The Picture This Photo Contest is one of our most popular features here at Gardening Gone Wild, and we couldn’t be happier. It has met – indeed, exceeded – all of our original goals for it, and we look forward to keeping the experience exciting, challenging, and fun for everyone. To that end, we recently ran a survey to get information about how and why you participate in Picture This (or why you don’t), as well as suggestions for things we can improve on. Let’s take a look at the results.
1. Have you ever entered the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This photo contest?
- Yes = 70.6% [36 people]
- No = 29.4% [15 people]
2. If you have entered the Picture This contest before, what is the main reason you entered? (choose one answer)
- I wanted the chance to have my photograph evaluated by a professional photographer = 30.6% [11 people]
- I enjoy being involved in garden-blogging community events = 47.2% [17 people]
- I wanted my fellow bloggers to see my best work = 8.3% [3 people]
- I wanted to be able to display a winners badge on my blog = 0% 
- Another reason = 13.9% [5 people]
The results here tell us that most of you are participating for the same reason we run this contest: to have fun interacting with our fellow garden bloggers. We’re also happy to provide the opportunity for you to have a professional garden photographer review your images, and to give you a reason to show off your best images. Other reasons given for entering included an irresistible theme, and the challenge of trying to find an image that fits the month’s topic.
3. If you haven’t entered the Picture This contest, why not? (multiple answers)
- I’m just not competitive = 10.5% [2 votes]
- I want a tangible prize, not only a winners badge = 5.3% [1 vote]
- I’m embarrassed to have a professional photographer see my photograph = 10.5% [2 votes]
- I don’t understand the entry rules = 10.5 [2 votes]
- Another reason (please specify) = 78.9% [15 votes]
A special thanks to those of you who let us know why you don’t (or haven’t yet) participated in Picture This. There certainly were a variety of responses here.
We completely understand being intimidated by the idea of competing against your fellow bloggers, and by having a professional evaluate your work. So, we’re considering having at least one “showcase” month each year, to give you an opportunity to take part in Picture This without the pressure of being judged.
The monthly themes also seem to be an issue. Some of you don’t find them inspiring, or can’t go out and shoot an entry because of seasonal issues (a spring theme during the southern hemisphere’s fall, for instance). Currently, we allow each judge to choose the theme he or she wants to use, but we’re making an effort to incorporate non-seasonal themes too, which should give everyone an equal opportunity to participate. We also encourage you to go out and take lots of pictures all year ‘round just for the fun of it. That way, you’ll have plenty of images on hand to consider for Picture This entries no matter what the season.
If you’re not entering because you don’t have a garden to shoot, we want to make it clear that your pictures don’t have to be from your own garden, unless the judge happens to specify that.
We do understand that those of you who read blogs but don’t have one of your own are an important part of the garden-blogging community. Without you readers, writing would be kind of pointless. At this time, though, we intend to keep the “must have a blog” rule. Before instituting that requirement, we were getting entries from folks who simply wanted to win a prize, and then we got complaints about these “outsiders” from some of our regular entrants. We’re not lacking in entries each month, and this rule is one way we can try to keep the job manageable for our judges, support our fellow bloggers, and maintain a friendly and fun spirit for the event. If the rule would encourage some of you non-bloggers to start a blog of your own, that would be great too!
4. Which type of judging do you prefer for the contest? (pick one)
- By readers = 4.3% [2 people]
- By a fellow garden blogger = 8.4% [4 people]
- By a well-known gardening professional, but not necessarily a photographer = 29.8% [14 people]
- By a professional photographer = 57.4% [27 people]
Clearly, many of you appreciate the opportunity to be judged by a professional photographer, though some of you are open to other possibilities as well. We’re hoping to continue with the pros as judges as often as possible, but we’d like to mix things up a bit too by inviting other garden pros and other bloggers to be judges some months. “Readers’ Choice” is also a possibility, but like many of you, we’re aware that this can lead to a contest based more on popularity and willingness to ask for votes than on technical or artistic merit.
5. Would you be willing to pay a $5 entry fee to have your photo judged by a professional photographer?
- Yes = 29.8% [14 people]
- No = 70.2% [33 people]
We get it: most of you like having a professional photographer as a judge, but you don’t want to pay to enter. Fair enough. Maybe it would help if we made it clear that Fran and I are not looking to make money off of this contest; rather, we’d like to have some small way to thank the photographers who give up so much of their time to be judges. Five dollars per image doesn’t nearly cover the value of the time they invest in coming up with a theme, writing it up, reviewing all the entries, choosing winners, and then writing up the results. It’s reasonable to say that if you paid an entry fee, you’d expect the judge to provide a written critique of every photo entered. But again, $5 doesn’t begin to compensate these judges for the time and expertise they could be using to make a living instead.
We’re very lucky to have some great judges lined up for the next few months, and all of them have been generous enough to agree to take on this task without any monetary compensation. At some point, though, we’ll no longer be able to impose on the good nature of these folks, and we’ll have to find some way to compensate them, either out of our own pockets or by charging some kind of entry fee. For now, it would be great if those of you who enjoy the contest would take a minute to thank the judges for their time, either by leaving a public comment here, sending them a private e-mail, or – at the very least – visiting their own blog or web site to see what they’re all about.
6. Currently, to view all of the entries, you have to follow multiple links from comments on the contest announcement post. Would you prefer to view all of the entries in one place?
- Yes = 66% [33 people]
- No = 0 %
- It doesn’t matter = 34% [17 people]
Having all of each month’s entries in one spot is something that we’ve been considering for a while now. We already pull the entries into one place for the judging, but for that purpose, we try to keep each entry as anonymous as possible. (By the way, for those of you who are concerned about bias in the judging: well, we can’t say it would never happen, but we feel confident that it’s not a big issue. Remember, these judges are professionals in their field: they’re not going to choose a poor photo as a winner just because they recognize the entrant’s name, or because it came from a blogger who writes exclusively about gardening topics.)
We’ve figured out a way to create a separate gallery for viewing all of the entries in one place, with the images linked back to the blogs they came from. You can check it out here. Let us know what you think!
7. If you have any other comments or suggestions for the Picture This contest, please share them below.
Reading through your comments reinforced many of the decisions we’ve already made about how the contest runs now and what changes we’d like to make in the future. As we’ve already said, our vision for Picture This is as a fun activity for our fellow garden bloggers: for exchanging links, getting to know new bloggers, and having a reminder to visit old friends. If we can help you improve your photography skills too, that’s great, but it’s not the main point of the contest. (Truly, we’d love to have more educational posts or workshops to teach the how-tos of good photography, but it’s hard enough getting free judges!)
Several of you mentioned that you missed having actual prizes. That’s certainly something we’ll consider for the future, though it’s way more complicated than you’d think, since it’s cost-prohibitive for us to send prizes outside of the U.S., and plants that get donated as prizes can’t possibly be suited for the garden of every winner. Still, we realize it would be fun to offer prizes every now and then.
Once again, Fran and I thank all of you who participated in the survey, and also all those of you who participate in Picture This in some way, whether it’s as an entrant or as a spectator. We’re very excited about the judges Fran has lined up for the next few months, and we’ll keep you updated as our future plans come to fruition. We welcome any further comments or suggestions you may have about Picture This, so feel free to shoot either one of us an e-mail (you can find our contact info on our About pages: Fran and Nan). Or, leave us a comment below; it can be anonymous, if you wish.