During October, I submitted a photo to a fall foliage photo contest, and in the first week of November, I found out that I had been selected to be in the Top 10 semi-finalists. I made it to the finals, and ended up placing 4th in the overall competition. Let me just say in the beginning that I am very grateful for the amount of attention I received during this competition, and I’m thankful toward everyone who voted for me to advance. It was an honor to even be selected as a semi-finalist, and it was an even greater honor to be voted into the Top 5. Thank you to everyone that voted. Overall though, my thoughts on the contest are not entirely positive. The contest was really no more than a popularity contest, and I’ve never been a very big fan of those. To begin, I don’t understand the criteria for how the photos were selected to be semi-finalists. Yes, I understand that my photo was one of these, but the method used for selection was never explained. Honestly, I submitted the photo on a whim on October 20th, after my mother had told me about the competition. It was only a few hours after they had started collecting submissions, and I had taken a photo I liked a couple days before, so I submitted it.
I completely forgot about the competition, until my mother excited told me 2 weeks later that my photo had been selected. Why was my photo selected? Of course I was flattered, but I still don’t understand why. Even more than my picture, some of the other semi-finalists led me to wonder if photo quality or photography as an art was considered at all in the selection process. This then leads to the voting aspect. It was entirely based on popularity of the individual who took the photo. This both helped me and hindered me. During the semi-finals, I was trailing pretty far behind up until the last day, in the last 6 hours even. I strategically waited until the other semi-finalists had exhausted their networks, and then I really asked for help. I was dealing with the desire to advance in the competition and the worry about spamming my Facebook friends. In the last 5 hours of the competition, I went from 8th place to 5th place, gaining over 50 additional likes and knocking 2 people out of the competition who probably, in my opinion, should have been in the running to win. I felt bad about this, but I was happy that I was in the place where I feel I should have been based on my competition, 5th place. Unfortunately, the four photos that I felt should have been placed ahead of me didn’t all make it to the finals. There were two photos in particular who I wished would have made it. When it came to the finals, it was even harder. I knew I wasn’t going to win at this point, so that increased my desire to not spam my Facebook friends with the image. Not to mention, the round of voting for the finals was so close to the time for voting in the semi-finals that a lot of people didn’t even realize it was a different thing. I’m sure many people figured, “oh, I liked that already” and that’s why I didn’t have their votes a second time. Plus, the rules for voting in the finals round changed due to my performance in the semi-finals. In the email I was sent about qualifying, the judges stated that all voting for both rounds would be based on ‘likes’ on Facebook. Due to the high amount of shares I had in the semi-finals, the judges added ‘shares’ to the voting criteria, having them be 2 points and ‘likes’ be 1 point. I don’t mean to sound like I’m tooting my own horn over this, but the coincidence is definitely uncanny. If ‘shares’ had been for points in the semi-finals, I would have ben in first place, not fifth. These definitely played a massive role in the overall popularity contest in the finals round, and played a key role in selecting the winner. I don’t know if I would submit a photo into this particular contest again, unless they make their voting rules a bit more sophisticated. I want to know what criteria they follow when selecting photos because it was hard to tell from the top 10 semi-finalists what their criteria was. While popularity should play a role in the voting process, it shouldn’t completely rely on that. There should be aspects of photography that play a role as well. Plus, there are aspects of popularity that the page itself had access to which didn’t play a role, and I think should have; such as total post reach. I do want to extend a massive congratulations to all of the other 9 contestants who made the semi-finals, and to those who made the finals. There were a lot of submissions, and we made the cut. There’s a lot to say about that. For me specifically, I’ll be receiving a certificate of achievement for making the semi-finals, and I’ll be receiving a medal of achievement for making it into the finals. I’ll let everyone know if they stick to their promises about that.