Should You Enter That Contest?

I've been a hairstylist for over twelve years. It has been years of excitement, bewilderment, anxiety, laughter, anger and pride. One of the things that I decided to do years ago was enter contests and see if I could win. Well, I've won some and lost most.

The very first contest I entered was the STARS photo competition for America's Beauty Show in Chicago. It was in 2008. I found out about the contest online on a Wednesday and contacted a photographer and makeup artist the same day. That Friday I found a woman that was thin and looked like she could use a makeover. I figured I would be able to work my magic. With the help of the photographer and ever so amazing Photoshop, I was convinced I was about to move mountains. I transformed my model on Sunday and we did the shoot Monday. Then I submitted my photos and patiently waited for the announcement that I was one of the winners.

Well, I didn't win. I couldn't believe it! I mean it was a makeover contest and I have personally never seen a bigger transformation. The before and after photos looked like two different people. When the contest ended I was obsessed with trying to find out what was wrong with my photo and why it wasn't chosen. I emailed the coordinator of the contest to see if I could get some feedback...and I did. The judge said it was too busy and there was just too much going on. After I was done being insulted I thoroughly examined my photo and saw what he was talking about. There really was too much going on. The background looked like a rainbow exploded. Her shirt was completely inappropriate for what I was doing. She had bad tattoos that weren't photo shopped out...and honestly, she just wasn't photogenic. Her hair and makeup did look great but it wasn't enough. Now mind you this was my very first photo shoot that I so strategically planned in less than a week. What did I do wrong? Let me tell you:

1.  Very poor planning
2. I chose a person who was not photogenic
3. No clear theme...I just winged it
4. I didn't research past finalists and winners well enough
5. Poor wardrobe choice

These are a few of the issues with my entry. So I didn't win but I learned a lot. The following year I entered again and was one of three winners. Such an amazing feeling! That same year I had my first cover of Ohio Stylist. I was on a I thought.

Fast forward to 2013, almost 2014, and I have had quite a bit of my work published and have either placed or finaled in other contests. I have also lost a lot of contests and have had A LOT of photos that were not published because they were “too edgy”, “too flat”, or just not what the editors were looking for.

The point of all this babbling I'm doing is that I have learned more from my “loses” than my “wins”. Even though it stings a little when you lose or an editor rejects your collection it has helped to fuel my fire. I feel more enthusiastic and determined for the next time. Both winning and losing has helped build my confidence. I now know how to plan my shoots, to storyboard, and to have a clear concept in mind -because I've lost. I don't take it personal when my photo collections aren't published. I  know the difference between a great photographer and an average photographer, an experienced model and a “self proclaimed” model, every day makeup and photo shoot makeup, and a stellar wardrobe rather than one I just picked out of my closet...because I've won.

The one downside to entering contests is that they almost NEVER announce the winners when they say they will. It usually states in the rules and regulations that everything will be announced on or around a specific date. I'm forewarning you that date may come and go as you anxiously await the results. This is extremely frustrating because a lot of time, money and planning is put into a shoot and that date is what you're waiting for. Be patient. Eventually you will get the results. I'm no stranger to emailing them and asking “What's going on?” “When will you be announcing the results?” I am probably an annoying pest but I honestly don't care. The entrants have to follow the rules. So should the contest holders.

So should you enter the contests that these companies sponsor? Should you delve into the editorial world and risk being rejected? Should you put yourself out there for everyone to judge? Yes. You will not win every contest. Not all of your photos will make it into a magazine or online. Not everyone will think the masterpiece you just created is beautiful...BUT when your work is acknowledged, on any level, you will have an immense sense of pride. I can only speak for myself I guess but it is such an exciting feeling every single time.

At least try it. It takes guts. Win or lose, the bottom line is that you tried. Every photo shoot you do is a great learning experience. Some go without any snags. Others will make you question why you even do hair. In the end you will hopefully have a beautiful photo that someone will appreciate..even if you're that only someone. -DJ Victory

DJ Victory is a Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, and Salon Owner who believes that you get what you you should always give 100%. She loves cheap jewelry, sky high platforms and thinks that everyone needs a little glitter in their life.

[Image: One of DJ Victory's winning entries. (She is also the model in the entry!); Image courtesy of DJ Victory]


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