Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mobile Photography Contest. Should you Indulge in One?

So you want to show off your skills as a mobile photographer? Great. Where do you start? Well for one if you have look around your neighborhood, you'd know that it will be hard to come by. Most photo competition are skewered towards DSLR users, with prizes offered by big brands in the camera industry. Your entry will not go well with them. Mobile photography competitions have grown in popularity over the years and will over a billion people owning smartphones capable of taking decent pictures, there will be plenty of leverage from the big brands eager to get involved in such exercises.

But before you start, notice that there are paid and free competitions. Not all photo competitions are free because there is cost associated with the exercise but is this the right way forward to prove your own worth?

What Competitions to Enter?

IPPA Awards Cost for Entries

Good question. How much do you have in your breast pocket that you don't mind throwing away just to give it a shot? Depends on the number of photos. For the iPhone Photography Awards competition, you can pay as little as US$7.50 for three images, whereas for the Mobile Photography Awards, the cost to you is US$20 for three images. Please note that just because I cited these two examples does not mean I endorse them in any way.

Prize versus Entry Fee

There are heaps of competitions around the world that charges way more than what I have quoted above that do not have any tangible prizes. So what's the deal here? So before you enter an image for one, please remember the following.
  • All competitions are games of chance
  • Good images or photos are subjective in the eyes of the photo Jury or Judges
  • Entries are based on always based on Photo Subject categories
  • Prizes are often not worth the entry free
Many competitions these days are created by groups or individuals to obtain money from the public and as such, it's very much a lottery. So before you enter a competition, tread carefully. Find out as much as you can from the organization behind it and the purpose of the group.

Each person that lends its name to a competition gives it more credibility but how a picture is chosen to win a particular category is still very much subjective. There are competitions that ask you for a fee that offers you 'free exposure' in a art gallery if you win. Taken that this is suppose to be a money making opportunity for your one of a kind print, it does not in any way guarantee you that someone will pay the price you are asking for. 

Ambiguous groups and organizations often front competitions for the sole purpose of collecting entry fees and by doing this, they earn thousands of dollars based on the global entries they receive.

For example, the IPPA has been around since 2007 and till this date, we haven't the faintest idea on who are the people behind it. There is no address or for that matter 'about us' page devoted to explaining the purpose and goal of the site and who the jury members are. This means these folks exist virtually. So can you trust them to do a fair job of judging? 

Likewise, there are competitions out there that offer very vague guidelines on who can enter. Often there is a restriction where the contest is forbidden by law within a specific country, especially when the contest in question has a fee which you must pay. Those who skirt this process or disclaimer means you are giving them a fee with no hope of ever seeing any return besides a thank you email.

Photo Competitions Should be Free of Fees

This is where credibility is established. A photo competition that does not incur a fee is probably the best bet for now. Sponsors who put their name to the competition normally foot some of the cost by offering prizes or donating hard cash to obtain resource. If any competition ask you for an outright fee for entry even after having sponsors, then you should proceed with caution. These are nothing more than money making programs.

One cannot run a competition using technology alone. There is a manual process of judging where each photo has to be checked and those which don't meet the standards are rejected. Often, the first short-listing process of the submission is the most crucial. The cost of a competition should be supported by sponsors who either donate cash or services to be associated with a big name. 

Big names or brands don't ask you for a fee to join a competition because the goal is really to raise awareness to their cause.  Asking for a competition fee just cheapens the process.

I don't buy into their excuse that the fee will be used to offset the cost or running it. If you cannot even devote the resource to running a competition, then you have no business starting one in the first place. Photography competitions should not be run like a poker tournament where you have a buy in fee to pay for the cost of exercise. This to me is just plain ridiculous. If that was the case, then you'd expect much more cash prizes than the one offered.

So remember to be cautious. It's your money and you can spend it anyway you want but if you are really that generous, why not donate it to a charitable cause?


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