The simplicity of the entire contest makes it viable to anyone who owns a camera

Clicking is all that there is to it, sceptics may dismiss the art of photography. But with boom of digital cameras, photo sharing websites and applications, photography has suddenly become everyone’s cup of tea.

For amateur photographers today there are dime a dozen venues to expose talent, thanks to online photography contests that allow enthusiasts from smaller cities and towns to compete on par with ones in metros.

Too much of a good thing?

Magazines, online portals, college festivals and journals conduct contests which require entrants to send photographs by e-mail or upload them directly on a social networking site like Facebook. The simplicity of the entire contest makes it viable to anyone who owns a camera.

“These contests are a form of self-expression as they allow amateurs to find the photographer in themselves,” says Ben Christopher, winner of a national-level online contest. “They help amateurs measure their potential with works of others from around the country. But the other side of the coin is the explosion of contests that has deteriorated the value of photography which a fine art that demands skill, talent, patience, hard work and creativity,” he rues.

It is true that contests have become exceedingly common with almost all cultural symposiums and technical festivals conducted by colleges holding a photography contest. As they are part of a larger event, sometimes they are not judged by professionals or fail to adhere to standard guidelines is a common grouse.

An online contest not only expands the territory of participation but allows experts from around the globe to judge the event, says Pranav Chheda, coordinator of the online event underway as part of ‘Festember’ where a New York based photographer would judge the finalists. The event drew close to 500 entries.

Such online events come attached with challenges of their own, particularly ensuring originality of the work, admit organisers of such events. There are computer programs to deduct camera, lens specifications and software used to edit the photograph but they may have pitfalls of their own. This may not be possible when directly uploading a photograph on say, Facebook, notes Pranav.

For anyone active on a social networking site it is not uncommon to receive requests asking to ‘like’ a photograph. Deepak Srinivasan, editor of digital youth magazine Pulse 72 +,which had a Valentines Day photograph contest for the cover page, says contests with ‘likes’ as the only parameter are below par. “If the number of likes is the only criterion, then it is the person with the maximum friends who wins, not the one with the best photograph.” Such contests are more of public relations exercises targeted at attracting more visitors to the site. “They are intended to promote popularity of the organisers, festival or publication rather than new talent.”

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