May 24, 2013 at 1:04 am #10000
I used to be in 4-H and had entered photography in the county fair for years. After graduating from 4-H, I have continued to enter photography in the “open class” category at the fair. In 4-H, you are judged against your own abilities and everyone receives a ribbon on each of their entries. In open class, your entry competes against entries in the same category, and no matter how many entries per category, one is awarded first place, one second, one third, and one fourth (provided there are enough entries and they all fit the requirements). Each place has a monetary value that is awarded following the fair. First place usually gets $4.00 and it goes down from there. There are several different categories (for example, “four images of sunsets,” “four black and white portraits,” “four summer photos,” “two animal life photos,” etc.) A “fair book” comes out every two years explaining the rules and breaking down the categories, and it changes slightly each year. For the past few years I have looked forward and prided myself in entering lots of photos. Honestly, there isn’t always much real competition, as many of the people who enter are grandmas entering cute pictures of their grandkids at the park as portraits, and/or people taking pictures of their barn and silos and calling it architectural photography. Some people take it a lot more seriously and enter amazing photographs. Unfortunately as well, we’ve had judges in the past who seemed like fauxtogs… even a judge a few years ago who didn’t have much experience in photography at all. I have had moments where I was pulling out my hair (almost) at what they were saying (“I think we should give this cow photo first place, it’s just a really really cool photo. [out of focus over-saturated photo of someone’s cow behind a fence, yeah right!]) I don’t mean to make this all sound like a bunch of hicks, but yeah, some of the photos are pretty bad and some are pretty good. Some is photography and some are clearly snapshots.
I do it one, because it’s fun, friendly competition, two, because I usually receive enough money to cover what it cost me to print the photos plus my fair season pass plus some profit, and three, because I love exhibiting any kind of artwork for the public to see.
Well, one of the guidelines in the fair book says “open to amateurs only.” Last year, after my first year of doing photography myself in a professional capacity, I noticed that and specifically asked one of the ladies who is the longtime moderator of the photography exhibition and is a member of the fair board, if I am still qualified to enter… I told her that do hired portrait photography on the side now, and in the past I worked as an assistant for a local photographer who has since moved away. She said that in their discussions as a board, they had considered “amateur” (by their definition) to be a person who makes less than half their yearly income on it. By my definition, and vastly what the viewpoint on this site is, I am a professional… though more like part-time professional (I have another job that makes up for the majority of my income and cannot at this time support myself with my small photography business.) Especially in the past year I kind of smoked the competition in most of the categories. I entered in several categories, and like I said, I have quite a bit more skill in photography than many of the people who enter. Yes, I take a little pride in that but I have never acted smug about it while there. A few of the people who enter year after year and I always chat and give our own input quietly as the judges are going through the entries. Some of those people absolutely love my photography and are very supportive. Also, I NEVER have and never will enter images from paying clients in that competition. Most of the stuff I enter is nature, still life, architecture, and portraits I’ve done of friends/family for fun or practice.
The annoying part is, this older lady who works with my boyfriend (who has a bit of a bad attitude towards others lately) told him today she remembers where she knew me from… the fair. Apparently she entered some photography too in past years. She first said she liked my work, and then she said, “They were talking about banning her from entering anymore.” Whoa! For one, who is “they,” and if that’s true, why haven’t I gotten an email or something? Especially since I was up front and honest to the person on the fair board last year and she told me that since I don’t make more than half my income on hired photography that I can still enter.
I think she, and whomever else is talking behind my back, should just up their ante if they want to win the awards! Lol. I’m not the best photographer in the entire county I’m sure… and that competition REALLY is no big deal. It’s just the county fair, and I really enjoy it. I love looking at the 4-H youth entries as well and seeing some really amazing work coming from the kids. And hey, I win some money too.May 24, 2013 at 4:59 am #10009nesgranParticipant
It must be getting a little soul destroying if someone who works as a tog comes along and scoops up a lot of prizes year after year, regardless of whether your photos are better than theirs.
As for the pro distinction, try getting a press pass without earning the majority of your work through photography. I think there is a merit in judging people who charge for photography as pros however I’d be hard pushed to think of someone who only gets a part of their income through photography as a true professional.May 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm #10035JimCParticipant
Our county fair has the same 50%+ income distinction as yours, but it also has a caveat that if you have in the last year advertised or listed yourself as a photographer in a directory or website, then you are considered a professional.
I personally really like that distinction. My current job doesn’t allow me to have a second job, so photography is officially nothing more than a hobby for me. I don’t market or advertise myself as a professional. I make WAY less than 50% of my income, so that’s good, too. As a result, I meet amateur criteria and I get to compete against the grannies with their Coolpix on full auto. On the flip side, all the “professional” fauxtographers with their Coolpix on full auto are forced into the pro category, where they get mercilessly smoked by people who can use a camera. For me, it’s a win-win. 😀May 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm #10041
I probably could not get a press pass unless I worked for the press… isn’t that how that works usually? I used to call myself semi-pro due to not taking much of my income from it, but amid discussions on this site people said there really is no semi-pro… you’re either pro or not. Being that I charge and advertise for my portrait photography, use high-quality equipment, and can deliver a quality product, I would consider myself a pro in that sense. Like we’ve discussed as well, there are “professional” photographers using a point-and-shoot just as JimC said. And, some of those (scarily enough) probably make most of their income with it (the $20 and free disk type).
I wouldn’t want to be getting awards from the judges just because they liked me or I had some kind of clout. That’s why they hire judges who live outside of the county so there is less chance for favoritism, and they’ve had different judges each year that I’ve entered.
I think, considering most of what I enter isn’t even portraiture, that the skills I have learned in school and through the experience I’ve had and through all the reading on the subject I’ve done, that I am still playing fair. Nothing is stopping the others from attending school, taking photography workshops, practicing, or reading up on it.
That being said, if there was a distinction in my county saying that anyone who advertises online for their photography services can’t enter, then I would not, but our county doesn’t have that rule.May 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm #10063KatieParticipant
It doesn’t sound like you are doing anything wrong. You asked and you are following their rules. Too bad your BF didn’t ask him who the “they” were that the lady was talking about.May 25, 2013 at 12:44 am #10065stefParticipant
Kick ass, take names, fuck ’em.
But there will be a point where it becomes no fun for everyone else, and county fairs aren’t for one person to dominate. I would keep submitting, but don’t get upset when they ask/tell you to stop competing.May 25, 2013 at 2:18 am #10066
I’m also wondering who “they” are, but suspect it’s just an exaggeration… or made up. Oh well I guess.
I have to say, one of the entry categories is “black and white photo with color enhancement.” And yes, a few years ago I did enter one for that. It was no gray baby wkth a pink flower headband though! Mine was a blue ribbon tied to a street light pole in town in the late winter. I think it worked ok and wasn’t totally fauxtography. The ribbons were hung on every block after a fatal standoff that killed a police officer.May 25, 2013 at 3:22 am #10067KatieParticipant
I almost said that, she probably made it up. Or someone said it as a joke because you do win so much and she exaggerated it to cause drama.
If she makes a big enough stink they may change the rules though to exclude you.May 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm #10073iliketagParticipant
First of all, BEG, congrats on the 10,000th post! Hooray!
I wonder if the committee for your fair would be considering maybe limiting the number of categories you win in. So a photographer can’t sweep more than, say, three categories. I think that would be much more fair (snare drum…), but still allow you to enter whatever you like and still take home some winnings. However, right now you’re doing nothing wrong and good for you that you’re able to show off your great work! Hopefully it will encourage more people to step up their game instead of getting upset about it.May 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm #10105AndreCostoParticipant
Why not offer to help out with the judging?May 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm #10106
I cannot judge in tne same county in which I live… but, I did get my judge’s license a few years ago for the youth division but was not able to attend the fair that had asked me. I have to renew it now but have actually considered asking to judge the open division in other counties when I do renew it. Judges even get paid pretty well and I think it could be fun. I do know for sure that I have some more knowledge about photography than a few of the judges who have been to my county fair!May 26, 2013 at 2:04 am #10114PJ99212Participant
You’ve got to love small towns.
A number of years ago, the local “pro” lab really screwed up a couple of my orders (back in my film days). Lost negs, wrong prints, wrong crops, it was a total mess. I refused to pay, so it wound up in court, yadayadayada.
The owner of the lab is also the photo judge at our county fair. To say the least, my work, didn’t do so well. sadly, the jerk took it out on my wife, an amateur, as well.
A couple of years ago, I had been doing some underwater shots of my grandson and handed the camera to my wife so I could play with him a bit. She got some really nice shots and decided to enter one in the fair… under her maiden name.
She won best of show and when she showed up at the judge’s lab to claim her prize, he was pissed, lol.
Ironically, I’ve been contracted to shoot the portraits of the 4H and FFA kids and animals at that same fair for a number of years.May 26, 2013 at 11:16 am #10115
Ha, that’s awesome for your wife! That right there is a good reason my county hires non-local judges. And they usually have different judges each year though I think they kind of rotate. My county is pretty large and we have a very large and well-organized 4-H program, run by the state university extension system. Sometimes I wish more people entered photography to make it a more challenging competition, due to the fact that it might drive out the grandma fauxtogs (not like they all are, but like I explained the snapshots and the pictures of silos).May 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm #10124nairbynairbParticipant
I’m Canadian and don’t know what 4-H is… I’m also feeling too lazy to google it. Care to clarify?May 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm #10126stefParticipant
I’m Canadian and don’t know what 4-H is… I’m also feeling too lazy to google it. Care to clarify?
It’s like an agricultural group for kids. Field trips, teaching, contests, etc… mostly based in rural areas.
But seriously, too lazy to google it? It would’ve taken less effort than typing in your question. At least you weren’t too lazy to use punctuation, which is the only reason I replied.
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