You have to be in it to win it! - part 2 of 1 2

by Dennis Orchard Published 01/10/2012


Do you think there are extra considerations to be made when entering an international versus local competition?

I think in any competition it is important to establish the style of imagethat 'fits' the profile of the organisation running it. For example, in America, it is unusual for a print to come first in both WPPI & PPof A. In the UK we have our Royal Photographic Society and the winning style with them is quite different from our British Institute of Professional Photography or Master Photographers Awards. So enter all your best images for local awards and then select, from the ones that do well, for international competition. Study the winning entries from the international comps to ascertain the style that the organisation leans towards. In short: Don't read Venusian poetry to a Martian...they just won't understand it!

It's been said many times that entering a competition is more than just winning. What do you take out of a competition when you enter?

The question should probably read: 'What does entering a competition take out of me!' Anyone entering a competition will suffer the agony of deciding which images to select, closely followed by the despair of having left it almost too late to enter, and then for many, the guilt of forgetting about the whole thing and then, eventually, the self delusion of thinking

'Well competitions don't mean anything and all the judges are out of touch anyway'. I admit to all those feelings!!

BUT! To enter is to learn. Sit in on the judging and see what the judges have to say about your print. Compare your image to others in the competition. What is distinguishing your image from theirs? This comparison and questioning of your work can only lead to better photography and a clearer idea of where your style is leading you. This is what you gain from entering competitions.

What are the first three things you look at in your images when you enter a competition?

OK: first has to be print quality. No judge is going to award good marks to a print that is too light, lacks contrast or is mounted poorly. Beware the bright lights of judging. Many prints which appear fine in daylight look pale and washed out under competition lighting. Find out (from the rules) the lighting conditions for judging and print darker to accommodate.

Second has to be 'story'. A picture is a communication. Ask yourself what is this picture saying to me. It can be quite simple like 'We are a couple in love' or a landscape which proclaims 'Look at how mighty and grand the world is. It can be more subtle like the work of Andreas Gursky. But whatever the story is, it must be believable. Brides without back support being dipped backwards by their grooms while having the blood sucked from their necks is NOT a story I ever wish to tell.

Last and probably the most important is EMOTION.

In fact if I were to have my way I would probably put EMOTION in first, second and third place.

But the emotion has to be real and not contrived. This for me is what sets apart the 'good' from the 'breathtaking'.

What advice would you offer photographers entering a competition for the first time?

Be brave. Enter for the experience and the education. Don't take it too seriously and don't give up too soon. Try to find competitions where each entry adds to a future award (such as the WPPI Accolades Programme).

This will give you the incentive to carry on. When you do win, which you will, if you enter and learn from the judging comments, tell everyone and be very, very proud of your achievements.

The Societies 20x16 competition is open for entries and Dennis would like to encourage everyone to submit at least one print to be judged at the Convention 2012. Don't forget

"You have to be in it to win it"

With an impressive number of letters after his name (ABIPP ALPE AMPA

ARPS CrSWPP), Dennis Orchard is a highly respected photographer and international photographic competition judge. He is returning to the Societies judging panel for the fifth time in as many years and is an invaluable member of the team. This interview sheds light on his background, his views on photography and what Dennis is looking for when he judges a print.

Twice UK Wedding Photographer of the Year, Dennis has, for the last eight years, judged internationally at WPPI, Las Vegas and has also been a UK national Judge with the Socieities, Nikon Baltic and The International Aperture Awards. Dennis was honoured to receive the highest award given for photography at WPPI in 2006, The Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the world of photography.

The interview was originally drafted in August 2010 but is still pertinent today!

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1st Published 01/10/2012
last update 06/11/2019 11:09:09

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