What’s the biggest scam in photography? Judging purely on angry comments I get and see (here’s some on PDN Pulse) when the topic is raised, it’s photo contests with portfolio reviews running a close second. Of course the first time I even mentioned contests on the blog I was caught a little off guard because I thought the system worked pretty well. Sure, I’ve been completely skunked before when I sent in what I thought was our best work (I’m talking photo editing here not pictures I’ve taken) but eventually we started winning and the awards paragraph on my resume began to fill up.

The two big contests in my opinion are American Photography (the book) and the PDN photography annual (World Press Photo is of course highly respected but there was never any reference to pull off the shelf when looking for photographers). Both have parties for the winners and the judges are always people you want to get your work in front of. I know that commercial photography has a couple that are highly respected as well (CA and Kelly Awards I think).

The reasons for entering a respected contest are clear. Getting your work in front judges, getting your work published if it wins, using the recognition as part of your marketing effort and attending a party to celebrate great photography. I can assure you that any photographers receiving recognition in the contests I mentioned got extra consideration for assignments. It’s simple reinforcement that the photographers work is good. They’re also used as a handy reference to pair the name of the photographer with the work you remember from the past year.

Recently a photographer brought the Billboard Photography Contest to my attention (here) because the deadline to announce winners had passed and he couldn’t find out who won. I made several inquiries myself and eventually got to John Gimenez of PDN Custom Media and Events who answered my emails but never got us closer to finding the results. Eventually they issued a new call for entries a put a link up to the past winners which only said coming soon. When I checked this morning it was finally working (here).

Upon, closer inspection of the new contest leads me to believe this one is purely for profit. I can’t figure out what the prizes are, who the judges are and paying extra for a deadline extension on digital entries is complete horseshit.

I think there’s room for improvement in photography contests or at least room for something completely different and innovative, but there are a couple hurdles to get over first.

1. There needs to be a barrier to entry. You can read what it’s like to plow through the 81,000 entries to World Press Photo (here). Usually the entry fee serves this purpose. If it’s high enough people limit the work they submit but this also limits the potential field.

2. You need to attract qualified judges. If you’ve ever sat in a room or at a computer screen and plowed through entries it doesn’t take long for the fatigue to creep in. This is work people. Getting busy photo editors to volunteer for this means the stuff they’re looking at needs to be of high quality.

3. The final product needs to be published in a way that’s useful to the community. From my own experience running a free promo contest on this blog, this is not easy. Getting busy creatives to look at hundreds of finalists from a contest they’ve never heard of is nearly impossible (a few people did land jobs because of it so it was ultimately successful).

Since 2009 will be the year when the media industry begins to remake itself you have to believe there are better ways to do everything. Photography contests seem like a good place to start.

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  1. Excellent post.

    Photographers should do their homework and ALWAYS check the legitimacy of any Photo Contest. I am also careful and sort competitions by strength of judges, and title. If you win a title placement, does the contest or competition have a title that will anchor well on your bio/exhibition history/cv?

    Another suggestion which is solid advice is: read the fine print of the terms and conditions.

    a) It’s good practice;

    b) and how your photographs are used is more important than you think. What rights you may give up may not be important to a photographer in the early stages of a career, but as a career grows, ownership of your photographs becomes even more important.

    • @Debra Frieden,with reference to b) ownership AND USE

    • @Debra Frieden, I’d put it this way:

      I’d add the following:

      4) The rules need to not include a naked copyright grab.

      It’s stunning how many contests include either a perpetual unlimited license or a perpetual EXCLUSIVE unlimited license (which, of course, is a sneaky way to get a functional copyright assignment.) I will not enter a contest which has such a rule, and I am currently boycotting Popular Photography because they had a contest with a rule of the second type and wouldn’t even answer emails inquiring about it.

      National Geographic had a contest last year with a rule of the first type and they at least had the grace to be embarrassed and change the rules when they were called on it.

      It does not “have” to be that way, and it is not “standard.” It’s lazy contest conductors and lazy and/or overreaching lawyers, and we shouldn’t put up with it. I placed in a travel magazine photo contest recently and when I sent them the hi-res file for publication I included an appropriate copyright license on the disc, which they were fine with.


  2. Pro-Imaging ([url]http://www.pro-imaging.org/[/url]) has lots of information on photo contests and photographers’ rights and rights-grabbbing. Click on Campaigns, Competitions, and check the Bill of Rights for Photography Competitions, or the Rights On and Rights Off lists — competitions that meet or do not meet the Bill of Rights.

    Reputable contests announce their judges, criteria, prizes, timelines, etc.. Reputable and desireable ones will also have limited usage of entries (and wouldn’t it be nice if they only used WINNING entries, so photographers got something in exchange for the licensing of their photos).

    Most either blatantly want free images to add to their inventory, or use boilerplate and don’t understand how broad the rights-grab is. Debra’s advice is spot on: read the fine print in terms & conditions for contests (and for any social websites you may join).

  3. Rob,

    I’m encouraged to see this addressed on your blog. Thank you very much for bring this up as a topic for critique. As an emerging photographer I struggle with investing in contests and reviews as the allure of having my work in front of high caliber editors and the chance to be recognized is pretty hard to resist. Additionally, so many photo editors have told me that they don’t even look at the books that are dropped off. It’s very hard to get a face to face with an editor without having some personal contact when you are new in the game. Given that photography opportunities are not posted in the ways that salaried positions are, this makes it very difficult to get a foot in. In this context, portfolio reviews and contests seem like a reasonable gamble. However as your post points out, many of these contests are completely digital and the only expectation of the judges is to glance at pictures (no reading of proposals, budgets, CV is required). I can see why there needs to be barriers to getting in so that only serious photographers apply and I can also see that looking at thousands of photos would be a painful task. From a financial point of view, a photographer can spend hundreds of dollars for a few seconds of a judges time. That’s a lot to spend for a chance to win. There is nothing required from the judges aside looking. I would have been grateful to have a few words of feedback as opposed to nothing in response. I would at least trust that my work had been considered in fair and ethical fashion. Something I can’t trust to happen when I drop my book off. I’ve entered PDN twice, Communication Arts, AI-AP where I was selected and then backed out due to my subject changing their mind (I had excellent communication with AI-AP by the way), Exposure, New York Photo Awards, and APA. My experience with PDN is very similar to what you described with the Billboard competition. The judging and winner announcements did not happen according to the August timeline they had posted on their site. The website remained out of date. I emailed several times and was told that the judging would happen in December. The next thing I saw was a new “Faces” contest. I was considering the Powerhouse review and discussed with a close friend who has had several books published by Powerhouse and knows them well. My friend discouraged me and said this was conceived as a money making vehicle for powerhouse. Many of these contests are the same. If there are thousands of entrants to win a $1000 price and some free gear, who is profiting here? Clearly it’s helpful to a handful of photographers but in the big picture I would say the balance is tipped. I wonder why an individual has to pay the same entrance fee as a publication? Given the insane cost to be a photographer, abysmal editorial budgets, the already narrow and now increasingly limited opportunities for photographers, it’s upsetting that these scams exist. The reality is, people like me are hard pressed to resist them. In fact I’m working on my entries for a few right now. I would love to know your advice for emerging photographers and what other people’s experiences have been?

    I have a lot of thoughts about this. Thanks for reading.


    • @Sophia Wallace,
      Most important in my mind is that you’ve got the deal closers in place. Say you win and people discover your work but visit your website or call in your book and there’s no depth to the work or your presentation is not professional. Also, if you win and can’t follow up with some marketing then the effort is partially wasted. I think the contests come after you have your ducks in a row.

      • @ Rob,

        After reading all these comments, Rob’s comment above comes closest to the true issue. I just think these awards things prey on the base insecurity, similar to that part of the brain that makes you get in your car and go buy a lottery ticket. (Equally stupid).

        I think the general concensus out there is — if you are chosen for one of these awards, then instantly, your phone will start ringing, and you’re set for life.

        When what’s true is: most of the people that are selected for these awards might win for maybe one single solitary image in their book, but still, they’re just too young and inexperienced to tackle full-on projects yet. Because, let’s face it, once the phone starts ringing, you’re rarely called to do exactly what’s in your book.

        My position is to take that Entry Money and apply it toward a Test, and keep developing the depth of your work.

        Maybe the criteria for these awards should be: no one under 25 can enter. Because you’re just not ready yet. Nothing worse than hanging out your shingle, but then when the work comes in, you fall on your face.

        Just a thought, (and I’m sure I’ll be blasted for the thought).

    • @Sophia Wallace, its funny you mention powerHouse. I don’t trust them at all. They seem to be after the cash, and the cash only. Their catalogue is a schizoid assemblage of titles, topics, and quality, reflecting their mindless search for the next Back in the Days. No direction at all. All that hip hop BS they publish is embarressing.

  4. An even bigger scam is unpaid internships. You may get scammed out of a couple hundred dollars for a B.S. photo contest, but that sure as hell beats being exploited for thousands of dollars and months of your valuable time.

    • @Patrick Yen, Seriously.

      I used to work on construction sites, and everyone, from the lowest of the low, had to be paid and insured – even if they were just learning the trade.

      Yet in the “creative” business (and I’m not sure how much more creative lifting ladders for photoshoots vs lifting ladders for interior lighting design is) people get away with multiple unpaid uninsured assistance, it’s considered the norm. It’s fricking criminal – well, it should be.

      • @Ian Aleksander Adams,

        You’re so right that I would wager that a union apprentice in damn near any of the trades probably makes more than most photographers out there (never mind their assistants).

        • @Will Seberger, I didn’t know shit about electrical work and I was making ten dollars an hour.

          Some days, especially when I was interning in NYC, I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice to go to art school.

          But then I see my dad, who’s been suffering from work related injuries, and I think that I really would like teaching.

    • @Patrick Yen,

      I dunno. I just completed an unpaid internship at a photographers agency and I was quite aware of what I was getting myself into. Looking back I can honestly say that it was one of the best things I could’ve done. I met some great people, learned lots about the photo industry and had the opportunity to see different photographers at work.
      And while lifting ladders at a photoshoot might not be very creative, you’ll get the opportunity to see how the photographer interacts with his subject, see his lighting set up, learn one or two tricks from the digital assistant and fill up on the catering.

      Of course not all internships are the same and if you feel that they’re exploiting you(i.e. you’re not learning anything) you can always leave.

      • @jm, It’s not that interns don’t learn anything (they often do) it’s that they’re considered a huge free labor market, and many of them are already struggling to make ends meet. A lot of people treat interns like they are doing them a huge favor, and it would be nice if they remembered that the favor is mutual.

        • @Ian Aleksander Adams, in medicine hospitals and schools are not allowed to offer unpaid internships or residencies, as the potential for abuse is so great (and was in the past). They could probably fill entire departments with unpaid dermatology or ENT residents, for instance. Photography’s not like that, obviously.

    • @Patrick Yen,
      We had unpaid editorial interns at one magazine and paid at another. Maybe it had more to do with the quality of the publication but the unpaid interns were horrible.

      • @A Photo Editor,
        Well… you get what you pay for

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Numerous reasons for this.

        1) Most people aren’t motivated to work as hard when they aren’t getting paid for their labor.

        2) Employers tend to be more selective with paid internships because they want a better return on their investment. Also, more people want paid internships than unpaid internships so employers get to choose from a larger, more competitive pool of applicants when hiring for paid interns, resulting in a higher probability of hiring better workers.

        3) Only about 10-15% of the wealthiest can afford unpaid internships, so the whole practice of offering unpaid internships automatically locks out at least 85% of potential applicants, in which case the best are not chosen but simply the wealthiest.

        4) The wealthiest have not had to work as hard throughout their lifetimes. The poor have, and tend to make better workers because of it – especially ones who have had to serve food or alcohol. They naturally tend to develop better social/communication/people skills that the privileged have not had to develop as a means to ensure their survival.

        So yeah, unpaid interns aren’t as good as paid interns.

        • @Patrick Yen,
          10-15% of the wealthiest? I work every weekend at a bar so that during the week I can work an unpaid internship at a photo studio. I’m even looking to take on a second unpaid internship at a larger studio. There are just not many paying jobs for photographers right now, so I’m trying as hard as I can to continually learn, build my skills and create new contacts.
          I am by no means within the top 10-15% of the wealthiest. If you want it, you can make it happen.

          Hey Rob – I’m a great unpaid intern. Have any openings?

          • @Lauren,

            I’m going by more of a global standard for that statistic as opposed to an American standard.

            Here is a related survey from fairly recent:
            Poll: Should Magnum & VII Photographers Pay Their Interns in Exchange for Skilled-Labor?

            It’s important to remember that unpaid internships are perfectly acceptable under Federal Law so long as no financial gain is made off of your labor.

            If financial gain is made off your labor and you are not being paid anything, then you are being exploited, no matter how the market is.

            Labor laws and the legal system both change under Democratic control of the US government, so what was normal under 8 years of Bush will not necessarily be normal under this new administration.

            I once did an unpaid internship, and I learned a lot from it, but no financial gain was really made off my labor.

            • @Patrick Yen, I don’t understand how that works – if you did work, it stands to reason that it was work that someone needed to do – how is any work not connected to financial gain?

              • @Ian Aleksander Adams,

                Educational work. Work in which the employer’s motive is purely for noncommercial educational or training purposes.

                School work or school assignments are prime examples of educational work. The assignments requires you to do work and to learn, but the teacher does not make any financial gain off of the fruits of your labor.

                There are numerous incentives for employers who offer these kinds of unpaid internships that I do not have time to list here.

                • @Patrick Yen, Perhaps, but I’ve never done any work in a photo related job that someone hasn’t profited off of – I’m sure they could say it was educational, but I think I did a lot more grunt work than I learned – but I was working in commercial industry. I think if I was interning for some artists, they could actually get away with that.

    • @Patrick Yen, I used to be partnered in a small video post-production facility. We had two Avid Media Composers and a few linear editing systems. This was back in the mid-90s thru early 00s, before everyone and their mothers were able to afford a Final Cut Pro system.

      We had prospective interns lined up at the door. They were falling all over themselves to get quality time on an Avid. A few of those we selected worked full-time hours, without pay, as long as we provided a fair amount of that time for them to spend on the systems and that we, my partner and I, also spent some of our time training them, mentoring them, and sharing what we knew. (Training, sharing knowledge, and mentoring should always be part of the deal… if it ain’t go intern elsewhere.)

      Without exception, each of those interns went on to land great jobs in the motion picture industry– First, as paid Assistant Editors and, later, as Editors.

      Each of them credit their internships as being one of the most important avenues to their chosen careers.

      • @jimmyD,

        “Without exception, each of those interns went on to land great jobs in the motion picture industry– First, as paid Assistant Editors and, later, as Editors.

        Each of them credit their internships as being one of the most important avenues to their chosen careers.”

        Would you be willing to provide me with their names? I would like to contact each and every one of them to verify your claim that each and every one of them landed great jobs without exception and that each credit their internships as being one of the most important avenues in their careers.

        While I’d like to believe you, jimmyD with no last name or website to link to – or with your specific company listed, I think you’re exaggerating and/or blowing smoke up my ass.

        I myself learned on a Media100 system during high school before Final Cut got big, but not because I worked as an unpaid intern somewhere – rather because I had a job that paid actual money and afforded me similar opportunities.

      • @jimmyD,

        You said:

        “Without exception, each of those interns went on to land great jobs in the motion picture industry– First, as paid Assistant Editors and, later, as Editors.

        Each of them credit their internships as being one of the most important avenues to their chosen careers.”

        Would you be willing to provide me with their names? I would like to contact each and every one of them to verify your claim that each and every one of them landed great jobs without exception and that each credit their unpaid internships as being one of the most important avenues in their careers.

        It seems more logical to me, that while they may cite their internships as significant educational experiences, many of them were probably pretty upset about working for free, and many probably felt taken advantage of.

        While I’d like to believe you, jimmyD with no last name or website to link to – or with your specific company listed, I think you’re exaggerating and/or blowing smoke up my ass.

        I myself learned on a Media100 system during high school before Final Cut got big, but not because I worked as an unpaid intern somewhere – rather because I had a job that paid actual money and afforded me similar opportunities.

        • @Patrick Yen, It’s great you had access to a Media100 system while in high school, wherever that was. I live in the L.A. area where, at the time, AVID had nearly a monopoly on digital NLE in the motion picture/tv biz. If you didn’t have significant experience cutting on an Avid, you weren’t getting a job cutting anywhere.

        • @Patrick Yen,

          Thank you for being real about these internship “opportunities”. I appreciate you pointing out the fact that unpaid internships remain a possibility mostly for the privileged few who can afford to work for free. I’ve found it interesting when interviewing for internships at some prestigious photo agencies and magazines to ask what the interns went on to do. In many cases the person I interviewed with couldn’t answer and clearly didn’t care. The goal of the internship was not mutual benefit but rather free labor and the presumption that the intern was lucky to be let in the doors of this exclusive environment. I was interviewing for these internships because I felt it was a necessary right of passage though at the time I had a Master’ in Photography from NYU, a BA in Government from Smith College) and 6 years of experience as a Photo Editor at AOL and a travel dot com. Clearly my skills and experience had market value. My last internship I decided to leave when it was a problem for me to take off for my spouses ACL reconstructive surgery. I think it’s too easy to ask someone to work for free. I’m weary of the elitist expectations in this industry which keep photography the enterprise of the affluent few.

  5. I agree that the contests can have promotional value, and provide a better connection to potential clients who either a) judge the contest, b) attend the parties, or c) look through the contest’s winners to see new talent, or be reminded of existing players. Communication Arts and PDN are certainly at the top of my mind.

    You also touched on portfolio reviews, some of which have influential art buyers as their reviewers. And I know some of our photographers have had assignment offers from someone who reviewed their book. So having a face-to-face meeting with someone is much different than sending a mailer.

    Here are a few portfolio reviews that I thought were legit, in terms of the reviewer quality. There are certainly more:

    Powerhouse Books:



  6. PDN’s unsold advertising inventory promotes the competition. The limp prizes are traded by sponsors in return for free/ discounted advertising. And PDN is out of pocket for what ? reimbursing judges maybe ? Oh ! the party. Now I understand.

  7. Nice post Rob – and I thought I was wordy :)

    I think that mainstream photo contests have a long way to go. To me they seem similarly priced and similarly judged and that makes them unattractive to me. How about a non-photo-industry-elite contest with big panel of non-industry judges? See if the images are what the public connect with. Just a thought.

    Or, if the contest is run by the photo-industry-elite, what about a contest that is unashamedly elitist, and by invitation only. The photographers are PAID to submit their work. The contestants are selected on a variety of criteria including previous contest winners, awards that have been won, critically acclaimed personal shows and client revenue generated through their images being used commercially or editorially (we are talking about the very best photographers here). The contest is highly publicized and sponsored by perhaps an expensive equipment manufacturer. Maybe that manufacturer publishes their own photo annual: “The 2009 Phase One Light-masters” available online for free and the printed version expensive to the point of being a collectors item. Doesn’t have to be sponsored by a photo industry manufacturer either. Singing contests are sponsored by big auto manufacturers. Maybe the photo industry needs to re-invent itself to attract the bigger patrons of the arts.

    I don’t think that there are any rules as to how to organize and produce a photography contest and I hope we see some big changes in photo contests as the media industry remakes itself.

  8. Great topic to write about. I am an emerging photographer and constantly struggle with the contest dilemma. Is it really worth the money since I know I’m probably not going to win? Especially since emerging means I don’t make the kind of money that the really successful photographers make and ultimately end up winning on a regular basis. It’s hard to continually fork over hundreds of dollars per year and see no results, but as you said, it starts to get your work out in front of judges who are ultimately the ones that will be hiring you in the future. After many failed entries I finally got my first contest entry selection. Not a big one. PDN Faces. One of those contests that seems more about another way to make some money than anything else, but it does feel good to be published and not feel as though all the money has been a waste. That being said, it seems as though you were successful in getting the billboard music web gallery up (although it still is not linked in the contests page). It would be nice to see the Faces gallery up. Not many of my friends and family are PDN readers and I would love to be able to link them to something. If you have any chance to hit up your contact at PDN it would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure many of the other photographers who were selected would love to see it as well. Thanks.

  9. Thanks for taking on this subject.

    I was greatly disappointed by the Billboard contest – They kept extending the deadlines, took forever to post a gallery of the winners, when they did publish it in PDN, it was buried in the back and looked more like paid promotion than any real feature. They started a new contest before completing the previous one. It’s shameful really.

    Overall, they failed at providing any real promotional value for the winners of the contest which makes the whole thing an empty vanity contest (rule # 3 above)

    There’s a larger problem of predatory practices in the photo community – overpriced workshops, (anyone seen the $5,000 fantasy week with Jay Maisel? – he’s looking to gross $225,000 by June but meals are included!) – I’ve heard it referred to “photographers eating their young” – people with power and influence in the photo industry making a good chunk of income selling workshops and advice to the desperate masses.

    I’ve been to some good seminars/lectures through ASMP and EP (either free or under 40 bucks) But there are a lot of hustlers spending more time selling their expertise than making good photos.

      • @Debra Frieden, Pick a better word than “nice” I am a tad tired.

        • @Debra Frieden, nice is nice – thanks

  10. I think one of the most interesting developments is how some of the contests have been expanded – the music & travel ones in PDN – to include amateur and professional categories. I mean from a money making perspective.

    ” Yeah so we have like a PDN competition every month now. I think having two an issue might be pushing it ! MMMM Tell you what lets open some of these up to the growing amateur, pro sumer ranks and double our money. Think anyone will notice. Genius !”

    I think I get an email every other day now with a contest or a review. Its definitely a massive (racket) growth area.

    I wrote a post previously here


    • @The Jackanory,
      The winners of the amateur contest should get an invitation to enroll in art school like those drawing tests ads you used to see everywhere way back when with tippy the turtle and the pirate.

      “we think you’ve got potential kid. sign up for art school and we’ll make you a millionaire.”

      • @A Photo Editor, honestly, sometimes I’m not even sure what category I’m entering in. So many of them have a student category, but they have student under professional, and under amateur – or it’s not listed, but if you send them your scanned ID they’ll give you a discount, but if you get in, there’s no guarantee about where your image will end up.

        I can’t tell if it’s a good or bad thing, for me. Like, PX3, the first one, I got first place in food photography (?) but since I entered as a student, it was listed with the amateurs. Course, if I entered as a professional I might not have placed.

        Not like I really understand how I’m supposed to enter as a fine artist who doesn’t really sell work as primary means of income. I work photographically, but almost none of it is stuff I’d actually enter anywhere or show anywhere.

  11. One group I’ve consistently like, for students, self taught – emerging people – is CMYK. They do it four times a year, I think, and basically it’s just a selection by one judge at a time for their magazine. There is no prize besides publication, but I got a couple calls from the cover I got once, and they are always printed well with a good caption. The selection of work usually makes sense, too, instead of just being a bunch of high contrast studio lit pictures (unless that’s what the judge that month is really really into).

    Besides that, it’s so hard to say. The Adobe Design Achievement Awards was pretty awesome – it was free to submit, and I got a tasty 1000 dollar check and 900 dollars of software for being in the top three – plus they flew me to NYC and had me tour a bunch of commercial outfits, and there was a big to do awards show. The awards show seemed pretty silly, but that check helped a LOT. It was one I really was not expecting to place in, too.

  12. Have you ever posted a list of recommended contests? Or can anyone post such a list (broken down by categories with entry dates)?

    The best way to stop the scams is to provide more information about the good, the bad, and the ugly that’s out there.

    Thanks for the heads up!

    • @Andy, it’s tough because not many of them are technically scams – legally they’re mostly airtight. It’s just sort of unclear if they are actually worth entering.

      If you just like some arbitrary “you did well!” approval, perhaps one contest might be nice for you – if you’ve got the money to drop on entering. It doesn’t guarantee actually helping your career, sales, sex life, etc.

      Some do, however, offer nice things like solo-shows, interviews with people that might be of importance to you, a several page feature on your work, etc.

  13. Imagine my surprise last year, when I received this email.

    “Your work has been chosen as a winner in the Pro Division of PDN’s World in
    Focus Travel Contest. This work will appear in PDN’s February issue and in an
    online gallery.”

    I was pretty excited and it was nice to see my work in such a great publication, but zero work has come directly from it. You still have to hit the streets and beat the bushes to get the work.

    It’s nice for the resume’ and adds a bit of credibility, so maybe that’s where the benefit is.

    • @Terry Divyak, Exactly! Congratulations on your win!

      Get the tear sheets into your book/portfolio!

  14. Thanks for posting this, Rob. As an up-and-coming photographer, this discussion is invaluable. You are dead on–most photo contests are the equivalent of talent/model searches. I have entered or have considered entering quite a few of the contests or reviews that people have been panning. I suppose in the back of my mind, I’ve always sort of known that I was in essense throwing money down a hole. It’s just that entering them is at times a seemingly overwhelmingly easy way to get your work out there.

    Even armed with the knowledge of which contests to enter, we’re still working with a broken mechanism. What’s in it for the unknown photographer other than the chance to win the lottery? I’d like the feedback proposed by Sophia Wallace at the very least, and through the contests as currently run, I’m not going to get it.

    Knowing how to target my marketing money to exercises that are legit and can actually lead to something substantive is just the kind of thing we photographers can use to seperate our efforts for exposure from money-grubbing and amateur vanity contests. That being said, what’s the concensus as to the best way to get the work to the decision-making audience?

    Pound the pavement, market creatively to those with whom we’d like to work, do interesting work…did I just answer my own question? I guess we’re all looking for the easy road–and in this profession, there really isn’t one.

    • @Timothy Schenck, I think you did just answer your own question. It’s the same answer I’m discovering too. I’d rather use the 50 bucks to splurge on a nice photography book.

  15. I’ve been told by someone over at PDN that they are suffering and facing cutbacks. The magazine has been getting noticeably thinner. The only thing that has been increasing is the number of contests they offer-and the revenue they bring in. If you win you get some recognition and perhaps a career boost. But I agree with Jackanory, it’s really become a racket and people should think twice before investing a lot of money in every competition out there. Stick to the big ones and the ones that deal only with your specialty, if you have one. In any case, the least you should be entitled to for the price of entry is having the actual judges look at your work. But a friend who has judged CA contests confided(against the rules for judges) that the magazine staff pre-screens all the entries to cut down on the work load for the judges. These things have become lucrative profit centers for the magazines as advertising revenue has become scarcer. But they should be more transparent about how they work. And it’s worth noting that the biggest contest of all, World Press Photo, costs nothing to enter.

  16. I know for sure that there’s certain contests that AD and AB ,PE and agents check all the time and this is my list:
    1) PDN Annual
    2) Communication Art Photography annual
    3) AP
    4) IPA Photo awards

    Also if you meet certain requirements the PDN 30′ is very big(and free) and the Art Director club award is a big deal but it’s not for everyone and it’s super hard to win. All these contest are, in my opinion, worth the money, you can always deduct the entry fee from your taxes as personal advertising.

  17. I forgot this is a great contest and the most important one for new photographer in europe and in the world, it’s for fine arts and fashion and most of photographers that won this became really famous:
    The next photo competition starts next november 2009, and it’s free.

    • @Daryl Lang,
      Your billboard contest has no judges and doesn’t list any specific prizes. Why would anyone enter a contest where they don’t know who will view their work and what the prize will be if they win. It’s throwing money down the drain and of course it’s a scam.

      Professional Prizes:

      Cash, gear, and more!

      Professional Judges:

      To be announced.


      Why don’t you clarify that?

      • @A Photo Editor, to give PDN some credit, at some point they had clearly listed the prizes (DSLR camera, cash, etc.) and the judges although I haven’t seen the current site.

        My gripe was that they kept extending deadlines and took a loooooong time putting up the winner website. For people who entered and waited and waited and waited it was a bit of an annoyance. PDN should admit to the problem instead of being defensive.

  18. Hi Rob – thanks for addressing this. I can’t think of a solution, and don’t think that ‘the barrier to entry’ ought to be money.

    I decided quite a while ago that I simply was not going to enter any competition that required an entry fee – of course I am also not a world famous photographer.

    I really resent paying to keep a publication ‘afloat’ or give up a portion of my rights in exchange for the privilege of paying.

    You multiply those ‘thousands of entries’ by $ 50.00 [or whatever] and pretty soon you got some real money.

  19. The refrain “anyone can enter just as long as the entry fee reaches us before the deadline” tends to put me off.

    I only enter competitions where I think good photography has won in the past which really tends to cut down the options.

  20. Why don’t MUSEUMS run contests that are free and use their endowments and grants to fund them? Aren’t they, after all, supposed to be promoting the arts? Your work in a group show at LACMA, MOMA, or the Whitney would be one hell of a prize.

    • @J. Wesley Brown, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a call for work from a museum. How do they find their shit anyway?

      • @Ian Aleksander Adams, Kind of incredible, right? From what I understand, they feed off the galleries/curators/collectors. Once they’ve said something’s legit, then the museums decide whether or not to purchase something by that artist. Either that, or pieces are donated from collections to the museum. Basically go get yourself some solo shows and then you might make it in.

        Now, that’s for acquisitions, which I’m not even talking about. I’m talking about a group show of emerging photographers juried by, say, gallerists, the museum’s asst. and main photo curators, and say some curators from other museums too which would certainly lend an air of “legitimacy” to the show’s selection.

        I repeat:

        The main goal of a museum is to promote the arts.

        Seems like that sort of contest could be a good way.

        • @J. Wesley Brown, yeah, it would be nice to see some more legit curation in local museums. We’ve the Jepson center in Savannah, and honestly, it’s really disappointing.

  21. This is an ego driven industry.
    There are no victims, just volunteers.
    Rob your point about having your ducks in a row , if that is what one wishes for the outcome of having a piece selected by a jury. I like the idea of people sharing their freshest work. What the judges like is really a crapshoot.
    The main gripe I have is the duality between PDN’s and CA’s contest. It seems highly likely that an image of a celebrity that was chosen for PDN’s has a really good odds to be chosen in CA’s Photo Annual. I think it validates the judges just as much as it does the photographers.

    Question, suppose Dan Winters has ever had an image rejected from either of these contests when he enters them? It’s like photo train spotting. OOH OOH look I get to put my stamp of approval on Dan Winter’s work……

  22. I was very honored to win an award from a prestigious contest a few years ago and in doing so, achieved my goal of “bragging rights.”
    From a PR standpoint I did get some milage. I sent an announcement to photo agents and received a few complimentary responses from new agents and congratulatory emails from some of the agents that I have met on previous occasions. Traffic to my website did not increase. While the judges may find new work intriguing, I am not sure that they have the opportunity to use the work, or the talent, they “discovered.”

    I shoot outside of the fashion/portrait/lifestyle genre and I was surprised to see that there was no evidence of other contest entrants, judges or winners curious about the work that I had on my website. It was only with approaching deadline of the next years contest that I saw a few visitors coming to my website from the previous years winners gallery.

    In many of the major contests the categories for still life does not exist on its own, it is combined with other specific categories of work, all of which deserved to be judged on their own. But, perhaps, it is too much to demand of the judges, or the contest sponsors to review multiple categories.

    Deep down, before entering and after wining, I felt like I was caught wearing the latest trendy cloths (which is far from my personality) in front of a snooty fashion editor that looked right through me …

    • @David, I totally agree with your comment

  23. I don’t see what the big deal is. Certain ad agencies flood contests worldwide with their work and find it works to their advantage. Some photographers do the same. Contests are just another means to an end and we’re all free to make our own choices.

    Of course you’re going to want to vet them just like every other marketing option out there.

  24. I have to say I view all contests the same way I view a lottery, a lot of talented and untalented people are throwing money at something in hopes of getting a payout. Odds are not in anyone’s favor. Common sense will tell you paying to be a part of something means more than likely you are chasing the tail end of mediocrity. However the idea of acceptance or being discovered is just to much for most of our imaginations to turn away from. With the help of a little gloss advertising and cleverly worded marketing every hungry artist will circle in like a pack of wolves in the thrill of the hunt. What are we winning? Most of us are like the dad from “A Christmas Story” we want that leg lamp even if it is just a worthless piece of junk. But that idea of acceptance, to hear from someone that your work is excellent and excepted and worth putting in a national publication is just to tempting to pass up. Is it an exploitation of art? Or even the artist? To be perfectly honest I feel that the quality of past winners in PDN’s galleries have at least a 20% margin of crap. I guess this means that 80% of the time a high level of quality is being acknowledged and awarded (not bad!), but on the other hand their is still that 20%. In PDN’s defense they have always tried to keep everything on the up & up but I can’t help but feel that a lot of things seem to slip through the cracks. I have noticed this in their magazine as well about 80% of the issues I get are great, but normally a couple times a year they send me a glossy cover with toilet paper inside of it.

    I also have to say I feel all of the “portfolio reviews” that people are shelling out major cash for are somewhat of a scam as well. The photo festivals are fun by themselves but the level of pretentious idiots is almost unbearable after a few hours. I once paid over $800 to attend one of these events and meet with several “experts” to look at my work. 3 of the 5 “experts” spent a total of about 15 minutes altogether with me, they just wanted to hear what I had to say about my work, then once I was done I was told to move on. The fourth argued with me and another nearby “expert” for a half an hour as to what my body of work really means, meanwhile I sat politely waiting for some conclusion which never came. Finally the 5th “expert” talked to me like a human and for a half hour gave me some really good advice which basically boiled down to “If you know what you are doing & it is working for you, then keep doing it.” So I learned that for $800 I could find out what I already knew about my work before I paid someone to tell me. Priceless.

    • @R, right on dude.

  25. Dear Rob,

    I think you may be on shaky ground to call major recognizable named contests a “scam” – but you are correct competitions should clearly define their processes, prize allocations, time lines, and judges.

    PDN would do well to clarify the details about the competition. In fact, clearly defined prizes and awards, would probably increase their entrant numbers. Interestingly you may have done them a favor by bringing it up.

    Entering competitions and contests are a choice. It is upon the photographer to evaluate the contests BEFORE they CHOOSE to enter. It’s basic. I would compare it to signing up for a credit card with 23% APR. I would never do it. But people sign up all the time…….I would go for the one year interest free CHOICE. So you made an excellent point. Read, evaluate, decide, enter/or not – it is a personal choice.

    The area which mystifies me are the (no prize, high priced)


    Once I discovered the portfolio reviews, I sincerely thought; “Who would PAY for a critique?”

    Hmmm my thousands of dollars in education, and pushing for A’s from superb tenured faculty wasn’t enough of a critical evaluation of my work and progress? I need to pay for more punishment?

    I have had friends pay to travel to this type event. Being around other photographers energized them, so they didn’t walk away without a nice weekend in some destination location surrounded by photography enthusiasts and artists.

    Secondly, I shudder to think I would give someone license to drive my artistic vision. I would fall flat in heavy overly saturated color usage. I am drawn to classic black and white and sepia tones. I CAN photograph color, but I know which corner I stand in. The black and white corner, happily with my nose to the wall, stubborn until B&W becomes HOT again! So if a critic reviewed my portfolio, they may try to send me off into the color corner. I could play in their sandbox, but I choose not to. But to know me is to love me. My love of B&W comes with adoration for this art. I draw from my love of Avedon, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Mapplethorpe, and a bevy of classic black and white photographers who wowed people with their vision of classic beauty in black and white photography. For a few years I have felt out of fashion, so to speak, but then I see Bryan Adams photographs for Guess which are sumptuous, or Craig McDean (who’s original works began with stunning black and whites) I jump for joy.

    To get to the point, you MUST, absolutely MUST follow your art heart. Be persistent to your own vision, nurture it, refine it, and have faith in yourself. Save your money for a new coveted camera!

    My priorities are different. My money could be used toward a new camera, new lens, new books, marketing, etc. So if you have to choose between a portfolio review and something that will offer you a longer joyful relationship with your photography, I say be selfish! Hang on to your cash and scream, “It’s MINE!”

    Artists can be their own harshest critics. I would never pay someone who has no heartfelt connection to my work, to Critic-ize my work.

    This is my personal opinion.

    • @Debra Frieden,

      It is not necessarily about criticism, it’s about feedback. At the better reviews you are getting the opportunity to have your work seen by many qualified and credible people who can mean a great deal to your career. Photographers tend to live in vacuums and sometimes the feedback and ideas that come from a reviewer can be extremely beneficial. Participating in Review Santa Fe seems to have worked well for Alec Soth.

      These reviews are really meant more for the fine art photographer – those with substantial projects and bodies of work. Ironically, I am not really in favor of advertising photographers paying to have their work reviewed by art buyers. Fine art and commercial photography are two different disciplines, two different business models and two completely different mentalities.

      Debra Weiss

  26. There’s really no scam……

    It’s just evolution, the reality TV mindset has spread everywhere.

    No name judges, vague rules, a “big” prize (of some kind). So if I enter this “contest” and win I’m FAMOUS right…right….

    So I sell my soul, and they make $$$$

  27. Regarding portfolio reviews. I would only consider a juried review. Then I would check the judges. With that in mind I went to Review Santa Fe 2008. I had a great experience and was offered a book proposal by a very prestigious NYC publisher and contacted by a gallery at 49 Geary in SF. I agree that this is primarily for fine art photographers. It was expensive, what with airfare and lodging but IMHO well worth it. I would go again when I have a new body of work.

  28. Last year I entered a joint contest held by Photoicon & Olympus (Photoicon Issue 5 2008).

    I sent away for a dummy camera. It came. I dragged my son and granddaughter out to a shoot on a cold rainy windy day and had him play keepie-up with a camera for an hour whilst I desperately held on to my lights in the gale.

    I worked on the image and then submitted it within the deadline. A great image? No. Competent? Yes/maybe.

    I got an acknowledgement mail from Olympus that said ” it’s the best we’ve had so far. ”

    Then … in Issue 6, Olympus and Photoicon reveals only one image has been received and requesting more entries. I’m guessing mine was the that “only one”.


  29. I prefer arts grants to competitions – I think that the amount of competitions masks a real lack of support for photographers and if we are going to talk about scams, then $50,000 per year to sit in endless art school crits is really the prime contender.

  30. If photo contests actually asked for printed, mounted, and mailed work the contests would probably run better. As it is, anyone with $35 and some jpgs can entire online contests. My guess is they keep extending deadlines to until enough money comes in to pay the judges. I don’t think they started off as ripoffs but they have turned into them over the years. Our online world has made things so much better but, how do you judge digital images shown on god knows what type of screen or projector? Just the brightness and contrast issue is hard enough to get right, and don’t even think about getting colors correct. It really is kind of sad.

  31. Thank you for posting this. I have needed for a long time to design a marketing plan that includes contests. Hasselblad and Phaseone also conduct competitions that seem to have been great marketing opportunities for a few of the winners.

  32. Contests are for suckers and hobbyists (“Look at my Tibetan rainbow!”). Period. Rob ( I think) has a post last year about one of the upper winners (a woman) of PDN’s 30 contest. She got buzz for like a week and then it was “back in line”
    It’s great for exposure, but so is Flickr. IMO, contests are ego strokes for the photographer. “SEE! I’m good! I got a free camera from PDN.”
    Get your asses to work. Grind. Make your book. Create and you WILL be found. Like that dude (again a Rob post from last year) who doesn’t have a website, lives in like India and clients STILL find him. You never read about the masters entering contests and becoming huge! (Kodak’s first place for a black and white image was awarded to young Patrick Demarchelier! Keep your eye on him!) Please. Just do your work.
    I haven’t talked to anyone yet who has a significant increas of revenue thanks to a contest.

    On the scam thing, sucker photogs can take comfort in knowing that it’s not relagated to us. Musicians get it to. In a BIG way. CMJ screwed over a LOT of musicians in ’07.
    “Apart from the fact that we are now open to a bunch of spam, it has also brought to my attention that sonic bids has collected the $45 fee from at least 670 bands ($30,450) knowing full well that you could never accommodate all of the bands.” link: http://tinyurl.com/yors77

  33. Whatever you do, don’t expect wonders. I won a merit in PDN’s World in Focus last year which meant my series (Hidden Land) was published in the February issue. It was printed/color managed so badly that it looked like crap. I sent a number of people at PDN e-mails asking them if I’d done anything wrong but nobody bothered to reply. I asked a couple of co-winners what they thought of the print quality, they said it looked different from their originals but they could live with it.

    Anyway, the point is, when I first heard I would be published in PDN, I thought I had finally succeed in pissing my name in the snow for everybody to see. But nothing happened. Not one e-mail or call, no extra visitors to my website. Nada.

    I think the earlier comment about getting your ducks in a row first is right. It was my first series that I thought was good enough, it’s not a body of work yet (I’m working on that). My website doesn’t look very professional either (I’m working on that too). If you win, it’s just a marker along the path you take. It’s nice and then you move on.

    By the way, the mostest fun I did have, was that I won Travel Photographer of the Year in a single image category a while back. The prize was a week-long trip for two to the Bahamas plus Adobe Creative Suite CS2. That was awesome. But it didn’t give me more exposure as a photographer. I also came in third in Paris PIX3 in one of their many subcategories, but the result was much the same – nice, but no e-mails, no calls, no contracts, no extra visitors to the website. It just doesn’t mean all that much.

    What I’ve learned is, don’t rely on winning contests as a means to further your career. It’s just an extra. It’s the strawberry on the cake, but you have to bake the cake yourself.

    • @Gerard Kingma, that’s great feedback you’re getting but you’re right nothing is automatic here, like your pictures you have to get this info in front of the people who make the buying decisions. It will impress some and mean nothing to others but they’re not going to know anything unless you tell/show them.

      God I’m sounding like some wise old fart which is correct on 2 counts anyway..

      Good luck!

  34. Thinking of a new revenue stream for 2009. Might run a photo contest myself .

    Roll up…Roll up… you too could win the coveted SoTY* 2009

    1) I’ll give 50% discount to “early entries” that way I cover my limited costs quickly.

    2) If we’re nearing the entry deadline and the profit figures need a boost I’ll extend it a month or even two due to “unprecedented demand”.

    3) Nice low key unpromoted website for the winners

    4) There will be a book but nobody will ever see one unless they pay for it (btw its print on demand to keep overheads low).

    How does that sound?

    *Sucker of The Year

  35. I’m sure PDN’s ad revenue has been declining for quite some time, and the discovery that contests can be quite lucrative has obviously been used, and maybe abused to boost revenue. Extending deadlines, and holding a new contest almost every month, for (often) desperate photographers eager to break into the industry is a sure fire way to bring in cash…a least for a while.

    Eventually though, the number of contests dilutes the value they once held with photographers. As long as the quality remains high, and some big names enter, it’s likely they’ll be able to make a lot of money this way. It’d actually behoove the publications to allow the big names to enter for free, or even pay some of them. The opportunity for a new photographer to have a winner in with a big name…priceless.

  36. With respect to Photo Reviews – I’ve attended two, FotoFest and Photo Lucida and got good results out of both experiences. My recommendations would be:

    1. Take time to check out the previous year’s reviewers. You’re going to see some of these folks show up at every Festival, but they do use these events to select new artists. I’d especially recommend going to local regional reviews since most of the attending museums/spaces are funded to support local artists.
    2. Only attend events where you get to select who you want to see. While you won’t get all of your picks, at Lucida I got at least 75% of my first picks.
    3. Be specific about what you’re looking for from the experience. Plan to show a tight edit of around 20, but have an additional reserve group to select from. Keep the portfolio box very simple, many people just show prints in a clamshell. Avoid anything that takes time to unpack.
    4. Spend time getting to know your fellow attendees. This group has continued to be valuable to me in many ways.
    5. Follow-up and stay in touch.

  37. There is much to be gained from entering competitions. May sound trite but it’s not really only about the winning – which is nice – it’s about the conscious process of personally getting one’s images in front of qualified eyes that will judge the images on a basis of what is fresh, what is timeless, what is compelling, or some combination there of. It’s a personal litmus test.

    Firstly one should never enter a competition feeling as though one ought to win, there are two many factors that come into judging. I’ve hosted many competitions, hiring judges, monitoring the process and so often one thing that a judge dislikes, the color orange, for example can knock an image or ad out.

    Instead one should look to the process as being valuable and knowing that IF something DOES get published or win ‘best of’ that it can be extremely good marketing. I’ve won many of the big ones and it does tend to do something, if not a direct job, it gets the name out there.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, I try to only enter competitions that are bonified, and few and far between. CA photo annual is great and their standards are high and they deliberately seek to publish images that they’ve never published before. PDN is OK, although they are now doing the whole splinter competitions thing, and I can tell you from winning the best of category in one of theirs that they hold a party that photographers go to during PhotoEast, no one greeted or announced anything at the PDN party, prized were ‘to be announced’ and finally 6 months later they me a computer generated little certificate and a camera, no hand written letter, note of thanks or anything.

    Now as for IPA. I’ve entered it and will again if I feel the marketing of it will help, and it likely will to some degree, but note that at least half of the other photo contests we receive emails about just so happen to trace back to the same physical address and company, which happens to be owned by Hossein Farmani, I believe. Trace back the physical address. Nothing wrong with Mr. Farmani at all, but recognize that there are many contests that all appear feed that one company. I have a problem with that.

    It is at this point that I feel photographers can find themselves fleeced. IPA nicely delivers with an expensive awards show that actually brings in creatives but they have also done so by also being the Lucie Awards, awarding those creatives as well, which is OK, but just know that there is more to this than just photographers. It’s just marketed to photographers and then when you go becomes an industry award. The point isn’t so much that this is wrong…

    …it’s that it’s a machine. A money making machine. And it’s a game. A game that you will choose to play because it is either good for your career or one you won’t play because it’s lining the pockets of those that are marketing multiple competitions under different names for profit.

    So my advice is to do it very selectively and only do the bigger ones, expect that you won’t win, but aiming to value the process of exposing your fresh work, and by first checking into WHO OWNS THIS COMPETITION. How are the awards or recognition REALLY handled.

    It can be good and it can be bad.

  38. I use to attend one portfolio revue that I felt was worthwhile, and that was National Portfolio Day:


    While that is student oriented, with the idea of recruiting talented students to various colleges, it was very interesting to attend. Even listening in on the critiques/reviews of the portfolios of other students was enlightening. If you are fairly quick, you could get several revues in a day.

    As far as contests go, I have usually considered those that might land on the desk of someone who might be interested in my work. Of course I don’t enter many, due to deadlines for paid shoots getting in the way, but I will be entering a couple in what I anticipate might be slow here. Anyway, here are some I found interesting:


    http://www.surfacemag.com/ – Surface Magazine Avant Guardians

    Outside of those, I have been in The Art Of Photography once, but decided that it was not a good direction for commercial work promotion. There are probably more Art Photography contests than any others, which I find unfortunate due to the lack of income for art photographers.

    Basically, I consider whether my target AD or CD might see an image of mine in a particular publication. If the answer is maybe, and the fees and volume of entries not overwhelming, then I consider entering . . . Oh, also if I have the time to do so.

  39. I’m curious how many people read PDN that are not photographers.

  40. Not all reviews are equal. Some competitions are better than others.

    I think that the argument can be made that the biggest scam (in terms of $/effort/time/ratio of success to oblivion) in photography may be art school.

  41. Someone may have already mentioned this but World Press Photo does come out with a book of winners (reference to pull off the shelf, I mean) every year, n0?

  42. If anyone is up for having their eyes opened just cut & paste into Google the following addresses connected with jone well known competition and marvel in how many other well known (i.e. land continuously in your inbox) competitions land at exactly the same addresses.

    369 S. Doheny Drive, Suite 323, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

    8 Shepherd Market, Suite 639, Mayfair, London W1J 7JY

    Both addresses are mailbox addresses i.e. they are not real “suites” staffed with people. Just a post office box.

    Coincidence? Surely not. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

  43. Here is a good one.


    I have no problem with a museum doing a fundraiser, but to call it a photo contest is another thing. An entry fee, then after the prints are sold, the museum gets half. Just call it a fundraiser, which it is.

    But here is the best part:


    * First Round: San Diego Natural History Museum
    * Final Round: Abe Ordover, owner of The Ordover Galleries
    * Prizes:
    o Grand Prize: $1000
    o First Place: $500
    o Second Place: $250
    o Third Place: $150

    I didn’t know museums knew how to judge photo contests.

    • @Perfect Example, SDNHM is not really a museum of photography; there is MOPA nearby that covers that ground. It is first and foremost a museum of natural history. Ordover Gallery has an arrangement with the SDNHM to exhibit nature themed photography on the uppermost floor of the museum.

      The model for this “contest” is similar to The Art Of Photography Show, which also takes place in San Diego. The income largely comes from photographers entering these types of shows, and not from sales. Print sales are quite bad in San Diego, even in a tourist hot-spot like Balboa Park, near the San Diego Zoo.

      I agree that they should be called fund raisers, but I think their entry volume would suffer. So in the end this is marketing. The result for photographers who enter these things is that they might get one line on their exhibit history of where they exhibited. Perhaps that is another way to judge these things. Does anyone really want another one liner on their exhibit history?

  44. Seems to me PDN has become a contest machine.
    Just about every months contests dominate its content.
    My mailbox gets filled up with heir entry requests.
    It’s become more about an incoming revenue stream for PDN than the possible prestige of being in PDN.

    If they have pages and pages of contest entries every month it certainly diminishes the value.

  45. As a recent college grad I have been trying to enter contests and portfolio reviews as much as possible. It has been extremely frustrating. Recently I entered a contest at a website for Photography Laureates. About a week after entering I recieved an email saying that I had been chosen out of hundreds to be published in there new photography book featuring great photographers of 2009 as well as a chance to win $6,500. They wanted me to purchase the book for 69 dollars. At first I was over joyed, I didnt even care that I would have to purchase the book. Then I started to do a little digging and it seems that everyone had the same suspisons that I had. One contest winner stated that her photo had simply been glued into the book. I was just wondering if anyone knew anything about the company. But for now looks like I will stick with only reputable contests. Any suggestions for spotting the real from the scams?


    • @sara klem,

      looking for a legit juror’s list is a good first step. Anyone even half reputable would not be part of the scam contests.

      my 2¢

  46. unfortunately i saw this post too late and had already entered the newest contest which ends the 15th. Even worse their tallying method for the fans favorite winners is totally off. I entered only a couple days ago, but emailed the voting link out and received over a 100 emails in response to voting. the next morning the tally had gone down to 3 votes. Obviously they had a problem with people repeatedly voting without a new email address, however i cannot believe that 100 responses plus the subject of the photo starting a facebook group in order to vote resulted in only 3 votes. I emailed them about this problem with counting valid emails and have received no response. I am extrememlydissapointed in this contest – it was the first one i had ever entered and thought it would be reputable considering it was from pdn. any advice on how to get them to count the votes correctly?

  47. PDN might as well set up shop as a photo contest magazine and scrap the rest…I mean really I get emails from them constantly about a new contest that pretty much to me seem like bullshit and more than likely a way to stroke the guy down the street whom you met at a party last weekend as the photos that win are typically pretty fucking boring and recycled

  48. oh and I forgot to mention that its fairly obvious whats going on when they extend their deadline for pretty much every contests, sometimes twice…its all about money, that’s it…thank but no thanks

  49. […] F stop has a nice list of Upcoming Photo Contests. They also note Rob Haggart of A Photo Editor discussion about photo contests and their value. If your into the competition thing, here is some to go and […]

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