My friends in the industry are combing through the images they took last year, tweaking the best images in hopes of creating a gem. It’s contest season.
There are two major contests for photojournalism in the US. Both are accepting entries now.
Pictures of the Year (POYi), sponsored by the University of Missouri, is administered and judged in Columbia, Mo., each year. The deadline for entries is January 15. The awards will be given June 24 – 26 in Los Angeles.
Best of Photojournalism (BoP), sponsored by the National Press Photographers Association, is administered by the organization and judged as several sites across the country, including the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. The deadline for entries is January 29. The awards will be presented July 6 – 8.
Both contests evaluate many categories for still images, multiple images, image-based Web sites and photo editing. The top awards in both contests are for portfolios. POYi has a book award, and BoP has several categories for video. They accept digital entries only, with a few exceptions (such as the book award and best use of photos.) They are intended for professional photojournalists who work for a newspaper, editorial photo agency, or broadcast news organization. This is not for amateurs, and competition is at a very high level.
Both contests will judge the contests in February or March, and much of the judging is posted online so the public can see the process.
These contests serve several purposes. For one, they give recognition to those who are doing great work. Others see that work, and get inspired to create at a higher level. The public sees the work and gains an appreciation for the profession.
For journalists, it gives us a reason to reflect over the year and evaluate our progress. What was my best work of 2009? Did I tell stories that hold together? Do any of these go into my career portfolio? It’s educational to put our work in with our peers and get feedback. Most of us work in fairly isolated environments. Winning or losing in a national competition gives us perspective we probably don’t get from our own editors.
And of course, doing well in a contest can have a very positive impact on one’s career. It can be a stepping stone to a better job, a big assignment, or a higher day rate. Like any industry, we have people who are very competitive, and others who hate contests. But most photographers believe contests can serve as a useful tool to mark our progress and add credibility to our resumes.