When I first picked up a camera at the age of 12, a whole new world opened up for me and I somehow knew in that moment that in one form or another, photography would become a big part of my life. It's hard to describe the feelings you get when you begin to experiment, that rush of euphoria and excitement you feel when capturing moments frozen in time.
As time goes on and your hobby eventually turns into your full-time career and passion, you start to wonder how your work stacks up against others in the industry. Some of the best ways to get your work critiqued and seen is by having a mentor. I can't stress enough how important this is for a new or established photographer to seek out the advice of our peers who are not only successful in their photography careers but who are willing to train, guide and mentor those who are looking to take their careers to new heights.
Having a mentor is sometimes a tough thing as they will always give you the most honest and toughest critique of your work. As a photographer, it's sometimes difficult to judge our own work as we grow attached to certain images, a certain look or aesthetic. With a mentor helping to guide you, they can be your best advocate, telling you why certain images work and others don't.
One of the advantages of having a mentor is that they push you to create some of your best work, improve your skills and encourage you to enter photography contests. Sometimes though you question yourself and wonder if your work is really good enough to compete with the countless others that enter. Even if you don't win, you can use this as a learning tool, to become better, more varied with a higher chance of winning the next time around.
With thousands of contests being held throughout the year in all genres, entering a contest can be a valuable learning experience as you can gain insight into what styles and techniques are getting noticed and turning heads. It can also help to teach you more about yourself and photography in general - through exposure, exhibitions and self-confidence. From your small locally held contests usually centred around a single theme to your big international contests that cover such themes as architecture, food, lifestyle, nature and landscapes, there will always be a contest for everyone to try out.
Earlier this year I saw an advertisement online for the IPPAWARDS, an annual iPhone competition that has been around since 2007. It has been celebrating the creativity of iPhone users since the first iPhone with each year seeing photographers from 130+ countries submit their iPhone images across multiple categories. As an avid iPhone user since the very first iPhone, and a supporter of the decent quality that these iPhone cameras produce, I decided to give this contest a go.
Chase Jarvis, an award-winning, American photographer, coined a phrase and subsequently authored a book by the same name, "The best camera is the one that's with you" is a motto that I live by. While an iPhone camera will never replace, yet, the quality that a DSLR can achieve, it does produce some really amazing results. It's small, convenient, fits in your pocket and can snap a pic in seconds.
So I gave this contest a shot and entered a few photos that I took on one of my trips to California last year. I was exploring LA and had heard from other photographers that the Walt Disney Concert Hall was a must-see for architectural photographers. When I first saw this deconstructivism styled building, designed by Frank Gehry, I knew that I would easily spend hours capturing this building as the light that reflected off of its surface, was simply breathtaking. Out of the hundreds of shots I walked away with that sunny November afternoon, quite a few were just quick snaps taken with my iPhone 7+, with one of my favourites entered into this contest.
After I entered, I forgot all about the contest until a few months later I saw an email showcasing all of the winners. Being nervous and excited all at once as I went to the website to see if I had placed in the architecture category, my initial excitement turned to disappointment as I didn't see any of my images on the site. Oh well, I thought, better luck next time.
Then one day I was doing a Google search on my name, as we do sometimes, and a few pages back I saw a link from the IPPAWARDS with my name on it. I thought for sure it was a mistake as I didn't see that my photo had even made it but sure enough the very photo taken in LA had received an Honourable Mention. Maybe I didn't look hard enough the first time but seeing that I had received an honourable mention was pretty exciting for me.
Around the same time of entering the IPPAWARDS, I also entered another contest, the International Color Awards, a contest honouring colour photography. Celebrating its 11th year, Color Awards is a global platform and channel for photographers to show their work to key industry tastemakers. Similar to the other contest, I found out from Google that I had also received an honourable mention for one image that I had entered in the nature category. It's always a wonderful feeling knowing that you placed, even if it's not a top category winner.
A third contest I entered was the inaugural Monovisions B&W photo contest, the leading Black & White Photography magazine award with an aim to discover the best monochrome photographers from all over the world. I entered two images, one in the Architecture category and the other in the Nude category, with both coming back with Honourable Mentions.
Some of the more well known photography competitions in 2018 that you can enter:
Keep submitting your entries and keep getting your work out there. Whether you end up winning or not, it's a great way to get to know your own work and to stay active in the ever-changing photography community.