by Jim Zuckerman


Jim Zuckerman (the one on the right)

I  am not a fan of photography competitions.  Photography is an art, it’s not a race to the finish or a game scored by points where only one person or one team can win.  In this art form that we all love, there can be, and are, many winners.  In fact, almost everyone who takes photography seriously has taken at least a few great shots.  So, what is this winning and losing all about when it comes to imagery?

To make my point, let’s say Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, and Rembrandt all entered the same art competition assuming they happened to live at the same time.  Wouldn’t you think it would be absolutely foolish to say one is better than the other?  You may like the work of Renoir better than Picasso or Van Gogh more than Rembrandt, but so what?  All of these artists are recognized the world over as being great, not to mention the prices their paintings command.  And what judge would have the audacity to place one of these artists above another when millions of people including art historians, curators of art collections, art collectors and many others are going to have myriad views on the subject, many of which will differ from the judge?

So why doesn’t this apply to photography?  Obviously not all contest submissions are great, but I can tell you that I’ve judged many contests myself and my frustration is that too many images should win.  How could I decide on the best picture when 20 best pictures could win?  The 19 photographers who didn’t win – when they easily could have but for, essentially, the wim of a judge – go away feeling they’ve been cheated.  And they have … by the foolishness of trying to compete with art.

If you like to enter contests, don’t take them seriously.  I say the same thing to both winners and those who didn’t win.  Don’t allow your feelings to be hurt if you don’t win, and if you do win, know that many other photographers took pictures just as good as yours and they could have won as well.  Your image was chosen after the judges looked at thousands of images.  With eyes glazed over from exhaustion, after the initial process of elimination, they just happened to choose yours because they were tired and wanted to go home. 

 Trust me.  I know.

Jim Zuckerman

This month’s guest feature was kindly provided by professional photographer, Jim Zuckerman, from his Feburary 2016 Photo Insights newsletter. 

Note: Thank you to APS member Stan Greenberg for making the arrangements for Jim Zuckerman’s guest article!  

Also, my thoughts: I mostly agree with Jim’s opinions about photo competitions.  Participate in photo competitions to get feedback on your images and learn from the judges’ critiques. And to learn from your fellow photographers’ images, opinions and insights.  Have fun, and don’t worry about “winning.”  Whenever you learn, you win!  

Jim Harrison, APS President