Not all awards are created equal

Do you know an award winning photographer? Chances are you do. A LOT of photographers win awards and are quick to show them off on their websites and facebook pages. Winning an award is an amazing marketing opportunity for photographers. It shows that they know what they are doing. Afterall, if you are looking for a photographer and find one that is award winning, that stands out to you. You may think they are better than another photographer simply because they won an award.

But not so fast. What kind of award did they win? Who gave them the award? What are the merits of the judges? Is it really a legitimate photography award or one that they simply paid for?

An important aspect to consider when you see a photographer is "award winning" is where they award they won came from. Did it come from an industry recognized competition that is created based on certain standards of the photographic community? Was the award given by judges that are respected members of the photographic community that are trained in certain aspects of judging? Or was the award given by some website the photographer signed up for?

There are a million places that photographers can submit images, many of those places give out awards. These "awards" are generally based on the number of views an image gets or simply because someone on the "board" liked the image. Sites like viewbug and pixoto are sites that photographers can submit images to and get "judged". Many of these sites are free to signup and submit images to. The judging comes from other users. The majority of the images posted to the site win some type of award. Does that mean its a great image? No..

You also have photographers that win awards at the local fair. There may or may not be a fee to enter at the local fair, but chances are the judges that are viewing the images dont know what to look for. Not to mention that its a very small sample size of the community that enters images into the fair. Our local fair had one photographer enter for portraits and they subsequently won an award for the category. 

Then you have the sites that you have to pay to submit images to. Sites like WedAwards and Weddison are examples. Its about $40 to enter images into the competition. Supposedly, only a small percentage of the images are selected each month as award winners. Keep in mind that these sites operate to make money. If photographers paid $40 each month and never won anything, would they continue to pay $40 to enter subsequent contests? Now if a photographer pays, enters the contests and is selected as a "winner", guess what? They will enter again next month and more than likely, win another award. 

Lets take a look at two images as an example. Both of these won awards at Wedisson. I entered two contests, paid $40 for each contest, and magically won an award in both contests. Amazing right?

Now, both of those images are pretty good. The clients LOVED them, however, that doesnt mean they are worthy of an award. In fact, I entered the sunset image into a legitimate and respected photography competition and it scored a 76. A score between 70 and 79 is considered an average image. Scores of 80+ are worthy of a merit.

So how can an image that was judged by well known and respected photographers using the industry standard scoring, win an award in a contest when it was scored as "average" in the legitimate, respected competition? Easy, its not a legitimate award. It was given to me to keep me spending $40 per month. To test that theory, I entered the image on the right into a competition a few months later, and SURPRISE.. I won again.

Want to see what a legitimate award looks like? 

This image won first place in the fashion category at the photography conference I attended. It was judged by some of the top photographers in the country using the industry standard scoring method. 

So when you are browsing through websites or facebook pages and you see that they are an "award winning photographer", talk to them about the images and ask them what competition it was entered into. Some of the biggest legitimate photography competitions are WPPI, PPA, Shutterfest, World Photographic Cup and Society of Photographers (England).

Winning "awards" at the other sites are like being named the person with the best personality in your high school yearbook? Its a deceptive marketing tactic used to make you feel that they are making the right decision in hiring that photographer.