Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rejection Is Not Failure!

Have you ever taken a photograph that you’ve instantly fallen in love with? I know I have. A photographer, whether professional or amateur, is conscious of more than just the object they are photographing. Sometimes you are not even photographing the object in front of you; you are photographing the mood, ambiance, or even the emotion of a scene. When other photographers look at it they oftentimes will see exactly what it was you were trying to convey.

When I took this photograph, I was so pleased with how it turned out. I fell in love with how the light made these rose petals seem to glow. They seemed to me almost transparent and fragile against such a dramatically dark background. Of course I wanted to share it with others. What better way to do it than turn it into a greeting card.

I submitted it and waited as patiently as I could for it to be released to the public. After nearly six weeks of waiting as the reviewers deliberated the fate of my card, the email with their decision finally came—DECLINED!

My jaw dropped to the floor, “But I was so proud of this photograph!” I thought.  I was told the petal in the foreground was out of focus and didn’t meet the standards for a good greeting card. The photographer in me argued, “But that petal SHOULD be out of focus. This is a photograph about romantic light—not just about a rose!”

I am not a professional photographer, so I knew I needed some extra help to see things objectively. Some said my photo was lovely; others gave me some constructive criticism to improve my skill in photography.

As I processed the information, I made an important breakthrough:  

"A Greeting Card is NOT a Photograph!"

A Greeting Card Designer may use a photograph as an element in their card, but that is all it is—an element!

Someone purchasing a work of art is buying a ‘technique’. If it is a photograph, they want it because of what the photographer achieved “in camera”. On the other hand, someone purchasing a greeting card is purchasing a ‘message.’ They are not interested in how the look was achieved, they are looking for something to convey their own special message to their recipient.

Once I was finally able to grasp this concept, I started searching through my old photos for an ‘element’ to add to my greeting card. I eventually found a picture I had up until that moment considered a scrap photo. Yes, they were rose petals, but there was no ‘wow’ factor. 

That was how the Photographer in me viewed it. But I had to start thinking like a Greeting Card Artist. What was stopping me from changing the background and deepening the color to give it the mood I was trying to portray?

As I sat down to work, I turned off the inner-photographer that was berating me for committing this photographic atrocity, and began to tweak, cut, clone, paste, and patch. I grudgingly admitted it was looking pretty good . . . but I still preferred my ‘real’ photograph.

Then something magical happened—I added the words. I stared at the finished product, stunned. It was beautiful! (at least I think so!) I compared it with the original. To my surprise, there was no comparison.  I had just created a ‘Marketable’ greeting card!

This has a bit of blur because it's just a screen capture. CLICK HERE to see actual card.

So the moral of this story is: Rejection of a greeting card is not the rejection of a photograph. A photograph is not a greeting card—it is only an element of that card, even if it covers the entire surface! 

Now I am off to change the name of my 'junk photo' folder to my 'elements' folder!!


  1. Hi Tracie,
    I completely agree with you. I paint/draw/illustrate and had to do some rethinking: a painting can look good on the wall, but does not necessarily make a good greeting card.
    Best regards,
    barbara s

  2. You are so right Tracie! What a greeting card designer must understand to achieve success is that a greeting card is not 'art', it is a marketable product with the element of art, design and typography. I'm delighted you had this experience. There is no better way to learn than to have your own 'light bulb moment'!

  3. Hi Tracie,
    Recently 3 of my greeting cards were 'Declined' and I was disappointed. But your post is very inspiring. I will start making some cards soon. Thank you.

  4. Thank You for this new prospective to photographs on cards!

  5. Wonderful perspective and beautiful transition of your rose photograph to a marketable greeting card. Thank you Tracie!
    Janet Lee

  6. Excellent point raised! Not every photographic subject makes a great greeting card. I love my landscape images but many would only work as 'art' cards rather than greeting cards.



  7. Absolutely 100% right! And this applies for illustration too. .. hand created or digital. The question and test is not whether it's good art but whether it makes a good saleable greeting card.

    BTW: I liked your 1st photo -but I LOVE the final card design. Looks like it's gonna be a winner for you.

  8. "Now I am off to change the name of my 'junk photo' folder to my 'elements' folder!!"

    Thank you for sharing this transformation with us Tracie. It's the kind of wisdom that transforms lives when we turn NO WAY into Now the way.

    You've led yourself into a whole new world, enjoy Tracie, and may you be blessed with the time to create to your heart's content.

    Warm regards Tracie and
    Best wishes always, all ways,

  9. Tracy, you are so correct and thanks for sharing your growing process. In a nutshell, this is what it's all about. It takes time and some artistic maturity to get the concept. I am learning every day how important this is.

  10. Your creation is absolutely beautiful! I must say you've inspired me to go back over some of my photos and see what I can 'create' with them!

  11. I love both of your photographs! When I started making cards, I looked at my photographs, and thought of how I might be able to make them into a card for a certain category. Now, I try to take photographs to meet the category. It doesn't always work, ha, ha.

    It's also important to remember that just because a card or image isn't accepted on one site that it won't be accepted or be marketable or a best seller on another. Tastes vary widely!
    Here's a link to 30 famous authors whose works were rejected.