In last week’s post I blogged about the benefits of joining a local camera club as a way to improve your photography. Within that post, I mentioned that this week I was going to specifically discuss the benefits of competing at the club. For me, taking part in the monthly photo competitions has been critical to my growth as a photographer. There are several specific reasons for this.
Firstly, competing at a local camera club is rather safe. What I mean by that is, for the most part your work can remain anonymous. When an image is put before the judges only the title of the piece is read aloud. The maker’s name is not mentioned so unless you tell other people it’s yours or you react so strongly to the score given that it becomes obvious it’s yours, no one in the audience will know. The only exception to this is that if you win a particular category, your name is then announced so you can say a few words about it. Considering the fact that your image just won, however, you probably won’t mind receiving the recognition.
Secondly, having your images “judged” by strangers can be very helpful. Often when creating images you can get so engrossed in them that there can be elements of composition, lighting, etc. that you didn’t even take into consideration until someone else pointed them out. At the photo clubs I belong to comments are given by the judges so you get a feel for why they judged the image a certain way and how they perceived it. This feedback can be very useful (even if you don’t particularly agree with it). And you won’t always agree with what the judges say about your image and that is okay. Photography has it’s share of “rules” for making a successful image but there is also an artistic element to photography that can not be defined by “rules”. There will be times when you create an image based on your artistic sense and the judges just may not share the same aesthetic feeling. Always take scores from the judges with a grain of salt as the only opinion that really matters is yours. You are the one taking the image home and perhaps mounting it on your wall. With that said, hearing what the judges say about, not only your images but everyone else’s, can provide you with a world of valuable information as you continue to create.
Lastly, the mere exercise of entering an image into competition will make you a better photographer and a better editor, both before and after an image is taken. Let’s face it when something you have made is going to be viewed critically, doesn’t that inherently make you work a little harder? You begin to think a little more carefully about your composition. You begin to edit it a little more carefully afterwards. You begin to refine your eye and raise your own bar of excellence. It gives you that little extra incentive to not get lazy and to always look to improve.
If you have never taken part in local competitions, I strongly encourage you to do so. You will improve because of them and when your images begin winning, the accolades and recognition are a nice bonus!
If you are new to competitions, feel free to share your experiences. If you are a judge for local competitions, feel free to share that experience as well.