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The International Photographic Competition is quickly approaching! 

Participating in PPA's International Photographic Competition is one of the best ways for you to grow your craft and skills as a creative, professional photographer. It gives you a unique opportunity to engage with others who are just as passionate as you are about this crazy world of photography, along with a chance to improve on your finest work (your best will become even better--how exciting is that?).  

By pushing the limits of your creativity, you allow yourself to grow as an artist. 

"My fellow PPA friends have proven priceless in mentoring me to take my artwork farther so I can create art in a sustainable business," said Heather Michelle Chinn, M.Artist.Cr. "Print Competition alone has continually challenged me as an artist to grow and get out of my comfort zone. When we're uncomfortable, that's when the biggest growth occurs. Without, we stay stagnant or wither away."

And it's not just about you--it's about your clients too! 

"Image competition has made me strive to be a better photographer while challenging me to create better and more unique images for my clients," said Damon Fecitt, Cr.Photog., CPP. 

If you're curious to know or want to brush up on what the IPC judges are looking for, check this post on the 12 elements of a merit image. It's not easy as it might sound... are you ready for the challenge? You can also go full-on behind-the-scenes and see what motivates others to put themselves in such a vulnerable position. Read Christine Walsh-Newton's post about why she competes here.

So what are you waiting for?

The rules are currently online, and entries open May 26th and close June 26th (if you need a little more time, you can enter by July 10th, but there will be a late fee). 

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Written by guest blogger, Christine Walsh-Newton

When I began my journey to being a professional photographer, I was determined to do it right. I wanted to find ways to measure my capability and skills. Ways that would keep me in check and provide me the opportunity to continually learn and improve. 


Through my membership, I may enter the district and international print competitions sponsored by PPA. Through my state affiliate (Professional Photographers of Ohio), I also participate on a local level. 

Each spring, I compete at my state. There, I am allowed to enter six of my best images. Then I choose the four best from that group and send them on to the Northeast District competition. Depending on the results of that competition, I may forward all four images to the international competition in the summer, or I may elect to do some more work on them first. I may even decide to replace them with a different images.

One of the delightful benefits to competition is that you can order critiques of your images recorded by the affiliated judges that were at the competition. I always purchase the critiques and generally follow the advice of the juror who recorded it. I feel fortunate that PPA offers this service. What a wonderful way to get input on our images!

What competition means to me:
Each year that I've participated in print competition, I've learned and I've grown. Sometimes I get decent scores or an award, but the important part to me is that I improve. I listen quietly during the judging and take notes. Even if the judges speak about an image that isn't mine, the knowledge they impart is applicable to my work. Through judging I'm learning the intricacies of lighting, presentation and composition. I learn what color combinations work and which ones are best left alone. I learn the subtleties of posing and body language.

I've learned all these things in a general manner through my own education and study and have refined them through use, but listening to judge after judge make a quiet comment here or point out a flaw there has trained me to look hard at the details. Little by little my work has improved. The subtle differences and changes I have made have started to add up and my work has shown tremendous strides in technical competence in just a few short years of competing.

Scoring is important to me and the fact that PPA has a standard scoring system that is consistently maintained gives print competition the credibility that I need in order to trust that it is a valid evaluation of my work. The judges are thoroughly trained and vetted and must also use the scoring system in a manner that provides consistency. My scores show me where I'm at in relation to standard expectations for photographic quality. In the beginning it took awhile for my work to reach the "deserving of a merit" range of scores, and with hard and consistent work, I've been given the pleasure of watching those scores rise over time.

A benefit of competing that was surprising is the inspiration I've gained from viewing images from other competitors. Over the last few years I've probably watched several thousand images go through judging. The amount of talent exhibited is enormous and overwhelming at times. Other competitors have been generous with their time and advice, assisting me along my journey. Sometimes I think "competition" isn't quite the correct term as my fellow competitors and I seem to have bonded into a beneficial family of sorts. It's rare for there to be competition between competitors that I know and some of my best competitor friends and I share ideas, techniques and images with each other while preparing for competition. Sometimes we find ourselves cheering and commiserating with each other, depending on our results. 

How it helps me grow: 
At my first competition, I volunteered in the print room. After a few hours of unpacking print cases and viewing a large number of exquisite images, I was afraid for my own. I tried to figure out how to "unenter" and hide my print case in my car. I was unsure of my skills and my talent. I was scared. And I was embarrassed to show my work. I was not confident and those first few rounds of critiques were difficult to digest.

Progressively, through competition, critiques, judgings and just plain old networking with other competitors, I am now more sure of what I'm doing and have a higher level of faith in my work. Competition has given me the confidence to recognize when I'm creating nice work. And the humility to realize it when I'm not and ask for help. And when I receive that help, I can now view it objectively and embrace it as part of my learning and growing process. 

Once upon a time I only dreamed of doing well in competition and of learning from photographers who were leading the way. For awhile I thought it was a goal well out of my grasp. Through competition, I've learned to set goals and work towards them progressively so that over time I'd get there. The journey will never be complete, but with the help of PPA competition, it has been a progressive and positive one.

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This week the third annual Southeastern District Photographic Competition results were announced. The 2013 competition had over 800 entries, with 310 photographs earning a Seal of Approval with a score of 80 or above. The sealed images can then be entered into the 2013 International Photographic Competition to earn a merit and they will automatically be accepted as part of the PPA's prestigious General Collection.

For the photographers who received high enough scores to merit, now is the time to ramp up your marketing and public relation skills! Issue press releases (we have press release templates to make it easier for you!), promote your achievements across your social media channels and add a mention on your website! Go ahead and toot you own horn - you earned it!

As Sandra Pearce, M. Photog. MEI. Cr. of Sandra Pearce Photography says, your customers might not completely comprehend what earning merits means, but they will recognize that your work has been honored by some hard to impress judges. Like most competitors, Pearce has had both successes and what we'll call "opportunities for improvement" with photographic competitions.

"Competing gives photographers those extra credentials," said Pearce. "Clients can read an article about your awards and--though they may not understand what the awards are--it shows that other people think your work is great, too. I believe I've done well in photographic competition because I love what I do. And even if I don't win, it won't ruin my life or make me stop competing. I do it to become better."

If your images did not merit, please don't be discouraged! Remember that shooting for competition is not the same thing as getting a fabulous image that your clients will want ten 30x40 copies of. It's a different kind of beast and learning from this experience is a great opportunity to discover areas that may require some continuing education to meet the inexorable 12 elements! To boost your chances, explore PPAedu for online support, or see if there is a Super Monday class in your area that covers areas that need a little extra attention. Practice does make perfect (or we should say practice makes a merit worth image)!

To continue to perfect your passion, the International Photographic Competition is now accepting entries through June 28, 2013. Why wait to show the world what you're made of?

Photographers who requested critiques from the Southeast District Competition will be notified when they become available. 



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