Our photographic images – in fact, all types of creative efforts – not only need a life outside of our heads but outside of our cameras and hard drives, as well. We know this, yet we tell ourselves that our work isn’t good enough to “go public” yet. But long before we think our work is ready, our teachers, mentors or friends do think it is ready and they begin to suggest to us, that as emerging artists, it’s time to take that next step.
We knew this day would come, but maybe just not so soon. Rather than going through rejection and discouragement, we convince ourselves that we’re not ready, that our work hasn’t reached the quality for which we are striving or that our photographs are not as striking as the other work we see “out there”. What if we display our photographs to our friends and “real” photographers and it’s revealed that we really don’t have anything original, interesting or beautiful to show. Perhaps our photographs are no more technically sophisticated than the snapshots in the albums at the back of someone’s closet.
We need to talk ourselves through this roadblock. It’s not a question of should we begin to show our work but rather how should we begin. There are any number of approaches to take and each of us needs to find and take the ones that work for us. How to begin? Here are a few ideas for you to consider.
-Create a webpage. I created my web site over time (in fact I continue to redesign it). Don’t worry about who will see it at first because until you hit “publish” it’s available only for your private viewing and enjoyment. In addition, once your web site is published you will need to diligently set out to notify others that it exists. You will discover how encouraging it is seeing your images on a screen.
-Mat and frame your photographs and give them as gifts. Your friends will appreciate the personal gift and perhaps they’ll honor you by hanging the photograph in a prominent place in their home where others will see it and talk about it.
– Enter your best images in local competitions and exhibitions. For the most part these competitions are not as competitive as national or international competitions. Sometimes local organizations use photo competitions as a type of marketing or fund-raising event and will charge the artist a nominal submission fee. Take advantage of the fact that having to pay a fee will decrease the number of competitors which increases your odds of being awarded a prize or a place in the exhibit. For me an opportunity came when I was told that a certain group was organizing an exhibition but was having difficulty soliciting enough photographs. In addition, there was a small entrance fee. I decided that, although there were no guarantees, the odds were in my favor so I submitted 4 photographs; two were selected by the judges.
-Join a camera club. There are many reasons to become a member of a local camera club not least of which is participating in the competitions that these clubs are known for. Joining one in your area is a good way to make a solitary pursuit a bit more social, and to gently begin to open up your work to others. In addition, you benefit from the advice and encouragement given by fellow members. Look for a camera club that has a relaxed congenial membership.
Here are a few photo competitions that are coming up that seem to be appropriate for the emerging photographer who is looking to take the next step. Montgomery County, MD is sponsoring an amateur photography contest and is looking for photographs depicting working, playing and landmarks in the county. Another fun and exciting photo competition being held by Maryland Public Television called Capture Maryland is on-going. You can upload your photos to their site and people can vote and comment on each other’s images. Comments are always positive and the winners get a chance to have their image on the 2014 MPT calendar! Perhaps a bit more competitive is the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photography Contest . What a great opportunity for an amateur photographer to compete in a competition sponsored by one of the world’s great names in professional photography! Once you commit to the idea that it is time to share your creative work you will begin noticing how many opportunities are available for the beginning photographer!
As an emerging photographer, the way I walk my self through the process of submitting my work is to see it like this – by choosing to introduce the public to my work, I am not claiming that my images are perfect or even finished but rather I’m merely saying “this is what I know and this is what I can do right now”.
The images of mine which appear on this page are the four that I submitted to my first photography exhibition. Which do you think were the two that the judges selected?