“Why should I enter photographic competitions?” As a professional photographer, you’ve probably asked yourself this question at some point in your career. Maybe you are looking to take your photography skills to the next level, find a new focus for your work, get feedback on your images, or even work towards earning your photography degrees through PPA. The answer is different for every photographer, but no matter what your reason, we can assure you that photographic competitions are a great opportunity to improve your technical and creative skills as both a photographer and as an artist. We recently asked our members on theLoop, why they chose to enter photographic competitions, and have included some of their responses below!
Maybe you feel like your work has plateaued and you’re looking to push yourself in a new direction. Maybe you’ve been photographing less, or when you do get your camera out you’re lacking the inspiration and creative spark that got you hooked on photography in the first place. No matter the reason, entering a photographic competition can provide new inspiration for your work. Competitions are also a great way to encourage discipline with personal projects—creating an opportunity to look at your current work in a new, more objective way.
Making the jump and entering a photographic competition can also push you out of your comfort zone and give you a goal to work towards. If you don’t feel ready to enter a larger competition, you could consider joining a local group. Thanks to the PPA Affiliate program, finding and connecting with local professional organizations near you is easy!
“I especially like photography clubs or guilds that have monthly meetings with theme competitions. This requires you to use your skills and imagination to create an image to submit. This is especially good to get you to work on a subject that may be outside of your specialty. Most of the ones I’ve been a member of would post a list for the year with each month’s theme.” ~ PPA Member
“If possible, join a local PPA affiliate and enter their competitions before entering the [larger competitions like the International Photographic Competition] for your degree. It will give you practice and familiarize you with how the process works.” ~ PPA member
Getting quality feedback on your work from professional jurors is incredibly valuable. It’s a great way to learn and grow as a photographer and PPA’s competitions are focused on doing exactly that—helping you learn and grow. All of our competitions have the option to stream the judging live so that you can listen to jurors debate differences in opinion on each submission. It’s a fascinating process and an amazing learning experience. Best of all, the live stream is viewable to anyone for free!
One of the best ways to improve your work is to get feedback from jurors. If you enter PPA District Competition or International Photographic Competition (IPC), you have the option to have your images critiqued by an official juror. An IPC judge reviews each image you've entered into the competition and records a video critique explaining how it stacks up against the 12 elements of a winning image, and what you could have done to take your image to the next level by improving quality, impact, and/or technique. You can view sample critique videos from past entries here.
“I love to compete... It's truly a learning experience and it drives me to enter better images every year. Competition has driven me to learn new Photoshop techniques to better my entries, and these new tools carry over to my everyday work.” ~ PPA Member
“I enjoy listening to the judges discuss the pros and cons of my images, and hopefully that educates me on what I can do better.” ~ PPA Member
“I also learn from the discussions of other images throughout the scoring range.” ~ PPA Member
“I found it intimidating, but the feedback was very beneficial. The feedback and critiques are very valuable and often as I look back at my images, I can identify what the panel has seen.” ~ PPA Member
“Highly recommend competitions as an avenue for improving your images, just don't take the comments personally. They're meant to be constructive, not necessarily nice.” ~ PPA Member
“I'm selective about which competitions I enter. I'm looking for constructive feedback so I can improve my work.” ~ PPA Member
“Be careful about which competitions you enter. PPA is the best competition because they are all about helping YOU improve. You are competing against yourself in a PPA competition, up until they get to Best of Show. Then, you are competing against the other entries.” ~ PPA Member
“While many of the images may not be your specific style or genre, you only stand to benefit from the competition. When you benefit, your clients benefit and that makes everyone winners!” ~ PPA Member
Degrees are a vital way for photographers to keep up with the latest the photographic industry has to offer and to remain active in the community. Official degrees like PPA's can also give you an edge in business and another way to promote your work and your accomplishments to your customers. Candidates work toward their degrees by earning merits for teaching or attending workshops for PPA or PPA affiliate organizations, participating in PPA and PPA Affiliate volunteer service opportunities, and of course entering PPA photographic competitions!
“Recently, I have competed in IPC with the goal of receiving my Master of Photography Degree.” ~ PPA Member
“I received my Master of Photography Degree in 2019, and now I’m pushing myself toward the artist degree. This year I'm entering the artist category for the first time.” ~ PPA Member
“This will be my first IPC as I start to work toward my Master of Photography Degree. I’ll admit that in some ways it’s very exciting to see how you score and compare, but the growth opportunity and working towards a goal are my motivators.” ~ PPA Member
There are plenty of places to go to see other photographers’ work—especially with the rise of social media as a marketing tool—but photographic competitions are the place to go to see photographer’s very best work. You can get inspired by your own community and benchmark your work with that of other photographers, not purely to compare yourself in a competitive way, rather to assess if your work is fresh and relevant and to see how your work stands up to an industry creative or technical bar.
“I entered initially because I saw displays at my state affiliate convention and thought ‘maybe I could do that!’” ~ PPA Member
“Learn how to critique others' work. It helps you understand why you like what you like. Sometimes I feel like I get more out of critiquing than the photographer!” ~ PPA Member
“I watch as many photo competitions online as I can because I learn so much from the juror challenges and observations. I also get to see some incredible work from my colleagues.” ~ PPA Member