Question: Should You Enter Street Photography Competitions?

After purchasing our three video Street Photography Marketing workshop, photographer Michiel de Lange had further questions to ask like, “Should I enter a street photography competition?” Considering what happened recently with Sal Cincotta and judges at Shutterfest, it’s a very big problem that is in the industry which can mean that sometimes you get completely swindled out of your money.

But that doesn’t mean they’re all bad.

Here’s Michiel’s letter, which is being republished with permission.

Dear Chris

Have just finished working through your three recent Modern Thrive workshop series videos, regretting that I couldn’t attend it live! Unfortunately they were timed at 3am where I live, which was a tough call three “working” nights in a row.

Wishing to thank you for the valuable information provided. I’ve been a serious (hobbiest) street photographer for 10+ years, but still working towards “breaking through” in a meaningful way – hoping to make travelling street photography my fulltime lifestyle. Thankfully, I already have many of the elements you’ve mentioned in place (website, blog, selective social media etc.) and have been published a number of times before, but can now work towards further refining my strategies.

I missed discussions on one or two related items, which I would’ve liked asking about “live”, but can perhaps be the subject of some later workshop:
1. What is your opinion and advice on (Street) Photography Competitions?
2. Any thoughts on the value of (self) publishing a book of one’s work?

Still have to work through the whole lot of additional resources you provided, but all in all congrats on an insightful and positive workshop series. Hoping to join more in future.

Best regards

Michiel


Hi Michiel,

Thanks a million for the purchase and helping us pay our bills! 😉 It genuinely means a whole lot as I started this website seven years ago with the intention of forming symbiotic relationships and cutting through the world of internet trolls. For the most part, I’d say mission accomplished!

But let’s get to your questions. I’m going to start with Street Photography competitions. Should you enter them? The answer: not all of them.

What I’d generally do is this, if a competition has happened more than once, then it’s most likely reputable and the organizers did something right (people keep entering, there is genuinely good work, etc). If you’re paying to enter, consider it an entry gate that is VERY worth it. I’m going to liken this to two photography collectives that I’ve been part of here in NYC. One has a monthly fee, the other one is a free for all. For the most part, the one with the monthly fee is a tighter, nicer, and more symbiotic group. It immediately cuts out all of the potential trolls.

The same thing has to do with street photography competitions. So why do you NEED to pay to enter? Besides the gate to keeping submissions down and filter through the filth, sometimes a lot of the judges are spending a lot of time judging these competitions. And if these judges are any good or reputable, I believe an investment of $25 or so to state this on your awards list is VERY worth it. But at the same time, you should know you’re going to be against tougher competition. So you should really submit only the best work. The workshop teaches you how to cull through this, and you already understand that. Similarly, you spent $99 for a little over three hours of my time, course packets, etc.

Wouldn’t you say that that’s $33/hr well spent?

So in summation: should you enter street photography competitions? Yes. But I’d honestly go for the higher-end ones only if you’ve won previous free competitions. They’re very worth it as they’re great to talk about when you pitch yourself: something else I also talk about in the workshop.

Your second question has to do with self-publishing and this is one where I’m very torn. You can surely go ahead and self-publish, but when you’re trying to market your book, you should absolutely hope you’ve got the marketing chops and the network of people to promote it. If you don’t then that’s what you’re paying a publisher to do partially.

There are various ways to promote when you self-publish too: like magazine/book launch parties, interviews, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc. But you also have to think about who would actually pay money to buy your book. And in all honesty, that’s where facetime with your potential buyers is HUGE.

People online will say, “Why should I buy your book?” But in person, they’ll have the in-person experience, and better understand the beauty of the work inside. If they don’t buy it, then move on. But you’re more likely to get a sale with an in-person experience.

Again, this all depends on whether or not you’ve got the network to help you out on this.

I genuinely hope this helps!