Photography contests have never particularly been my cup of tea. Not that I’m afraid of some competition, but there are so many of them, and lots with a sketchy agreement of terms. Frankly, I just didn’t want to spend the time to vet each one before entering. However, this year I was feeling a little different and decided to enter one to see just how my work stacks up. The Epson Pano Awards is a major worldwide competition that really only has one criteria for entry: the image must be a panorama crop of 2 to 1 or greater. Artistic license with photoshop is certainly allowed and judging by some of the winners, it’s very rewarded (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Being my first photography contest I really had no expectations whatsoever. I was more curious just exactly where my work measured up against my peers. I mean, I know my mom likes my work but what about bonafide judges with worthy resumes in the photography universe. And with over 1300 photographers from across the globe entering 5300 images, I figured this contest would certainly give me a good idea. I chose to enter five photographs all taken within the last couple years with only one taken as a true panorama in the field and stitched together in photoshop, with the rest being images that I cropped to meet the format criteria.
After entering over the summer, I put it out of my mind and actually forgot about it. That is until I saw the posts on Facebook from other photographers proud of what they accomplished in the awards. I didn’t see an email, which led me to conclude that my work sucked so bad that I didn’t even deserve to be notified. So I logged onto the site and was pleasantly surprised to find that all five of my entries were awarded a medal. Four receiving a Bronze for scoring in the top 33% and one getting a Silver for the top 10%. Needless to say I got a warm and fuzzy feeling after seeing the results! And then emailed the organizers demanding to know how I didn’t win photographer of the year. Kidding.
Why am I sharing this you might ask? Well, I do believe that at some point it is imperative to put your work out there to be judged by a qualified body. Likes and endless “epic photo!” comments are nice on social media, a great little pat on the back if you will. But frankly in my opinion the bar is so low over there that anything, and I mean ANYTHING, can get a bajillion likes. And so no matter how many times your mom and friends (real and imaginary ones on instagram) tell you how awesome you are, the only way you will know for sure is by being judged against who you perceive to be your peers in an open competition. Now of course, judging art is subjective, and what one person likes another may despise. There’s also trends that go in and out of favor that affect these things as well. But with a pool as deep as there is in this competition, the cream most certainly rises to the top. And now I know that at least this batch of photographs falls in that frothy top third. For now.