8 Mistakes to Avoid when Applying to a Photography Grant - PHmuseum

08 February 2020

8 Mistakes to Avoid when Applying to a Photography Grant

08 February 2020 - Written by PHmuseum

Having organised grants since 2013, we have noticed several recurring mistakes that can affect applications. Details always make the difference, so check out this list and keep the suggestions in mind when the time comes to prepare your next submission.

© Jennifer Greenburg, from the series Revising History. PHmuseum 2019 Photography Grant Honorable Mention awardee.

The PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant is the 12th open call that we have launched on our platform. Even though we delegate the responsibility of selecting the winners to an independent jury, our team always reviews all of the applications to highlight the most interesting content on our platform. This is a list of common mistakes that we've noticed in submissions and that might be penalising yours too. Have a look and keep them in mind before applying:

I. Select a Strong Cover Picture / A photo project must be considered as a whole and read as a group of images that generate a dialogue with each other. Nevertheless, what gives a first impression of your work is the cover image. So think about something that catches the judges attention and will help them remember your project among the many submissions they have to go through again and again. Something that represents your project, it's visually impacting, and possibly refers to the title.

II. When it Comes to the Edit, Less is (often) More / Especially for those who are applying with their new ongoing work, our grant is the right opportunity to challenge yourself, receive feedback and see where you are at. The excitement of showing new images can sometimes create an excess in the proposed edit. Although the limit is set to 20 images, a grant is not the right place to improvise and submit pictures that you consider a maybe. In the past years we have seen many projects which could have deserved more but were left behind for the presence of some pictures in the edit that did not quite offer enough. If you are sure about your, let's say, 15 images, go for it. Don't undervalue your edit by inserting 5 more "filler" images. Remember, on this occasion, less is more.

© Nanna Heitmann, from the series Hiding From Baba Yaga. PHmuseum 2019 Photography Grant New Generation Honorable Mention awardee.

III. A Good Contextual Statement / Even if we are visual people, we must accept that text is a very important element of your submission. It helps judges to get into your work. So be accurate and synthetic. We recommend to stay within 300 and 500 words, divide the text into clear paragraphs, and start with a strong intro. Also, be sure to write in strong English, even if it's not mandatory. If necessary for a clearer read of your images, use captions for each picture and be consistent in their structure. English is likely the only language that all of the judges from an international panel have in common. If you are not sure, ask the support of a friend or even consider to invest some money and get it translated or reviewed. You will use that text for applications, exhibitions, on your website, etc... so it will be worth the investment. You can also try a free app like Grammarly.

IV. The Right Sequence / Think of your project as a movie. What should be the opening scene? How do I want to introduce the characters? Shall it be a non-linear story? The right sequence might make the difference and really get the judges into your project. So work on it according to the subject, your personal style, and some dose of instinct. It might also be the right time to check your whole edit with more experienced friends or colleagues. You can also consider trying our one-to-one portfolio reviews - it will be a good investment to develop your project and create the right edit for grants and prizes your aiming to apply to in the coming months.

V. The Right Title / Remember what we said about the cover picture? Well, the title is less important but it has the same function. Present your work and make it stand out among the others. So spend some time thinking of a good title, coherent with your work. Be bold but not pretentious, think simple but don't be banal.

© Guilherme Gerais, from the series The Best of Mr.Chao. PHmuseum 2019 Photography Grant Honorable Mention awardee.

VI. Do Not Include Two Works In The Same Submission / If you wish to apply with two or more projects we strongly advise that you create two distinctive entries. Including two or more works in the same submission will generate confusion in the judges and likely undervalue your work. Many awards offers an early bird deadline or a discounted fee if you apply with more than one project. So plan ahead to take advantage of them, or simply pick your strongest project.

VII. Do Not Wait For The Deadline / There might be too many users connected, implying a slow or unreliable connection. You might not have the proper time to prepare the project. You might experience technical issues or simply have questions for the organisers, yet not enough time for them to get back to you. You might simply miss it. There are many reasons to prepare your application in advance, so do not wait until the very last moment. It might impact the quality of your submission.

VIII. Details, Details, Details / Make a list of all the points above and ask yourself if everything is in order. Are there grammar errors? Did I include one or two photos that are not functional to the story nor at the level of the others? Details always make the difference, especially if the judges have to pick a work among others that are on the same level. The difference between an applicant and a shortlisted photographer. The difference between a shortlisted photographer and prize-winner. Before clicking submit, take a few minutes to double check everything again.



Copyrights / Forget about watermarks. We respect copyrights, and if we want to use any images or feature a work we will contact you first, so don't worry and keep your photos clean! It will feel more professional and the judges will enjoy your work more.

Post Production / Except if it's really mandatory to express your project idea, don't over process images!

Submission Guidelines / Files size, number of images and personal info (especially your age to be considered for the New Generation Prize), etc... Just read and follow them. There's a reasons if those who organise an open call spent time in providing them to you ;)


The PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant is currently open for submissions. You have until 20 February to apply. Take your time selecting your project, editing your best images, and reviewing your text. Once you feel ready, well just submit... and GOOD LUCK! The shortlist will be announced in April 2020.

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