Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to a Photography Grant - PHmuseum

16 January 2021

Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to a Photography Grant

16 January 2021 - Written by PHmuseum

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

Image from Eclipse © Natthaya Thaidecha

The PHmuseum 2021 Photography Grant is open for submissions. 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 that might be penalising yours too. Have a look and keep them in mind before applying:

I. Select a Strong Cover Picture / A photography project must be considered as a whole and read as a connected sequence of images conveying a clear narrative. Nevertheless, what gives the first impression of your work is the cover image. Think about something that will catch the judges' attention and will help them remember your project among the many submissions they have to go through. It might be something that represents your project, is visually impacting, or perhaps refers to the title.

II. When it Comes to the Edit, Less is (often) More / Especially for those applying with new ongoing work, 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 are not sure about, just for the sake of showing more material. Through the years we have seen many projects with potential that weren’t strong enough because of the final edit. If you are unsure about yours, consider asking someone you trust in helping you finalise your selection before applying. You can even consider booking a 30-min or 60-min review with an expert from our team. Don't commit the mistake of adding too many “filler” images as this will undervalue your entry. Remember: on this occasion, less is more.

III. A Good Contextual Statement / The project statement is an essential part of your submission. When well written, it shows self-confidence and that you own your creative work. This will help the judges to engage with it and understand your perspective. You want to be clear, accurate and synthetic. We recommend to stay within 300 to 500 words, divide the text into clear paragraphs, and start with a strong introduction. We recommend the use of English to make your entry easily accessible by all judges. Always have a second pair of eyes to proofread your statement. You could also try a free app like Grammarly. Lastly, you can choose if to use captions or not. If you decide to go for it, we recommend to be organised and use a recurring format. Using captions well is a smart way to show the extra time and care you took in applying.

Image from No Quarter © Shadman Shahid

IV. The Right Sequence / The way you sequence images will effect what you are trying to express and it’s different in every work. It’s a personal process and there isn’t any wrong or right way to it. It’s about rhythm and flow, a bit like composing music. The right sequence might make the difference and really get the judges into your project. A way to start could be by selecting the strongest 2 to 4 images and deciding where you want to place them in the sequence. 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 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 a strong edit for grants and prizes you’re aiming to apply to in the coming months.

V. The Right Title / Remember what we said about the cover picture? The title has the same function; it should be inviting and on point. When presenting your work, you want to make it stand out among the others. So spend some time thinking of a good, coherent title. Be bold but not pretentious, think simple but don't be banal.

VI. Do Not Include Two Works In The Same Submission / If you wish to apply with two or more projects, we strongly advise to create two distinctive entries. Including two or more works in the same submission will generate confusion in the judges and likely undervalue your work. One consistent project is better than two rushed ones.

VII. Do Not Wait For The Deadline / Applying for a grant takes time and you don’t want to leave it to the last minute. Furthermore, when trying to submit, there might be too many users connected, implying a slow or unreliable connection; 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, especially if you ask for other people’s help, so do not wait until the very last moment. It might impact the quality of your submission.

Image from Make Me Beautiful © Yufan Lu

VIII. Details, Details, Details / Make a list of all the points above and ask yourself if everything is in order. Carefully read the guidelines, take extra time in finalising the edit and always proofread what you have written. Details always make the difference, especially at the very last stage of selection, when the judges need to decide on a winner among works that are on similar levels. Little details make the difference between an applicant and a shortlisted photographer; between a shortlisted photographer and a prize-winner. Before clicking submit, take a few minutes to double-check everything once more.

IX. Research before applying / Conduct a bit of research before starting with your application. Who are the past winners? Do not focus on the main prizes only. Study the jury, is there anyone, in particular, you want to show your work to? Making the jury aware of your work is a great networking tool to connect with them in the future. Finally, be aware that applying for grants is a way to get your work out there, receive feedback and challenge your project.



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 / Unless it’s essential to express your project’s idea, don't over-process images!

Submission Guidelines / File size, number of images and personal info (especially your age to be considered for the New Generation Prize), etc... Please read and follow the guidelines. If you don’t, we won’t accept your entry.


The PHmuseum Photography Grant has established itself as a leading prize in the industry over the past eight years, renowned for celebrating the importance of contemporary photography and supporting the careers of emerging artists through monetary prizes and various opportunities across international festivals and online media. You are welcome to present your work, taking advantage of the discounted Early Bird Fee until 28 January. The final deadline is set for 18 February 2021 at 11.59 pm (GMT). Learn more and apply at phmuseum.com/g21.

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