Paid for photographic competitions are under attack from on-line photo communities , on first inspection its a easy hit, these photo competitions are perceived by many as exploitative financial ripoffs , however , I think exceptions exist , photographers need to examine their motives and expectations before writing them off. Some are definitely better than others.
In my view the best photo competitions prove to be good value if you are fortunate enough to be recognised , as the public relations teams should ensure that the successful participants , sponsors and work receives a level of exposure in print and on-line that is hard for individuals to achieve independently. Beware of awards that have a lower online presence after the awards ceremony than during the call for entry . Do a online search and see if last years winners come up in your search before this years call for entry ? Unscrupulous / incompetent organisers are taking the cash and not fulfilling the unwritten obligation to promote the winning photographers and the successful work after the event . Those who are successful with the Lensculture platform receive a high level of support and exposure in print and on-line and I can confirm that those single free entries do make it to the final !
I have never regretted participating in a paid photo competition or paid for exhibition call for entry , although I do not usually support the same project twice . I view my entries as a financial donation to a worthwhile new project that might raise my profile or /and the profile of Street Photography . Supporting a new festival or exhibition, win or lose is never a bad thing , hopefully the profile of “Street” photography and a few photographers is raised , which benefits us all , hopefully !
Let me state for the record that many of the paid for competitions are not worthy of support, especially from amateur photographers with limited resources , pro and semi professional photographers use funds from promotional budgets to enter, as the publicity can be far more valuable than the actual prizes .
I believe some organisations , galleries etc, are beginning to rely on competition revenues to stay open and without a doubt many photo festivals would not be viable without income from paid for call for entries . Do we want to lose the social & educational opportunities that the best photo festivals offer ?
Do we want smaller specialist calls to disappear ?
Rightly or wrongly, I see the best photo competitions as a form of crowd funding , certainly the biggest and best have major sponsors and do not need our cash but some smaller grass roots shows deserve support if we want them to grow . A cynical photographer could be excused their skepticism as many events fail photographers and make significant amounts of cash from photo-calls with very little financial scrutiny or transparency.
The best photography awards are usually free ,ironically in my experience the paid for awards I have experienced deliver least ! You pay your money and you take your choice , or not ?
Keep it real .
This piece is a response to the justifiable concerns raised by Lewis Bush and Jim Mortram recently.