First. What does it mean to “apply for pro status”. Several sites such as In Beauty and Chaos and Clickinmoms offer an application process to apply for pro. It is a portfolio review. They set a standard of criteria and review your portfolio and grade it. They judge you. If you earn enough points you are accepted into a private portion of their forums and programs and are given opportunities to pursue other endeavors.
There are many reasons to considering putting in a pro application. And those reasons are something you will have to brainstorm.
- Community Involvement
- Avenues to future endeavers
- Critique and Reflection
- Personal Project and Growth
- Challenge and Achievement
For me, it was all of the above. But it was a great opportunity for growth. In 2013 I moved and stopped taking clients. I first thought about setting that as a goal, to build a 150 image portfolio so that I could maybe apply. The portfolio building process was a goal alone. But it was after the birth of my fifth child that I knew I wanted to do this. I want to grow. I wanted to be better. I wanted to be a stronger photographer and I wanted to work towards teaching and mentoring.
But whatever your reasons, and however you categorize your talent, you have to be prepared for a panel of strangers to look at your photographs and judge your work.
The eyes of judgement on every one of your photographs.
And it will feel extremely personal. And you will feel vulnerable.
And having been on both sides of this coin, if you get rejected, it will sting. If you’re more mature and less trashy than myself you may handle it better than I did.
I will add a few notes about my first application and subsequent rejection.
- It was thrown together without careful consideration
- I picked photos that I loved without analyzing why I was including those photos
- I was slightly delusional on exactly *how* good I thought I was
- I was not prepared to be judged
- And let’s be honest… I wasn’t there yet. I lacked polish.
So, when the lovely judges came back and told me I needed to work on my white balance, get more comfortable with stronger compositions, work on cohesion, stop chopping limbs and blowing highlights, and more, I had two choices: stay in denial or work my ass off.
Now, there is an expression, opinions are like elbows (ha, you thought I was going to say assholes didn’t you?), everyone has one. Even in professional exhibitions not all the judges will agree. Everyone is an individual, and we are all human. If you feel an emotional connection to something you are more likely to favor it positively, if you have no reaction, you may be more objective, or even negative. You will not always agree with your feedback. I don’t agree with that original score. Even the judges comments conflicted each other. And it took a lot of time and reflection before I was able to accept that.
When facing a rejection letter
- remember that it is not meant to be hurtful, but rather an assessment. If you are training for a race and you’re running a 7 minute mile, that’s AWESOME. When someone says, “you’re going to have to trim some time off that to win”, your first reaction wouldn’t be like, “you asshole, I am perfect the way I am”.
- take some time to process what was said. Our original reaction will never be exactly what it is a week or month later. I promise. Even if you’re still pissed about it.
- looking through accepted sets and judging yourself against them will not help you feel any better nor give you any insight into your scores.
- play devils advocate. What if they are right and you can work on these issues a little more.
- the judges are human, they may not be 100% correct in their assessment.
- just because they were good photographs doesn’t mean they were the right photographs
- remember that they aren’t your special people. Your family and friends are what matters. They love your work. And years down the road you will be opening time capsules of memories with your art. You started shooting because you loved it and how it made you feel. Three anonymous judges shouldn’t be able to take that away in one email.
- pat yourself on the back! You put yourself out there! You were brave and stood under the lights and said, “take me as I am”.
- give yourself some time to heal before putting yourself through anything rigorous for awhile.
- you do not have to resubmit. ever.
It’s not an exact science, I wish there was a perfect formula, but these were some things that really helped me along the way, and I hope they help you as well. I wish you the best of luck on your pro application journey. It was a really really great experience for me. Here they are:
- Shoot often, the more you practice and the more you have to choose from the better your options will be
- Collect more images than necessary, I recommend 125%-150% of the images required before you start culling
- Put all of your images in one album including the original photo (LR makes this even easier with collections or keywords). This will save you time hunting down images or making adjustments before your final submission.
- READ the rubric! You’re being judged on a list of criteria not on whether or not an image is “pretty”. Know the list, understand the list, all the forums with these applications have amazing PDFs with in depth descriptions of what they are judging on.
- Note the strengths and weaknesses of your choices, do not just say, “this looks good”. Look at the rubric and note where each photo shines. If it has a strength, note it’s biggest weakness and see if that is a good choice for your portfolio.
- Would you print the photo and hang it big? If this wouldn’t have a place on your walls, does it have a place in your portfolio? If it’s a client images would you expect that they could hang it on their walls?
- Find a support group! Post on the forum and ask, start a group, post on critique sites/threads. Get feedback from other photographers, they can often see some things that you don’t after looking at images for so long.
- Work with a mentor, either a friend, peer, or hire one to work with you on your journey.
- Be prepared for this to take some time! This is not meant to be a race, take your time!
- Be prepared for possible rejection. We do this as a process, and while it’s not guaranteed, if you work at it, even if you are denied, you will have grown.
Good luck! No matter what you can make yourself a stronger photographer just by trying, but at the end of the day, you are great just the way you are.
And you know what, you can still love every photograph no matter what! Here are some from my rejected set and I love them all: