Let’s be honest here, I sort through a ton of photography entries every week. I get so many, I forget who is who, often, even if I’ve seen it before; but there are some things I never forget.
The difference between a good entry and a bad entry is such a huge gap, it makes it very obvious for me what is worth a second look and what is not. I know, from the start, if I need to keep going. How should a photographer successfully respond to a call for entries?
Firstly, follow the directions of the request. If the call for entries says, "Apply online at http://www.signup.com", don’t e-mail me, and don’t friend me on Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr. It doesn’t impress me that you stalked me all over the net. I’m mostly creeped out. If the call is for documentary photography, don’t submit photos of children and puppies taken with a camera phone and suggest it is quality documentary work. It’s not what we’re looking for. Follow directions!
When I get bad photographers, they usually have some things in common:
1. A Flickr account or something similar is the only place to see other work.
2. No contact information can be found anywhere or their contact information is incorrect.
3. Attached images are of weddings, children, pets, trees, or the homeless. Not really "documentary."
4. The personal message is something to the effect of: "what’s up? check out my photos. let me know if you want to buy stuff. -xoxo"
5. If I was contacted by e-mail, it was sent from an e-mail address like [email protected]
When I do get a good photographer, there are a few things that seem always to be true, also:
1. They have a personal Web site (not Flickr, Carbonmade, etc.) that is easy to use.
2. The Web site has galleries that are descriptive and I know quickly what it is you are interested in, i.e. "Documentary," "Reportage," "Art." Often, when I get into that gallery I am given options of their recent work, say, an essay on the 2008 Presidential campaigns.
3. If I was contacted by e-mail, the message is short, it has a few links, offers advice on how to view their work, and it usually tells me what I might be most interested in.
4. They have full contact information included, no matter how they applied.
5. The photographs inspire a sense of curiosity and make me want to understand what is happening. Essentially, the level of professionalism in their communication (whether it be via e-mail or on his or her Web site) often equals the professionalism of their work. For this reason, I will begin exploring the ways to professionally communicate as a photographer and journalist. Consider this your primer. What things jump out at you, or what do you wish everyone knew?
In a week or so I will follow up with a more thorough listing of rules to follow when responding to a call for entries.