right rock images | In Praise of Photography Contests

In Praise of Photography Contests

May 31, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


I like photography contests!  Yes, art is highly subjective, and some folks don’t like the idea of art as a competition, but in my opinion, contests serve some valuable purposes.  In this post, I’ll discuss some benefits we can reap from contests (and note that you don’t even have to enter to gain some of these benefits).  Read on …

Inspiration – I love to feast my eyes on the work of award winning photographers.  I find it both relaxing and inspiring to browse winning photos and just soak in the beauty (drama, emotion, message, etc.) that can be produced with vision and a camera.  When I am feeling frustrated or blocked, it gives me renewed energy to refocus and continue my efforts to improve my own work.

Awareness/Improvement – Putting our work out there in a contest can help us gauge our own work.  How is it perceived by others?  Are we improving?  Granted, contest judging varies widely, making contests sometimes feel pretty much like a crapshoot, but if you enter them consistently over time, you will begin to get a feel for how your images stack up against others.  I have found it quite instructive to study winning images, try to analyze what made them winning images, and consider how they differ from my images.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to copy or replicate another photographer’s images (I gotta be me!), but that analysis and resulting knowledge becomes another tool for improvement.

Feedback – Contests can be a way to get professional, or at least knowledgeable, feedback on your own and other images.  The International Garden Photographer of the Year (www.igpoty.com) contest offers personal feedback on your images upon request (which takes a while to get, but free feedback from professionals … I’ll take it).  When Imaging Resource (www.imaging-resource.com) announces the monthly winners of their Photo of the Day contest, they publish an article on their website detailing why they chose the winning images.  Other contests do the same, and reading the critiques can be quite instructive.  In contests that include voting (for example, if there is a “people’s choice” award), the voting reveals, well, what people like.  Good to know!

Exposure – Let’s not forget exposure and promotion.  Winning a contest can lead to extremely valuable exposure in the form of features on popular websites, publication in photography magazines, and hanging in photography exhibits.  But just participating can get you exposure too, particularly in online contests, where all the entrants may be displayed.

Prizes – Of course no discussion of contests would be complete without mentioning the prizes!  In addition to exposure, winners can get cash, gift cards, photography equipment, and more!  What’s not to like about that?

Enjoyment – Lastly, I find contests fun.  I enjoy working on and choosing my images to submit, and I enjoy the anticipation of the results.  Of course, if I do well, I enjoy that even more!  And if I don’t do well, that’s okay too, because I’ve learned from the process.


The image above has been entered in a few contests.  It has been a winner in one (Imaging Resource, May 2014), and has gone absolutely nowhere in others.  Definitely a learning experience, and food for thought!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about contests, art, photography, whatever!  Feel free to drop me a line, and as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!


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