View Full Version : taking the plunge...maybe

10-27-2009, 04:51 PM
I recently joined my local affiliate, DPPA. I'm considering entering the print competition next month just to get my feet wet. I don't really have a lot of time to decide on what I enter. I've never entered ANY competitions or contests other than second half 8x10 comp w/WPPI last year-completely for the fun of it. I truly have no experience as to what to expect or how to present the images. I know there is the "12 elements of a merit image" but that doesn't really give me insight on presentation. I.E., what kind of paper scores best? what mount is better? should I border or mat image, or is full size better? I'm certain every judge is different but is there a standard consensus?

When I entered to the WPPI comp last year it was on a whim and I had no idea what they would truly be looking for. I just figured I might as well do it! I figured the less editing and retouching the better, and really sent the images 'as is'. After joining the forums here I can see what mistakes I made in my choices, which I am grateful for.

I'm not expecting much, but I do want to send the best I can. The selection process is extremely difficult for me. I'm VERY critical of my work and just not sure what will do the best and what won't. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I figure if I see a flaw in an image, then a judge certainly will, right?

I'm trying to get the courage to post some selections. I can handle constructive criticism. I'm pretty sensitive though, so I'm not sure how well I can handle being ripped apart, lol. The whole idea of putting myself out there to be judged makes me want to hide in the closet and never come out :)

10-27-2009, 05:52 PM

I have a reputation of being tough I guess. I prefer to think of it as I expect the best out of everyone and I TRULY believe they are capable of achieving it. I see my job as a so called "expert" here to point out everything a maker can change to improve a print for competition. So if an image is posted and I point out 10 or 12 things that can be improved, that doesn't mean the print is bad, it just means it can be even better. The other thing is I may believe a photograph is the worst piece of crap I have ever come across, but that is just my opinion of that particular image. (A judging panel is made up of 5 or 6 jurors, not one opinion) And my opinion of an image NEVER effects my opinion of the maker's worth as a person or even how great a photographer I think they are. Holly tells me it's harder for women to seperate their sense of self worth from their work then it is for men. Lastly on this topic, if you came into my studio and looked at the stuff on my walls, you would see very few images that are competition quality. I aim for it with every session, but I am lucky if 4 times a year I get an image I feel is worth entering. The higher you aim the higher you will reach. If I reached for simply good and fell a little short where does that leave me? So if I reach for excllence and fall a little short I am still at pretty good. Just because I point out a mistake or an area for improvement on someone's image, doesn't mean I don't make that same goof every day in my own work. I never judge the person, just the print, because I make all the same mistakes myself.

Now to answer your questions. Before you get involved in presentation, paper choices etc, the first step is to pick your prints. For most people this is the hardest part. My suggestion for you would be to start by looking through old loan and showcase books for a reference. Then pick 6 or 7 images you feel are your best work. Before you share them with anyone, ask yourself, what could be better about these images? Are they technically good or are there some flaws that make them less then my very best? Does everything about the image perpetuate the story or concept I am trying to convey? Then either post them here, send them to me privately by email or share them with someone else you know who is a affiliate juror. You may be told "no none of these". But hopefully anyone who tells you that will also tell you why they are noes. Look at those noes not as rejections, but as information to use when you go through your files again. Holly likes to watch a lot of the house hunter shows on HGTV. Something that stands out for me from those shows is the first time buyers often have no idea what they want. they have to look at a lot of houses first to figure out what they don't like, so they can recognize what they do like. That's a good way to look at the whole process of sharing your work for a critique. It's helping you figure out what won't work well for competition so you can recognize what is a great choice when you see it.

Once you get your images narrowed down, that's when you start asking about what paper is best for the image and what presentation will set it off advantageously. There is not a set answer. Each image may be better finished in a different way. The best answer without seeing specific images is that the paper and presentation choice should perpetuate the story or concept or emotion of the image.

If you still feel hesitant to post publically, send me an email and I will respond privately. I have been told that they are working on making images submitted on this thread to be anonymous and also getting more judges to participate here. Hopefully that will make more people feel comfortable putting themselves out there.


10-27-2009, 09:24 PM
Thank you so much Keith. I guess I just assumed the greats always produced competition worthy images. It is nice to know we are all human :) My husband and I are never fully satisfied with our work, and while I think that can be a fault I also think it can be great. It means we are constantly trying to improve. In fact, he really thinks I should wait on competition until we've perfected a few things...I feel like if I wait for that we'll never be ready, lol!

I'm going to weed thru my images to see what I've got. I think I'll be okay with posting publicly, but we'll see :)

10-27-2009, 10:00 PM
I also appreciate your letter(s) here and inquiries into print competition. I have witnessed first hand how much people improve their image making skills by participating in print judging events. It is important to check with others for opinions and narrow down your choices, Etc, But there comes a time when we all have to jump into the deep end of the pool and learn the many lessons waiting there only for those who are willing to get wet.
I wholeheartedly agree with Keith's comments about the quality of work most of us do on a daily basis. Our job as a professional is to flatter the client and truly capture images that speak to them. If we can do that and also receive a "good" score, well then, so much the better. As you experience the learning that comes with entering prints and listening to the critiques and comments, just remember that all your work will improve over time and it won't be long until your "average score" climbs upwards towards your goal. I think if most accomplished pros were to have their daily work rated it would be 79 or higher, even for those who regularly score quite well at competitions. I agree with Keith that most of our daily work would not score at 80+. Remember too, that a score of 77 means "above average professional work" so enter soon, enter annually at your local, state, region, and nationally and you will grow, learn, and score better besides. Your clients and your business both will benefit from your efforts to strive towards excellence!
Sam Gardner M.Photog.Cr. CPP, Int. Juror

10-27-2009, 10:10 PM
he really thinks I should wait on competition until we've perfected a few things...I feel like if I wait for that we'll never be ready, lol!

IMO don't wait. The biggest benefit to competition is it improves your work. I wish we could come up with another word for it besides competition, like progress evaluations or something. Competition implies it's mostly for trying to win. Winning is nice, fun and a great marketing tool but the education itself is the greatest benefit. If it helps at all tell your husband that I have over 100 print merits but I entered for 4 years before I ever got a single one. My work grew leaps and bounds in those 4 years of trying.


10-27-2009, 10:12 PM
Sam posted while I was typing and said it way more eloquently then I did.