Calling for entries: The inaugural photography contest!

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I’m happy to announce a new and (hopefully long-term) feature for the site; something that’ll foster more active participation, buy me time to add more content, and of course, give back more to the readers: I’m going to run a photography contest.

The basic principles:
– It will be 100% merit based. I will be judging.
– There will be a cash award for the winner and runner up!
– The prizes will be supported by a small entry fee of US$5 – the more people who enter, the bigger the award pot becomes. So share it with your friends!
– You will learn something: the final 10 images will be given a detailed critique on the site.
– Unlike just about every other competition out there, I won’t keep the rights to your images; all you need to agree to is allow me to publish the image here if you win, or if you make the final 10.
– There are no restrictions on equipment or date the picture was shot.
– You do of course need to have shot the photo, and own the rights to the image.
– Images must be in the theme of the competition.

This is designed to be a competition by photographers, for photographers.

First theme: The Human Element

Judging criteria: The winning photo must be compositionally strong, have an obvious subject, be technically well executed in a manner that supports the subject, and above all, it must generate an emotional response in the viewer. There’s got to be a person in there somewhere. Color or black and white are both equally acceptable, as are posed and candid images. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or professional, I’m only looking at the quality of your image.

Closing date: Midnight GMT, 31 July, 2012.

How to enter:
– Each participant is allowed to enter one image.
– Images must be in jpeg format, 1500 pixels wide on the long side.
– Watermarks are fine but must not obscure the subject (obviously)!
– Send an email with “July 2012” [space] plus your name in the subject line to mingthein2(at) The body of the email should contain your paypal address (payment is required for participation), name, your image and its title.
– Send your entry fee of US$5 via Paypal gift to
– I will confirm receipt of both to the email address the image came from.
– Judging will take place in the first week of August, with results to come thereafter.
– Multiple entries are not allowed.

The fine print:
– First place takes 50% of the total entry fees received.
– The runner up takes 20% of the total entry fees received.
– The balance of 30% will go towards running and supporting this site.
– You must own the rights to the image submitted.
– Rights for all images submitted remain property of the photographer, but in order to be eligible to win, the photographer must grant the rights to publish the image either as part of the final 10 critique, or as the winner.
– The judges’ decision is final.
– Photoshop allowed, but digital editing is limited to adjustments to color/ contrast/ dodge & burn/ sharpening/ minor retouching including spot removal etc. Changes of substantial portions of the image in order to alter the overall impression of the photograph are not allowed, and if detected are subject to disqualification.
– Your email address and other personal data will remain confidential and not be shared with any third party.

– Entries are welcome from any country, it’s an international competition!

Remember: the prize grows directly proportional to number of entries, so share this with your other photography friends and on Facebook!

Good luck, and may the best image win! Looking forward to seeing all of your entries. MT

POTD: Photography is a team sport…and a commentary on competitions

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Canon Photomarathon, Kuala Lumpur. Olympus Pen Mini E-PM1, ZD 45/1.8

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.

Several thoughts:
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