I have a confession to make; I think I’m addicted to competitions. And not for noble reasons. I like the kudos of doing well, I love the momentary gratification of a win when they come by (especially if it’s unexpected), and, sometimes, the prizes are pretty darn cool.
Take, for example, the latest GuruShots Man’s Best Friend challenge, where the above image was the Top Photo winner. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that it came out on top. Yes, it’s one of my all-time favourite images of my sister in law’s great dane puppies, but, I’ve got to say, it’s a bit of a nerve-wracking slog to make sure your image stays at the top of the pile. And with 18 days of competition, it’s a long time to be nervous! The prize, though, is a Diana F+ film camera, a retro, lomo, piece of plastic cool - and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
But this isn’t (just) a brag about winning a GuruShots challenge - because I genuinely think there is more to entering competitions that the superficiality of winning or losing. Competitions, I think, can be a gateway to getting your name out there, wherever ‘there’ is. Okay, so I don’t actually think I’ve got work from winning a competition. And I’m not sure if I’ve made any sales on the back of them. But I am a believer in you having to make a noise if you want to be heard.
To that end I’ve been compiling a spreadsheet of competitions that run throughout the year, so if you have any that I should include feel free to drop me a line! But it’s also worth keeping an eye open: I’ve always been an advocate of 500px, who recently launched Quests offering some amazing prizes (the latest is US$1000, which would be handy!), while Camera House has a weekly, themed Photo Friday competition on its Facebook page with some great prizes.
Of course, part and parcel of winning competitions is failure, because you’re going to lose far more than you’re ever going to win. I don’t care who you are, it’s just the subjective nature of the beast of being judged. And sometimes it can be crushing. If nothing else, if you don’t even have a few more photographs or don’t learn a new technique or understand your craft a little better, at least you should learn to deal with failure. I have to admit, I’m still a long way off - every failure still hurts.
But, essentially, and here’s your heartwarming conclusion, photography is all a matter of competition, even if only against yourself. Judge each image, critique yourself, and try and learn always how to improve. But above all, remember that the biggest prize is simply enjoying the art of photography. And, that way, you will always be a winner to me.