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Pet photo contest unleashes judges’ feedback

The International Pet Photographer of the Year Awards, open for entries until June 30, is one of the few photo contests offering all entrants judges’ feedback for their images.

Last year’s winning image by Maddie Newton.

An esteemed judging panel often motivates photographers to enter a contest, yet there is rarely interaction connecting entrants and judges. The panel’s decision is usually made behind closed doors, and photographers never find out how their entries were received.

The winners then receive their prize, and all the photographers who paid an entry fee walk away with nothing more than encouragement to try again next year.

The International Pet Photographer of the Year Awards has identified this as a missed opportunity to provide all entrants value, regardless of whether they win or not.

The concept comes from two antipodean photographers with plenty of experience entering and winning AIPP and NZIPP contests, where live judging plays a major component.

Australian photographer, Charlotte Reeves, and New Zealand photographer, Craig Turner-Bullock, who co-own pet photography education business, Unleashed Education, are the new contest organisers.

This makes the International Pet Photographer of the Year Awards a Trans-Tasman effort, with it in good company among several other homegrown photo contests such as the Epson Pano Awards and the International Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards.

Craig and Charlotte adopted the contest from The Pet Photographers Club, an Australian-based pet photography education business, which launched the Awards in 2019 as ‘a fun thing’.

Pet Photographers Club owner, Kirstie McConnell, had no idea ‘how big it [the awards] would grow or how much of a mammoth task we would undertake’. The unforeseen growth meant it needed new owners with the time and expertise to run it, or it would be shut down.

Craig and Charlotte proved a more natural fit, as Unleashed Education is geared toward elevating photography skills and creativity, whereas Pet Photographers Club focusses on marketing and business growth.

They also didn’t want to see the awards disappear, as it’s the premier contest dedicated to pet photography.

‘This industry is so specialised, and having such a niche specialised subject I think we need to celebrate that and showcase this industry to the world outside,’ said Craig to Kirstie in her Pet Photographers Club podcast. ‘To show that pet photography is a thing, and there are some really talented artists within this space.’

Craig and Charlotte introduced cash prizes, US$250 per category and $500 for the overall winner, and entrants also must pay a US$22 fee per entry.

Craig and Charlotte invited 14 photographers, along with themselves, to form the jury panel and handle the extra workload that comes with dishing out feedback. It’s significantly more judges than other contests of a comparable size, and they’ve brought in some of the biggest names in pet photography with a range of skills and expertise.

The panel consists of: Alicja Zmysłowska, Belinda Richards, Elke Vogelsang, Jess McGovern, Karen Alsop, Mareike Konrad, Nicole Begley, Sam Haddix, Diana Lundin, Travis Patenaude, Kaylee Greer, Jo Howell, Alex Cearns, Alice Loder, along with Craig and Charlotte.

The contest is divided into five categories of pet photography: Portrait, Action, Creative,Pets and People, and Documentary. Each category has rules, including parameters regarding how much editing is permitted.

Click here for more info.

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