Art Talk... Competitions within photography; the inevitable money-making machines or a wonderful leg-up for the emerging photographer?


Competitions within photography; the inevitable money-making machines or a wonderful leg-up for the emerging photographer?

- Josh Adam Jones

Josh Adam Jones, Photographer ©Josh Adam Jones

Josh Adam Jones, Photographer ©Josh Adam Jones

 There are numerous websites dedicated to contemporary photography, and many promote photographic opportunities by way of a competition, open call or grant. Though most of these platforms operate under the best intentions, which one might hope is to further better opportunities for photographers, there is an increasing number of people becoming wary of the financial aspects of these opportunities. It seems to be commonplace for an entry fee to be charged, sometimes per image or occasionally for a series of images or complete project. This is not to say that charging for entry to a competition or open call is wrong, as photography platforms need to generate revenue through some viable means, but there might be a potential issue with certain organisations releasing a new paid for opportunity every few weeks.


It is important to evaluate the potential outcomes of entering competitions, especially if there is a financial aspect to consider. Does the organisation or platform have a long history of supporting photographers or visual artists, and are their intentions authentic? Would there be a significant benefit of entering, even if the work did not ‘win’? Who are the people involved with looking at or judging the work, and would entering get the work in front of the right people? Of course, there are a plethora of further questions to consider, but these might act as a good starting point.


 Most of the time, the overall top-place prizes are very good, and are marketed in such a way to entice a wide and numerous audience. However, it is also important to consider opportunities with a less prestigious reputation, that instead better align with your photographic style of subject matter. It is not so much as a ‘one size fits all’, but rather each grant opportunity, competition or small open call can provide a lot of experience, regardless of the outcome. The necessary skills needed for such applications can be developed in incremental steps, and there is always something to learn from one competition or open call to the next. Selecting and editing work for a series submission, writing a concise and effective artists statement or even just following the instructions for file resizing and naming. These are all valuable skills which need to be as polished as possible, regardless of the overall outcome or intent for the work.

Pick and choose what work is released from a project, whether this is by means of publication or through social media. When entering work for a competition or grant opportunity, work that has not been previously published or seen is more likely to have more gravitas and impact. Social media is not necessarily the best place to reveal all important work, so consider holding some images back. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a game, but one that has constantly evolving rules and an infinitely changing top prize. Play along, and good things might come your way...

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From XO -©Josh Adam Jones -

From XO -©Josh Adam Jones -

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