Entering Your First Juried Art Show (Part I)

So, you want to try entering your fine art photographs in a juried art show? Lots of artists come to a point where they want to try their hand at entering contests and having their work accepted into galleries.

There are lots of questions that will come up during your first-time submission. Here’s some encouragement and advice to help you face those fears and put your work out there.

image by Eric Behrens

Look for something local

To find a local art show opportunity, you should look at your local chamber of commerce website, read the local and county newspapers, search craigslist under artists, and look up artists’ opportunities on the Commission on Art website for your state (or relevant website depending on where you are in the world).

Once you have found a contest to enter, or a show to apply for, you are ready to move on to the next step.

Reach out and find a mentor

Is there someone in your town who makes a living as a professional fine art photographer? Then reach out and ask them questions. Seek advice. They will be a treasure trove of advice.

And, chances are, some experienced people really enjoy helping emerging artists. They received the same advice from their mentors, and now it is time for them to pay-it-forward by helping you. Then, when you are in their shoes a couple years down the road, you can return the favor by helping new artists.

Read the Prospectus

When entering your first juried art show, be sure to read the prospectus, or show guidelines, and follow the instructions carefully. Many shows have restrictions on media, size, and a deadline for online or in-person entries.

Reading the prospectus will give you a feel for the show, and what the theme will be, and will help you gain insight into which photographs will best be suited for your entry.

Select your most intriguing photographs

Once you know what to expect from this show and the competition, you are ready to choose your photographs. Go through your most recently taken photographs, and see which ones stand out to you.

Which photos capture your eye? What tugs at your heartstrings? Which photos are your strongest compositions? Select your top photos and enter them into the show.

Choose compelling titles

Once you have selected your photos, you will need to give them a proper name. All fine art photography is titled. Even if you do not have a name, it is called Untitled.

But, the title of your piece is where you get to think creatively about what story your photograph is telling. Or you can keep it simple and let the image speak for itself. The viewer can read the story between the lines.

But, thoughtfully crafting names for your pieces really makes them become art, rather than just another photograph you took. They elevate to fine art when you consider them such. Believe in yourself and the art you create. You were gifted with this artistic eye to help the world see the beauty that you see. So, by all means, share your gift with others.

Enter the contest

This step is critical. You have to believe in yourself enough to put those fears to rest. You have to just go for it. You can do it. You will gain an immerse amount of confidence just by taking the risk and seeing that it isn’t as hard or scary as you thought it would be.

Have patience while waiting

While you are waiting to hear if your photographs have been selected for the show, try to be patient. I know it is hard to wait but you will learn many lessons through this process. It makes you question your work and how good of an artist you are, but just keep believing in yourself and your art.

You wouldn’t feel called to participate if there wasn’t something calling to you in your heart.

Accept the news

So, now they day has come that the juried selections are announced.

If your photographs didn’t make it into the show – then keep your head up, don’t give up, and keep at it. Let this be a stepping stone to your future successes.

You have gained mighty first-hand experience; you’ve learned to believe in yourself, face your fears, have courage, and accept the news of rejection without letting it deter you. The fact is, no one gets into every show they enter. But, they just keep trying and entering. They don’t let the opinions of one judge stop them. They gain knowledge, and learn the value of persistence.

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” — Harriet Beecher Stowe

If your photographs make it into the show – congratulations! You are on the right path. Keep taking photographs. Learn all you can from the experience of having your work hung in an art gallery.