This isn’t a recent event, but a group of photographers running around the streets of KL in a pack yesterday reminded me of this shot. The aim of the event is simple: it is a competition with several categories of prize, but everything must be shot on the day, in the same location, and you’ve got to wear the same damn shirt as everybody else. Editing is permitted, but everybody submits prints for judging, made on one of those dye sub printers.
1. There’s a HUGE market for photography equipment in Malaysia. This relatively small segment of the population was at least a thousand-strong, with easily $3,000 or more of gear for each person on average. There was more than one person going around with 1-series bodies and 300/2.8s.
2. It’s commendable that somebody bothers to organize something on this scale at all.
3. How on earth the organizers expect to see good results when you restrict the participants is ludicrous – it just makes you look bad because the level of photography is is low.
4. You’re not going to get any good reportage style images or candids when you’re milling around in a pack of hundreds or thousands of very conspicuous people. And more often than not, if you try something that looks out of the ordinary, a whole bunch of people will follow you immediately afterwards and it ceases to be unusual. And in the end the entire event just turns into an equipment masturbation session, with plenty of mine-is-bigger-than-yours. Or maybe that’s what the organizers want, so they can sell more cameras.
5. Postprocessing is as much part of the modern photography process as darkroom work was for film. So treat it as such, not an aberration or ‘cheat’. If you’re going to do something unnatural like HDR, it’ll be obvious to the judges (we hope).
6. Dye sub printers produce horrible color. Perhaps processing doesn’t matter because you won’t be able to appreciate the subtle tones anyway.
7. My final point is a criticism leveled at the organizers of almost all competitions, not just this one: yes, I can understand why you’d need limited rights to republish the image afterwards, but why on earth do all competitions result in the photographer having to surrender any and all rights to all images entered? Don’t the organizers realize that the really good photographers and pros will never agree to do this? I certainly would not enter my best images if I know I’ll have to surrender the rights to them. And if I’m not going to enter my best images, then why bother entering at all? If you’ve got a whole pool of people who think like this – and I know a lot of pros and talented amateurs do – then you’re just lowering the standard in general.
What I’d like to see – or perhaps even organize – is a competition based solely on merit; with no rights transferral or ownership, so we’d see people putting their best foot forward. Anonymous entry, so we don’t bias based on names or fame. Something to think about for the future, perhaps. MT