$6,500 Given to Instagram Photography Awards Winner: Can You Guess What Won?

$6,500 Given to Instagram Photography Awards Winner: Can You Guess What Won?

The inaugural Photobox Instagram Photography Awards (PIPA) concluded last week with the winner getting a very impressive cash prize of $6,500. However, I feel rather dismayed and further disillusioned by the winning image.

The Photobox Instagram Photography competition opened in July of this year and ran for three weeks. During that time, it amassed a very healthy 180,000 entries, which equated to about 9,000 entries per day. Anyone who wanted to enter the competition simply had to use the hashtag #thepipas2018. Entries were then divided into 10 categories, including travel, animals, sports, landscapes, and a few others. I must have been living under a planet-sized rock during that time, because I'm a regular Instagram user, and I had no idea it was going on.

Alas, I need not have worried about an opportunity gone begging, because the beautifully inevitable happened: a picture of a poodle scooped the winning prize. Yes, out of 180,000 entries, a poodle picture was deemed the top image. However, this in itself wasn't the biggest issue for me, it was more the lack of information in regards to the judging criteria, which seems to be so common in almost all photography contests. Aside from telling you the categories and who the judges are, you're seldom given any other information to help you work out what the judges are looking for.

I mean, even at my college here in Japan, when we give a writing exam or an oral exam to students, we provide them all with detailed rubrics that outline very clearly how they'll be scored and the categories we score them on. We even tell them how we weight the different categories and give example score breakdowns. Then teachers do several calibration sessions prior to exams to ensure we're all scoring as objectively as possible based on the rubrics.

Have you ever had something like that in a photo contest? They just seem to be decided at the whim of whoever's been deemed a judge. That's not to say there's any foul play going on, but in my experience, it's been very hard to know exactly what the judges like or dislike. Granted, this PIPA contest that just concluded was free to enter for all Instagram users, so one can't complain too vociferously. Nonetheless, like most other photo contests around the world, the judging criteria seemed rather vague. Be that as it may, there were winning entries in all 10 categories, which you can judge for yourself here.

Perhaps my misplaced frustrations are simply a result of not entering a free competition that dished out over $10,000 in prizes. But what hope would I have had against a poodle with a ball in its mouth? What do you think of the winning photos? And what's been your experiences when you've entered photo contests?

Lead Image by Pixabay user Samuel 1983, used under Creative Commons.

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Alex Cooke's picture

Classical composition has a large competition circuit too, and issues like this (and many others) are the reason I stopped entering.

Iain Stanley's picture

Don’t start me Alex haha! Almost to a fault, I’m a stickler for transparency in any kind of decision making, but it seems photo contests are just so random and haphazard. You could enter the same photo in 10 different contests and get 10 completely different results without a skerrick of feedback from any of them.

I’m fine if I don’t win but it would be nice to see how the judges made their decisions and what went into their thoughts in choosing the winners. Even nicer would be to hear information from them on what they’re looking for before the contests. But you very, very rarely get so much as an ambiguous outline, let alone a detailed breakdown of the judging criteria.

Thus, like you, I have long since given up, especially when so many contests charge a pretty penny just to enter. I’ll just stick to free ones and start padding my portfolio with poodles and kittens.

Dan Marchant's picture

There are obviously some top class awards out there but many of these smaller/newer competitions aren't really about photography. They are about the business of competitions. Invest a bit of prize money in a competition for a couple of years, attract a sponsor (for whom this is just a PR exercise) to pay your costs (inc the salary of the people running it) and away you go. Picking a winner is just an unnecessary annoyance that needs to be done to keep the sponsorship rolling in.

Colin Fibiger's picture

This about sums it up. I was invited to be a judge at a local competition alongside someone from the sponsors, a model and a radio personality. It was an insult to my professionalism to have to sit with three incompetents who cared nothing for the standard of work presented.

Marcus Joyce's picture

They are award winning now. Makes the photos 10 times more valuable. Everything will now start as award winning photographer... So and so will grace you peasants with their presence and be sure to buy whatever rubbish they are advertising

Adam Rubinstein's picture

Wow., these don’t even rise to the level of stock work.

Samuel Zeller's picture

There is REAL contests and awards out there, this is not one of them. Just a joke.

Azur Inspire's picture

Winning landscape photo is a travel photo, winning fashion photo is a street photo and I’m unaware of sport where you drive small circles with a RIB boat

Iain Stanley's picture

Yep. It would be hilarious if each category award wasn’t $600+. Or maybe that makes it more hilarious...?

Dan Marchant's picture

Sad is the word... not hilarious.

Ian Fraser's picture

This is the perfect contest for Instagramer. It makes no sense and has no objectivity.

Simon Davies's picture

The winners sum instagram up really. They’re not terrible photos (except the ‘fashion’ one), but there are definitely far better photos out there. But how do you find them in all the millions of photos, and with the algorithm screwing with what you see? It’s like they were chosen at random, which is pretty much how insta works now. It’s a shame.

Iain Stanley's picture

I think many photography ‘contests’ are completely ‘random’ but this one seems on another level.

Andy Day's picture

This has to be a hoax, surely. The only way that this contest could better epitomise the vacuity and banality of social media is if the winning image were a cat.

Iain Stanley's picture

Hey hey hey. The Poodle Union for Banal Instagram Contests (PUBIC) might have something to say about your cat reference....

Andy Day's picture


JetCity Ninja's picture

ok, you are hereby awarded 1 internets for this retort.

Gerard Blignaut's picture

All can be summarized in one word...........Underwhelmed.

Color Thief's picture

It's hard to understand why anyone would expect a competition like this to produce compelling winners. Consider this: among the judges was Editor in Chief at Cosmopolitan, Farrah Storr. She's probably pretty busy right? Now with 18,000 entries, if you looked at each for an average of two seconds, you would be starting at your screen for ten straight hours. Do we really think she (or any of the other judges) did that? If it's not credible that the judges thoroughly went through the images, then how did judging actually happen?

Iain Stanley's picture

.....”then how did judging actually happen?” This, my friend, is life’s biggest conundrum when it comes to photography ‘contests’

Dan Marchant's picture

Brings to mind the competition that announced winners only to then have the "judges" that were listed on the website publish an open letter stating that they didn't know they were judges, hadn't given permission for their names to be used and hadn't seen, let alone judged, the images.

JetCity Ninja's picture

ah yes, the "International Photographer of the Year" scam..

Christopher Eaton's picture

Only one image in these I'd want to see in my feed and that is the travel photo.

Jordan McChesney's picture

Film has “The Razzies”, photography has PIPA

Stephen Patterson's picture

Of course it won, it's a dog wearing clothes, what more could you ask for, or, unless it set it up as a selfie, then PETA can try to arrange for the $6500 to go to the dog and any further earnings from use of the pic in future comps.

Carsten Schlipf's picture

Can someone tell me, which phone has a native b/w camera? (#nofilter winner)

Silva Jorge's picture

The winning fashion photo is a joke!

Josh Spradley's picture

I mean it's not a terrible picture of a poodle... not a great picture by any means but not terrible.

Alternate comment: you plebs just don't understand true art. :-)

Iain Stanley's picture

I think it's the added dimension of the one eye that turned 'average' into 'arty pirate poodle'

Aaron B.'s picture

Oh wow lol. Yeah. I'd really like to know the criteria

Gary Smith's picture

Some of these are fine, but I'm having trouble understanding the winning fashion entry. It's a street shot that was with almost 99% certainty taken on someone's phone and hit with heavy (probably in-app) contrast and vignetting. With the amount of incredible fashion photography out there, I cannot see how that is a winning entry - at least put it in a street photography category, but even then I'd find that a bit of a puzzling win, considering how much fantastic street photography is out there. Photography, as always, is subjective I guess.

Patrick Karbownik's picture

I'd totally understand the category winners if they only had 1.000 entries but with 180k entries there must have been something better.. What a joke contest