Photography Contests Where Judges Can Compete and Win Under Scrutiny


The headline pretty much says it all without saying much about the debate around the concept.

brown and white chess board
Brown and white chess board. Photo by Markus Spiske

After all, isn’t the essence of a subjective competition an absence of bias among the judging cohort, whether that be three people or the entire world? Why enter a contest if you are competing with someone with so much more power in the process than you?

More than a few entrants into the International Pet Photographer of the Year Awards by Unleashed Pet Photography are asking that very question after it was discovered, albeit buried somewhat in the contest rules, that judges could also compete against the work of other competitors.

And while there isn’t a bunch of money on the line, which would only exacerbate things somewhat, there is an entry fee which probably doesn’t help things.

PetaPixel reports that Annual Unleashed Pet Photography Education subscribers get one free submission while others need to pay $25. Then there’s a whole schedule of fees based on the number of images a contestant wants to submit and whether or not the contestant takes advantage of the early bird special pricing.

The max is 20 for $320 which is no small fee.

Judges, meanwhile, get two free submissions in exchange for participation. Judges are also able to submit more images if they desire. To their credit, the Unleashed Pet Photography folks said that judges won’t be evaluating their own work. But that’s not really the debate that this kicked off; rather, it is whether or not it is appropriate to have contests judged by competitors. While that probably won’t be decided here (or anytime soon), it probably helps to have utmost transparency in these matters – especially when charging entry fees.

Do you think judges should be allowed to enter – and win – the competitions they judge? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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