A post by Bex Maini who will be speaking at Phlock Live 2020 about storytelling in colour.
I thought I’d write a bit about submitting your work for awards and recognition as it’s something I noticed people talking about in a photo group recently. I submit my work for two reasons – I think it looks good to potential clients that other people (especially judges and respected companies) like my work enough to feature/award/publish it and two, because it gives me a thrill! I am a rather excitable person and although I don’t think of myself as insecure, I do love the validation I feel when my work is deemed worthy of National Geographic or Vogue Italia, not to mention two of my favourite magazines, Dear Photographer and Click!
A couple of weeks ago I did a free session (I am NOT the person to come to for business advice, I will be hitting up the successful business talks at Phlock myself) for a local mum as I needed some more newborn shots for my portfolio and I had great success with submitting to Vogue Italia with my favourite images, they have accepted FIVE!
I don’t think about submitting work while I’m at a session, I don’t aim to take photos for that reason at all! When I’m there I get fully in the moment, going with the flow, having fun and trying my hardest at a bit of direction (I’m mainly documentary but trying to add a bit more of a lifestyle approach to elevate my galleries with more connection in good light). I even have a “cheat sheet” on my phone to remind me of all my ideas before I go, things I want to try (especially for free sessions where I have free reign to be creative) as I forget them ALL when I’m there in the moment shooting away. I love playing with things like prisms, freelensing, straws… these aren’t necessarily things that will be chosen for features but they add some fun, colour and creativity to my galleries.
So, what to do with the things you achieve? I have a page on my website dedicated to awards, publications and features. Before I had many things to share, I bulked it out with hub features, (where you submit via a hashtag, e.g. #thisdetailedlife and the hub moderators look through that hashtag and choose an image they want to feature and post it on the main hub account), so just an Instagram feature, yes, but it was still chosen by someone I respect, a hub I follow and is shared with other photographers for inspiration so I believe even these are achievements to be proud of and some of these hubs have tens of thousands of followers! I’ve also had one image chosen in the Click Pro Daily Project Top Ten of the week which was amazing as I’m competing with other Click Pros and their awesome work!
As I’ve honed my work and submitted to more places, I’ve been lucky (although lucky is not the word as I do believe it’s based on talent not luck) to have some images chosen for magazine publications, some of my brand work has led to my photos appearing in Elle Decoration and Grazia magazines and I’ve had photos chosen for the Daily Dozen on Nat Geo’s Your Shot (since sadly closed down and they’re just doing features on their Instagram account now – but with over 2 million followers that’s still exciting) and Vogue Italia’s PHOTOVOGUE – notoriously difficult to have your work published in your portfolio there. This year I even achieved a long-awaited acceptance to The Voice Collection with Click Magazine, something I’ve been trying for for 3 years and it was this image which was also my very first Vogue acceptance:
The only advice I can give is don’t give up, it took me months of submitting and rejection after rejection (you don’t even get a notification from Vogue, it either appears on your portfolio or disappears forever) but then when that first one got published – WOW! I was so happy and it looks fab on your website with that little Vogue logo, clients are impressed. It has surprised me which images they choose sometimes, not always the one I expect (you can only submit 2 at a time and on Mondays and Tuesdays between 8am-8pm so if you forget you have to wait for submissions to open again).
Since that first one I had more luck and got a few more in between more rejections, my most recent session proved popular with all four of my submissions one week being accepted!! I’m now back to rejections again though, lol. But it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy all the time! I like that it’s difficult as it makes it so much more exciting when they do get published and I just keep refreshing until I know, hehe.
One of my favourite things is being published in a magazine! Holding it in your hands, physically seeing your image in print is a dream! Especially when two of the first magazine publications I had were the Dear Photographer issues about Details and then Colour, my favourite things!!!
It definitely spurs me on to create more, keep shooting and keep trying to improve. While I’m working on all the boring stuff I’m no good at (marketing, etc.) trying to attract clients who like my style of work, I have something else to aim for too and it can’t hurt when you can show potential clients that you’ve had some success at having work published.