Last week, I encouraged you to enter some of the local photo contests that are coming up and I hope you take my advice. Before you enter, let's talk about some of the things you can do to make the best presentation.
Two things that will turn a judge off immediately are out of focus images and poorly printed pictures. You might wonder why anyone would enter an out of focus picture but it happens all the time in amateur competitions and occasionally in professional contests, too.
I think the main reason photographers enter out of focus images are because they are in love with the picture. The picture might be of a special moment that is apparent to the person who took the picture. This happens especially when the subject is of your own child or grandchild. Everyone thinks that their own child is beautiful. Out of focus doesn't matter to a parent, but to a judge it won't have a chance.
Poorly printed images are the next bad thing I see all too often. It seems to be getting worse all the time due to people trying to print pictures at home on a desktop printer, or printing the pictures yourself on one of the popular kiosk machines.
I'm constantly seeing pictures that are printed way too light or the skin tones are not even remotely natural. Any judge with experience in printing and color balance will notice this from 10 feet away. This is an art and is best left to the professionals. Your best bet is to have your prints made at a real photo lab that has experienced operators and calibrated equipment (that would be Foto 1). It is not at all expensive and you will get the best possible print out of your digital file or film.
You should also pay attention to the presentation of your prints. Make sure the matte that surrounds your picture is complimentary to the picture. If you are not sure, leave it to a professional.
I won't guarantee that any of these things will make you a winner, but they should give you a good step up on the competition. As I have said before, it all boils down to the personal opinions of a set of judges.
As long as you enjoy the image, that is the most important thing.
(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a master photographer, certified professional photographer and president of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia.)