Photography Competitions :: Are They Worth It?

I got an email with a frequently asked question about photography competitions. Are they worth the time and money?

I’ve got some thoughts to share with everyone on this.

Black and White Magazine:
Communication Arts:


  1. Gregory Lawrence says

    As a member of a small local photography club, which is associated with a larger regional group of clubs, I have been critical of the image competitions held on a regular basis at both levels, including a national competition. The top selections of digital projection and print categories at the local club competitions feed the regional and other competitions. The typical entries are fine art, nature, landscape images, and quite limited in all other genres, most of which are selected based on the assumptions of what the judges like to see. Our club at the last meeting had a presentation by a regional judge on “How To Win a Photography Competition”. Underlying issues at the local level: 1) Typically only a core group of club members regularly submit. 2) The number of submissions for each local competition is too large to allow enough time for meaningful critique to educate club members; thus, ranking scores are often quick, often dismissive, and too subjective. This typically drives other less experienced club photographers with less means and skill away from the competitions. 3) A small local club committee selects the entries to submit to regional and other competitions. Not necessarily an issue; however, the large number of clubs in the region (about 50/50 USA and Canadian) are ranked based on the score totals from the regional competitions. As a result, the officers of the local club somewhat pressure the members to better the club ranking.
    My major concern is that most club meeting visitors, never come back, and most new club members drop out after a short time. These individuals come with the expectation that they will gain photographic knowledge and experience. Our club overall does a good job at providing photographic opportunities for those individuals, but the environment to gain knowledge and skill is too limited, both in time and appropriate scope. Too much emphasis is placed on competition with minimal opportunity for all club members to benefit and improve their photography from a competition format that concentrates on a limited number of genres. Too few club members derive significant benefit from the emphasis put on competitions. My 57 year background in photojournalism, documentary, event, and family photography gives me the strong belief that through photography you document your life experiences which embraces a wide range of genres. You strive to take the best possible photograph, whatever the subject and scene. When a judge comments, “snapshot”, “oh, another cat, dog, or flower”, etc. there is the feeling of disappointment that someone’s personal expression and pride of their life experience has been minimized.