It is time for my last major tip, which can make the vital difference in the success of your image submitted into a major photo salon.
#4 – Take your time to edit your images the best you can. I’ve seen it many times, and as a juror I did it many times; I rejected images at the first screening due to their technical shortcomings.
If you just jumped here without reading previous parts, here are direct links to them: Part #1, Part #2, Part #3, Part #4.
Here is an example from the Al-Thani Awards once again. There was an image telling a powerful, sad story. A very emotional one, showing a very sad dog sitting patiently at the bedside of an old, sick lady in hospital. It was strong and moving – and we all were impressed. What a moment to catch. However, the photo was really of visibly poor quality, like an unedited snapshot. A bit milky, not sharp, with blown whites – it was just too poor to accept, and we all reluctantly had to say “no”. These really poor edits will usually be rejected at the first chance (typical problems for such instant rejects would be for example a slanting, uncorrected image with vertical lines of a landscape falling to one side, over-sharpened images, images with a very high noise level, photos with all whites “blown”, or taken with camera flash and showing the “red-eye symptom”. However, I assume you know about such basic technical problems and we won’t discuss it here. Your photo, matching well the salon theme was seen by jurors who decided it has freshness, tells a story, and is worth keeping. It is kept on side with a number of other entries, awaiting final judgment. Will it win?
Well, that depends. Now, with just a handful of images in each category, jurors will have more time to see your work in more detail, and to convince each other WHY their favourites should be voted better than other excellent and competing images. Once again jurors will consider composition, crop, the story or message of each image, their artistic, journalistic or documentary values. But quite often the final aspect deciding about the winners is the technical quality of a print or digital file.
While all images kept for the final stage are really very good, jurors can take a closer look and pick the most perfect, flawless work. A telephone pole far away on a hill in otherwise serene landscape photo – you forgot to clone it out. A composite image showing jagged outline on elements pasted from other photos – you didn’t clean it meticulously enough. Quality of the print – did you optimize your image for printing? Or it looks too dark, or perhaps it has some tiny bright spots “blown” showing paper without ink coverage? That would look bad in a printed catalogue, showing that you are not the master deserving the top award. Is the lighting on your image at its best? All what needs to be sharp – is it sharp – but NOT over sharpened – a common sin among photographers? Over-saturated? Cropped well? Did you use the best type of paper to highlight features of your image? All that – matters a lot now. Your print or digital image needs to show you are really at ease preparing your images – you are the master deserving to win. I am myself sometimes guilty of skipping on fine tuning, thinking – it is “good enough”. Sometimes I don’t want to waste yet another sheet of a fine paper, or I am short on time. But it can ruin all your efforts. So, make sure you edited your image at your best, leave it for a few days and look again. If you are still happy – then go ahead and submit your work.
What I said in these posts are no magic bullet to win. Winning competitions with thousands of entries takes some fine work – and also a bit of luck. Having to sometimes reject some great photos, I know the luck aspect well. But by preparing your entries the best way, deciding what to select and how to edit it – you will help your luck a lot! Now all it takes is to try. Good luck, then!
Thank you for reading, please Follow and Like this blog, if you find it helpful. I hope my comments can make your competition entries more successful, and you can prepare your works with more confidence. All the best!
Derek Galon, MA, ARPS, is an art photographer with over 40 years of experience. His multi-awarded works are available as limited edition prints on his web site and from Photo Art Gallery Vibrante. He is available for talks, workshops, jury work, and as a freelance photographer for hire.