Tips on entering a call for entry/contest, or even just getting a job

I was recently a juror on a photography portfolio panel for a national
organization. It was an eye-opening experience being "on the other
side" and seeing how
our own work might be evaluated when we apply to galleries or for
grants or even just
apply for a job. I learned quite a bit and thought I'd share some tips
with you. Some of
these are painfully obvious but it never hurts to repeat them, right?

Essentially I spent all day in a dark room with a group of
photographers and photo-related
professionals and we were given the task of viewing 1400 individual
images and around
300 portfolios for a total of 3800 images.

Of those images, only 5% were chosen for further consideration and
their share of over 3
million $$ in scholarships.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

All the images were judged on originality, technical skill and the
emergence of an artistic

1. Edit. Then edit. Then when you're done editing, edit some more.
Some of the projects I saw had great individual photos but the editing
was poor and those
were rejected.

2. The image itself is the most important. Judges were more forgiving
of technical
"mistakes" or even sloppiness or lack of skill if the image itself was strong.

3. Body of work
Only show one body of work. Don't try to show versatility in style or
technique. Be
consistent. The judges wanted to see a singular vision. Even if we
didn't agree on the
message of the work or if we didn't like individual images, the
portfolios were still placed
in the next round if the overall body of work was strong.

Show your singular vision by exploring an idea fully. Some portfolios
showed the genesis
on an idea but didn't explore it and those were rejected.

4. Unlike what conventional wisdom would dictate, try to place most,
if not all, your
stronger images in the front or beginning of your portfolio. While this sounds
counterintuitive, the reality of judging so many portfolios meant that
many were not
viewed fully. For example, the portfolios contained 8 images each. If
the judges did not
like the series by the fourth image, the entire series was dismissed
and we moved on to
the next.

5. Engage the audience emotionally.
Some portfolios were technically competent and consistent and overall
they were "fine" but
left us emotionally flat. Those were the first to get dismissed.

Hope this was helpful. If you have any thoughts to add please let me know.


(646) 460-3810


Joe Holmes said...

All true. I've also participated as a judge in photo competitions and to my mind, the most important factor, as you mention, is to show one, strong body of work rather than sample from various styles. Nothing turns off judges faster than seeing one riveting image followed by something in a whole different mode. Next!

Anonymous said...

So when you say "singular vision," you mean taking the same photograph of a naked woman sprawled around her home, over and over again, right?

Oh how cute.


Tom White said...

Anonymous. If you're gonna be critical in such a snide way, at least have the decency to identify yourself.

Brad said...

I just posted a blog about editing oneself then I came across this posting. I fully agree with you brutally editing oneself. Everyone who has been showing work for a while knows this. You even see us using the same words.

I also agree with your comments on "singular vision" as well. I often relate it to music. An great album or a live show is made of work that all ties together somehow. ...and if you have more than one good song or shot, it isn't boring.

Kay said...

Many of these juried shows ask for 2-3 images from each artist. I don't know how a body of work can be represented in that case. Editing the three you submit becomes very important, but one really isn't getting a good representation of what the photographer is doing -

gabri said...

right, editing is a tricky business.
also, in judging other's people work there is always a mix of compromises, sympathy, politics, parenthood, actual value of the images, night before sex, portfolio values, actual weight of the names partecipating, economics etc.
Sorry, but I don't believe in recipes or decalogs.
Daphne, great post anyway, the intentions were good. A big hug,