AIPP APPA Competition – Is the stress worth it?

And just like that my entries are in. I’ve painstakingly spent weeks, actually a whole year really, preparing my images for the AIPP APPA competition. I can’t take them back now, I am not able to change my mind. When the judges make their call and decide my image’s fate, that’s it. At least for the Australian Professional Photography Awards (there’s always WPPI).

For photographers across Australia this is one of the most stressful times. It starts with trying to choose those final 4, the photographs we think will be crowned ‘APPA worthy’. With trepidation we take our prints along to a critique night, and unless we are one of the rare ones, our prints will be met with ‘constructive’ but often ‘depressing’ feedback. If it’s ‘APPA Worthy’ those of us with the bravery to continue the process, set to work refining and perfecting our images ready for print.

In this refining process we often find ourselves second guessing our decisions. An image that may have been extremely well received by our clients and the general public, may well have been ‘torn to shreds’ at an AIPP critique night. (It’s never to that extreme, but sometimes it may feel that way). Do we soldier on, take on the suggestions and refine our image ready to be judged? Or do we throw it on the ‘too hard’ pile and try and find something else that we think is more ‘APPA’ worthy?

This year I entered the awards (VPPYs – Victorian Professional Photography Awards) for the first time. When I attended the critique night, prior to entering my images, I had no idea how my unique style would be received. I took along several of my own favourite images. They were admired, but I still didn’t hold out hope in receiving anything more than ‘professional practice’ – 75 and up. Just prior to sharing my ‘Flying High’ favourite with the judges and the crowd, one of the judges mentioned that photos of kids with their dog are probably not what the AIPP are after… Nervously I laughed out loud, as did my photographer friends. I was guessing that my image wasn’t the type of photo this judge was referring to. (At least I hoped).

Flying High VPPY

Thankfully ‘Flying High’ achieved the Epson Signature Worthy Award and has now been featured on the Spring front cover of the ‘Better Photography Magazine‘. Still, it actually only achieved a judges score of Silver. It goes to show that our most popular public images are not always the ones that will achieve a high score in a this print competition. For whatever reason at the time, Flying High didn’t pull a gold in the VPPY’s like some of my other images, despite the fact that it’s my own all time favourite.

I haven’t entered ‘Flying High’ into the APPA’s this year. There is something to be said in wowing the judges with a new, unseen work. I decided that as it will be quite publicly available on the front cover of a national photographic magazine, it was probably best not to include it in the competition.

My day today consisted of tweaking, viewing, printing, tweaking viewing and printing until I was satisfied. I’m entering the maximum of 4 images into the Illustrative category. Two of the images I’m entering achieved Gold at State level. I’m determined to push them up to a Gold Distinction, and have made some adjustments to them. That said however there are no guarantees, the judges for the APPA’s may have a completely different opinion of my images and they may score substantially lower than they did in the State Awards. I need to be prepared for this.

AIPP VPPY Australian Institute of Photography Award Winner

I’m also entering two new images. One that you may well recognise when you see it (with a different look) and one that I haven’t yet released but have been working hard for weeks on. The risk is that I have no idea how these new images will score. I could have taken the ‘safe route’ and entered 4 of my Gold images from the VPPYs. Had I done that however I would not have challenged myself to the next level. I’m confident in the quality of my entries, but I’m still secretly worrying that the judges won’t appreciate these new images.

Over the weekend of the 16th – 18th of October, 2015, the judging will take place at The Digital Show in Melbourne. On the 19th the category winners will be announced. I’ll be sure to update you all on the outcome of my entries (good or bad!). If my images don’t do as well as I hope I will stay strong in the knowledge that the general public love and appreciate them. I’ve seen too many outstanding photographers affected negatively by APPA results. Though their images are simply amazing, for one reason or another they haven’t been crowned ‘APPA Gold’ worthy. We all need to remember this is a competition run by humans, judged by humans, and it is not the deciding factor of our worthiness as great photographers. In the end if our clients are happy, this is the most important aspect.

For all of you that are joining me in the the crazy ride of the APPA’s I wish you all the best!

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