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Awards Win New Clients - PPA Today

Awards Win New Clients

finn_betsy.jpgSo many times we've heard people say, "But my clients don't understand or care about photographic competition." Not so fast, says Dexter, Michigan's, Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP. "When your images win awards, merits and ribbons, you will be able to promote yourself in the community as an award-winning photographer and that does mean something to clients--people naturally recognize certifications and awards as universal symbols of quality," says Finn.

But the awards are just a small part of what Betsy feels she gets from participating in the International Photographic Competition. "It always surprises me when I hear photographers say they feel they have to do fine art or landscapes or something besides their typical work to enter competition," says Finn. "I have learned that it's possible to satisfy my craving for creativity as an artist while making quality images for my clients--the two don't have to be mutually exclusive."

Finn relies on the 12 elements of image competition judging to critique her images. "When you enter competition, you have to critically evaluate your images from a judge's viewpoint. By starting to look for the 12 elements in my work, I began to see ways I could improve the quality of my clients' images."

Competition Improves Everyday Client Work
And it's worked. Betsy's images have earned 10 merits in the International Photographic Competition, and she says each entry has taught her something new. "Getting your work critiqued by some of the best photographers out there always improves your craft," says Finn. "The sooner you start entering competition, the sooner you'll begin to grow as an artist. Submitting my work for competition makes me evaluate my everyday client images and their suitability for photographic competition. Since I wanted to be able to enter worthy prints, my work has improved by leaps and bounds."

(C) Betsy Finn, Little EinsteinOf course, Betsy had the first-time competitor jitters, just like everyone else. "I didn't consider myself ready when I first entered," she notes. "I kept telling myself I was waiting for the quality of my work to be more acceptable." Then, Betsy's mentors gave her some sage advice. "They said no one ever feels ready--so just start entering."

Betsy's goals were simple at first. "I just wanted to submit prints that wouldn't embarrass me," she says with a grin. "Imagine my surprise--and relief--when I earned two merits that first year."

Preparation, Not Procrastination, Pays
Betsy follows the advice of many other seasoned competitors when it comes to preparing for competition. "I always set a goal to have my images selected, edited and printed a month before the deadline. I don't always make it, but having the goal pushes me to work on my prints ahead of time and not wait until the last minute."

Betsy says she picks favorites from client sessions and even vacation photos that stick in her mind. "I keep stashes of potential images. Once I get up to 20 or so, I start to pick through them with a critical eye for what will really work."

She says you have to retouch a lot of frogs to find a prince of a print. "Not all the images turn out as well as I hoped, so I usually edit more than the case limit of four. And if I end up with more than I need, I figure I can always set extra images aside for next year's competition!"

Satisfaction that's Soul-Deep
And if all this sounds a lot like your day job, Betsy says not so fast again. It's also a great deal of fun and very satisfying. "When you create images for clients day in and day out, the art of photography can start to be overshadowed," she explains. "Photographic competition allows me an outlet to truly express my creativity and artistic technique. It's an opportunity to step away from the business of making images for others and to create images that satisfy my inner artist and, ultimately, my soul."


Excellent article. It has reminded me that I really need to make time to pursue some competitions for the many great reasons you list. You mention the "12 elements" of critical judging. What are those? I would love to know ;D Peace

The Photographic Exhibitions Committee (PEC) of PPA uses the 12 elements below as the "gold standard" to define a merit image.

You can see a list of the 12 elements here:

You can also read Bob Hawkins' article, "Elements of a Merit Image" to learn even more.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on April 13, 2010 5:55 PM.

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