Winner takes all?

October 31st is the deadline for entering International Garden Photographer of the Year 2015 – Competition 9.

My involvement in IGPOTY dates from the very first conversations about the viability of the idea back in the 'noughties'. In that time I reckon I’ve looked at and helped judge upwards of 150,000 photographs of flowers and plants. I’ve organised eight judging panels and been intimately involved for about a year in total  as decisions and comments are made about those 150,000 images. I've watched and participated as they are pored over, pulled apart, praised, and, in a few  cases, investigated!

Our first winner - Kenrokuen Gardens by Claire Takacs

Our first winner - Kenrokuen Gardens by Claire Takacs

So I feel I am in a good position to offer some insights into the process and offer some general tips about your entries. So here you go:

·         Get the basics right. Some people enter their images in the wrong orientation, or upside down, expecting the judges to put it right. Judging is done on what is entered, not what the judges think the photographer should have entered. You can check your entries on your ‘My Images’ page – if it looks wrong you can delete and do it again. But not if you are less than seven days away from the deadline.

·         Think carefully about the category. Fungi are always a difficult subject from that point of view. It is difficult to have a specific fungi category as there would not be enough entries; so you have to include them in one of the existing categories. Is the fungus in a wood or forest? Then trees woods and forests is right. Is it lying on a kitchen table? Then ‘Bountiful Earth’ should be OK.

·         Don’t ask  ‘what are the judges looking for?’ They don’t set out with prejudices about the type of image that should win. They simply make judgements about what they see, whether the image moves or inspires them.

·         There is always room for the off the wall image, so long as the basics of photography technology are respected.

·         Amusing images always go down well in judging. They attract attention, and bear in mind  there have been winners whose main attribute has been that the image is a clever visual laugh.

·         If you feel that you are interested to get feedback on your entries, make sure that you pay attention to the instructions. In particular, the deadlines for asking for feedback.

·         Try to avoid uploading your entries at the last minute. The deadline is midnight on October 31st.  Different time zones are catered for. if you have a problem the team can help you, but this can be tricky if you are up against the deadline.

Last year's winner - Ballerinas by Magdalena Wasiczek

Last year's winner - Ballerinas by Magdalena Wasiczek

So what's in it for me? Well, £7500 is the top prize of course. But you would be able to take a great deal of pleasure from the enjoyment you will give to people who visit IGPOTY exhibitions in the UK and around the world. The award you can win will make a big difference to how you view your photography. Professional photographers have told us that it has had a big and positive influence, in some cases it has set them on a road to commercial success they could not have envisaged without an IGPOTY award.

And even if you don't win any prize, you can get a lot out of our feedback. Last year we were swamped with requests. Now we have upgraded our systems and methods to respond to the demand. In particular we want to get the feedback out more quickly than previous years. People who asked for feedback from their Photo Project entries have already benefitted from this. I do most of the feedback now. 

So if you're thinking about it - have a go. It's not only the winners who get the prizes. And you will be contributing to a project that supports the work of botanic gardens around the world. We can't survive without plants - let's celebrate them together.

As William Tell said once: "something to aim for"

Apple 'Sunset' by Philip Smith

Apple 'Sunset' by Philip Smith