Tips for entering and winning photo contests

I recently won the First Place Price in the National Parks Foundation Photo Contest.  The winning photo was taken at Zion National Park, Watchman Campground.  In fact, the photo was taken very near my campsite.

Flowing water over rocks in the Virgin River, Golden sunrise in the background

It’s important to read all of the contest entry rules before submitting. ©Kit Frost

I wrote a few short blogs recently with examples of entries into photo contests, and gallery exhibitions. A few of those examples won the contests. And with a little help from my friends, are hanging in galleries too.

I thought it would be helpful to share my process of selecting images, the research involved, the rules and requirements, the jurying process to have your photos exhibited online, and at galleries. Additionally, keep in mind the cost of matting and framing if required. many online submissions simply require a login, and fee, and a jpeg of high quality. Galleries, once accepted, require that you ship, or hand-deliver your artwork ready to hang.

Start with concentrating on the theme of the contest.

  1. What is the contest about?
  2. What kind of theme is the gallery showing in its call for entries.
  3. Are you submitting an idea for a one or two person exhibition, or for a specific call for entries?
  4. Are entries free, or do you pay per image, is the contest a fund raiser?
  5. Read the fine print, find out the size restrictions for your online submission.
  6. Read carefully to see who is the final judge of your entry, fans? Favorites, a juror, a group of other artists (jury).
  7. Galleries will often have open calls a few times a year, either juried by the owner, or a guest juror. Find out what you can about the juror’s own work. But remember, most exhibitions are a collection of images meant to be shown as a whole, so I’m often surprised at the final selections.
  8. Black and white or color?
  9. Digital capture or film? Yes, we still use film!

Choose carefully

Here’s where I enlist the help from my social networks, especially facebook.
Often the image i think is the strongest representation of the theme, rates 2nd or 3rd when I put it up for a fan vote on facebook. I think I get really attached to one image over another, based on how challenging it was for me to capture it. It helps to back off from that, post a handful of possible picks and see what my peeps think. Another cool thing about sharing and asking for help is that my followers and friends feel involved in the process and celebrate with me.

Take a look at these online contests.

  1. Share the experience, the grand prize is $15,000. plus seeing you image on the Annual Federal Recreation Lands pass.
  2. Nikon Inspirations, Zoom and Telephoto, the current theme.
  3. The Nikon Everyday Cinema contest
  4. Cafe, For Artists, is an online registry and call for entires all over the world.  Login, upload your portfolio images, be sure you are uploading the correct sizes, then apply to calls.  You will be charged when you submit to calls that are not free.  Higher end management system for artists who what to show our work, apply to Artist in Residence programs.

Next blog:  Winning entries.

Tips on honoring the Creative Process

Thanks to the folks at the Nutter Crew, we can see a realistic approach to the Creative Process.

The Creative Process, shared by the Nutter Crew

The Creative Process, shared by the Nutter Crew

Pardon the language but I agree with this timeline.  Right now I’m in the Panic and All the Work while Crying stage, two days from the Deadline.  I have a few suggestions for the times when you know that work has to get done, but it seems like you have PLENTY of time when you’re in the Fuck off stage.

  1. Clean the Studio.
  2. Write your blog.
  3. Visit your homies on facebook.
  4. Watch your favorite Netflix series (Downton anybody?).
  5. Talk on the phone. A good time to catch up with the news.
  6. Go to the movies.
  7. Eat out every night.
  8. Send out invoices so you earn the money to move ahead with the project.
  9. Wait till the last minute to make the money to do the following:
  10. Order the frames.
  11. Order the mattes (32×40 sheets are the biggest bargain).
  12. Order the glass (who is cutting it to size?).
  13. Order the printing paper and cartridges.
  14. Make the prints.
  15. or Better yet, send them to a service bureau and wait for them to arrive.
  16. Do all your ordering with 2-3 day shipping and get reamed.
  17. Start the project.
  18. Edit the portfolio
  19. Choose final images
  20. Mess up the studio with the packaging from all those deliveries.
  21. Have the fun of making your art important.
  22. Remember that you love to work on your art.
  23. Lock the studio door.
  24. Turn up the volume.
  25. Burn the midnight oil.
  26. Get er done.
  27. Repeat.

I have an exhibition set for delivery this coming Saturday, but I can stretch the deadline until Monday.  Another delay tactic? I’m excited to be showing black and white prints of explorations in the Canyon Country and the Colorado Plateau.  I live in Durango, and as you may know, I travel to Arizona, and Utah often.  My collection of images from the Four Corners is large and editing the portfolio has been the most difficult.  This exhibition is by invitation and I feel honored to be chosen.  One of my favorite writers, Craig Childs, will be at the opening reception, and these images are to complement his slideshow and lecture about the Colorado Plateau, Land of Ghosts, Travel in Ancient Places

With two days left to complete the portfolio, I’m on target.  All the images are scanned from 4×5 negatives and chromes, the color images have been edited for grayscale in Photoshop.  I round-tripped from Lightroom to Photoshop in order to mix the red and green channels to my liking.  The black and white negatives were scanned and edited directly in Lightroom.  Each scan was about 190MB, 400dpi (so I could crop if needed) and output to 16×20 prints, matted to 20×24 frames.

Bears Ears, or Honey I'm Home!

Bears Ears, or Honey I’m Home! ©Kit Frost

Selling Art Online

I know, this article is NOT about photography.  But I found the information about selling on Etsy very helpful. Especially Joelle Latreille’s (an awesome jeweler) pricing formula.

Simply put: (Production Cost + Profit) x 2 = Retail Price

Read the whole article for an idea about how Joelle Quit her Day Job and concentrated on her business “June Designs”.

And here’s the long hand pricing formula from the highly successful Etsy Shop, the difference with this wholesale and retail formula is Materials + Labor + Expenses is equivalent to PRODUCTION COST (above).

Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

Etsy’s Seller’s Handbook featuring great information on Getting Found on Online Searches, Branding, Pricing, and Promotion.  Lots of great information for selling art, whether photography, crafts, paintings, your creativity.

I’ve always had a beef with folks who sell their photographs/art at wholesale prices to the public.  They will set their prices to sell, but not to VALUE the work and what it takes to make really good art.  I too think it undervalues the work of the entire artistic community, drives down the prices of all the rest of us out there selling, and doesn’t take into account the overhead, and realistic cost of doing business. Travel expenses, cost of equipment, gasoline, inkjet cartridges, overhead such as electricity and phone, should be considered the “expenses” in the formula above.   SELL TRUE RETAIL. Stop considering your work, and pricing, like an amateur. There, I said it with my outside voice.

Directly from the Etsy site:

Bringing It All Together

All right, this gets us to our wholesale price. Some of you might wonder if you can use the wholesale price in your Etsy shop. Wouldn’t this be a a great way to offer your work at an affordable price? No, no, no. Here’s why I’m going to beg you to double your wholesale price and sell your work at a true retail price:

  1. Selling your work at a wholesale rate undervalues those who price their work at the proper retail price. When the majority of sellers in a category price their work thoughtfully, the entire category benefits.
  2. Customers will wonder, “Why?” Why is your work so much lower than everyone else? Is it because it’s not handmade? Is it because you’re using cheaper materials? Your price tells a story: make that story a good one!
  3. You’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Let’s say a big catalog reaches out to you and says, “We’d like to buy 100 of these items! Please let us know what your wholesale prices are.” This is a big opportunity; an opportunity you can’t afford to take.

Did you just come up with a price that you are sure the market won’t respond to? Here’s the trick: if the item is priced too high for the market, it’s not the price you need to alter, it’s the design or the way you produce your work. Get creative and see how you can adjust the item to reduce your costs. Can you buy your materials discounted in bulk? Can you produce the work in multiples, reducing the labor? Don’t take the easy way out by slashing your prices.

Remember, the right prices will allow you to reach your small business goals.

© 2013 Etsy, Inc.