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.