Instagram Twitter Facebook

The Art of Winning Photography Awards

Image © Jeremy Blincoe - Projections 2010 Winner
Image © Jeremy Blincoe - Projections 2010 Winner

The old cliché saying is true: You’ve got to be in it to win it.

I often get asked about what I think of entering awards. What are the judges looking for? Is it worth the effort and the entry fee when there are so many photographers? What’s the point of it all?

It’s certainly not as simple as uploading your photo and entry fee to a website. Entering awards is a complex process that can be like entering a lottery. But the great thing about that is that although you’re gambling by entering, the rewards can be far greater than the actual prize.

Yes, I think there are lots of questionable judges and a whole lot of industry politics that I morally don’t agree with. But there are also judges like me with an open mind, who painstakingly select a winner based on skill and originality.

Awards are amazing for you in so many ways. Ok it’s very cool to finally win something, after years of entering and soul searching. Even being a finalist in an award is a really big deal. But when the excitement wears off, you’re left with an achievement that will be anchored to your artwork forever.

Truth be told, awards looks great in your CV and they strengthen your artistic brand. When your award is promoted in the media, this will broaden your horizons like no actual prize can do.

Be excited, share it with the world and definitely celebrate your successes. But don’t let it go to your head. Yes, we artists get kicked in the face a whole lot and it would be really nice to gloat. But gloat in the shower, when no one else is watching. Let’s face it, you might be awesome at what you do, but it only takes one other person to be a fraction more awesome, and they’ll be winning your award.

If you keep losing, learn from it and don’t take it too personally. Remember, there’s only one winner and every other person feels like a loser too. I’ve felt the range of emotions… bitter disappointment, anger, frustration, rejection and sadness. But what I’ve learnt is that art awards are subjective; there are no right and wrong answers.

It absolutely takes the right recipe to win. The industry has to be ready for your style of work. Your work has to be the best you can do and fit with the style of award. The judge has to personally think you’re the best and like your style.

There are lots of things to blindly overcome just to win one little award. But sometimes the recipe is right and you’ve got a good shot at winning. This says to me that winning is a numbers game. If you only enter one award, there are too many variables to winning and chances are, you won’t. So enter lots of great awards with great images and your stars may just align.

Image © Christopher Ireland - Shoot the Chef 2011 Winner
Image © Christopher Ireland - Shoot the Chef 2011 Winner

I’ve judged lots of awards and I’m often amazed by the lack of entries, particularly in student categories. Once again, I’m pleased to be joining the judges of SMH’s Shoot the Chef competition as part of Crave Sydney.

Prizes are yet to be announced but last year’s winners received two return economy flights to South America flying LAN Airlines. More importantly, their work was printed in the SMH along with the finalists. Take a guess at the SMH’s readership?

I get rejected most days because I try new things most days. But sometimes I do win and it’s worth all of the trials and tribulation. So I say to you, find a chef and shoot them. What’s the worst that can happen? You get off your bum and shoot something great for your folio?

Shoot the Chef | Competition Entry | 2012 T&Cs