Photography Contests, Our Opinion
So here we go, our first installment of the new blog system for 2022!
Let us begin with the topics, in the short week since we talked publicly about putting this blog out there we have been rushed with tons of questions and comments. It is kind of neat to see some of the things that are on people’s minds.
There were tons of topics that really stuck out to us and in the future, we will try and take one at a time and discuss them a little more in-depth. Of course, what we will put out there will be our opinion or our take on the subject, and in no way will it be the only view. On that note we also plan to approach this as much as possible in laymen's terms, our goal is to help people understand and we feel that big technological responses will be no good to those who are trying to understand. Ultimately, we want to encourage an open forum where people can ask to learn and share information.
Our initial post was a tough decision, we had some heated questions about things like photography clinics/schools, gear, business models, contests, and numerous other things. We really sat down and debated on starting with several of these topics and it was a tough decision. In a way, we felt like starting with the school issue and the importance of not wasting money on a school that is not going to benefit you but prior to addressing this, we feel the need to do some more in-depth research. Then the question of photography contests came up and resulted in a couple of phone calls about which contest is the best for your business and promotions. Well, this gave us the inspiration for our first blog post.
So, what are our views and suggestion when it comes to entering a photography contest? Early in our career on occasion, we would enter contests with the hope of something great coming from it. From time to time, we would get an honorable mention in a category and even on a couple of cases finished in the top 2 or 3. All these cases were no more than a small photography website with a few loyal clients who would take their free online classes and enter the contest with the goal of some recognition. About a year into our operation a link was sent to me to enter a larger photography contest with a $5000.00 prize. What was different about this contest was they provided reasons for their judging. Now keep in mind this was prior to our entry into rodeo photography.
In the idea that money and winning could do wonders for our business, we submitted a barn owl photo that had
done well in one of our previous contests. Because of each entry cost, we chose to only submit one photo and hoped for the best. Then we waited, a few weeks later we received an email saying that our photo was not selected for the next level of judging and the email provided reasons why our photo was not selected. These reasons included lack of sharpness, not being shot with the rule of thirds, and the fact that the heavy Bokeh (blur in the background of the photo) did not allow for “the scene to be recognizable”.
The part that was so hard to understand was that all the things that were criticized in this contest were the same things that were celebrated in the previous entry. It was after this that we began talking with places and people who host and judge photos for contests. What did we learn, well nothing more than judging is so subjective, as photographers we all like “our style” of photography, and when we judge photos we tend to gravitate toward our style? What does this mean, it means putting your photo in front of a panel of judges, and winning means you happened to use a photo that matched their style and what they are looking for. What does it not mean, it doesn’t mean you submit
ed a bad photo it was just not the style they were looking for in the competition?
This does not mean photo contests are bad, but the truth is we see a lot of ambitious photographers entering and shooting photos with the goal to win a contest. Just like we see plenty of photographers basing their success and their business on an award that they won. In cases where one is shooting photos based around a contest, ask yourself this, are you shooting your style, or are you trying to mimic a style someone wants to see? If you are basing your operation on an award does that award for winning photos match what the clients may want?
One thing we will talk about more in the future is shooting for your style and honoring the types of photos you want to create. We feel there is a high importance that when you take photos and create images you do justice for yourself. Not all photographers are editorial, just like not all photographers are artistic, being true to your vision and your style is important. This is no different than basing your business on what the client wants or needs versus trying to convince a client that your way is the right way. No, not all clients know what is right and it is our task to educate them, but in the end, it is our job to represent their vision.
The truth is there is nothing wrong with photo contests, at one point in time we put some focus on them, but it did not take long for us to learn that they were not for us. We congratulate anyone who has won a photo contest, but we do not really endorse entering them, yes if you have a cool picture that fits a theme no shame in submitting it, just realize what you see as cool may not be received by a panel of judges that same as you see it.
In our next blog,
we will step a little way away from the photographers and speak to those who look at photos. In doing so we will talk about different types of photos. Things like editorial, commercial, and artistic photos.
This will lead us into our third post which we will open the huge can of worms with photography clinics and schools and if they are worth the investment or which ones are worth the money.