Entering a Contest...Even When You Think You Won't Win

We just opened up submissions for the 2019 Birth Becomes Her Image contest, and it’s been so exciting to see submissions pour in. But we’ve also heard that some of you feel a bit unsure about submitting.

“I don’t think I have a winning image.”

“I don’t know if my work is as good to the other images I see in this group”

“I just don’t think I have any thing worth submitting.”

And Jennifer and I want you to know: we’ve totally been there. I still remember the butterflies I had in my stomach when I submitted an image to my first photography contest. I was new. My work was decent but not spectacular. I wanted to submit but I was pretty certain my image wasn’t going to go anywhere far.

I remember Jennifer and I sending images back and forth to each other: was this image stronger or was this one? What about this edit? Did Jenn like this image in color or black and white?

I finally mustered up the courage, hit submit, and eagerly awaited the day the images went live. Of course, I didn’t end up winning anything but I learned and gained SO much from submitting. And then a couple years later, I did end up winning something! First Place in an international photography contest. And then last year, I won First Place in Shoot & Share’s emotion category.

Because time you submit to a contest, you learn…and the lessons you take away from one contest might help you place in the next!

But ultimately, I think the reason that most of us submit to these birth photography contests has little to do with winning…or with our own personal growth. Because one of the most powerful and profound results of these birth photography contest is the IMPACT it has on our culture and world.

We’ve been hosting contests for two years now, and each time we share the contest, our inbox is flooded with messages from men and women around the world. We hear from women in the Middle East and Africa, who are seeing what waterbirth looks like for the first time. Last year, I conversed with a midwife in the Middle East who wanted to find a way to start offering this option to her clients after seeing some of the contest images. We’ve had other people message us about delayed cord clamping: we’ve had mothers share images with their providers in hopes that they too can keep their babies cord unclamped.

There is something powerful about participating in a contest that celebrates just how different and diverse birth can be! These images aren’t just beautiful…they can and do give many women more options and choices.

But this year, we were also committed to finding a way to celebrate not only waterbirths…or homebirths (as these often seem to win), and so we decided to create a category just for hospital births. We know that many women are restricted on where they can have their baby (based on their health or socio-economic status or personal choice) and we wanted these births to get just as much love and recognition as a beautiful day-lit home birth.

So maybe you’re a birth photographer who primarily works with women that birth in the hospital. Or maybe you’re a birth photographer who lives in a state or country where homebirth just isn’t an option for most women. How cool would it be to submit and share our hospital category…to show your community and the world that these stories, these births, and these families are just as impactful and inspiring?

Sometimes we submit to these contests because we want our clients and our community to know that their story is worth seeing celebrating.

And then of course…the really cool thing about our contest is that the judges don’t know how many births you’ve photographed…or how much you charge…or how “famous” you are in our community. When we first share our images with the world and our judges, no one will see the photographers’ names. They’ll see the image and judge it on it’s own merit! Last year, Laura Wando, won 3rd place in our Labor Category. The image she took and shared is still one of my favorites. Laura started learning with us as a new birth photographer and I’ve loved seeing her growth. She’s an inspiration to me now!

Image by  Laura Wando

Image by Laura Wando

Just because YOU don’t think you’ll win…doesn’t mean that the judges will agree. We are often our worst self-critic (at least I know that I am).

So Jennifer and I want to encourage you to submit (even if you think you won’t win). There is SO much to gain from submitting that has nothing to do with a first, second, or third place prize. Submissions are currently open…and close this weekend. We can’t wait to share them with the world!