Eye on Business | Be the First One Picked on the Photography Playground

“Pick me, pick me!”  As I stood on the elementary school playground every morning at recess, I waited with baited breath, afraid that the team captain would suddenly deem me unworthy for their team.  I was never that lonely kid picked last but rarely was I the first one, unless the captain was my best friend.  Then, it didn’t really matter that I wasn’t the fastest runner or that I couldn’t throw the ball to save my life.  It only mattered that I was in “good” with the captain.

Sound oddly familiar?  It can feel that way in the photography world too.  Have you ever submitted a session or an image to a favorite blog or fan page?  Yes, you have.  I had my own “Blogs to Be Featured On” list complete with columns for “submitted” and “featured.”  You submit that awesome session that made you feel like you could actually do this.  The session that gave you that boost of confidence to keep pushing through those late nights of editing and tackle the bills mounting up from the new gear purchase.

If you’re anything like me, one of two things happens after you start to troll the competition…You become wildly confident that your session will, indeed, be selected.  Or, you feel the panic set in when you realize that maybe it was a bit premature to think you were good enough to be picked.

You obsessively check your email until you receive a response.  And, there it is…

“Thank you for your submission.  However…”

Disappointment.  Bewilderment.  Jealousy.  Comparison.  Sometimes it’s obvious why you weren’t picked.  The selected image/session was outstanding.  A slice of humble pie is good for all of us now and again.  It pushes us to do better.  But, sometimes it’s not so apparent and it leaves you BREWING as to why your image was passed over.

But, my lucky readers, I have the secret to being selected!  It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve found it.  Ready?  Most selections are totally subjective, much like everyone’s motives.  Although we would like to think our industry is all unicorns and rainbows, winners are often chosen based on who the photographer is and who they know (or what they can do for the contest holder).  Or, your image is just not their cup of tea.  Not fair, right?  Well sweeties, that’s life.

In the beginning, I received the rote denial emails.  I would reply asking what I could do to improve my chances.  Was it a technical issue, composition, post-processing, what?!  WHAT?!  I never received a feedback reply.  So I stopped.  I stopped following many pages and blogs.  I put my list away.  I fell in love with what I was shooting for the art and not if it was feature-worthy.  And it showed.  By the time I slowed down to make a few submissions once again, I was featured on several pages and blogs.

And then I asked myself, “Why do I care about this so much?”  No one in my local area cares.  Do they even know about my features?  Maybe.  Do they ever mention it when they book me?  Nope.

When it comes down to it, for me, it was about validation.  I was simply searching for validation from other professionals so that I could actually call myself a  “photographer.”  Are you searching for the pat on the back?  Of course you are!  Pats on the back are nice confidence boosters 🙂

I wish I could give you a bullet pointed list of surefire ways to get featured but I cannot.  Here is what I can give you:

  • Bite the bullet and submit a session and then forget (not obsess) about it.  Oh and follow the submission guidelines 😉  I’ve been guilty of stupid mistakes that prevented a session from being selected.
  • Remember that the person on the other side of the computer has motives that may or may not be aligned with your own.  Try not to take it personally if it’s a mismatch.  Don’t overthink their decision.
  • Keep in mind that no matter how awesome your image may be, they’ve most likely received a bazillion submissions.  Make sure that your image has something that catches their attention.  Be real here…if you submit an image that is similar in style to many or is a popular trend, the judge must select the image that has the best fit for their purpose.  If you haven’t nailed your images technically yet, please be ready for rejection.  There’s too much competition to believe that you can submit images that aren’t nailed in focus, composition, and post-processing.
  • Do not be afraid to put yourself out there.  It’s the only way to improve or take it down a notch 😉
  • Shoot more, push yourself to do better.
  • Look beyond the comparisons to find your joy.

Share an image that you are proud of over on FACEBOOK or take a tour of my HAPPY PLACE.

Until next time…work hard and dream big!