Are photography contests worthless? Like most arguments, there are two sides:
Yes, photography contests, on the whole, are generally worthless – they are a time and money suck, and the organizers are looking to make money or disguise them as a rights grab.
No, they provide value, in that it forces photographers to curate their best work and ultimately push themselves to compete with “the best”. Plus, reading that so-and-so won this-and-that photo contest is kind of like being named Best Smile in the yearbook – many of us tend to pay attention to those awards, even if we’re not sure why.
But before the opining begins, keep in mind that every contest is geared toward a different level of photographer (student vs. amateur vs. pro), genre of photography (documentary, commercial, fine art, etc.), and different buyers are checking out different contests (magazine editors vs. ad agencies, for example).
Below we rate several major photo contests, with a brief overview of each contests’ entry fees, prizes, promised exposure, and feedback from past winners. Our verdict is given on an A-F scale, with “A” being worthwhile and “F” being worthless. Let the grading begin: