I’m sure you’re well aware of them, photography competitions aren’t scarce. Some might say there are too many and it can be difficult to know which ones are worth taking notice of, but they can be the gateway to incredible opportunities. It’s well worth taking time to enter competitions, but sometimes we just need that extra bit of encouragement, so read on and hopefully you’ll see why it’s such a good idea!
It Gets Your Work Seen
Submitting to competitions gets your work seen by those working within the industry. A competition will most often have a judging panel that consists of professional photographers, magazine editors, gallery curators, photojournalists, agents, picture editors and everything in between.
As you begin to build a name for yourself as a photographer, it’s important that you get your worked seen by the right people in order to build a reputation and there’s no telling how your work may impact any of those individuals.
Photo by Cea
Clarification on Your Own Work
Having to make judgements on your own work can be extremely difficult, but the selection process for a competition can be useful in clarifying which or your photographs you feel are better than others. Having to look through your own body of work for a competition is a great chance to take a step back and assess your portfolio somewhat objectively.
You’ll be able to observe the progression you’ve made over time and hopefully be able to see evidence of new techniques and abilities coming through in your shots. This wider overview will help you to judge your work and decide what you personally feel is good or bad, what could do with improving and whether there are any techniques that you need to gain in order to progress.
Photo by DMJarvey
In a similar vein to the previous point, the method of selecting your work can also develop your photographic eye to enable you to see what makes a strong image. In this scenario, you will have no choice but to over analyze your own work and dissect images to decide whether you think they are strong enough for submission.
Ensure that you don’t just enter a world consisting of your own images, ensure you’re looking at other professionals work to give you a solid understand of what makes a strong image and this will enable you to make a better judgement on your own work.
Photo by Dani PL
Writing About Your Work
For me, as a writer and photographer, this is one of the most useful elements of entering a a competition. In many cases, you’ll not only have to submit a set of photographs but also brief written explanations about your work.
This aspect can scare off many photographers as they’re unsure how to express the elements of their work in words, but I find this process very valuable. It forces you to put your thoughts on the images into words, to analyze the process of taking them.
Did you achieve what you set out to do? How much control did you have over the elements within the photographs? It’s important to choose your words carefully, especially if there’s a word limit. Be sure not to repeat yourself and try to clearly express your thoughts on the images without spewing out a lot of pretentious waffle, which is what I often end up doing, then deleting!
Photo by Carmichael Library
If you manage to progress within a competition, you may well get the chance to meet the judging panel and fellow photographers. This is a great chance to network, share ideas and to discuss your work. Make sure that at any event such as this you go prepared with business cards!
Even if you’re not successful, you still may have the opportunity to view other entrants work online. This will give you a good idea of the standard of work being produced and may even inspire further ideas for your own work.
It may also be that you can interact with other entrants online, which is well worth doing, a great chance to build relationships with fellow photographers and share ideas, tips, successes, failures and ask for advice for the future.
Photo by Eschipul
It Can Open Up Opportunities of a Lifetime
Competitions aren’t all about prizes. There’s lots to be gained without worrying about winning, but it may be that the grand prize offers you opportunities that you could have never anticipated.
You may have the chance to exhibit your work, which is a privilege for any artist. You may be granted the chance to work alongside professionals and gain experience through time spent with them.
You may simply receive some invaluable training and inspiration that otherwise may not have been financially viable. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to travel and have the chance to take more incredible photos.
Photo by Jaxport
Select Your Competitions Carefully
There are such a vast amount of photography competitions out there, it’s important that you select carefully the ones that you enter. Consider which are the ones that are worth your time, do they suit the type of work that you are doing?
Don’t just think about the prize, although that can act as an incentive. You want to be able to commit time to cater for the competitions requirements rather than just sending out the same stuff for every one.
It’s also important to remember that some competitions require payment to enter. This is usually to cover administrative costs, but try to set up a regular budget for competition fees.
Photo by Danny Flower
Don’t Give Away Your Rights
It is absolutely essential to read the small print when entering competitions. Some competitions act simply as a photograph gathering exercise for the organizers and it can be that upon submitting your images, you’re actually handing over the copyright as well.
Photographers should never hand over the copyright, unless the correct fee is agreed, so ensure you read through the details before pressing send!
Photo by Martin Cathrae
Preparation for Entry
Take your time with your entries, it’s important to get it right, not only to ensure you are happy with your submission, but also to give you the best chance of getting your work noticed. Select the images carefully.
If the brief requires a photo essay, then ensure that your images form a cohesive set. It may be the case that the brief is rather open-ended, in which case, choose a balanced selection of images, don’t just go for a ‘best-of’ selection.
If needed, get a second opinion from a trusted friend or fellow photographer to go over your shot selection and written work before you send them off.
Photo by Garry Knight
Don’t Expect to Hear Back
Once I’ve entered a competition, I try and forget about it. This might sound fairly lazy, but it’s an intentional decision not to get weighed down about not hearing back from competition organizers. No matter how great you think your work is or how appropriate it was for the set brief, it’s likely there are hundreds or thousands of entrants all thinking the same thing.
For me, if I feel it’s worth entering, I’ll take my time to construct my entry, then submit it and then there’s nothing more I can do. If the panel likes my work, then I’ll get a lovely surprise phone call or email, if they don’t, then I’m ok with that. I just don’t want the burden of expectation weighing me down as I pin all my hopes on winning!
Photo by Remy Sharp