Zack Arias Explains Why You May Not Be Winning Photo Contests

It's been a while since we have seen new educational content from Photographer Zack Arias but it seems like he is back and this first video explores some of the reasons you might not be winning photo contests. 
For a long time, Arias was a huge name in the photo education realm. YouTube videos, blog articles, and workshops at all the biggest conferences. He has been quiet for a while but now it seems at least for a few videos he's back. This first video is a wealth of knowledge on photo contests based on his long experience involved in the Atlanta photojournalism contest. 

I have been on both sides of photo contests throughout my career judging small regional contests as well as entering larger international ones. When Judging, something I often get push back from contestants is one of the tips Arias mentions and that is a unique photo or perspective of a captured moment will always be better than the best technical photo. You can do everything right and make a great image for your portfolio but if I've seen that same photo dozens or hundreds of times before its probably not going to win. 

This is something I think a lot of photographers can benefit from since contest judges, editors, art buyers, and clients as a whole look at countless photographs throughout the year. They have seen the best, they know what is unique, and they will almost always hold that above a solid image or even portfolio. That is why editors mention developing and working on your own unique personal style. 

As always Arias is great at sharing his own experiences and helping photographers progress their work and I really hope we see a lot more videos from him again. 

Log in or register to post comments

7 Comments

Robert Tran's picture

Effective reminder that many times, contests are about a specific moment that transcends being portfolio worthy. Having said this, in most cases, the contest winning shot will be the “hook,” but the photog will be judged by the consistency of his/her portfolio.

Cheers and thanks for the link.

In most cases its a waste of money - but more importantly it’s a waste of time.

I just want to say props for putting the guys name in the headline instead of just ‘PHOTOGRAPHER TELLS U 10 WAYS UR NOT GOOD ENOUGH 2 WIN’.

Rod Kestel's picture

Maybe it's because I never entered one

Paul Jarrett's picture

That explains a lot. Thanks.

David Pavlich's picture

This is one of the best videos I've seen since I've been a member here! Why? About 3 weeks ago, I judged my very first contest. However, the images we judged (3 of us) we're already culled from the numerous entries, so we were seeing the good stuff.

Qualifications? None really other than I sell prints and am the president of our photo club. :-) One judge is an accomplished commercial photographer and the other is the founder of a local camera shop.

One point that really stuck out from the video is one judge might love a shot one year, but the next year, that sort of shot may get poo pooed. My very first contest, a local one, I was awarded a second and a third. The second wasn't a complete surprise because it was a really nice shot, but the third was the shocker. It was one of those highly tone mapped shots that so many give me grief about. It was a dismantled engine block is a maelstrom of loose parts...general chaos. However, the judge must have liked the colors or something. A pretty sure bet is that if someone else was judging, it wouldn't have received a thing.

Anyway, this was a great video if you're like me and enter a contest now and again.