.
Pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone can be very rewarding. I strongly suggest going along to watch live judging at competitions like WPPI, you’ll not only learn a lot from watching other photographers images be constructively critiqued but you’ll be incredibly inspired to start creating. And if it’s not your cup of tea that’s ok too, we are all different and work differently.
There are a lot of photography competitions out there; you need to decide carefully which ones you will enter. My advice is to invest only in those competitions that advance your career goals. And please make sure you read the terms and conditions so you know what’s involved, especially with use of image rights.
The reason I love entering photograph competitions so much is knowing that the photographs I create have meaning, they don’t need words to evoke emotion nor tell you the story. They push the boundaries of imagination, craft and skill, knowing that I’ve photographed something that’s truly unique and each year more technically advanced.
Hopefully I have inspired you a little and I wish you the best of luck with your future entries.
Kelly Brown of Little Pieces Photography
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