Interview with Albert Chen About his Experience of Photo Awards

In the newest episode of Award-winning Photographers, we asked Albert Chen about his experience of photo awards.

Albert Chen is an award-winning photographer with a wide variety of stunning images.

Why do you find that important to participate in a photo award?

I participate photo awards based on four major reasons. All four are equally important by their own. First of all, it helps see how the quality of my work stays in comparison to other photographers in the world. Secondly, it assists show off my views in photographs that were inspired by others or that I observed from a variety of aspects and phenomena. Moreover, through the competition process, I can obtain more instrumental insights on how to improve my photographs, both artistically and story-tellingly. And, last but not least, it helps gain more exposed and recognition in the international photography community.



How do you decide which of your work will be submitted?

Most of time, to determine which of my works will be submitted to a photography contest is to identify what categories a contest offers. Based on the categories, I next pick the photos I feel matching the themes and categories for the contest. Once the contest and category are selected, I would personally assess the quality of the photos I have to determine which one to submit. Sometimes, I do the contrary by determining the photo I would like to submit first, and next find a contest suitable for the submission. Most of time, I can easily find a good match; other times, I may not find any.



Which awards do you prefer to participate?

My name has appeared on the winner list in seventeen international photography contests, mostly in cityscape and architecture and black and white categories, among several other categories such as fine art, street, landscape, nature, event, etc. The international photography awards I have participated are hosted by different countries such as U.S.A., U.K., France, Japan, Russia, India, Hungary, and Italy. The participants in these contests come from all over the world. Although I love all of the contests I attended, my top three picks are the International Photography Awards (IPA), Prix De La International Photography Awards (Px3), and Sony World Photography Awards (SWPA). These are prestigious photography contests in the world, and the class of participating photographs are among the best.



Do you think photo descriptions are important part of a submission or do you let your images talk for themselves? If you think description is important then what are your main guidelines?

It all depends on the nature of photographs, categories, and the requirements of the contests. Sometimes, a good title will be satisfactory to tell the story of an image by its own. In my opinion, cityscape, architecture, and street photographs can be some of the examples that do not necessarily need to provide description in details. Simple descriptions should be sufficient for them. Such descriptions basically are to describe where the photo was taken, what was the architecture (for example), and when it was taken. Other time, for instance, fine art photographs, which may be based on some inspiration from observations, have implications or metaphors to the life experience, or present some artistic atmospheres, I will write up descriptions in details on how I wish my audiences to connect with me and what messages I would like to carry over.


By winning a price, is your work get more exposed?

Yes, winning awards do get myself more exposed to the photography community. It also helps me to build up my creditability in the field. I have some folks contacted me to discuss concepts for my awarded photographs they saw on the contests’ websites. Some often asked me about technical skills on how the photos were taken. Others, as your respectful company, reach out to me inquiring about my award-winning experience.



Do you have expectations when you enter an award?

To be frank, when I first entered a contest years ago, I didn’t have any expectations on what result would come up. I just simply wanted to enjoy the learning process by attending the contest. Over time, as I gain more awards and view more award-winning images from other photographers, the expectation of myself has raised quite a bit. And now, the selection process of my work to enter a contest is even more thoughtful and deliberate than before.

Do you make research of the Jury before you enter an award?

No, I don’t research the Jury and their works and experiences prior to entering an award. However, I do spend considerable time to view and learn from past winners’ works to gain a feel which of my photographs will fit in a particular contest. It helps myself to review my own work and see if it is competitive for the contest.

How did you feel about your first success?

I will never forget the first time my work was awarded because it was my very first submission; and, more importantly, it was awarded by the well-known contest, the International Photography Awards (IPA). It was totally a big surprise to me. This first award was also a huge encouragement and energizes me to take more exceptional photos and a surely a critical step for my professional development.


Would you recommend to young photographers to try one of the competitions?

Definitely, most of the contests I attended have different level of skills to attract different group of participants such as professional, students and/or amateur photographers.  I would suggest that young photographers, through self-assessment and always thinking outside the box, identify types/categories of photographs they are mastering or intending to submit. And, finding a contest matches their skill sets. In the meantime, if a single photo cannot express enough concept or complete the story one would like to deliver, a series of photos as one single submission is also available for many of the contests. In terms of recommendation for a competition, International Photography Awards (IPA) is what I would suggest young photographers to start with. This contest provides a variety of categories and sub-categories for participants to choose from. It also has early submission and membership discounts so one may want to take advantage of it.



When you make a submission do you find sometimes hard to define the category you would like to compete in?

Not really. As mentioned, different contests offer a variety of categories. And, some of them even have an “open” or “other” category for participants to choose from if they find none of the specific categories fits their photographs. Therefore, choosing a category to enter in a contest has never been an issue for me. More importantly, it shouldn’t be for others, either. Often time, one may even find a photograph match more than one category.



This award season is unfortunately formed by COVID-19 significantly. Many awards made it clear that they want to spend some of their submission incomes this year to charity. What is your opinion about it?

The covid-19 pandemic has affected our lives globally. It changes the world significantly, and many of people are suffering from this disease or losing their jobs. As a professional photographer, I, of course, strongly support such an initiative. It allows us to contribute to the society in a meaningful way. By and large, it is imperative to timely providing supports to the pandemic victims and suffers and warming their hearts.



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