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Recently, I read a nice tip in one of the ebooks on (street) photography: participate in a photo contest. So far, I considered myself a slightly advanced beginner in street photography and the thought to submit my pictures to contests did not yet really come to my mind. Until a couple of weeks back when I discovered GuruShots which the site developers present as a platform for people who love taking photos (so far, so good, this is true for me) and claim as being fun, motivating, and helping to improve (yes, yes, and YES). On that platform, highly experienced photographers (so-called Gurus), who reached their status through many steps such as the collection of points through the participation and winning previous challenges, call for photo submissions for specific themes of challenges. So far, I participated in standard challenges (submission of up to 4 photos) and speed challenges (up to 1 photo) on several themes. Where the platform is quite well thought through is the voting processes: voting for pictures is largely anonymized (except for rare watermarks included by the photographer) and you need to vote in order to assure that your pictures get a good exposure through the site’s algorithm. The weight of each vote depends on the status of the photographer: the higher the status, the more points you get per vote. 

First experiences in the challenges

As a new subscriber to the platform, you are invited to participate in the “newbie of the month” photo contest – newbie is your entry status. This immediate participation in one challenge is a very good training to get familiar with the functioning and rules of the photo contests. However, as mostly other newbies are voting and their votes count only 1, progressing is quite slow. In each photo contest, you can get to different levels – achievements – up to all star level. Quickly, I started to participate in other challenges that I found particularly compatible with my style of photos such as the city street scenes challenge and b&w stories photo contest. And in those challenges, thanks to the submitted photos, I was able to achieve elite and all star levels for several of them (the aim is not to brag here, but just to tell you that the platform is accessible and motivating for all levels of photographers). When reaching specifically required combinations of numbers of points collected in the challenges, achieved levels, and others, you are able to climb up the statuses: from newbie to rookie to challenger and so on. In total, there are nine different statuses. What I particularly like so far as compared to other photo platforms is that you vote for pictures that you really like and not because of reciprocity, because the photographer just voted for your picture.

Challenges as a source of inspiration

Additionally to the fun and motivation of participating in challenges, the platform helps as well to boost your inspiration: the themes of the challenges confront you with the many facets in photography and even pushes you to go through your photo library and check for pictures you neglected so far. It even helps to think of the photos you liked and processed so far from a completely different perspective. Until now, I came up with new goals and ideas for sequences and projects that I want to put into action out on the streets as soon as possible.  

Photographers in action

One of the challenges I participated in was “photographers in action” and the call for participation in the photo contest was the main trigger to go through my photos and look for pictures with photographers taking photos. Surprisingly, I found quite a few of those pictures with people using their smartphone or cameras of different sizes. Below are the four photos in that challenge, in which I achieved elite level. Pictures are in order of the numbers of votes (the first collecting most, the last the least). Personally, I would not have thought about this order when submitting the pictures – but this might also be an interesting outcome of the challenges.

Kneeling perspective | 2018

Two photographers | 2018

Ground photo | 2017

Smart photograph | 2017

And then I went out keeping in mind this challenge when I came across the scene in the following picture.

Photographers in action | 2018

Since I have joined the photo contest platform a couple of weeks ago, I already reached the fourth out of the nine statuses and confirm that this is highly motivating to continue. However, the main benefit I perceive until now is the platform as a source of inspiration for the next photo walks. 

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