Ok, after a year and a half of running this contest I've noticed a few things that can help an entry catch the eyes of voters so I wanted to share them with you. I realize that many enter because they find the Lab to be a source of motivation and/or they simply enjoy a challenge. Most haunters feel the prize is secondary. Nevertheless, I wanted to add this article so contestants can get a glimpse behind the scenes. This is not a "must do" article. It's just a few ideas that you can incorporate if you so desire.
Number one on the list is how you incorporate the SEI. While I don't advise changing your project just because of how voter's see it, it might be helpful to know that many really contemplate how the SEI was used. When voting was done manually by email I would often receive an explanation of why the voter was going with a specific entry. Eight times out of ten it was how the contestant used the SEI.
A picture says a thousand words. Really it does. Most of us are visual people. While we may not completely grasp a series of instructions they suddenly become clear when accompanied by pictures. A photo tutorial with your entry can help others understand the work you put into your prop. It helps them to visualize how you worked the SEI into your piece. Plus, it is helpful should someone want to emulate your project and complete one for themselves. Most of us reference other haunter's how-tos in the making of a project. Imitation is the best form of flattery so let others follow your lead.
While on the subject of pictures...here are a few hints to make the most of your photos:
The right size is important. Too small and details are lost. Too large and viewers have to scroll to see pieces of the picture which means they don't get the full effect. Try to edit your pictures down for size (500 pixels on the longest side is a good start). Crop out any background that will distract the viewer before resizing. By cropping you may find you don't need to go smaller but your project suddenly stands out better.
Lighting does set a mood. Too light or too dark and details disappear. While details of construction are best served by normal lighting, try washing one pic of your finished piece in theatrical lighting. Cast a blue light across a tombstone for example. Also consider dressing the scene. A tombstone setting on a table is not nearly as appealing as one nestled outside in a more natural environment. Add a few other props to give the scene a haunting atmosphere.
Shoot some pics from several angles so viewers can get an idea of what the piece looks like from all sides. Didn't finish the back? No problem. Let them know so they
can see that a piece is just as effective even if that back is bare. Have fun and take pics from above or below the prop for a completely different point of view.
Choose your best shot for the entry. Since only one photo will be used in the voting poll send your best. While most voters will visit your tutorial plan for those that don't.
There are nearly 150 members in the Mad Lab on HauntSpace and around 40 or so on The Mad Lab website. Not everyone is active all the time however you'd be surprised
how many turn out when it's time to vote. People I never hear from at any other time will suddenly drop in to cast their ballot. Which brings us to - marketing your entry.
You've done all this work so let everyone know! Copy or link your entry tutorial into a blog on HauntSpace, HauntForum, your own website or any other haunting group you
belong to. Let them know that you are in the contest and, yes, even invite them over to vote. There is no shame in plugging your project. Besides, most haunters will
appreciate the how-to. (I do not advocate spamming of any haunt groups or sites. Please do not just go from one to another posting "vote for me" posts. I guarantee you this will not be helpful and may get you banned from their site.)
Well, there's just a bit of what I see behind the scenes. I hope you found something useful in my ramblings.