Improving My Photographic Craft through Print Competition

Print competition season is in full swing across the great land for those professional photographers that are members of The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and the state and local organizations that are affiliated with PPA.  There can be some confusion about what print competition is really about  and I hope to share some light on it from my point of view.

The word competition can really stir up a range of emotions, especially for photographers.  Many discussions about competition run rampant in the craft of professional photography but those are usually about how to deal with the guy down the street or possibly even next door.  Those discussions often lead to ill feelings and closed minds.

However, the competition this post is about is print competition and the many great things about it.  Sometimes I think maybe Print Evaluation would be a better term than Print Competition as the images are being evaluated against the 12 elements of merit image, PPA’s Benchmark for evaluating photographic art of any kind.   Images are evaluated  Judged against the 12 elements.  Then depending on where they fall placed into a category and given a score within the category.  The categories and scores are as follows:

Exceptional      95-100

Superior             90-95

Excellent           85-89

Merit                   80-84

Above Average 75-79

Average             70-74

Below Exhibition Standards 65-69

The goal is to be in the merit category by hitting all 12 of the elements then really excelling at each of the elements to move up to higher categories.  It’s not about playing favorites or about  do they like this image better than another one?   It’s about how does the image that is in front of the panel of 5 judges stack up against the 12 elements of a merit image.

Participating in PPA Print competition has raised the quality of my work and the value of that work to my clients because I choose to show the judges the work I show my clients.  I want feed back from them on that work so I can use that feedback to improve my product.   It’s not an easy task to have work evaluated, and it’s not for every photographer.  However,  I participate because I want my image making skills at their best for my clients.  I owe it to them for trusting me to document their visual history.

Sure social media likes are great and make everyone feel good, but I can say not a single social media like has ever helped me improve as a professional photographer practicing the craft of photography, however having my images reviewed by trained jurors from all over the country and the feedback critiques has helped me grow tremendously over the past seven years that I’ve competed and I’m looking forward to what I’ll be changing in my work this year to ultimately provide an even higher quality and value to my clients in 2017.


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