We all have that one great photo we think can win a photo contest, but when it comes to the final judging we don’t win.
Why? I go back to what an art teacher at college said PRESENTATION. It is how your work is presented to the judges that can make a world of difference. Of course local judging sometimes has to do with what town you live in and if they judges know you, that should not have anything to do with winning but it does way too many times. You can only give your photo its best shot at winning not how or what the prejudices of the judges are is out of your hands.
It isn’t that the photo is not better than the others in the group that is being judged, but the way you present your work that counts as well. What kind of frame is your work in? Is it a frame that gathers more looks than the photo itself? Does it say more than the photo itself says?
First you want a frame that does not distract from the photo. Then you want one that compliments the photo. The frame should be simple, more like a line around the photo than something wide. If you are entering more than one photo in the contest keep the frames as similar as possible. If you can use the very same frame for each photo so you keep a kind of theme going.
After you have chosen a frame, I like a simple black frame that shows only a small line around the photo, and then you have to make sure your work is the best it can be. A poorly printed photo is as bad as a frame that shouts look away from me. If you print your own be sure it is printed on the highest quality paper you can afford. Be sure your printer can print it out in high resolution not just best and definitely not draft.
A photo, no matter how good or great it is will not win if it is not pleasing to the eye. I mean when it is printed out on poor grade paper or using draft quality printing, it is not going to win. If you don’t have a printer that can print out in high resolution then go to a print shop. No not Wal Mart or other fast printing service that caters to the snap shot printing quality, but a real photo quality print shop.
You want your photo to look its best. You want it to capture the eye of the judge and anyone who looks at it. Of course the photo should be the best you have taken in your opinion, not just what some of your friends say is a great photo. Think about what a judge is going to be looking for in their opinion of what a photo submitted in the category you are entering should present.
Take the category of portraits, just a snap shot of someone is not going to usually win. It should say something to the judge about what that person who is in the photo is either doing or thinking, if it is a candid photo. If it is a formal portrait then it should have the best lighting, background and pose you can achieve.
Most of the time in say a County Fair the judge is some local photographer, art teacher or retired professional in some other field. A formal portrait is not going to be what they are looking for where if it is another type of contest they might be looking for just that. You have to decide what the format you should submit is what they will be looking for in a photo or it is not going to win even if it is the best photo you have.
I can tell you from my experience of never having entered any photo contest that is local it can be nerve racking just to get the photos printed and framed. I submitted ten photos yesterday (Wednesday) to a local County Fair in the photography contest. When I walked in to submit them I had had only three hours sleep from having finished printing out the photos at 5:00 a.m. then falling exhausted in bed to awaken without an alarm going off three hours later.
The frames I used are as I stated simple and even cheap as they are all 11” x 17” frames which sell for $4.00 at Wal Mart. They were all the same frame that leaves just a small black line around the photo so that they eye is looking at just the photo not the frame. I could have spent $50 each and gotten the best frames money could buy and if they distract from the photo they would have been worthless. So money is not the idea behind what you use to frame your photo in a contest but what the frame does for the photo.
This photo contest had black and white as well as color competition in ten categories and you could enter only ten of the twenty-one categories. I entered portrait, scenic, landscape, snow, wildlife, flower, old buildings, other(for the lightening shot), still life and in the separate category of photo album or collage I entered a collage of a hummingbird. These are the photos below you see that I entered into the contest. You can vote if you would like in the comments for blue ribbon, red ribbon or white ribbon for each and will let you know what I did win for each photo if anything.
Now I have to wait to find out if any of my photos win a ribbon. I have included the ten photos I submitted below for you to judge which you think might win a ribbon. Blue is worth $5 in the contest so it is not money I entered for but name recognition in the community. If the community knows you are a photographer but have never seen your work then that is all you are a photographer in name only. If they see and can see you have won a photo contest word gets around fast in a small community that you are a “Good Photographer” and won blue at the County Fair.
I will let you know just how well my PRESENTATION of my photos worked later as I don’t know and probably will not know until this Saturday when I go back to pick them up at the closing of the local fair. The fair is located 30 miles north of us in a rival town and since I don’t have a vehicle of any kind I have to wait until my friend can take me to pick the photos up from there on Saturday.
Seems I fell asleep yesterday evening and awoke at 4:00 a.m. this morning. Didn’t eat dinner so I ate just before I started this and now think I will try to get a little more shut eye. Well, that didn't work as just as I laid down my landlady/adventure buddy called and asked if we were going to Mogollon the ghost mining town down in New Mexico. So we headed off to the mountains and down back roads to Mogollon, it is pronounced not as it looks but Mug-ee-on, don't ask me why.
Hope this helps anyone thinking of submitting photos to a contest whether a local County Fair or to something bigger as how you present your work means some times more than the work itself. If badly presented then the best work will be judged as less than it would normally be judged so you should always think about PRESENTATION as well as what photo or art work to submit.