Multi award winner David Calvert LMPA shares some hints and tips on entering awards.
Since turning professional, I regularly enter photo competitions. In the last 10 years, I have been extremely fortunate to have won 14 UK titles through the MPA, including Under 5’s Photographer of the Year in 2012 in 2013, I won the MPA / Epson Black & White photographer of the year title. 2014 brought me UK Portrait Photographer of The Year & UK Commercial & Creative Photographer of The Year, I’ve also won 4 awards through WPPI in America – something which I’m incredibly proud of. A major achievement, considering the calibre of photographers I was up against.
Why enter awards?
I am a firm believer that entering awards makes you a better photographer. In my view an indication of your skill and expertise is having the quality of your work recognised by a panel of eminent photographers.
To win, your work must be of the highest standard. Subsequently it means that to beat everyone else, you have to go that extra step in producing higher quality work. That has a positive impact on you and your clients. The client benefits from getting higher quality work, you have a higher value, and it makes you stand out from your competitors.
Entering competitions can be good for business in terms of marketing and personal development. That is why you see some of the most successful names in the industry regularly entering competitions.
Which awards should I enter?
In my view, you should target high profile competitions and the MPA holds an annual competition which is extremely popular with professional photographers. Choose your categories carefully, what is relevant to your business?
Read and obey the rules!
It may sound like I am stating the obvious, but from speaking to judges, its amazing how many people fall at the first hurdle because they didn’t bother to read the rules properly.
If the rules state you must submit your image on a 10 x 8 sheet of paper with a matte finish by a specific date, that is what you must do.
How good are your prints?
Surprisingly this is where a lot of people make mistakes. When I attended the MPA’s open judging sessions, I was amazed how many print scores were marked down because of poor editing and poor print quality. Print quality will make or break an image – if there is an error in your print – judges will spot it!
Submitting the right image
Submitting the right image is one of the most important things when entering. Remember the judges will be looking at hundreds of images – possibly thousands. Your image will be in front of them for about 15 seconds, so you have to grab their attention, show something that demonstrates your knowledge of lighting, composition and post processing skills, your creativity, styling, the more unique the better.
Don’t Give Up
When the results come out its always an exciting time, however it often turns into a crushing disappointment when you find out your images have failed to make the grade. Try to find out why your image scored a low score, speak to judges and ask how you could have improved, It’s the only way to learn. Their comments are there to help you develop.
Ask yourself, could I improve on the composition and lighting? Was the subject matter weak? Did I enter the image into the wrong category?
Entering competitions is a long-term commitment. It takes time to get the results you want. It is no use giving up because you didn’t make the grade. You have to keep trying.
When you first start to enter awards set yourself a realistic target. Each year strive for the accolade you do not yet have and push yourself to improve, learning from the images and scores from the year before.
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‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it’
– Ansel Adams