Photography Contests

I’m guessing this has been discussed before but I’d like to get some feedback from more experienced photographers around the topic of photography competitions. I realize that having a competition for photography is a bit like having a yoga competition so this isn’t really about the merits of entering such events. But I had a slightly troubling and disappointing experience today. Months ago I entered what I thought was a reputable photography competition, with an impressive list of judges - the ND Photography Awards. It has been around for quite some time and seemed legitimate. It only cost $15 to enter so I figured, what the hell. Then I forgot all about it. Today I got an email telling me that my photograph had won an honourable mention. I shouldn’t care but I’m human and was very pleased that out of the apparently 9,000 photographs entered, mine made the cut down to the final ten or whatever. For some reason, I decided to go online and find out a little bit more about the ND Photography awards . What I discovered is that a few years back the legitimacy of this competition came into question. Apparently, the same guy, professional photographer Martin Stavars, is behind three or four other competitions and what began to surface is that the line-up of judges for these competitions had never actually seen the photographs they were purportedly judging until after the competition was over. And yet, these particular competitions are still running and when I run a check on Stavars online I see his name come up on such diverse sites as LensCulture and Formatt Hitech as a highly regarded professional photographer who has won countless awards etc. etc.
First, does anyone know anything about this guy and the extent of the scam? Second, and more importantly to me, how can I possibly know what competitions are legit and which are scams of various sorts? I mean this one didn’t hurt me financially but, at the same time I don’t want to be supporting people who are deliberately denigrating the art and craft of photography. Inquiring minds want to know.
Here’s one of the online articles I read in dpreview:

Hi Kerry,

Wow. That does not sound good. Your landscape photography is excellent and enjoy seeing your posts. I would start by looking at NANPA’s Showcase. This group has ethical standards and the quality of the image submissions are outstanding. I would use that as a benchmark for comparing photo competitions. The number of images is certainly less than the ND Photography Awards, but the judges look at every one of the submitted photos. Certainly my experiences related to photo competitions is small by comparison, but I hope that my offering a response gets the ball rolling for this discussion topic…Jim

@Jim_Zablotny - Thanks for your response, Jim. Over the last week or so, I’ve been giving a lot of thought as why I’d enter a photography contest in the first place. I’m not a professional and have no intention or desire to be so. So, if winning a photo competition is about raising my professional profile by being recognized by my peers, which seems like a legitimate reason to go to the trouble, then this doesn’t apply to me. If it means having an opportunity to have my work critiqued by photographers recognized in the field, well, I think I have better means for getting that kind of feedback (NPN being an example). And so, for me at least, it would seem to come down to ego. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to cast aspersions on ego, which serves my self in important ways. But ego is a very narcissistic creature that loves hearing about how wonderful and special it is. For the most part, ego would much rather be served than be in service. So, if that’s the reason I’m entering photo competitions maybe it would be just as well to let it go and let my sense of fulfillment come from making pictures rather than being praised for the product :grin:

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I only enter a few with very sporadic entries. My photos do best when judged by other photographers. It is a wonderful feeling when you win, but not a essential for a good photographer. I sell a few prints every year, but not enough to get out of the day job. When I enter the NANPA Showcase, I feel that if I lose, my entry fee is a donation to the organization . This year, the judges will comment on the top 24 images virtually which is a nice feature. Just like getting an NPN critique! I encourage you to look into NANPA as the group offers a lot of benefits in addition to the Showcase…Jim

NANPA is a nice resource with a great mission. I’ve been a member for a long time and enter the Showcase each year. It is the only one I enter.

@Jim_Zablotny - Congratulations to you for your Judges Choice Selection in this years NANPA showcase in the Macro/Micro category for your image titled Love Knot!

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Thank you @Keith_Bauer. I’ve done very well in the macro category with another placed in the top 250 and another top 250 in the altered reality. Many members of the NPN community enter the Showcase and from these critiques we become better photographers.