This is why you aren’t winning any photography competitions

Mar 3, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This is why you aren’t winning any photography competitions

Mar 3, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Photography competitions aren’t high up on every photographer’s list. But for a great many, they are. Every year on social media, I see countless people talking about entering a lot of the big annual American and global photography competitions. But very few of them win or even get close. After all, there are only limited spots amongst those top prizes.

Not winning, or even ranking doesn’t necessarily mean that your photography sucks. But maybe the reasons why haven’t occurred to you. in this video, photographer Zack Arias gives us six reasons why you’re not winning those photography competitions and how you might be able to resolve it.

This is, in true Zack Arias style, a bit of a long video at almost 26 minutes and the six reasons start about eight and a half minutes in. But it’s worth grabbing your favourite beverage and watching the whole thing as Zack covers a lot of his history with competitions, as an observer, an entrant, as well as a judge. He offers a lot of advice and some unique insights into the world of photography competitions that you might not have considered.

Here are the first five reasons, Zack mentions in the video.

  1. You’re putting your photo in the wrong category – With tens of thousands of entries, they’re not going to fix that for you.
  2. Your clients are not photography judges – Just because your client loves it doesn’t mean that judges will.
  3. You’re following trends – You might notice a pattern amongst previous winners and attempt to copy them. Stop it. you’re too late, that ship has sailed.
  4. You’re shooting for competition – Some people live to enter competitions. But you’ve no idea what the judges will really like. Shoot for yourself.
  5. Your emotional connection to an image is not coming through – It’s difficult to disconnect our emotions from the experience of shooting sometimes, but the judges don’t see that, and you can’t tell them.

The sixth one is a bonus tip, and you’ll have to watch the video to find that one out the elaborate version, but it essentially boils down to sheer dumb luck and the subjective mood of the judges on the day.

It’s a very good overview of the competition process from multiple perspectives and offers some great insights for those of you looking to enter competition. There may even be a few good tips there that you can use to help make your marketing more appealing or your portfolio more attractive to potential clients. Perhaps not directly, but the advice he offers will give you some new ways to think about and approach those tasks.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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28 responses to “This is why you aren’t winning any photography competitions”

  1. Kevin Lane Avatar
    Kevin Lane

    Because I am not entering them.

    1. Barbara Livieri Avatar
      Barbara Livieri

      I was just going to say the same thing! LOL

    2. John McGuigan Avatar
      John McGuigan

      Kevin +1.

      Must be a slow news day so we are getting this pish.

    3. Martin Roth Avatar
      Martin Roth

      Kevin Lane beat me to it.

    4. Moses Rodriguez Avatar
      Moses Rodriguez

      Martin Roth same for me

    5. Adrian J Nyaoi Avatar
      Adrian J Nyaoi

      Ha, ha, that’s my line.

    6. Neil Barnes Avatar
      Neil Barnes

      and after 42 years working as a photographer I still have no interest in entering competitions, it’s never held me back.

  2. Jyi Offer Avatar
    Jyi Offer

    The only reason to enter a photography contest or award is so you then refer to yourself as “an award winning photographer” ?

    1. W Douglas LeBlanc Avatar
      W Douglas LeBlanc

      Jyi Offer that’s the whole point, isn’t it,? Prize lots aren’t anything like sports prizes. But the accolades aren’t too bad.

    2. Tim Colquhoun Avatar
      Tim Colquhoun

      Dog and pony shows and nothing more :)

  3. W Douglas LeBlanc Avatar
    W Douglas LeBlanc

    I’d love to win Canon EOS 1 DX MK III and a EF 600mm lens to pair it with. *sigh* ???

  4. Del Robertson Somerville Avatar
    Del Robertson Somerville

    Because you aren’t paying to enter them.

  5. Martijn van Oers Avatar
    Martijn van Oers

    The only reason is because 99% of selfproclaimed “photographers” are copying eachother’s style and/or work.

  6. Darren Daz Green Avatar
    Darren Daz Green

    because I dont max out the sliders until my image looks like womething from Disney Pixar

  7. Richie Vela Avatar
    Richie Vela

    Because my Penis is Big Enough…

    1. ShishkaBerry Avatar
      ShishkaBerry

      What? Never!

  8. Pieter Nieuwenhuijs Avatar
    Pieter Nieuwenhuijs

    Because I couldn’t care less.

  9. Corinne Brown Avatar
    Corinne Brown

    I don’t win because I don’t know anyone on the judging board or socialise in there little group get togethers. These are local competitions not national.

    1. Nicholas Erwin Avatar
      Nicholas Erwin

      Truth. I entered a local competition once and I had the best photo (according to the comments), but I was also the youngest and the guy that won took a crappy blurry shot of a farm field with a tractor with a flip phone and got first place. Later to find out he was best buddies with the judges. This was years ago before smartphones lol.

  10. ShishkaBerry Avatar
    ShishkaBerry

    I’m wary of contests, and I don’t want to spend half my life reading T&C pages before I enter any lmao. I’m winning the contest of life by waking up today, that’s all I need ?

  11. Kyle E Leanza Avatar
    Kyle E Leanza

    Because I’m unwilling to create content for a business that’s looking for free photos in exchange for a fake award.

  12. Rose Beure Avatar
    Rose Beure

    Competion are for athletes not artist.

  13. John G Schickler Avatar
    John G Schickler

    Look up the PPSA judging guidelines. They are a gold mine.

  14. Frank Corbett Avatar
    Frank Corbett

    The reason i do not win is my pics suck. There i am honest. …

  15. Phil Agur Avatar
    Phil Agur

    Disregarded…

  16. Rezuan Avatar
    Rezuan

    I think i am not perfect enough. But your post helping me to improve myself.

  17. Mark Stothard Avatar
    Mark Stothard

    I feel, I will stand corrected though, that there are only a handful of competitions worth entertaining.

    The reason why is that the majority of competitions, the rules are biased to the competition holder, and they wish to have the use of images for free or at little expense.

  18. Jason Wilder Avatar
    Jason Wilder

    Not winning cause of the draconian rights grabs they have to enter..