1 Read and understand the theme
If the opportunity / competition you are entering has a theme, make sure you understand exactly what it is the judges are looking for. Themed competitions will normally have a brief, which, if read fully, could give you clues and information as to what the judges are looking for. Although the best advice would be to follow the theme exactly, you shouldn’t let this dilute your creativity, and stop you from producing something unique, so the advice here is to read the brief fully and keep within the boundaries of the theme.
2. Deadline / Eligibility
Make sure the deadline hasn’t passed, if it has, check to see if it is an annual competition and put the date in your schedule for next year. Equally, check the eligibility, see if there are any age restrictions, or if you have to be from a specific geographic location and check for experience, some contests are only open to emerging or professional photographers.
3. Entry fee
Stop and think. Can you afford to enter both in terms of your time and money? - Does the opportunity disclaim were the entry fee goes? If you’re feeling nervous about parting with the money this month then trust your gut instinct and wait for the next opportunity to come up.
Who are the judges? Can you get your work in front of them an alternative way? Start a relationship with them by following them across their platforms. Finding out what they like and don’t like and getting your name in front of them in advance of your submission could give you an advantage.
5. Carefully read the supporting material requests
Following the instructions is a no-brainer way to increase your chances of getting on the longlist. If the opportunity requests a project text of 100 word, don’t send 300. If they request 6 images don’t send double. Often project administrators will sort through and delete the submissions which don’t comply with the guidelines. This means you won’t get your work in front of the judges and effectively means you’re throwing your hard-earned cash away!
6. Image selection / Discuss the opportunity
Sharing the application process with friends is vital. Don’t be competitive with your direct peers – be each-others cheerleaders instead! Your peers can help you to formulate your proposal and give fresh advice when editing your image selection. It is useful to look at ‘previous winners’ to get a feel for what to enter. Most decent competitions will list past winners on their websites.
7. Positive rejection
Don’t get disheartened when unsuccessful. Remember, there’s a lot of great work out there also competing, and every judge sees things differently. Stay positive and reflect on how you can improve your chances next time. Ensure you make a note of who the judges were and what work you entered. It is very normal for people to apply to the same opportunity a number of times (just no one talks about it!).