A large event I know just published the winning entries for their second annual photo contest. There’s a red mark on my forehead from where the palm of my left hand smacked it.
I can’t believe my eyes! How could these mediocre, incorrectly identified photos been picked as winners when I know there were hundreds of entries from accomplished, experienced photographers?
For those who one day might be involved in running or judging a photo contest, I’d like to offer some tips on how to make it the best it can be.
1) Clearly state if the contest judges photographs or Photoshop.
All digital photos require some degree of post-processing, especially if the photo was shot in raw. Digital photographs processed reasonably to make the image better reflect reality are straight photos. A monochrome image is a photo, though black and white or sepia tones should have their own category depending on the subject matter.
Images converted to black & white with certain colors left in (bright orange), obvious HDR, border/edge treatments, added elements that could not have been part of the natural scene, etc, are not straight photos. These images required more than composition, shutter speed, aperture setting and ISO at the point of image capture. They belong in the Photoshop category or should be rejected. At least one judge should have enough knowledge about photography to be able to identify excessively processed images.
2) If the contest specifies a subject, winning entries must be of that subject.
Sounds obvious, right? If the contest is for the best pizza photo, the winning picture should include pizza. This means the judges should know enough about pizza to be able to recognize images that do not contain pizza. Is this asking too much?
3) If the photo contest is associated with an event, winning photos should be remarkable representations of the event.
If your submissions might be nothing but mediocre images, think long and hard if you want the photo contest to be one of your event’s headline features. Because that’s what winning pictures will be. Your event will be showcased as if it were a pre-school coloring contest.
Contest-winning photos should be remarkable. Contest-winning photos tell people who didn’t attend what to expect. When they are less than remarkable, that’s the message they send about your event and those who judged. Opportunity missed.
4) If your contest rules state employees and family members are ineligible, don’t allow an employee or family member to win.
WT…heck?!?!? Why should I even have to post this?
Enough said. Who wants to debate?