I often ask myself why do I put myself through this every month. What is it that I do? I enter The Guild of Photographers Image of the Month competition.
I started entering quite a while back now, my main aim being receiving an award so that I can advertise myself as an award winning photographer :). I was pretty confident that my images would be awarded so when the first results came out and I was not awarded an actual little medal (Bronze, Silver, Gold or even Platinum) I was disappointed. I did achieve a classified award with my images. This is explained as: "The judges felt the image was of a high standard but not award winning at national competition level. Minor tweaks may have resulted in an even higher score, so it may be worth obtaining some feedback? Well done on submitting a very nice image!"
Well, this was not good enough for me. I entered again. And again. I had chats with my mentor about my images and when she pointed out the mistakes that cost me point I saw them straight away. But still. Every single month on results day I would throw my toys out of the pram. Mutter about a bunch of judges who don't know what they are talking about and don't appreciate my amazing work. I would swear I won't bother to enter again. And a few days later I would be selecting images, going over them with a fine toothed comb and entering them into the competition. Again.
I even had to bribe my then 4 year old to let me take photos of her. Because mummy really, really wants a little medal. It cost me a singing Barbie :) I did not get a medal though.
When I got my first Bronze I almost cried. It was an image of my youngest daughter. Actually, I got three Bronzes in one go, my daughter for one, my best friend's daughter for two. I could call myself an AWARD winning photographer. I could rest now.
A Bronze Award is defined as : "Congratulations in achieving your Bronze Bar, which is only awarded to images of a strong standard in this national competition (something to be proud of)!"
I did not stop. I decided to strive for a Silver :D Plenty of Bronze Bars followed the first three.
By the end of the year I realised that I collected enough points awarded by the Guild that should ensure I will receive the Photographer's Bar in Newborn category.
"Becoming a member of the Photographer's Bar is a unique distinction awarded to those photographers who have had images assessed by the Guild via the Image of the Month competition over the course of a competition year, attaining a score the equivalent of a point for each entry made.
...will be awarded honorary life membership of the 'Photographer's Bar' in order to acknowledge the fact they have submitted strong images consistently throughout the year in competition judged in accordance with national scoring criteria - a distinction that is very difficult to achieve!!"
So I got all dolled up and went to the awards dinner. I achieved the Bar and it was an incredibly proud moment. It was also incredibly humbling and inspiring experience. The work of the bet photographers in the country being showcased and celebrated in a wonderful community of like minded people.
I could stop now, right? I could stop putting the extra pressure on myself. I could stop shooting specifically for the competition. I could stop stressing about 1pm on 21st of the month when the results come out and you don't want to press the button to see how you did because it might not be what you are hoping for. I could.
But I did not. I like the extra pressure to constantly improve. To be almost held accountable for my work. To strive to be better each time. It means a lot to me. It also means that my customers are getting the best of me that they could possibly get. It means that I am growing, learning (because as a photographer you NEVER stop learning and improving). It also means that I strive for recognition of my work. I spend hours selecting images every month, I polish them, I look for little specs of dust. I second guess myself. I deselect images and select them again. I ponder over which ones have a better chance to impress the judges.
So last year I started to enter in two categories. In Newborn and in People (mainly Children's portraits). The very first month I started with 6 Bronzes across the two categories. It was hard at times to get my images ready each month. But I did. I achieved consistent Bronzes but I wanted more! I wanted a Silver really badly. And right at the end of the competition year I did. I received my very first Silver. I actually cried :D
I have gathered enough points for two categories this year, or so I believe and hope. I am ready for the Awards dinner and I cannot wait to be inspired again. I have got good enough to achieve consistent Bronzes and I am going to work even harder to start achieving consistent Silvers. Not jut for myself but also for all my lovely customers who trust me to capture memories for them for years and years to come.
I will let you know how I get on at the Awards dinner :D Wish me luck. x