The Goal for a Photo Contest is …

If you were to enter a photo contest, what would be your goal?  What would be the most valuable outcome of entering a photo contest?  What would you learn from participating?

Those might be questions you have never considered.  But if you have been a serious amateur photographer, you have probably considered entering a photo contest.  And maybe the photo contests you have considered had prizes for the top photos.  Did you enter?  If you entered a photo contest, what did you earn, and learn, from the contest?

I had never given any thought to entering a photo contest until I became a member of a photography club.  As a member of the Teton Photography Club, I entered the first annual photo contest a little more than a year ago, and I will admit I was kinda disappointed.  I didn’t cost me anything to enter, and I didn’t earn a “prize” (I certainly didn’t expect to win).  But why was I “disappointed”?

After the contest was complete, I wondered about the “value of a photo contest” for me?  What did I expect to achieve and learn from the contest?  I certainly did not view the photo contest in a negative way, but I was disappointed.  And I wondered how others felt.  So, I talked to the peer mentors to try to understand how they felt about our photo club having contests and entering any photo contest.

The peer mentors have all improved their photography, and some have improved dramatically.   Quite a few joined the program as skilled photographers and had entered many photo contests.  In the past year our club has had two photo contests.  A number of the peer mentors have entered the contest and earned honorable mention awards and two have received top awards for Beginner/Intermediate Photographers.  These “successful photos” received feedback from the judges but no other photos.

When I asked the peer mentors how they felt about photo contests, I was a bit surprised at their response.  A vast majority of the peer mentors were not focused on winning; they were interested in getting feedback about their photos.  Some peer mentors had received feedback in the contest, but most did not.  We are having a contest this May and the club has decided to give each of the entries feedback about their photos.  I think this will encourage more peer mentors to join-in since their goal may be to receive feedback.

A year before the first TPC Photo Contest our Peer Mentor Program (PMP) added a monthly theme to start each meeting.  I gave a lot of thought to how I would “label” the new monthly theme and decided not to use the word “contest.”  I called these the “Peer Mentor Monthly Theme Challenge” where each peer mentor at the meeting voted on which theme photo they thought was the best. 

I mentioned our Theme Challenge in the last blog.  Now I want to emphasize the value amateur photographers can gain from such a challenge; and the importance of getting informational feedback not only for your own photo but descriptive information for many other photographs.  Everyone doesn’t agree as each of us have a different “eye” for what we prefer in a photo.  But when an amateur photographer hears informational feedback for a variety of photos that goes beyond “Beautiful shot” it can really help develop an improving photo-eye.

In the last blog I pointed out how the monthly challenge typically gets the peer mentors out of the house to take photos … even when they feel lazy ;-).  When we first introduced the Theme Challenge only the top 3 photo received feedback from the group.  The voters explained why they chose a certain photo as their favorite photo (i.e., their “winner”.)  But we did not give feedback to the other photos.  We moved on to other discussions.

But during the COVID-19 Zoom meetings we only discussed the Monthly Theme Challenge photos, and we had more time.  A couple months ago I decided to include feedback for ALL the photo submissions, and it is now clear that the peer mentors really prefer to take time to give feedback about each of the photos without knowing who took the photos.  Our monthly themes are not a contest, they are a challenge in which everyone gets informational feedback about the photo they entered, and the entries of their colleagues.

Pleased understand that I am not opposed to Photo Contests.  They can be a challenge, especially for advanced photographers and professional photographers.  And it is possible for certain photo contests to be educational.  Sorry, as a teacher of teachers I will always value events that are educational  🙂


Peer Mentor Creative Blur Challenge 

As I mentioned in the last blog, I will typically share what we learned in the monthly peer mentor meeting in this blog.  The theme for the Peer Mentor April 2021 Challenge was Creative Blur.  We had 14 submissions that were quite diverse with a wide variety of “definitions” for a creative blur.  Click here if you are interested in learning about the Creative Blur – this will take you to the PMP – Monthly Theme Articles.

It is interesting that the peer mentor program had this theme challenge two years ago and my reaction is that the photos in 2021 were more creative this year than the past.  I wondered why there was more diversity?  I can’t compare all the submission from 2019 to 2021, but I can share with you the top 3 from 2019 to all 14 of the 2021 submissions.  Have we improved?  Here are the top 3 photos from 2019. To look more closely at these photos click one of the photos and use the arrow button to look at all of them.  Then click on the “X” in the upper-right corner to return to the complete post.

Which of those 3 photos do you believe it the best example of the the Creative Blur Challenge from 2019?  Now let’s compare them to the peer mentor photos from 2021.

Last month at our peer mentor meeting I took more time to allow every submission to receive feedback.  We have gradually increased the amount of informational feedback that each photo is given at the meeting.  At the 2021 April Creative Blur peer mentor meeting we spent a lot of time discussing the 10 photos that were not voted into the final vote.  Here are the 10 and each of these photos received at least one vote.  Which photos do you think are the best examples for the Creative Blur Challenge? To look more closely at these photos click one of the photos and use the arrow button to look at all of them.  Then click on the “X” in the upper-right corner to return to the complete post.

After a discussion of the 10 photos that didn’t make the final vote, I presented the Final Four photos that are presented below for a vote.  The results were: one photo with 4 votes, two photos with 3 votes, and one photo with 2 votes.  It can’t get any closer than that!  Which photo do YOU think is the best example of Creative Blur, and why do you think that photo is the best one?  I will be glad to pass on your feedback to the creator of that Creative Blur. To look more closely at these photos click one of the photos and use the arrow button to look at all of them.  Then click on the “X” in the upper-right corner to return to the complete post.  I’ve given each of these 4 photos a title so you can comment them by “name.”  Please excuse the names: the photographer did NOT give them a name, those silly names were assigned by Randy.

The next Peer Mentor Monthly Theme Challenge is Silhouette.  If you would like to learn about how to take Silhouette photos check-out the Silhouette Theme Article page in the TPC webpage for some interesting on-line articles and YouTube videos.  In fact, maybe you would like to join the Teton Photography Club and join the Peer Mentor Program.  We’d be glad to have you join our Zoom.