The addictiveness of competition

My second year of entering the Buckingham Camera Club Photographer of the Year competition is drawing to a close, with round eight beckoning next week and my entries already selected for the competition and ready to be submitted. It’s been a tough second year in reality, and while I’m close to the position I achieved in 2012 on the final table in terms of points and success levels I’m well behind.

Last year was my rookie year, and on the final night of the competition there were three or four of us who left genuinely not knowing whether we’d won or not – it was that close. I ended up third, just two points behind the winner and one point behind second place. It really was that close. This year after seven of the eight rounds I lie in fourth place, 5 points behind my finishing position last year. The big difference between 2012 and 2013 is that currently I am 27 points behind the leader. No way will I be making that gap up. As a result my thinking has for the most part changed for the end of this years competition and I’m not necessarily entering my best images – why bother? I could keep them back for 2014 and hopefully get a better result.

But it’s not all about the Photographer of the Year competition. The Club has a variety of other competitions through the year – the Versatility Challenge I managed to win (see Versatility Assured) and we’ve got Colour and Monochrome Prints trophies coming up soon too. It all makes for an interesting challenge for me to see how my work stacks up against the other club members.

On top of that the Club selects the best images from all members which are then entered into regional competitions, and we’ve had mixed success with that – although a new way of selecting the images from the club pool is starting to bear fruit. I’ve had a few images in regional competitions, and one or two have scored very well. Ironically the ones that have scored well are ones that don’t seem to have done so well in the Photographer of the Year competition – and vice versa. And this is this crux of competitions – it is unlikely two judges will have the same opinion of the image. The next external competition I’m entering is XRR Visions, where I enter as an individual but the Club selects three members to represent it for the team trophy.

So, how else to get your work looked at? I’ve been experimenting with “Salons” – an International competition where your image is judged by more than one judge – which should help to give a more balanced view. I’ve so far had work judged at one salon – the Midlands International Salon – and have entered two more where judging has not yet taken place. There are several categories in each Salon, I’ve so far only entered the digital categories as the expense of sending prints in doesn’t seem worthwhile at this time. How did I do at Midland? I got one acceptance out of twelve images. The one acceptance I had wasn’t granted any awards, but as an accepted image was shown at the exhibition in the Summer.

Curious about the scoring I emailed the Salon Chairman, who kindly explained some more detail to me. Each of the three judges could score from 1 to 5, and an acceptance was 11 points or greater. He also pointed out that entering the Nature section requires a very different sort of photography – much more of a record shot, and no “cute” titles. One image I submitted was titled “Reach Out and Touch Someone” and scored very low. It wasn’t felt to be proper nature, and also the title wasn’t to the judges tastes – in Nature categories the judges prefer the title to be more about the animal – rather than a storytelling title. Good image, but not appropriate. Live and learn – I have a much better idea of what is required now for that specific subject.

So now I await the results of the Swansea International Salon, and later in the year the Smethwick International. Acceptances is my target for now, I’d be happy with more of those and that will only push me to try and make better and better images in the future. I hope.

My Club competition entries can be found here once the competition has taken place, and the external competitions are here.

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