Photography Competition Q&A with Julia Kelleher

Immerse yourself in the awards world of Julia Kelleher.

Her work is enthralling and intrinsic.  It makes me want to pick up my camera and create something out of this world.  Read on to hear how she approaches award entries, how she shoots for 100s and what amazing things entering awards has done for her business.


child-portrait-fine-artHow many years have you been entering photography competitions? And why did you start entering?

I’ve been entering photo competitions since 2009 and only skipped entering one year so far. It all started on the advice of a mentor who thought I would learn a lot and improve my work by entering. He was so right! It was the best thing I did to learn to “see” imagery. It trained my eye which in turn, made me a much better photographer.

What award or honour are you most proud of achieving?

I have won the Canon par Excellence Award, the Imaging Excellence Award, along with 4 degrees, but perhaps the most significant was earning Diamond Photographer of The Year twice. It’s tough to do and earning it twice really grew my confidence.

What is the lowest score you’ve ever received? And what was your biggest take away from that?

Scoring low is always a big let down when you’ve put a lot of time effort and creative energy into an image. Your heart is in it! 79 is truly the worst because it means you were SO CLOSE! And often times, there isn’t a glaring reason why it didn’t go higher which makes it difficult to “fix” the print and re-enter it again.I entered an image of my son once that score 79 and I was heartbroken. I was way too emotionally vested in the image and I had serious mommy goggles on!  I learned early on, that entering images where you aim for a score that are higher than 85 gives you the best chance at earning a merit. Shoot for 100! Learn what it takes to make an image that will score high and then do it. Don’t take chances on images that are average, so-so or have been done a lot before by others. When you think outside the box, challenge the status quo and push yourself to create unique, you will never go wrong. And chances are you’ll score big too. Take the risk, it’s worth it.

newborn-image-fine-artWhat has entering competitions done for your business?

A lot of naysayers think that entering competition and winning awards doesn’t really do a whole lot for your business. It’s done nothing but amazing things for mine. Clients see that you are actively attempting to improve your craft, your are involved in your industry and that you care about quality imagery. Plus, displaying awards does elevate your brand. Clients think differently about your level of competence when you can say you have won international awards. That’s why it’s so important to develop a good public relations campaign around your successes and shout form the rooftops that your work is being noticed. When an industry puts its stamp of approval on your work, that’s a huge confidence builder int eh mind of a potential client that you know what you are doing and are capable of producing solid work. My clients have told me in the past, that they made the final decision to hire me over someone else becauseI was clearly “more qualified” having won awards and earned degrees.

What advice would you give to someone entering for the first time?

Go watch a competition! There is nothing like sitting the room and listening to the judges talk about and critique prints. You will learn more in one day of judging that you ever will in a workshop or online. Competition is about learning to “see”—to train your eye. When you see what makes an incredible image, then you begin translating that into your work. Your client work improves, your creative work improves and your refine your abilities as a photographer. Secondly, find a mentor who can help you pick images. Selecting WHICH images to send to competition is one of the hardest parts of the process for someone new. With the help of someone who is experienced, you’ll learn what to look for in your own work with an objective viewpoint, and you’ll find it much easier to pick the images that truly represent your best work.


To see more of her inspirational work, see the following links:






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