Last week I went up to London to judge on the panel for POTY09, Photographer of the Year, one of the world’s biggest photography competitions. Hosted by Digital Camera magazine, the competition was open to everyone, was free to enter and had 10 different categories covering everything from wildlife to fashion.
The deputy editor from DC magazine first got in touch with me in May to ask if I would like to be on the panel, and I was very pleased and surprised to have such an invitation.
There had been hundreds of thousands of entries (and naturally, a huge number in the last week before the closing date) whittled down to a shortlist of about 50 per category. I was on the panel with wildlife photographer Steve Bloom, Nick Galvin (Archive Director from Magnum Photos), Rosemary Wilman (President of the Royal Photographic Society), Hugh Pinney (Director of photography for news, Getty Images), Kate Day (Communities Editor for the Telegraph) and Martin Keene (Group Picture editor, Press Association) as well as Ben Brain from DC mag itself.
Through the day we managed to get through all ten categories, choosing a 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and a couple of commendations for each. Though we had our own tastes and a few disagreements as expected, it was surprisingly that alot of our choices were unanimous. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the photos in the Planet Earth, World in Motion, Landscapes and Black & White categories, whilst I was most excited by the newness of the Fashion and Digital Vision categories, in which I did see some photographers’ work I recognised from Flickr.
We managed to also choose an overall lucky winner who will receive £10,000.
By the end of the day I was quite exhausted (we got through about 500 photos in total) and yet also invigorated by viewing so much fantastic imagery – by the end of it all I felt as if I had a new awareness of the ’skill’ of photography as well as the ‘art’, in seeing so many images subjected to scrutiny: exposure, resolution, quality of their digital processing etc. I also felt as if I wanted to go out and shoot something other than myself!
Tips for next year’s contestants?:
- Think about what category you are submitting your images to, and try to fit the particular theme. I would certainly recommend shooting images especially for a particular theme/category, because even though the judges will never know anyway, I think it will make the message of the image have more impact, make it feel more sincerely ‘belonging’ to that theme.
- When submitting multiple entries, send in completely different images, so that if one image is rejected, the other image won’t so easily be rejected too. Cover more ground with diverse images.
- Pay attention to the quality of your images! If you are lucky enough to be shortlisted and asked for a high-res version of your image(s), your images could lose out when the judges scrutinise it up-close. Jpeg artifacts, banding, noise, bad resolution, dodging photoshopping etc, are all issues that affect the chances of your images winning, because a photography competition is about skill and quality as well as artistic intention. Even if the image gets through, it might not be good enough for the winners’ exhibition later.
- Submit something that is different, that will make the judges sit up in interest. Research who the judges are, so you can get a sense of the kind of images they are likely to be viewing every day, and the things that will likely bore them. Time was tight on the day, and the context dictated that images were given a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ within seconds of appearing on the projector. Also, it might be a good idea to give the filenames of your submitted images a bit of their title, so that a hint of ‘what the image is about’ will be evident even to the casual viewer who doesn’t have the caption to hand.
Of course, you will first have to find out if you have been successful this year or not!