Some recent discussions and contemplation on my part have caused me to give some consideration to entering serious photography competitions. Perhaps as a challenge, perhaps as a way of gauging my level of photography in the eyes of a much wider audience, and perhaps as a positive self-esteem boost.
Last year I abandoned all forms of competition out of sheer frustration at my inability to do well. I also stopped shooting, and it took a while for me to get back into it again.
In recent months I have been encouraged, by a professional photographer I know, to enter the APPAs, as well as a state-based competition. He believes I have material that would definitely make the grade. As someone who has taken out awards at the APPAs, and who has fantastic work, I tend to take his opinions seriously.
In the past, I entered club-level competitions, and sure, I won some awards here and there, but seldom enough to give me any inkling that I have what it takes.
I have also entered many times on AP, but only ever won twice.
Now, I realise that camera club competitions, AP competitions and major competitions such as the APPAs are all very different, and cannot reasonably be compared.
Point in case: A photographer friend of mine has also won nationals with an image that was overlooked at the camera club level.
I believe I have good images (and maybe some that could make the grade in a serious competition), but there are good images, and there are good images.
Bridging the gap between 'okay photographer' and 'good photographer' is a relatively small step. Bridging the gap between 'great photographer' and 'outstanding photographer' is so much harder. The higher you go, smaller is the difference between great and outstanding, and the effort to bridge the gap is so much more difficult.
In my somewhat negatively coloured experience, I have found competitions to be a minefield, with no clear rules as to what will do well and what will be passed over.
At PMA yesterday, I saw some silver award-winning images that to my eyes weren't all that brilliant. On the other hand, there were some stunning images that deserved their accolades.
I have seen two different judges, on separate occasions, judge one specific image (not mine). The first time, the image, which to my eyes was extremely mediocre at all levels, was caned; the next judge who judged it a month later loved it, and to my astonishment, gave it an award.
I have seen inconsistency in judging. I have seen very informative, educated and experienced judging. I have seen some quite sloppy judging.
I am also aware that if a judge has a bias for or against given genres, it can work for or against you.
Some images that do well in one competition, or in the eyes of one judge, will fail dismally in another arena.
It makes it difficult to know where one stands.
We all like to think we're good enough. Someone's uninformed "This is an outstanding image!" comment can give us a false opinion of our work. That comment, when it comes from someone who doesn't know better, simply means "I really like this image a lot", not "You should enter this in the APPAs".
We can all be a little tunnel-visioned about which of our images are top-notch and which would be sure-fire competition winners. I cannot really go into serious competitions without a more objective view.
So, apart from being interested in the opinions of excellent photographers who have had experience in terms of publication and competition success at serious levels, I would be interested to hear from those people whether I have images that stand a fighting chance.
My personal favourite images, from which I would select images to consider for competition entry, are located here:
Now, there's some stuff in there that to me is a favourite image for whatever reason, but which I'd never enter into a serious competition.
So, to those who have experience with serious comps, I'd be interested in your feedback.