From the beginning of my photography education, I was encouraged to participate in photography competitions. While attendingCarteretCommunity College, I entered and won ribbons in several local juried exhibitions throughoutEastern North Carolina. After transferring to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), entering competitions seemed to be even more important for both gaining experience and for my resume. I continued to have success and even was in the final pool for “Best in Show” for the undergraduate Senior Show. Once I graduated and began my career as a photojournalist, I only participated in competitions when the newspaper entered my work. I did not have the quick success I experienced in college. Instead I was competing against some of the best newspaper photographers in the state ofGeorgia. It took time, but I began winning awards. Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to win multiple awards each year from both the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Associated Press. This year, I received 5 awards between the two competitions.
You see, the tough thing about judging contests is the process is subjective. I recently judged a competition for the Hilton Head Camera Club with a subject of “photojournalism.” It can be very difficult to judge the work of others without allowing personal biases to creep into the process. I always try to judge on the technical quality of the image, as well as the subject, and composition. I have found that sticking to technique as much as possible makes the process a bit easier.
While I do not put a lot of emphasis on my success in competitions, due to the subjective nature of the judging, I do believe it is important to hold yourself to high standards. I also know that photography is very competitive and our egos can get in the way. We like to see how we stack up against the competition. Soon after I judged the Hilton Head competition, a friend reminded me of the Biblical saying “judge not lest, ye be judged yourself.” Soon after I found myself entering a “Tri-Club competition” from the beginning selections the judges were making I realized my image was not going to fair well. In fact I was surprised to even score double digits from them.
The lesson to take home: If you are a photographer, whether amateur or professional; always try to remember in competitions, to not take the results personally. While it is nice to say “I am an award-winning photographer,” really, I am just happy to say that I am a successful working photographer.