A Tip for Better Competition Results

Summary – Photo competitions and exhibits are, in a general sense, games. If you’re after the “thrill of victory” (not “agony of defeat”) here’s a tip that may help.

In a photo competition (which is totally subjective)

The judge has the final word

Little else matters

(Assuming entries of comparable quality)

That said, don’t play the game without

Entering your best efforts

and  – equally (or more) important

Knowing the likes & tendencies of the judge


Here’s the Tip

Do extensive research on the judge

Learn all you can about the judge’s like’s & dislikes

If the judge shows a dislike for certain styles

Don’t enter images of that style (and vice-versa) – duh!


How do you learn this information?

Many judges have web sites with their own work

Looking at their work is like reading a book

The judge is likely to have judged before

Many club sites list competition results

Including who judged (& the winning images)

Understand the implication’s of the judge’s background

For example – photojournalism vs. weddings vs. outdoors

Each background has its own expectations

Do this before you even start considering possible entries


Two examples from real life

Each was both a winner (ribbon) and a loser (out immediately)

The only difference was different judges (in different events)

#1 was eliminated solely because the judge disliked infra-red

Gushed over the “perfect composition”, etc. etc., but

“I’ve never liked IR so, sorry, but it’s out”


#2 was thrown out because the judge disliked soft focus


Another example to consider is

Q – What would a photojournalist look for?

A – An immediate impact story

A WOW! photo that gets immediate attention

A PJ isn’t the person to have judge your arty image

In the words of one PJ judge as he threw out

The 1st & 2nd place winners (not mine) of

A Photography as Art exhibit

(unbeknownst to him)

“That’s art. If it’s art, it’s out”


My tip is mostly common sense

Unfortunately many competitors don’t recognize its importance

Judges are human with likes & dislikes

(that may even go beyond the “rule-of-thirds” 😉 )


Don’t forget the International Abstract Photography Exhibit

Entries close March 31st; it’s free

Entry details are here

The gallery is here


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2 thoughts on “A Tip for Better Competition Results

    • Maybe the tip makes more sense if I started with “Here’s a tip to use IF you want to increase your chances of a favorable outcome….”.

      If judge’s statement such as “If it’s art it’s out” (I didn’t make this up) for one of your entries is OK by you then, by all means, ignore the tip.

      The “never liked IR” and “soft focus” were a waste of my time as they said everything about an single individual judge’s personal subjective preferences and nothing about the competition quality of my images. If YOU knew a judge would throw out a particular style when YOU entered an image, would YOU STILL enter it?? I doubt it, & that’s my point.

      Have a nice day 😉

      PS – I’m very competitive. Competed 3 years (novice, intermediate, advanced). Final year won every major prize awarded at a 250-300 member club. Hated shooting for judges (but did it – I’m competitive, so why “play a game if you’re not trying to win?”). I quit after year #3 and have never competed since; the only judge I try to please is myself. I was just trying to pass on a pointer based on a question from a friend last week who – before entering a competition – asked if I knew the judge because he didn’t. More than you wanted to know, but there it is. (Did you look her up, Russ?)

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