In Photography, It's No Contest

October 11, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Pepper and SaltPepper And Salt

Do you enter your work in photography competitions? Do you answer "calls for entry" to prestigious venues and galleries? Are you drawn to the fame and recognition that comes with winning a competition? Don't be. I hear from a number of photographers who regularly enter photography contests, who wonder what the "winning formula" is.

I ask, "what is your definition of winning?"  If you realize that the entries are usually judged by one individual, or at most a small group of judges, with varying qualifications, you have to consider the merit of the competition. So often photographers who enter will research the judge(s), and depending on the categories, create work they think the judge will like. If the judge is another photographer, then they will try to create work similar to that photographer's style. 

The guessing game of what will capture the prize is fraught with dissatisfaction. You likely would be doing work that is not your style or interesting to you in order to fit in. The prestige some associate with being named "Best In Show" can be of questionable merit when you look at all the entries that weren't chosen, and you wonder, "was that really the best one?"   It was, in that judge's opinion.  And therein lies the rub; it is only an opinion. Educated or not as it is, an opinion none-the-less. Does it have weight? Only in so much as you give it. You may agree or disagree with the opinion of the judges. It may be that on another day, under differing circumstances, the same judge would chose a different image. Maybe yours. 

A photography competition is not a critique of your work. You don't get to know why your image did or didn't make the top ten. You will never know what the "winning formula" is, nor will you be able to determine it by what the winning entries the year before were. Most of all, winning or not winning is no real measure of your work or ability as an artist. A competition can't be. 

Enter photography competitions, pay your entry fees, but do it knowing that winning or not does not truly reflect your creativity or artistic merit. 


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