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Image Competition Tips

When beginning with image competition, a lot of people who enter for the first time have questions. Those of us who have been entering for a while forget that it can all be so confusing. So, here are some pointers on getting started!

“What kind of images and how many should I pick?”

You may enter as many images as you would like in the Michigan print competition. Most photographers will select 4, but many will enter a few more to see how they score.  They are testing the waters with different images, to help them get a better idea on what to send on to PPA competitions.  Your everyday client work might not be the best choice for competition. I don’t want to say that you can not enter client work, but there is sometimes a big difference between your normal salable work and competition work. You may not enter 2 images of the same subject, and you may not enter images that were created at a workshop, or under the direction of someone else. You must be the creator of the image. When you pick out your prints, it is good to read the 12 elements of a merit image. This is what the judges look for. You can find the 12 elements and their description by CLICKING HERE

“Now that I have picked my images, how do I present them?”

Make sure you add presentation to your images. Presentation is the border or mat that your image is presented on. This is done most of the time digitally, but can also be done traditionally. Full bleed images typically do not score as well as an image that has some sort of mat or border around the image. But, be careful here. Flashy digital techniques, or thick stroke lines can be distracting and can impact your score in a negative way. Simplicity is best. Your prints need to be between 80 square inches and 480 square inches, with the longest side no longer than 24 inches.

“Do I have to title them?”

Yes, you need to give your images a title (a name). The title plays a very important part in the competition. A title can be the difference between a merit or not if your image is on the edge. It is important to have something that adds to the experience of viewing your image. It can be funny, emotional, thought provoking, or descriptive. But, make sure it is something that the judges will understand. Sometimes if you use a innuendo, not all judges will pick up on it. And foreign or complicated words do not always get said correctly when the titles are read, so keep it simple.

"How do I print my images?” - Not required for PPM's image competition.

Most professional labs offer competition prints, as well as some photographers. These are typically printed on a high gloss or fine art paper, and are printed to be viewed under competition lights. The lights are very bright, and competition prints are typically printed to accommodate for this. They must be mounted on a standard mounting surface that is 1/8” to 3/8” thick. Talk to any one of our sponsoring labs about competition prints, or ask someone who has entered before.

"What is a print case?”

A print case is something you use to transport your prints and turn them in at the competition. In our state competition we moved to digital format and do not require a print case.

"What is a merit? How do I get one?”

A merit score is considered 80 or above (out of a possible 100.) In the state level, we give only scores (not merits), and the scores are used for our state awards. But, to receive actual merits, you must enter in the PPA Merit Image Review. 

"What kind of awards are given in Michigan?"  

If you are entering more than 4 images, you will need to "declare" your top 4 images.  This will determine if you receive your "4 for 4" award.  If the 4 prints you declared as your top images all score over 80, you will receive an award.  The top 4 scores you receive (regardless if you declared them top 4) will be added together. The top 7 Master photographers and the top 7 non masters will receive an award, as well as an over all 1st 2nd and 3rd place. There are many other awards given, such as "Best Black and White", or "Best Portrait", and "Highest Score For First Time Entry" You had better come to the awards banquet to see if you win any!

"How do I turn in my prints for judging?”

Look on the PPM website for the print competition rules. The rules will list the requirements for when and where you have to turn in your prints for judging. You can hand deliver them, or ship them. They must be labeled correctly, paperwork needs to be signed, and fee must be paid for them to be entered into the competition.

"Do I need to be there when my prints are judged?”

While it is not necessary to be present during judging, it is a great learning experience to hear what the judges are saying about your prints as well as others.  Again, this is where photographers will enter more than 4 images, just to see how they are judged.  

"After the state competition, what do I do next?”

If you had a great time entering at the state level, you can move on to enter in PPA’s competitions. A lot of photographers will use the state competition as a “sounding board” before they enter in the PPA competitions. They will get a feel for how their prints score, they will listen to the judges comments, and possibly make changes to their prints before they send them to the next level. Check PPA’s website for more information on their competitions. Then, tell your friends and enter again! But, be warned... competition is addicting once it is in your blood! 

    Click here for a complete description of PPA Print Competition Terms (information to be updated with new PPA's MIR and IPC formats)


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