Home Features Photo competitions: Make the most of your pictures

Photo competitions: Make the most of your pictures

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So, you have the gear and you have been enthusiastically taking photos whenever you can. Next comes the hard part — what do you do with the photos? Even twenty years ago the options were limited. But today, with the internet, there are so many opportunities to share, display and compete with your photos and also to view great photography produced by others.

I have been a very keen photographer for almost sixty years but my photography struggled for many years. It took a significant upturn in 2011, which was the year I bought a Leica X1, when I discovered that carrying just one camera and one lens resulted in better photos than when I went out with a bagful of gear.

But perhaps equally importantly, I had recently gained access to a high-speed internet connection. This allowed me easily to see great photography on the internet and, really for the first time, I appreciated what I had to do to become a better photographer.

My first prize win at I-Shot-It the cash funded my Leica Q

Blogging

Access to the internet through a high speed connection also allowed me run a blog and use this as a vehicle for sharing my photos with the world. I started down this route ten years ago with my The Rolling Road blog.

In the early years, it was easy and fun. At that time blogs were a novelty and I had plenty of material to post. My blog had a reasonably sized following. Over the last few years, as a result of competition from Instagram and YouTube, blogs have really lost their shine and my enthusiasm and commitment to my own blog have ebbed away along with the number of followers. Macfilos editor Mike has shown remarkable commitment and dedication in keeping Macfilos fresh and running with a usually high standard of content. He has very much swum against the tide.

Above and below: Mark of Excellence at I-Shot-It

Instagram

Instagram, in particular, has really eroded the enthusiasm for blogs. It is a very convenient forum for putting your photos out into the world. I started an Instagram account — therollingroad — three years ago for this reason. However, Instagram has serious limitations. First, the photos are generally viewed on very small screens. I see little point in spending zillions on camera gear to display tiny photos. Second, the whole Instagram viewing experience is very fleeting.

Above: Mark of Excellence at I-Shot-It

Up comes a photo and then it is swiped it away. All that effort you put into crafting an image and all it gets is a momentary viewing and arguably little or no appreciation. And don’t be fooled by some of the Instagram photography accounts which apparently have thousands of followers and every photo they post gets tens of thousands of “likes”. It’s usually all fake. For an explanation, Google “Click farms”.

Finally the Instagram world is a very large one. There are literally billions of Instagram accounts, the majority of which are posting personal photos or rubbish . Even if you are posting outstanding photos there is every chance that, if you are not a known name and you have not paid for the services of a click farm to lift your profile, your photos will only ever be seen by a small number of viewers.

A Little Miss, but a miss at I-Shot-It

So I have an Instagram account but I am not at all committed to the medium. More satisfying for me is to make photo books of my work. It may sound very much old school but a photographic print is still a wonderful thing and a high-quality photo book — effectively a collection of prints — is a great way to both preserve and share photos.

Also, designing a photo book can be very creative and enjoyable and many amateur photographers build superb books which are as good as, or even better than, professionally produced and printed books. There are dozens of companies offering photo book printing and even the inexpensive offerings nowadays are relatively high quality.

Competitions

You can also enter your photos into competitions. Before the internet, entering photos into competitions was a tedious process. You had to have a print made, you often had to have it mounted and then you had to post it into the competition. It was not a user friendly process and for this reason mainly only keen photographers, in the main, participated. Now the internet has changed all that and we have online photo competitions which are really easy to enter.

I dabble in a few but my favourite is I Shot It. Leica has a financial involvement with the site, but it accepts photos taken with any brand of camera. The website is self explanatory and it is easy to participate and upload photos. At any given time there are a number of competitions in progress. It cost to enter each photo into a competition but the fees are modest, with 50% of the fee going into the prize pool and 50% going to the site operator.

My latest success, just last week — selected for the LFI Gallery

Cash prizes

The prizes (in US dollars) are dependant on the number of entrants in individual competitions and they can be substantial. From time to time they even offer a Leica M Monochrom as a prize. There are only first prizes in I Shot It. Runners up are given Marks of Excellence which is just a statement of recognition.

I first started entering I-Shot-It in 2012 and, within a few months, I won the first of a number of Marks of Excellence. Then, in September of 2017, I won first prize in a Premium competition which gave me a very substantial cash prize. I recycled this money back to Leica by using it to purchase a Leica Q.

Encouraged by this win, I have been entering I-Shot-It competitions regularly since then. I have not won a first prize again but I have achieved quite a few Marks of Excellence, including three in the last two months. At the moment I feel as if I am now always the bridesmaid but never the bride with I-Shot-It, but I am convinced I will get a First Prize again before too long.

Subjective view

An LFI Master Shot notification

The one thing to appreciate about all photo competitions is that the judging is always subjective.

You are at the mercy of the judge’s personal likes and dislikes. I have entered photos which I was sure were good contenders and they did not even see a Mark of Excellence.

Also, I have entered the photo which won the big cash prize in I-Shot-It into other competitions and it has not even merited a mention, yet alone win a prize.

With I-Shot-It you can actually see all the photos entered into a competition as they are uploaded. You can see what you are up against and the standard of most, but not all, photographs is very high.

So if you are considering entering, have a good look at the submissions for a few weeks and critically appraise your own photos before putting your foot in the water. I would recommend I-Shot- It if you want to see some good photography and if you strive to improve the standard of your own photography.

Leica Fotografie International

The final avenue I use for displaying my photos, and as vehicle for improving my photography, is the online LFI Gallery (LFI = Leica Fotografie International). This has been around for many years but it has really grown in recent times. Leica’s own Fotopark could not co-exist with it and was folded up back in February.

LFI Master Shot

I entered photos into the LFI Gallery years ago without success, but then moved onto the Fotopark when it opened. With the demise of the Fotopark I have recently become an enthusiastic participant in the Gallery again. The Gallery is not a competition — there are no prizes but there are levels of recognition. It is easy to join the Gallery and upload photos-which have to be photos taken with a Leica camera.

The panel of Gallery judges assesses the individual entries and then puts them into one of three categories. The first category is that they don’t give them any form of recognition. It doesn’t mean that the photos are duds, it just means they don’t consider them worthy of inclusion in the Gallery. The second category includes them in the Gallery into a descriptive section such as Asia or Landscapes. The galleries are continuously updated and you can view them online at any time. There many very good photos in the Gallery section.

Master Shots

Then, finally, there is the premium recognition class, the LFI Gallery Master Shots. To quote from the LFI Gallery website: “The Leica Gallery Master Shots are a hand-picked selection of the world’s best images taken with a Leica camera.” It’s probably more than a little hyped but the standard is usually very high, although sometimes I do find myself questioning the judges’ choices.

LFI Master Shot

The LFI Gallery receives hundreds of thousands of entries annually so gaining any form of recognition is an achievement. And to make it into the Master Shot category is very satisfying. Since I became active in submitting photos to the LFI Gallery in February of this year I have submitted 51 photos and six have been accepted as Master Shots and quite a few have made it into the Galleries.

I thought I was doing well until I found a photographer from Hong Kong who is a retired banker and who has had over 120 photos accepted as Mastershots since he started submitting photos in May last year. 

LFI Master Shot

Even if you are not interested in submitting photos to the LFI Gallery, I do recommend looking at the photos in the Mastershots section. In the last ten years, I have found that looking at very good photography and submitting my own work to be assessed and judged in competitions has really helped my own photography develop.

You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road. And on Instagram

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this article John, I had been looking forward to it since the merest mention of it a week or two back.

    I dont do Instagram, as I feel it ruins the look of images (might just be me), I still use Flickr for the majority of my stuff, and I have a healthy following on there, although I have a love hate relationship with the site. I did a period on Ipernity when Flickr had a poor period, but came back when the site improved.

    As for competitions I have rarely entered any images in to anything, although I may now be encouraged to try submitting to I shot it, and I might push some of my Leica stuff at the gallery.

    Cheers.

  2. I heartily endorse your comments John and thoroughly enjoy club competitions particularly print.
    I use Flickr and 500px to share images but can’t be doing with the ‘like’ chasing.
    I do submit to the TLS Circle D monthly which is good fun and on the demise of Fotopark also stared posting to LFI. So far I’ve managed just the one Mastershot but will keep plugging away.

  3. Hi John, these images are a real treat to look at and I am not surprised you are getting recognition in competitions with your superb images! Thanks Brian

    • Dave, Thanks. For the sake of brevity I omitted to mention my use of Flickr where I do post all my “keepers”. I use Flickr both as a long stop back up site and as a way of sharing my photos with friends and family. On Flickr if to put the photos into albums and then use a free site called Flickriver ( flickriver.com) viewers can see you photos in “potted” albums. Neat.
      John

      • And I have now learnt another new thing tonight, I had never realised there was site dedicated to viewing Flickr Albums – makes sense though. I may give that a spin.

        Cheers

    • Jean, thanks for your kind comment.
      In response to your questions I have not deleted some of the images- I have put them into albums or am putting them into albums in”My Gallery” on the LFI Gallery site.. The first album are my photos which have been accepted as Mastershots, the second are the photos which have been accepted into the various categories in the Gallery and the third album-currently WIP- are the photos which have not made the cut into any category. I’m now only really interested in getting photos accepted as Mastershots and that retired Hong Kong banker with his hundreds of Mastershots is my inspiration.

      As far as using the digital crop facility on the Q is concerned like you I consider it a handy feature which I very rarely use. My favourite lens with my M film cameras was 28mm and so I am used to shooting with a 28mm over many years and most of the time nowadays if a crop is needed I do a mental crop in my head and the real crop in Lightroom.
      John

  4. Thank you for the article John. I have been looking forward to your article since it was announced on the Macfilos blog. I don’t have any account like flickr or instagram and uses the LFI gallery exclusively. I’m pleased when some of my images are selected in one of the various categories (they accept shots with the ricoh in the various galleries). I’m following quite a few Leica photographers in the gallery who enter images regularly and is amazed by the quality of the site and images. By the way, why did you delete some of your images originally in the gallery? I totally agree with you about the discipline shooting a single focal lens. I wonder if you use the crop mode on your Q from time to time. It’s a feature I appreciate on the ricoh although I rarely use it but it proves handy in some situations. I did manage just one mastershot as I’ve shot the various ricoh GRs for years now and haven’t had the opportunity to travel with the X only. I’ll have a look at I shot it although I’ve never entered a photo competition so far. Thanks for the tip
    Jean

  5. Thanks for your article. I followed the link to the I Shot It web site and a very basic page is displayed, with a message in a blue band at the top saying ‘This domain name has just been registered’. The hosting company (1&1) say the page is a basic one to avoid viewers seeing an ‘Error 404 Page not found’ message and asks the site owners to upload content. Perhaps I Shot It have just moved to a new hosting site? Certainly the one the link takes you to is very basic, no images, just links to photo groups (these also have no images).
    Geoff

  6. Many thanks John, both links work now – maybe I just happened to click on it when they were switching hosting platforms? I did try several times over a few hours and got the same page. It was just a plain page with various categories of subjects, clicking on any one just gave a further options, but no images & no mention of competitions (the page now shows the words ‘The Best Photo Competition’ in the web page bar, which was not there yesterday). I did a Google search as well yesterday and all the links for I Shot It gave the same basic page, together with the message from 1&1 (hosting company) to upload content if you are the web site owner, which tends to suggest they may have switched hosting platforms. Anyway, thanks again for your help (and for the article).
    Regards,
    Geoff

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