2020 Shoot and Share Contest – My Experience

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Awhile back, I authored a piece about photography contests. I discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly of such events. I wrote about how I shied away from most, but there are a couple that I enter each year. One of those, the 2020 Shoot and Share contest, recently concluded.

The Shoot and Share contest is an annual contest held by the owner, David Jay. Under the umbrella of PASS+, Agree.com, WarmWelcome.com, and Vivi, a collection of productivity packages marketed mainly towards portrait photographers, the contest is a big todo within the portrait photography community. The Shoot and Share Facebook group boosts almost 50,000 members and is a huge draw.

WHY THIS CONTEST?

Now, this might seem weird finding a Milky Way photographer embedded in this community. A little known fact is that I, along with other writers on the MWP staff who will remain nameless, do portrait photography, be it seniors, families, etc. And yes, some of us will even shoot the odd wedding. The last wedding I photographed was in Costa Rica, so if anyone out there needs a wedding photographer that can travel outside the US, holler, I’m available! HINT HINT: Bucket list is to shoot a ceremony under the Northern Lights in Iceland if anyone is game.

Anyway, the contest allows each entrant to submit up to 50 images over a wide variety of genres. Since the community is deeply entrenched in the portrait world, those genres are the big draws. Weddings, Brides, Grooms, several kids categories from babies to teens, and families tend to see the largest number of entries. Along with those categories, Travel/Landscape, Creative, and new for this year, Sports, are also included. 

While a large number of my entries are in the Travel/Landscape category and most of those are Milky Way images; I do have a few in the portrait categories along with Creative. Since I spent last fall chasing high school football for the local newspaper and have been shooting barrel racing pretty regular since last fall, I entered a ton into those groups.

HOW THE CONTEST WORKS

A popular vote decides the contest. Once the voting begins, the entire Internet World is allowed to vote on images. The way the voting works is that a person will be shown four entries from the same category. The voter must pick one out of the four. Usually, ten rounds are held. From reading what Shoot and Share staff has said, each round ends once an unannounced number of votes are logged. 

The Top 20 from each category are announced over several days in the end. Usually, the overall winner is revealed on a separate day. Images will also be awarded Top 100 from the category, Finalist, Top 20%, and Top 30%.

All images entered are not watermarked, so in theory, voters are not supposed to know the photographer behind the image.  That said, sometimes an image will be posted online and will go viral. Sometimes a photographer’s work can stand out so much that they can be identified. Winners are awarded a bunch of prizes at the end from several different sponsors. *

THE RESULTS ARE IN

So how did I do? Well, truth be told, I bomb in the portrait categories. I have every year that I have entered for the last four and this year was no different. Since I do not use any “trendy” presets for portrait work and have not got to do much portrait work, my work does not draw a lot of interest. 

Since the Sports category was new this year, I will cover those entries first. My football images did not fare very well. In fact, none of the Top 20 winners were football shots. I did enter five other photos in that category – four of barrel racing and one of bull riding. All except one barrel racing image was a finalist. The sad part is while those shots were pretty good, I have a ton that I shot in the last month, or so, that blows them out of the water.

barrel racing

Most of the Top 20 Sports images were surfing, of all things! And because the Shoot and Share group was loose with the rules, several were staged portraits. I imagine this might change next year. I discussed with several other sports entrants who were dismayed that staged portraits were allowed and some even placed. While they are darn good images, Portrait and Sports are so far apart that it makes sense to separate them. Plus, in years prior, sports shots were relegated to the Documentary category, while staged sports theme portraits could go into several different categories.

TIME FOR THE MAIN EVENT

The first two years I competed, 2017 and 2018, Milky Way images were somewhat rare to see. I submitted a few photos during those years. Some of them have scored in the Top 20% and 30%. Last year, I was able to devote a lot of time to voting. 2019 saw an influx of Milky Way images entered. Out of the over 28,000 images in the Travel/Landscape category, my image of the church on Johnson Mesa in New Mexico did remarkably well. The image finished nine places from cracking the Top 100. This represents my best placing to date so far.

Johnson Mesa
This location has become a hit with astrophotographers over the last couple of years. MWP’s Marybeth Kiczenski recently visited and you can read about her trip here.

The Travel/Landscape category does have one constant. For an image to place and win, the image usually has to have water. And locations like Lake Louise, a beach or coastal shot often place pretty high. In fact, there are at least three Top 20 shots, including a First and Second Place in the weddings related categories, from Lake Louise.

This year was no different. I saw enough water in the Top 20 to make every Oklahoma wheat farmer happy for the next 100 years. In my case, though, even the Milky Way shots with water do not score that high. Perhaps my coastal Milky Way shot that I capture awhile back will place next year. 

MILKY WAY PHOTOGRAPHY IS BECOMING MORE POPULAR

I do not know how popular Milky Way images were in this year’s contest. I did have much opportunity to vote. The only Milky Way image that made it into the Top 10 of any category is actually a very well done, but over the top, obvious composite. More on this later.

This year I entered six Milky Way images. The images range from Trona Pinnacles to my Arizona Chase the Milky Way trip to Edison Lake up in the Sierra. 

TRONA PINNACLES

I guess I am kind of happy that this shot did so well. It was my second time out with the Nikon 750, but after a foul-up I had during the first night of shooting, I was hoping for some decent images.

On the flip side, I would really like to do this one over again. I like that I was able to capture so much of the core, yet I dislike how I underexposed the ground – I really wish I had done a proper ground shot. Oh well, I am only about 3 hours away from this location.

Trona Pinnacles

LEE’S FERRY AND NAVAJO BRIDGE

I am glad that all of these images received some recognition. A lot of damn work went into creating them, which you can read about here. I am a little disappointed that the window shot did not do better. 

Navajo Bridge

Out of all the shots I created on that trip, this was the most difficult. By the time I got to this point, I was worn out mentally. Yet, I had to take three shots to get to where I wanted to be material wise. It is definitely not the best as there are some imperfections and things I could have done better.

Oh well, I do have a large metal print of it in my living room.

Lee's Ferry

EDISON LAKE

Read about the trip here.

I am pretty happy with these shots. They represented a new to me technique, post-processing wise. I also got to see some dang nice landscapes during the drive. I want to return to this location and spend a night up there. Throw a line in the water and snag a trout or two, then break out the Nikon and snag a Milky Way or two.

The way things are going, though, I may have to pass until next year. The pandemic has chased a bunch of people to the mountains. When I went last year, the campground was full. I imagine it has been full ever since the road opened up.

CONCLUSION

Like I mentioned in the previous article, you really have to judge a photo contest for yourself. Unlike the contests held by several large magazines who have professional photographers on the judging staff, the Shoot and Share contest judges are the general public. That means that what can do good in the magazine contests might flop with this contest and vice versa.

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The preceding article was not a promotion of the Shoot and Share contest, version 2020. After the contest was live and voting began, the social-political upheaval that took grasp on the USA hit the Shoot and Share contest. Allegations were lobbed towards the owner, and some sponsors pulled their support. As a result, the Shoot and Share Facebook community shrunk by several thousand, and numerous entrants requested the removal of their images from the contest. This article is a recap on how the contest went for me personally and in no way endorses it.

STANLEY’S GEAR

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