How to Deal With Rejection

How to Deal With Rejection

Read to end for a giveaway.

In the wake of the Sony Alpha Female grants being announced, a lot of people have written either to me or generally online about rejection. There are a lot of people hurting right now. It seemed like a good time to talk about rejection and share some of my experiences with it.

Here are my top 5 lessons about rejection, and some of my story.

I’ve had a long life of rejection. We all have. That’s life.
It started for me in school at a young age. I wasn’t a good traditional learner. I failed a lot of classes. I got bad grades. I tried harder than absolutely anyone I knew, and I still couldn’t keep up. I learned very young that I was going to fail a lot.
I couldn’t get into great (or even very good) colleges, I couldn’t pass tests, and (get this…) I even got a doctor note in college saying I didn’t have to take any tests because my memory was so bad. Seriously, that happened!

And then I became an artist, so I never got rejected again!

That’s when I really learned what rejection was, because suddenly it wasn’t coming from people and places I had to interact with, it was coming from places I desperately wanted to fit into but didn’t.

1. Let’s BIG PICTURE this deal.

First recognize that we are all in different phases: of our life, our maturity, our art, our self-discovery, our circumstances…everything. We are different ages, have been creating for different amounts of time, etc. I started submitting to contests and galleries and publications when I had been shooting for only 3 months. I was 22. I got rejection early on, and it ATE AWAY AT ME. I couldn’t sleep, would often cry or pout about it, and I felt like I couldn’t function. But you know what? I was a baby in my career! I had literally picked up a camera only 3 months prior!

Now that I’ve been submitting to things like this for 9.5 years, I’ve gotten better. Let me share how.

I realized that the big picture matters. If I don’t win something now, I recognize that another opportunity will come, another time that is more ripe for me. Another day, another year, another moment. This is just a drop in the hat. Let it pass like it should, without bother, but with acknowledgment.

2. Contests are SUBJECTIVE.

You may be in a very dark hole figuring out all of the reasons why you weren’t selected. Let me say this: you may never figure that out. And there may be no good reason. In this particular contest there were over 6,000 submissions. Judges in most contests have a ton of entries to go through. And from an insider perspective, a lot of them start to look the same. That is no fault of yours. It isn’t really a fault at all. It is just the nature of contests. You can only answer the same questions in so many ways.

But more to the point, the judges are real, live human beings. And based on who the judges are, certain entries will get more weight and others won’t. That is the nature of a contest. Someone has to judge it, and that person has to use their own sensibilities in the judging process.

You won’t match well with every juror. You won’t catch the eye of every person no matter how much you should.

Here is a great example. I judged a contest once with a brilliant person. We sat down to judge, and every time a fine art image would pop up, (and definitely anything remotely in my style), this person would dismiss it without really looking for the merit in it. It was frustrating, but also founded. This person was a judge, and if they didn’t like something, that was up to them no matter how “unfair” it may seem.

Just today I saw a contest I wanted to submit to, but lo and behold, that person was the judge for the contest! Needless to say, I passed. I know my work isn’t a fit for that juror.

I’ve had my work rejected from UMPTEEN (official term) contests. And there are times where I just cannot believe it. I am shocked. I was certain I’d get in. The only thing it can be chalked up to is a disagreement of taste.

One of my best friends taught me this saying in latin:

“De gustibus non est disputandum,”
“In matters of taste there can be no dispute.”

That sums it up perfectly.

3. Learn from your peers.

There are ways to get better at submitting to contests. There are so many reasons why an entry is dismissed from a contest. The most common one is the one I mentioned in #2. Taste cannot be predicted, and there is always a human juror at the other end. But then there’s real learning to be done. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What did the winners do that I didn’t, if anything?
  • Was my submission in alignment with the company or organization I submitted to?
  • Was my submission professional in terms of writing style, grammar, formatting?
  • Were my images unique and would they stand out of a crowd? Were they polished and professional?
  • Was my video in focus and did I present myself in an authentic way?

And of course, there are tons more questions you could ask. Most beneficially, you could get a focus group together and share submissions. Give feedback and get feedback about what they like and don’t like.

At the end of that process, if you still feel like you can’t figure out what went wrong (which I admit many, many will not be able to get a clear grasp), refer back to #2 again. It all goes back to that. And somehow, I find that really reassuring, if not infuriating. It’s the nature of the beast.

4. Put yourself in their shoes.

Imagine YOU are judging a contest. Imagine you have to look at 1,000 entries in one week. Aside from your brain going numb from the number of applications you have to read thoroughly, what else would you consider?

  • Did they follow the rules? If not, it’s probably out immediately.
  • Does this person stand out in some way? If not, it’s probably out.
  • Does this person present an opportunity to make you/your organization look interesting?
  • Is this person in alignment with your values?
  • What is this person’s probability for future success?

And then, honing in on a winner:

  • What message is this person sending?
  • Does their imagery represent something new or exciting?

I can honestly say that my work doesn’t tick all those boxes for everyone, and not even for most people. I can recognize that some (probably a lot) of my work is, in some way, generic and overdone. I can recognize that my brand doesn’t work well with a lot of other brands. I know that my message doesn’t always click with people. I understand that my work is polarizing, and it really doesn’t connect with people.

It is important that anyone submitting to contests recognize this about their work. That is NOT to say that your work isn’t unique, beautiful, interesting, worthy. It is to say that not every juror can choose every submission, so they have to choose what works best with their mission.

Put yourself in their position. It becomes easier to understand the difficulty of the selection process when you consider all of those criteria. How would you choose?

5. The hard part is over.

Submitting your work to anything is the hard part in and of itself. Except now, you have an extensive application already prepared for submission to other contests. So, after you’ve put the time in to critique your submission, get your booty in motion and get out there! Learn how to constantly revise and edit your images and writing, but most importantly, your message. Learn how to adapt YOURSELF to the contest at hand. Be smart about your submissions, but also be bold.

I recommend taking the hard work you’ve put in and the new skills you’ve learned by submitting it to other contests/grants/etc.

A similar position I was in: When I had my first exhibition I printed tons of images and then none of them sold. So, I had 15 prints sitting in my house and they had no where to go. I could have stopped exhibiting, but instead I submitted those prints to tons of shows that year and got to hang them in an additional 12 shows in 2010. That experience, quite literally, launched my career as a fine art photographer.

So take your hard won application materials and put them to work for you.

I want to mention, in an attempt to curb the emails I’m getting, that I didn’t get to judge the Sony Alpha Female contest until the very, very, very end. I was sent the final 15 contestants and still, my vote in that final round was counted against everyone else who was voting in the final round. It is extremely likely I won’t be able to tell you why you weren’t chosen because I wasn’t judging the vast majority of the entries.

That said…

I am opening up FIVE spaces to have
your entries critiqued in a group session.

I’ll do my best to share aspects of your submission that could have been beefed up so that in the future you’ll have a better chance of making it in.

Leave a comment below and let me know if you’d like your Sony Alpha Female application critiqued, and I’ll choose 5 people at random to join in.

I wish I could open it up further, but alas, time is short as I submit my own work to a myriad of different contests! 😀


With kindness and a push of inspiration to get yourself out there,


130 thoughts on “How to Deal With Rejection

  1. Thanks brooke, I took a leap of faith and I applied. Despite my hesitation and thinking I was not good enough to win, at least I’m proud to say I overcame my fear of rejection and still applied. I made a video and put myself out there, bearing my art and vision for the world to see. I wonder why I was rejected, but I know there is a purpose in everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) to us. Thank you for being a guiding light.

    1. Hi Brooke! Rejection is so hard. I didn’t win this time around, but I feel that means I’m a little closer for next time! I’d love a critique:). Thanks for all you do. And congratulations to the winners! ❤️

  2. Hello ,

    How are you ?
    I think it’s fantastic your giving those who didn’t make it a chance to have
    A professional view on their portfolio
    I’d love for you to take the time to look through my work

    My portfolio varies from pretty whimsical creamy bridal :
    Then I have my conceptual gallery which is emotionally driven
    & projects how I feel emotionally –
    Then I have my portrait gallery !

    I am working on my portfolio all the time even with me being in the
    Industry for 14 years ,

    I have 4 children – twin 2 year olds and a 7&9 year old – with NO FAMILY SUPPORT – what so ever !

    So yes I MAKE time by hiring nannies so I can work for my cliens & also work on my portfolio giving myself challenges

    Hope to hear from you

    Kind regards


  3. Thanks for this Blog post Brooke. I have never entered a contest before and this was a first. I figured go big or go home. lol! I put off the submission for long time. I chalked that up to my paralyzing feeling of not good enough. I buckled down though and I am proud of that accomplishment. 🙂

  4. Thank you for this pep talk Brooke! I remember watching a live broadcast of a show judging once and it was brutal. But it was also incredibly educational. So I love your idea of a focus group to help us build on the foundation of this application.

  5. I tried to comment a book a couple of times and I guess the site isn’t having it, haha. This post means a lot to me as a non-finalist in the Sony Alpha Female contest. Chances are meant to be taken. If anything, this brought me back down to earth to take a harder look at my body of work and see what can be improved for the next chance I come across.

  6. Feel as though I’m not at a point on my path where someone is interested in walking beside me, helping, guiding, celebrating. I don’t do photography full time, I have 170K in student loan debt. I don’t have an established network yet. I don’t have the newest of gear, currently rocking an A5000. But all in all I don’t know how to start to get to all these things and desperately need a mentor. All the winners are beautiful and talented but also established, doing this full time, or even successfully making a living from it. It reaffirmed the fear that no company or person potential of sponsorship cares unless you’re at “that point”. Yet the spots leading up to that are where one needs the most help. I’ll continue to ask for the help no matter what though. Thank you so much for being you and uplifting some of us “underdogs” feeling like we never had a place to begin with in this contest.

  7. This is very inspirational. Thank you for writing about this because it’s definitely something I needed to hear today. I would love to be considered for the application critique. Have a wonderful day Brooke!

  8. Thank you for writing this Brooke! Rejection or failure is always tough, but it helps pave the way for greater success in the future. I’d love a chance to have my application critiqued.

  9. So much YES!!! Amazing pointers and such a great way to step outside of things and see different points of view!!! I can sit here and second guess my application all day but would love to know what other people would change and how to make it more impactful for future opportunities!! This was my very first real competition/grant I ever applied for and although I had great faith I knew mybidds were slim. The opportunity was incredible though and I know the 5 winners will change the industry!!! Thank you for putting this together Brooke! You rock big time!!

  10. This was so helpful to read, especially the subjective part. It’s so hard to be rejected and not immediately have a mindset of “oh well I guess I suck then and nobody likes this”. I can have a problem with negativity and be overly critical of my own work. Losing doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, I think it’s like trying to find where your puzzle piece fits. People are receptive to their own type of artwork and you just have to find where you fit instead of trying to force it in the wrong place. Still it always hurts when someone doesn’t react how you’d expect haha. I wish I was better at not getting my hopes up so high. It’s weird, it’s like I will love and hate my work at the same time. This can help me grow but man is it exhausting. Still I would die for a critique of my SFA application! I’ve entered a few contests before but never anything as involved as a grant proposal like this. It makes me want to try again someday!

  11. You never cease to amaze me! I definitely want to have my Sony Alpha Female application critiqued and if you must, tear it apart hahaha.

    I also had a hard time with school when I was younger. English was my second language so I fell behind in school. My parents sent me to an American then British private school. While at American school, for me, it was all about proficiently learning a second language. Then, I was transferred to the British School in Caracas, Venezuela where my level of education by their standards was far behind. I worked hard but often times I was with the alternative group of students who needed to learn slower in Math and Science. Oh well, that is life. I am so happy that you shared this post.

    These tips that you share are so helpful in general. Wow! So much to think about 🙂

  12. I am definatly feeling bummed,not just that I wasn’t picked personally but that I didn’t see myself in the winners at all. It was a blow to my confidence for sure. I’d love an opportunity to be critiqued.

  13. Thank you so much for your encouraging words and for sharing your heart! This info is extremely helpful. I would value your insight on my Sony Alpha application. Thank you for all you do to help inspire other female artists.

  14. Thank you so much for this blog post.

    It’s hard when we are waiting and hoping just to feel deflated in an instant it seemed. But putting it into perspective like you have, it makes it easier to breathe easy today and know that I did my best. I’m glad I applied and I’ll keep applying.

    The work of the judges was so very difficult. I wouldn’t have traded places with them for anything. I’m appreciative of their hard work.

    I would love to be considered for a critique of my Sony Alpha Female application. Thank you for the opportunity.

  15. I wish I spent more time on my video and I’m in love with the work of the 5 winners! I want to grow so bad and just applying really helped me visually see where I want to be heading with my art!

  16. Hi Brooke
    This is a great post. You’re a kind human being for doing this and we all
    appreciate it.I agree with what you said. I’m 42 years old now so rejection slides off a little easier but it still does sting. My heart broke a little bit not seeing my name but deep down I knew it would be miracle winning something like this. I can tell God wants me to fight for it, as I always have and always will. I will not give up.
    I would love to be considered for this. Standing out is important and I do feel my work is unique. Self portraiture is something not everyone can master. You have and I feel I am pretty good at it too in my own unique way. I still have a lot to learn but my foundation is solid.
    Thank you for your time. ♥️

  17. Brooke,

    What a great article! It is so kind of you to offer this opportunity.

    I have NEVER submitted my work before for ANYTHING, despite encouragement from a variety of sources to submit both my writing and my photography for years.

    This was a huge leap of faith, and I am not disappointed that I didn’t win because I’ve already learned so much (about myself and the process, and how I REALLY need to refine my vision, amongst other things).

    I’d love to hear a critique of my application, but I do already know that my submission video was pretty crummy, ha! I don’t do video at all really, so that was an unexpected (and honestly, AWFUL) challenge.

    Anyway. Thanks for this. I’m excited to see what you’re doing in the future! :O)

  18. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is incredibly insightful. I’ve chosen not to let myself get down about not being selected this time. It’s part of the journey and receiving a no can sometimes be more valuable than a yes. I’m here to learn and grow. I’ve thought long about how I could’ve improved my application and I definitely have some ideas but I’d love to have feedback from you as well. Please consider me for one of the 5 that you’d like to provide feedback to. Thank you!

  19. Yes! I would love to have my submission critiqued by you. I’m trying to push myself harder and put myself out there more and submitting to this was HUGE for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I could do to improve my submission for next time!

  20. Hi Brooke-
    Thank you for the thoughtful and kind words and offer for critique. I would love to have feedback on ways I can improve my application for future grants and contests.
    In gratititude,

  21. Love this post! I honestly didn’t feel rejected because I know there are so many good professionals out there, I just thought as a filmmaker the project would have at least one of the winners working with film not still photography.
    I would love to have you critic about my application, I know right from the start that my video could be way better but I thought you guys wanted something simple when you mentioned it could be done with a phone. After seeing the winners video applications I saw that was definetely not the case.
    Thank you Brooke for this post, it meant a lot!

  22. Thank you SO much for putting this blog together! It’s helping me a lot to move on. I’m feeling driven to start again, thanks to you! An evaluation would mean the world since I plan to not give up 🙂

  23. Thank you for writing this article. Always nice to know you aren’t alone in your struggles. I would love to have the opportunity to hear your option on my application! Fingers crossed

  24. Thank you so much for this post, I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I would be because this is just the beginning of what’s to come for us. But I can’t deny the truth that rejection really sucks, so thank you for your time to write such a heart opening blog post on your experiences and to help teach us. I would love to get critiqued by you if possible! I know mine wasnt as polished and prepared but it was all heart and sometimes that’s more important than anything!

  25. Making the video was the hardest part. I wanted to talk about the ceiling collapsing and destroying my studio last year and my mentor dying of cancer. However I was advised by my friends to leave that out. Honestly I wish I just mentioned it regardless.

    Instead I focused on what I do for a living for 13 years as a full time commercial photographer. However in life we are always facing challenges and presentation is everything.

    I would like a critic on my presentation, so that in the future I can present myself better.

  26. What a great reminder for artists, rejection is definitely a huge part of the process,(as I’m learning from all the rejection emails I receive haha), but it also gives a great opportunity for growth.
    I submitted to alpha female and would love the chance to have my application critiqued.

  27. I’d love to have my submission critiqued! That would help me know how to make future submissions better! I know my video sucked lol. Next time, I’m taking myself out of the equation lol. I hate being on camera

  28. In viewing the videos/stills submitted by the winners, it was obvious to me that they had a “handle” on submissions that I didn’t.

    I need to “raise the bar” for myself, yet, I’m not exactly sure of the specifics I need to improve.

    I would REALLY appreciate learning so I can improve. I want any future entries by me to be gob-smackers!

    And, I just can’t imagine how overwhelming it must have been to winnow the thousands of entries!

  29. Thank you so much, Brooke for uplifting all of us who applied at every step of the process! Since I found out about your work through the mentor section of the contest, you have become such a role model for me! After writing down my submission, I knew what I needed to do. I started finding other ways to get closer to my goal in the meantime, without any money from a grant or any approval from a judge or another person. So I dived into a different project that had been in the back of my mind for some time. It was so relievung to just create and rid oneself from expectations and judgement!! Thank you for being so honest with your struggle on the path to success and self-expression! Of course, I would love to hear your take on my submission, though, because I think the subject matter of a dark fairytale movie will resonate with you very much and I went in asking for you as a mentor ^^

    All the best!

  30. Bless you for this post. I love your style, heart, and openness. This contest has brought me so much growth!
    I’d love to have my entry critiqued. Your a gem. As we all are, thanks for helping us learn to shine.

  31. Thank you so much, Brooke for uplifting all of us who applied at every step of the process! Since I found out about your work through the mentor section of the contest, you have become such a role model for me! After writing down my submission, I knew what I needed to do. I started finding other ways to get closer to my goal in the meantime, without any money from a grant or any approval from a judge or another person. So I dived into a different project that had been in the back of my mind for some time. It was so relieving to just create and rid oneself from expectations and judgement!! Thank you for being so honest with your struggle on the path to success and self-expression! Of course, I would love to hear your take on my submission, because I think the subject matter of my dark fairy tale film proposition will resonate with you very much. That’s why I asked for you as a mentor, too!

    All the best!

  32. This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for taking your time to inspire this community. Honestly seeing you as a mentor was one of the main reasons I wanted to enter for the grant. Even though I was not accepted I feel I have already gained something invaluable, confidence and a renewed determination. My passion is conceptual fine art photography. In terms of putting bread on the table it is not an easy sell. I have dabbled in self portraiture, but have always limited this type of work since I have been taught it is untenable to create a career from it. Seeing your work inspires me and gives me to confidence to keep creating. It would be lovely to hear from you personally on what I could improve upon, but if not that is fine. I have gotten so much from this process and you. I loom forward to following your work! Thank you Brooke!

  33. Dear Brooke,

    Thank you for sharing this with the Facebook group. Helped put it all in perspective. So inspiring to know there are such generous thoughtful people out there. I loved reading your post above – really helpful.

    Thanks for entering me in the submission critique random drawing – would be grateful for any feedback.

    Have a good day,


  34. Hey Brooke,

    Thank you for this and I would love to be considered. It has been so emotionally taxing for me lately getting so close to the finish where I can almost feel it and then swept back to sea.

  35. Hey Brooke!

    I love that you’re so in tune with things that you chose to write this blog post. I was definitely feeling it after the news came out. It’s so funny because literally, this morning when I was driving to work, I was thinking out loud to myself (as I usually do ), and I said “Okay, but why?? I just wish I could know what I can do differently to succeed” should there be a next time, and lo and behold, here we are! I hope to get picked for the critique, however I understand now after your blog post that it’s okay if I’m not all the same. All the love to you!


  36. This is a great post. I think #4 is the most important. Like a job interview, how can you sell yourself. I think this is my biggest problem, but maybe if I’m chosen, you can give me other perspective.

  37. Fingers and toes crossed to be randomly selected! 🙂
    In my imagination I’ve won and holding self accountable to executing my application’s pitch for next six months.
    I am absolutely trying to take the time invested into the application materials and reinvest the energy. A critique would be incredible! Thank you Brooke!

  38. I recently felt the sting of rejection too. I tried to take it in stride and was back to an even keel in about 30 seconds. I knew when I entered that it was a possibility to not get in. And that was what happened. When I got the news, I remembered back to the times I’ve judged very small shows. My experience has been that about half the entries are easily dismissed in the sense that they didn’t match the guidelines or were clearly not up to par at first glance. Then the remaining half there were about half that were clearly superior to the other half. That left about 25% that met all the criteria and were wonderful works. And I had to narrow them down to 5, or 10 “selects”. That’s when it got really so much harder. The photos were great but, I had to eliminate so many…. On a different day, or in a different mood, I might have chosen different ones for the final cut, but, that was just what struck me that day.

    The hard part is being the person that had to say “no” to even the ones that were easily dismissed. There is someone, someplace, that thought that was their best work and it was being rejected. I was aware of that too.

    Based on that experience and history, I’m never upset at the judges. They have tough jobs. I just resolve to see what they chose and keep that in mind for my next entries…

    Thanks for this awesome post and the support you give the community.

  39. Thank you for this amazing post. I can imagine it being so helpful for everyone who applied and wasn’t chosen. I was one of those people. I deeply trust in Divine timing and fully understand my opportunity will come when it’s supposed to. That said, I would absolutely love a critique on my submission. I always value feedvack which could help me learn and grow for next time around. 🙂 Thank you so much for the opportunity!

  40. So true about judges being people with different tastes. I just participate in a local photo competition there were so many amazing entries and the one that one was so boring! I couldn’t believe it. I was disappointed not because I lost but because many others deserved to win. I realized I would never win in their element. It was liberating, a good reminder to not be so serious, to judge the room so to speak.

  41. Hi Brooke,
    Thank you for taking the time to lift us up. Not uniquely, I am also no stranger to rejection. What I want, what I need is to be critiqued. Really critiqued. Where am I missing the mark? I have participated in image reviews through PPA and invariably end up frustrated when the reviewer says he or she has no idea why my images scored the way they did. I know it boils down to taste, but surely I’m doing something wrong…
    Anyhoo, I sure hope I’m randomly selected and, if not, thank you again for being such an amazing leader in this field.

  42. Put yourself in their shoes…..u nailed it. that is the hard part though. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for your generous offer to critique our application

  43. What a great read and reminder to keep on, keeping on. This is so sweet of you! I’d love the chance to have you look at my app. You are who inspired me to get in front of the camera!

  44. Thank you Brooke for this ❤️ Truly a learning experience for me and so glad I stepped out of my own comfort zone to even submit-

  45. Brooke it was wonderful to discover you through this process. A critique from you would be greatly appreciated. I would value your opinion. I agree and understand the points you have laid out. I hope to be considered. Thank you – Jenn

  46. Thank you so much for sharing this! I would absolve your critique! I only learn and grow by being open to knowing what I could have done better.

    Danielle Trina

  47. This really helped put my mind at ease, because I thought I just wasn’t good enough, but I didn’t really think about other people’s taste. Not everyone is going to like what I do — and that’s okay. I appreciate hearing this from you, given your experience! I would love to have my application critiqued if at all possible. Thank you for your time and your insight!

  48. Hi Brooke! Yes, I’d like to have my application critiqued in a group session with you! Thank you for taking the time to do this and for posting the above suggestions/recommendations and points! -Hannah

  49. Brooke thank you for your constant creative encouragement! I love your advice and wisdom in this post. It is encouraging to know that rejection will keep on coming. I love your advice of seeing rejection for what it is and to learn something each time. It’s hard because we put so much of who we are into our work that it’s easy to feel like we personally are being rejected, even though that is not the case. I remember enduring art critics in college and I have to say sometimes they were brutal but I always learned something valuable. The Sony Alpha Female contest was the first thing I have entered since graduating art college 13 years ago and the first time I have every submitted photography. I would love to have you critic my submission and get some quality feedback. I also love your idea of creating a critic group so I’ll be sending some messages to a few artists I know to see if they are interested. Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and inspiration.

  50. Brooke,

    Thank you for being a mentor to all of us with this post. My work has a long way to go, but I figure if you can help me get the soil right, I’ll plant more seeds and let nature and time do the rest. As a filmmaker, I think you’d be a great subject matter expert for the rest of us film and cinematographers to glean from.
    BTW: I wish I had your skills in set construction! That was one of my favorite things to learn from the rest of these ladies: how they faked it til they made it! I’m so not crafty, so if you find time one day to do a tutorial on building stuff, I’d love it! Until then, reruns of Home Improvement will keep me busy. Ha!

  51. Thank You for your amazing words. I have to admit today has been extremely difficult. All of my emotions poured out today – heart break,frustration, sadness, all in one foul swoop!!! Not been a great day. I know tomorrow is a new day, but today I had to allow myself time to be sad, time to cry, get my emotions out. I keep thinking of a song I learned when I was a child – “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” This is the hard part. I admit, today, on several occasions I said to myself it would be easier to give up photography all together. Why put myself out there only to be completely heart broken – hopes completely dashed – I know better than to believe those thoughts. It might take me a little longer to recover from this disappointment, but I will recover. Thank you for all the honest posts about how you are feeling. I know I am not alone in this process. I look forward to getting to know everyone in this group even more
    now. Thank you for considering me for the critique. Tanya

  52. Count me in!
    Brooke, this is awesome. Thank you so much for your insights and for understanding and taking the time to acknowledge how so many of us may be feeling right now. What gives me comfort in not having been selected was that I looked at those who were and they were incredibly impressive and they deserved to win. I congratulate them and wish them the best as they go through this program. I will be excited to see their progress. They are already so good.
    While I recognize the difference in my submission and those who were selected, Please count me in for the possibility of having my submission critiqued!

  53. Brooke,

    Thanks for this post. I love that you’re talking about this. I applied, even though I didn’t have enough time to create what I wanted and decided to give it a shot regardless so I could have the practice and on the off chance that the judges would be as enthralled by my project as I am.

    I was totally gutted when I realised I wasn’t chosen. Probably more so because the announcement was on my birthday and of course I took that to be a sign from the universe, lol! Anyway, by this morning I’d decided that I want to learn from this and do better the next time I apply.

    I would be thrilled if you’d critique my application.

    Thanks so much for offering this as one of the worst aspects of applying for these grants etc is the lack of feedback that we could build on!

    Thanks again!

  54. Scared but I’ll try for a critique lol it’s funny you write this because years ago I wrote a blog about dealing with rejection as well. It happens all the time, even to the most amazing artists. The first good few really do sting but after a while you just become super immuned to it haha. Some things hurt more than others based on what you’re wanting out of whatever you’re applying for, but eventually you’ll grow thick skin. I know I did. That’s why the Sony rejection didn’t hurt as much.

  55. Yo! Yo! Absolutely, as brutal as a crit is I need one. That whole, “having a baby and life goes on hold and you loose-I still don’t know how to articulate it” sure did take its tole. Hope you are enjoying being back at home in your own bed! Xoxo, m

  56. Hi Brooke! As always, you know just the right things to say and the perfect way to give people the encouragement to follow their dreams! I’d love a critique if you have a spot open. I’m pretty sure I totally misunderstood what they wanted for the video lol. I heard talk to the camera and show personality so that’s what I did. My next one will be much more polished 🙂

  57. We tend to be our own worst critic. When we put forth a portrait of authenticity, without the whole story our content could be drowned out from loss of personality and voice; if we forget to share authentic stories that matter, we lose sight of what we are meant to create. I’m an award winning independent filmmaker but that does not define me or my success. Success is not found by mere accomplishment and acceptance. Success is overcoming obstacles, becoming more aware of who you are no matter how challenging it may be to take the critical but you can then make rejection into beauty. Every success is not without setbacks.
    The premiere of Deeper, my first documentary, was on the night of the application due date. I’m a procrastinating perfectionist. So it only made sense that my computer blacked out two hours before the showing. I didn’t have a instant fix, I borrowed a family members computer, pieced it together, didn’t have the right hdmi, there are a million excuses I could find; but, when you hear the stories and are entrusted to tell them well, you always find a way.
    I’m currently creating and posting content consistently to get better working independently full time in addition to the 8 to 5. You don’t need the best gear, just stories to tell and a passion to capture them.
    My next leap of faith is an independent documentary about township at risk youth overcoming unthinkable obstacles through surfing and skating. I hope you’ll read about it on the website:
    I’ve still got a lot to figure out before then and will greatly appreciate and apply any advice given. Thanks so much!

  58. I would very much love the chance to have my application critiqued! How generous of you!! Thank you for your consideration and all the hard work you put into the contest. ❤️❤️

  59. Hello Brooke,
    I would love the opportunity to have my Sony Alpha Female Grant Application critiqued once again so I can better myself in what I may lack.
    Thank you.

  60. Brooke, Thanks for the opportunity to learn how we can improve ourselves as artists and further elevating the field of female photographers. I would love to have this chance for feedback.

  61. I think the hardest part of rejection for me is not knowing why. I tend to understand things better when I have more detail (my left brain really likes the facts), but with these type of scenarios one receives little to no feedback. The subjectivity of the judges is a very important factor. I’ve tried to rationalize using the fact that I simply wasn’t what they were looking for when I am unable to get real answers as to why. I would very much appreciate having my Sony Alpha Female application critiqued to help answer the why for me and help me improve on this front.

  62. Thank you for sharing your experience and providing this opportunity for growth. Submitting for the Sony Alpha Female grant was so difficult for me. This was the first contest I have entered. I had no idea what to say or which images to submit. I am not hurt that I wasn’t chosen but I would like to know how to improve my chances in the future.

  63. Hi there, I would love to get some feedback. I realized too late that I just missed the age limit before turning in the application, but feedback would be so helpful for the future. And thank you for the tips above!

  64. Thanks for the encouragement and for offering to critique our submissions. I would really benefit from that as I’m also submitting to other grants too.

  65. Thank you Brooke for taking the time to write this. Your advice to be bold has really struck me…. I will carry that with me into my next application (because you’re right, now is the time to keep pushing forward!)

  66. Hey Brooke!
    This is so awesome! Thanks for putting rejection in words that make sense and can be relatable for us all. You inspire me everyday and I love following your work on Instagram! I feel I am only getting started in this field and my career and I am sure it had a lot to do with why I did not win the grant. But, I am so determined to continue to learn, grow and find my place as I go after my goals! I face boundaries every day but I never want to give up. I would love an opportunity to have my submission evaluated by you – it would mean the world!
    Never stop creating & hope to hear from you!

  67. Hi Brooke, I love that you are doing this. Good for us all to know what to expect with these kind of contest. Myself, I’ve only been into photography for six years. Crohn’s disease, surgery, then a car crash injury over the handful of years slowed me down when I was just starting to get rolling. I’ve had to re-learn some things a few times. But this is my passion and one day I hope to support myself with it, as well as to create the art, show the world the beauty that can be found in it. I have only ever submitted my photos or poetry a few x over the years. After 19 years writing poetry I submitted a book proposal for an anthology last year and was also met with rejection. At least the letter they sent was kind and explained that my work was good, it just didn’t work per say for their target audience.
    I have to say I was dreaming I’d get considered for the Sony Alpha contest, but it didn’t happen. So as always I’ll keep plugging away. Since I’ve been met with rejection now a few x, I’ll learn from it and attempt to put my best work forward in future. In terms of my video and application, I only found out about the opportunity like the day before the deadline. I’ve never taken a video of myself and I’m terribly shy. Self portraits where you are doing anything but looking at the camera head on are much different lol. Unfortunately I also had a sinus infection. So I wasn’t the best me at the time, however I tried to say how I felt to the best of my ability. I really appreciate Sony putting the opportunity out there, and wish all the best to the five selected on their journey. Hopefully there will be more chances in future to all of us. I also must say I’ve been following your work for five years, and I started taking your courses on creative live three years ago just before my car crash. I’ve only just taken them up again, and I chose to take your courses out of the 26 classes I own on the site, because of your passion and enthusiasm, it re-inspires my own passion in what I do. I’d love to have my application critiqued for any benefit to future attempts. Thanks so much Brooke, you are a beautiful soul. ❤️ ~Maria

  68. Hey Brooke, thank you for posting this article. Rejection is definitely a big part of our successes and we can learn from this times and grow. I put a lot of work into my application and the project I have submitted I intend to still start this year after doing a lot of the groundwork over the last few years here in New Zealand. I want to take a fine art / photojournalism approach to documenting the healing traditions of indigenous cultures starting with the Maori people here in NZ. The work I submitted I believe described Be Alpha to me and I had my application reviewed by several peers before submitting… All considered it a very strong application… I was definitely very confident. But I can imagine there were some amazing photographers and projects in the applications as well. Would love to have you review my submission! 🙂

  69. Dear Brooke, thank you for letting us see how this contest-, and judgingthing works. Being aware of this process there will be more understanding for rejection. Really I can understand when someone feels rejected but isn’t it
    also about being able to have the oppertunity to participate because of this contest. You can learn a lesson from this. Be proud of yourself for daring to submitting your work. And even if you don’t win you have won already because of making art and daring to show the world what you have to say with your art. Never let rejection stop you from believing in yourself. With kind regards.
    Els Aartse from the Netherlands ❤️

  70. I knew I wasn’t a contender but I’m glad I submitted. I’m ok with that. I did it. And it helped clarify what I want to do next. My use of the grant money was purely selfish…I didn’t have any grand plan to save the world. But I wrote from my heart what was holding me back.
    I believe there were other reasons for submitting. One is the women I’m learning about who also submitted.

  71. I remembered reading during the submission process that winners would be notified in October so the announcement wasn’t a shock in learning I wasn’t selected. It hurt the same though. For a split second I felt that grief from rejection trying to take away everything good about the whole program; jealousy , frustration, disappointment, the whole nine. I had to quickly shed that and remember to be proud of myself. Submitting my work was a huge step for me and I’m hoping that I’ll start submitting to more contests and critique groups. I realize this will only make me better.
    That said, I’d love to have my application reviewed and if you can share a growth path for someone willing to learn, I’d love to know!!! Thank you so much for your writing!

  72. Brooke!!! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been putting myself out there more than ever and the rejection has been coming in more than ever! Doing my best to focus on the positive that the rejection also means I am stepping up and trying my best. I would LOVE to have some feedback to be able to focus on what, and how I can improve. This morning I was meditating on the What if’s… What if pain isn’t punishment, and what if rejection isn’t the end? Would be fantastic to get your opinion and input on my Sony Alpha Female application.
    Heart Forward ~ Malia

  73. Thank you for offering to open some spaces for critique. I submitted a project of emotions women experience while journeying through parental grief. I would love for you review my work.

  74. I was so hoping you could be my mentor. I think the winners are all amazing and have their sh*t together much more than I do. I think my mistake was in believing Sony was looking for women who needed a push, a hand up, extra time, a new camera…. all of the winners already should be Sony ambassadors. Instead, there are still 9 women and 51 men listed as light ambassadors. Before the announcement of winners, there were 15 male Instagram posts before an image from one of the winners.
    That being said, I know my entry looked nothing like theirs but I would welcome a review if only to pick your brain just a little. Thank you for writing this

  75. I was in a mini workshop at WPPI with you in 2017. My friend was a huge fan of yours and had taken your workshop so I was intrigued. What I remember best was your sense of play, humility and passion. With all the hard work you do, no wonder you have reached this level of success! You are a kick ass Sony Alpha Female. Thank you for providing this opportunity. This was my first submission and I won’t love some feedback.

  76. Hi Brooke,

    What a wonderful, inspirational post. Rejection does suck! But there’s nothing like putting yourself out there, so much excitement, anxiety, and yet a sense of accomplishment, even with rejection looming at every submission.

    Thanks so much for breaking this process down. Number 4 resonated with me, the other side of the coin and all. And of course number 2! I love a good list. Thanks for this opportunity.

  77. Thank you for sharing this. As an “emerging” artist (to use grant speak), I’ve applied for what seems like countless opportunities, and have experienced a lot of rejection. It’s very frustrating, and while I feel like each experience is valuable (in terms of helping me clarify my goals and make my projects that much more clear for myself), it is disheartening to feel like my work isn’t worthy of recognition. I would love to the opportunity to receive a critique of my SAF application, as I’m going to continue to seek out grants and other funding possibilities; having someone whose work I respect A LOT give me some feedback would be fantastic.

  78. Hi Brooke. Very nice article on rejection. I’ve been in sales all my life before starting a career in photography but having our artwork rejected somehow feels different. But I have been fortunate to have won 3 pretty nice grants in the past by what I thought was sheer luck. But in the end it’s about putting yourself out there and hoping for the best. I thought my application was put together too fast and I didn’t really give it the time necessary as I heard about the contest late in the game. They key now is to be more proactive and plan and schedule my applications (just like I did in my other sales business). But I would like a critique of my application. I’d like your opinion. And just ignore the video. That was just plain lame.

    Carolyn A. Kamuda

  79. Brooke,

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I knew I didn’t have much of a chance, and I know in my soul I didnt give my application my all. I kept my hopefulness down, but the daydreaming is what got to me. It was more of a sting than I thought to have not been chosen. I still feel my work is as good as it can be for right now, and I am always learning and growing, but it hurts because I was daydreaming of an opportunity to make a difference in what I believe to be righs to enter.

  80. Thank you Brooke, This Blog post is so well written. Thank you for all the pointers. I will definitely use them to self critiqued my contest submission.
    I’d love a chance to have my application critiqued by You. Thank you for you time. Have a wonderful week.

  81. Thank you for trying to help us make better applications. It’s so hard to know what would be a stand-out application of just too much over the top. I definitely want to be ready for the next contest or grant I come across.
    I would LOVE for my SAF submission to be critiqued.

  82. Thank you Brook. Your words and genuine care are truly heard deep within my soul. What gives me solace is knowing that the 5 women chosen are experiencing happiness and gratitude.

  83. Thank you Brook. Your words and genuine care are heard deep within my soul. What gives me solace is knowing that the 5 amazing women chosen are experiencing happiness and gratitude. I would love valuable opportunity to have my application critiqued. Knowing how to get better and move on forward is immense.

  84. Holy monkey this is a lot of comments! 😮
    Great post though, and I know all of the artists that entered Sony grant have long successful careers in art ahead of them!
    Sending every one of you love! <3 <3 <3

  85. Heck yes to feedback!
    I feel like I had a completely different reaction to the process than the ones I’m reading on FB. For me, I can often talk myself out of asking for what I want completely, even before I start. Despite some struggles, a definite want to quit 1/2 way through and overthinking what the panel of judges were looking for, I was so fuggin jazzed that I committed to the PROCESS of applying and pushed through. I’ve never applied for a grant and at the end of the day, I was just impressed with myself for doing it – riding the wave that came with it instead of stopping because I was uncomfortable.

  86. I feel like I had a completely different reaction than most people are posting about on FB. I have a tendency to completely count myself out before the ship’s even left the harbor, so I made the commitment to myself to follow through. To fight through the doubt, to not talk about what I want to do and not actually be brave enough to try, and ride the wave that was feeling competent to feeling like an imposter. While of course the winning would have been incredible, the actuality that I completed what I set out to do and got a little more clear on why I do what I do, was amazing in & of itself.

    And heck yes to feedback!

  87. Thank you for your beautifully written article and offer of support. I would love to throw my hat in the ring for feedback and deeply appreciate the opportunity.

    To all of us: together we rise!

  88. Thank you all for your amazing insights into this topic. I am very honored to share this space with you. The 5 randomly chosen winners for the mentoring call are:

    Heather Hughes
    Alana Gordon
    Sharon Covert
    Eva Saunders

    You have been notified via email with details.


  89. I took a bet on myself and submitted an application last year. I wasn’t selected. I bet on myself again, and, again, wasn’t selected. Both times, though, I’ve had a moment of disappointment, but, really, the rejection only makes me want to succeed that much more. I would love to have my application critiqued so that I can submit more effectively in the future!

  90. Thanks so much Brooke for sharing your experience and perspective. I would also love to put my name in for feedback and critique. Thanks so much for sharing your heart and time.

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