Should You Enter Photo Contests That Involve Voting?July 15, 2015
We’re sure you’ve seen them time and again — those photo contests where your photos won’t be looked at by judges, but instead are voted on by the public. Companies use them as a way to create interest and interaction through social media and their websites, and these contests can drum up a lot of interest from all sorts of people who decide to enter or vote. But as a real photographer, whether you’re an amateur or professional, are they worth entering? We’ll cover the pros and cons of doing so.
Con: More People Have a Chance to Win
It’s likely that more people will find out about a company’s contest and be inclined to enter it than they would a professional photo contest. Because of that, you’ll probably be up against large hordes of people, with your photo getting lost in the shuffle.
Pro: You Can Market Yourself
Entering a contest with a voting component gives you a chance to gain some recognition and new clients. You can use the contest to create some interest in yourself by sharing it with social media followers and other contacts to ask if they’ll vote for your photo if they like it. It’s also a smart tactic to ask if they can share the contest with their own friends and followers. Just be careful not to annoy your contacts by asking this of them too often.
Con: Winning Is Not Based Solely on Merit
These voting contests are similar to a high school popularity contest. A winning photo doesn’t necessarily win because of the photo itself, but instead because the photographer got more people to vote for him. So the winner can be the one who begged the most family members, friends and contacts to vote.
Pro: More People Might See Your Photos
You could gain some exposure from this type of contest. You enter judge-based photo contests partly for the exposure, and voting contests generally offer the same thing. Since many of these contests are put on by businesses outside the photography world, they can actually potentially provide exposure to a wider audience that is not as specialized. For example, if your photo will be featured on a major corporation’s website and social media pages, that could be better exposure than winning a lesser known photography contest. In addition, all the people coming to vote in the contest will see your image.
Con: Winning Might Not Hold Much Weight
You have to ask yourself what kind of contest you’re really winning. Is it a contest put on by a cat food company? Would it really add to your professional credentials to admit that you won that? These contests are usually put on by companies as part of their marketing plan, instead of by members of the photography field judging the merit of your shots against other equally accomplished ones. Your win might not be taken seriously in your field since it could be equated to winning a glorified popularity contest against many random people taking photos with their point-and-shoot cameras or smartphones.
Bottom line, you should probably see this type of contest more as a way to create some interest and exposure than as a prestigious award to win. Nonetheless, this type of contest is not always so different from a professionally judged one, since not all of those are worth entering either, depending on the prestigious nature of the contest, the exposure offered and the potential prize. So weigh the pros and cons of each contest to see if it’s a strong fit for your goals.