Photo contests and juried competitions are a big part of the photographic community. Longtime DCP client Jill Blanchar has navigated this scene and has had her work selected for several competitions. We asked her to share some tips on why it’s important to participate and how to hedge the odds in your favor:
There comes a time where a photographer asks, should I enter a contest? As an amateur photographer myself I get much pleasure out of making the best image I can given the lighting, situation, and setting. Dallas Center for Photography has made me a better photographer through workshops and teaching me to become my own worst critic. I get great enjoyment when I have created an image that is well composed with interesting subjects. Sometimes self-satisfaction is not enough. Posting my images to Instagram allows me to share more broadly. I get “likes” from various people whose motivation or understanding of photography is unknown. Contests can provide a sense of achievement when an image is selected by a known professional photographer with the added benefit of providing motivation to continue to improve skills. However, there are things to consider when entering a contest.
The world of contests is seemingly endless these days. There are some local contests as well as international contests to enter. Using Google is a good place to find one. Nearly all contests charge a fee to submit anywhere from 1 to 5 images. The typical fee is currently is around $35. Contests will post the theme and a biography of the juror. Themes will vary from portraits to wildlife to landscape to street photography to black and white to… the list goes on. Often a small number of winners are selected along with a limited number of honorable mentions. Most, but not all, contests offer cash prizes. Selected images are then displayed in a physical exhibition for a period of 3-4 weeks.
Prior to entering a contest, I have found it helpful to do some research on the juror and their style. I will also review previous contest selections to see the types of images that have been selected. Things to look for are contests that favor more artistic photography versus documentary. Enter which best suits your craft and stick with the theme. Particular attention should be paid to the requirements for file naming and file size to assure your images will be accepted.
One of a juror’s responsibilities is to choose images that not only relate to the named theme but also complement each other while providing different styles. This is important when the images are displayed in a gallery to assure a cohesive experience for the viewers of the show. There are many fantastic images that don’t get selected because they just don’t fit in.
If your image is chosen, you will be notified by email. Each contest will have its own requirements for receiving the final print. Some will print your image for you for a cost. Some will frame your image in temporary frame for you while others will require you to send a framed image. All will have a short but sufficient time period to assure your print can arrive on time. Understanding these requirements and being prepared will ease the stress. Then comes the fun. You will be invited to the show opening at the gallery. If possible, I encourage you to attend. It is a great opportunity to tell the story behind your image to many interested people, and to meet the juror and other fellow photographers. Finally, of course, you will feel proud of work that undoubtedly was the result of your technical knowledge and creativity.
Should your image not be chosen, do not let it stop you from entering more. There can be hundreds or thousands of worthy entries. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen for some but not for others. When I’m not chosen, I just move on to the next contest. If you are thinking of entering a contest, I highly encourage you. If you’re not sure, I suggest giving it a try. Asking other photographers for help in choosing images can be helpful. Just give it a “shot” and you may be surprised to find yourself standing in front of your print in a gallery on opening night!