Today, I packed up 4 images that I spent painstaking time and energy creating to send to PPA’s northcentral district print competition which takes place in Des Moines next month. Just as I was heading out the door to go to the post office to send my print case, I saw that another one of my print cases had just arrived home from national convention that took place in Nashville earlier this month. My case contained 3 of the 4 images that I sent last year. The 4th missing image is actually touring right now with the PPA loan collection. It’s quite exciting!
So why do I participate in print competition?
Sometimes I wonder why… It is truly one of the most difficult things I have ever participated in. Your images, which you work very hard to create, are given a once over by a panel of judges who scour them down to the tiniest detail. If anything is “off” in any way, shape, or form, I can guarantee you, the judges will catch it.
What are they looking for? It can range from seeing detail in the highlights and the shadows, it can be a spot that’s too bright, it can be sloppy composites, it can be a multitude of issues….
When I started out in print competition, I truly had no idea what I was doing, at least as far as the judging goes. I thought every image I submitted was great, and to the average eye, they were quite good. I watched over and over and each of my images was pulled apart or worse, not even acknowledged with a once over, just a lower score than I preferred or understood.
After each judging, I would pull experts over to look at my images and critique my work. In order to become better, this is necessary, but it isn’t very pleasant. For a few years it went like that. Then, I remember the day I got my first “merit” image – an image that scored at the magic score of 80 or above. This merit went towards earning my master’s degree with PPA. I already had plenty of educational merits to go towards my degree. Now I needed print merits – 13 to be exact.
Well, I’ve kept plugging away – last year I earned 4 merits in one year, 3 prints scored above 80, but the one that was nominated to go in the loan collection earned an extra merit. I now have 8 merits to my credit – 5 more to earn my master’s degree.
I guess part of the reason I have kept going back and back to competition, is my competitive spirit – I want to truly “get” it. I want to be capable of earning a merit with every image I submit. I want to know that I know what it takes every time. I’m getting closer, and that in large part is because I have become addicted to watching the judges critique print competition.
The end result? My day-to-day work gets better and better. I am more critical of my work. I want only my very best work to go into my client’s hands.
Competition has been a good thing for me and my business. I can’t wait to see my results from this year’s work!