August 8th, 2022
I am no stranger to photo contests. I create and enter them regularly at Pixels.com (also known as FineArtAmerica.com). I enter local contests and international contests and I've placed in a few. Based on my experience, entering a contest helps you look at your work with a critical eye.
Here's some tips on entering photo contests.
PIXELS.COM is for members only. There's no entry fee, just like there's no fee for basic membership on the site. (Full disclosure: I use Pixels to successfully sell my artwork). The contests are fun. Most times the prizes are just a resounding "Kudos", but the bigger prize is exposing your work to customers. I've sold artwork which the customer saw in a contest.
Sometimes the prize is stupendous.The top prizewinners in the annual Billboard Contest have their art advertised on a billboard. (Unabashed solicitation; I would love your vote; go to https://pixels.com/contests/billboard-contest-2022.html?tab=vote&artworkid=39611243 to vote).
If you choose to create a PIXELS contest, I recommend a narrow focus. A contest for "Architecture" will potentially have 1000+ entries. "Skyscrapers" will have a more cohesive look and appeal to customers perusing the contest. As a contest administrator, I look at every entry in my contests. This develops my own eye for exceptional composition and appeal.
RIGHTS: Whenever you enter a contest, read the fine print in the rules. Do you retain the right to your work? What permissions are you giving to the contest administrator? (you always retain rights to your work at Pixels). I declined to enter one contest when I saw that the company running the contest could sell my work on cards and calendars, with no compensation to me.
COST: Many contests have entry fees (but not Pixels). Fees can range from $15 for 3 entries to $35 per image--or more. Run a mental cost benefit analysis. Ask yourself: What are the prizes? What exposure do I get to potential customers? Does this a contest promote me in the way I want to be seen? Are the answers to these question worth the monetary outlay for the entry? Only YOU can answer these questions.
LOCAL or INTERNATIONAL: Contests run by local nonprofits, businesses, cities, or small circulation magazines have fewer entrants and give you a greater chance for winning, and most importantly, exposure. Contests on a national or international scale by entities such as National Geographic, Sony, or The Nature Conservancy have tens of thousands of entries. Winning gives you incredible exposure. Look hard at previous year winners to know if you need to up your game to be competitive. And, yes, your art IS GOOD ENOUGH to win. ;-)
JURIED OR POPULARITY: Juried contests are typically judged by accomplished photographers. More often than not they have entry fees. One of my favorites is LensCulture.com where I have the option to get my work critiqued. I am pleased with the critiques I received and I think it has made me a better photographer.
The flip side of juried contests is what I call popularity contests. These contests depend heavily upon entrants advertising their entry on social media for votes (kindly reference my solicitation above!). For someone like me who has a low profile on social media, these contests are rarely worth my time. For someone fully engaged in social media, these contests are terrific for exposure and translating into sales.There's also a combination of the two -- votes via the web will narrow down the field for the jurors.
Consider the above points when you consider a contest. As you enter more contests, you'll develop your own standard for what is worth your effort.
Oh, and did I mention I'd love your vote? https://pixels.com/contests/billboard-contest-2022.html?tab=vote&artworkid=39611243
August 8th, 2022
2022 EDIT: I've decided to continue creating blogs on this site. That said, still check out maryleedereske.com for meditative and gift photo books you just can't find at maryleephoto.com!
All new blogs are now posted at my main website, maryleedereske.com . Please visit and follow on that site.
Not only do I publish my blogs there, but I also offer photo books and custom signed prints. You can have any image from this site, maryleephoto.com printed to your size specifications on high quality art paper or canvas and personally signed by me.
As always, I appreciate you and your patronage. I am humbled by the graciousness of others.
April 20th, 2015
Anyone with a camera and basic know-how can make excellent landscape images. The key to a good photo is in the eye of the photographer, not the pixel of the camera.
Most people have heard to take photos during the golden hours - those hours right before and after sunrise and sunset when the light casts a golden glow on the landscape. But there are other simple things to do during those golden hours that will take your photos to the next level.
Here are 5 things you can start doing right now to make your images stand out:
1. Earth or Sky? What caught your eye that made you want to point your camera towards a scene - was it the earth or the sky? Know this and it will help you frame your photo. If the dramatic sky steals the scene, compose your image so the sky fills the majority of the frame. Vice versa, if the land itself is the beauty, have the land in the majority of the frame. Many use the simple rule of thirds - place the horizon along the bottom or top third of your image. You may decide to fill the entire frame with land and not show any sky at all.
2. Point your shoulder towards the sun. Unless you’re deliberately trying to get a sunset or sunrise, point your shoulder towards the sun. Take your photo at a 90 degree angle to the sun. This accentuates shadows and creates depth to your image.
3. Create a Sense of Scale. Add elements to your photo to show scale. A glacier by itself could be either 10 feet tall or 1000 feet tall. Make your image with a boat in front of the glacier and the viewer feels the immensity of the glacier. Likewise, a garden of tulips can give the feel of endless fields by taking the photo from a low angle and filling the frame with only the colors of tulips.
4. Decide what to leave OUT of the image. Look around the edges of the frame - deciding what to leave out can be as important as deciding what to leave in. If you want to create a feel of wilderness at a scenic overlook, sometimes shifting your body just a few feet to one side can eliminate a highway from your image.
5. Look for breaks in patterns. Vineyards and plowed fields provide wonderful patterns of repeating rows. Add interest to your image by looking for a break in the pattern, whether it be a tractor, a tree or a farm worker. Breaks in a pattern will attract the viewer’s eye and provide interest to your image.
Whether you step out into your own backyard, or travel across the county, these tips will help your photos capture the beauty of your world.
July 4th, 2013
Giving Back with your Photography
I am a photographer because it gives me joy. When I look through the viewfinder and frame a scene, there comes a moment when the image falls into place. I find a sense of wholeness to the scene and nothing else enters my mind. It is a deep and abiding satisfaction inside me when I find that spot.
I want to give back to the world what it has so graciously given to me. So I ask - what can I do to give back with my photography? How can I use photography to give joy or support to others, or things that I believe in?
Here is a project I’m working on right now, plus things others have done to give back with their photography:
1. Greeting Cards for Non-Profit Organizations. I love the area of Michigan where I grew up. I also love creating greeting cards. There is a small non-profit organization called the Ruby Creek Conservation Club which works to promote conservation of natural areas in this small Michigan community. The all volunteer group develops trails, provides nature education to the public, and relies on individual donations to survive. After a recent visit to the area (where I got some wonderful photos such as the morel below), I approached the group and offered to make blank greeting cards for them. I will donate the first batch of cards, and they sell them and keep the funds. Any subsequent cards they buy at cost and keep all profits for their group.
2. Advancement of Social Issues. There are many photographers who use their skills to inform the public of social issues. Of the two sites I recommend here, the first shows in vivid images what is happening to Detroit as urban areas are abandoned and scavenged:
On Facebook, check out The Black Dot Project, a visual response to mark the tragedy of Jyoti Singh, who was raped brutally in New Delhi on December 16, 2012.
3. Donating Time. My friend Kay Beaton is a child and wedding photographer in Boulder, Colorado. One of the many ways she gives back is to donate her time to making portraits of children with life threatening diseases. You can read more about her efforts under the link "About" on her site
This is only a small sample of ways photographers use their skill to be a voice in the world. You may find your voice in one of these ways, or in another.
If you would like to comment, please visit the blog at http://fineartamerica.com/blogs/giving-back-with-your-photography.html
July 4th, 2013
With the greater availability of quality cameras, zoom lenses, cameras on phones and tablets, “street photography” has increased exponentially. And rightfully so - we are intrigued by our own nature and want to capture those candid moments occurring around us every day.
And with that comes a dilemma. How do photographers capture human moments of strangers? There’s no simple answer, as much as every photographer wants one. Here are things to consider if you want to take photos of strangers.
First, know these two things:
KNOW YOURSELF. Know your habits, your personality, your social skills. Are you gregarious, someone who puts others at ease? Or do you cringe and run at the very thought of talking to a stranger? Are you able to pick up on body language? Are you someone who wants to control a situation, or sit back and let it happen? It doesn’t matter your answers to these questions. The important part is to know yourself and then use your strengths to hone in on your method of photographing strangers.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT YOUR IMAGES TO SHOW. Do you want to show interactions between people or intimate portraits? What about people interests you? This will differ for every photographer. Find what it is that interests you - because if you’re not interested or enthused about your own subject, no one else will be either.
Now, decide on your method:
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. If you can’t stand the thought of talking to a stranger, then your method of street photography may be to use a zoom lens and stay removed from your subject. Scout out areas of interest to you - interesting streetscapes and backgrounds, and watch people as they interact with that environment. Use your zoom lens to capture the rush of a commuter, a street musician, a couple deeply involved with each other. With this method people will often think you’re taking a photo of the background and not even notice you.
Cell phone cameras are so ubiquitous these days everyone ignores them; they are also a good tool for street photography. It depends on what level of control you want in your image.
BECOME INVOLVED: Some photographers can only fathom taking a photo of someone they know. If you are the type of person who talks easily to others and leaves a trail of friends behind you everywhere you go, talk to your subject for a few minutes - or longer - to get an image others only dream of. After your subject is comfortable with you they express themselves openly and reveal deeper aspects of their personality. Consider using a shorter lens to make a portrait and still capture the environment.
No matter your method, some common courtesy to remember:
BE KIND. Kind is the root of “kindred” and we are all kindred spirits. Show images that are kind to others. Both you and your images will go much farther in life.
BE RESPECTFUL. If someone says “Don’t take my photo” then don’t. They have their reasons.
BE TRUTHFUL. When someone asks you why you’re taking pictures, or what of, honesty is the best policy. Let them know the project you’re working on, or that the sun on their face was beautiful, or that their stance was powerful.
REMEMBER: Know yourself, know what you want, use those strengths to develop your own method of street photography.
July 4th, 2013
Jumpstarting Yourself from a Photographer’s Block
We’ve all heard the term “writer’s block.” It’s easy to envision a writer ensconced away in their writing room, snapping #2 pencils in half, wadding up paper balls and hurling them across their room. Okay, so maybe these days writers are grinding their teeth together as they hold the “delete” key and watching letters vanish from the screen. Whatever they’re doing, one thing is certain - they are not building words into paragraphs into chapters into books.
For a photographer, photographer’s block comes in the form of image after image scrolling across the screen as the words “Dull...Boring...Cliche...” and so on scrolls through their head. Or maybe it’s one more day of having the camera with you and not finding a single thing that begs you to click the shutter. After a while you start to think “why bother?” Hopefully you don't throw your camera across the room.
I say it’s worth the bother. In “Zen and the Art of Writing” Ray Bradbury tell of writing a thousand words a day until one day he found himself crying at what he wrote - because he realized he finally wrote something good. Like writers, photographers have to work hard and practice, even through the blocks, the drudgery, the uninspired days.
Here are some ways to jumpstart yourself out of a photographer’s block:
1. Carry a camera - any camera - with you EVERYWHERE. Then use it. Every day.
2. Visit a local museum, or flea market, or farmer’s market, or zoo, or biological park - anywhere filled with things outside your daily routine - and take pictures of ANYTHING that captures your eye. Look for things illuminated by natural light. Be open to whatever you see. I recently visited a small historic village and amongst my many photos of the mundane (dull...boring...cliche) I have one that I love - of a young boy using stilts for the first time. A school class was spending the day at the village, and had it not been for my having a camera and taking photo after photo of anything that caught my eye, I would not have been ready for this image.
3. Go with someone who allows you the space to wander and make photos, or go alone. Photography often asks us to spend time with one thing, to the bewilderment of our companions. I have an acquaintance who will tell his family “I need two hours alone.” And then he goes to a nearby park and takes photos, returning home refreshed. Others I know will go someplace with a friend and part ways, agreeing to meet in an hour. This can work even with a non-photographer friend, as long as you’re some place that holds interest for both of you.
4. Process an old image in a new way. I revisited a color photo of a wooden boat, and started trying new crops, color balance - and then - black and white. I realized that I had overlooked a way of “seeing”. Not only did it give me an image more to my liking, it helped me to look through my camera viewfinder at new subjects with greater appreciation for contrast and texture.
5. Say “Yes” to opportunity. I recently had a 4 hour layover in the Dallas airport. My camera was with me, so I hopped on the skyway shuttle between terminals and rode it around the airport - 4 times. I took photos of people, of the sun setting outside the shuttle window, of the rails, of a vacant stop along the way. It was a great time to practice without interruption.
Next time you find yourself at a block, try these things to work your way through it. There is another image out there for you to find and to share.
July 4th, 2013
Smartphone Birdsong Apps can be Harmful Imposters
I have seen many beautiful images of tropical and migratory songbirds. I know how hard photographers work, and the often insanely expensive equipment they use to make these images. The bird photographers I know are responsible and well educated bird watching enthusiast.
Thus, I was surprised to read this June 14, 2013 article on http://www.earthweek.com and find out that some photographers are harming birds with smartphone apps!
I think it is important enough to reprint most of the article here:
“Birdwatchers who play back birdsongs on their smartphones to attract wild birds can stop the winged creatures from performing important tasks like feeding their young, experts warn. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says it is receiving more reports of people playing birdsong recordings so they can photograph birds or observe them up close.
“It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird. People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season,” said southern Wales RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead.
Bird expert Chris Thain told the BBC that people would be “devastated” if they realized how much harm the use of the apps can cause to wildlife.”
There you have it. Use your birdsong smartphone apps wisely! And while you’re at it, follow earthweek.com and read the weekly diary of our planet Earth.
July 4th, 2013
If you've come to this page, you've seen some of my images. Please feel free to comment on images that you like, and please visit again as I add and change photos available for purchase. Thank you for the time you've spent with my site today. ** Mary Lee Dereske