The Value of Awards / by Hilary Hann

Some Random Thoughts on the value of entering the Australian Professional Photographic Awards

Over the years I’ve entered all sorts of awards for many different reasons.  I’ve entered big prestigious awards such as the Natural History BBC Wildlife Photography Awards as well as International Awards like the Loupe Awards, Spider Awards, Masters Cup, Pano Awards, Creative Asia Awards along with a number of lesser awards.  All these listed awards are online digital competitions and the judging is pretty much invisible.  Quite frankly, the value of this is debatable for a few reasons.  You present your image as a digital file so for many of us, that is at an unfinished stage.  A really important process, the printing, as it is the finishing touch of our professionalism and my work in particular, is the poorer for not having that step included.  Feedback is almost non existent, so you receive a score or an award level and that’s the sum of it.  Some of the Australian based awards such as the Loupe, Pano and Creative Asia awards have a larger proportion of Australian judges and although very accomplished the competition policy is to have entrants judged by people from other countries.  So Australian entrants have a much smaller pool of judges looking at their work.

As a benchmark, I find them problematic.  As an opportunity to have awards to use as a marketing tool, or to try and win prizes, they are excellent.

The AIPP Awards are quite different and although not perfect, provide a wonderful way to assess your work.  Now with Livestreaming across many of the State based awards, and for the National Awards, you can watch a variety of judges, categories and images and listen to a wide range of opinions and suggestions.  What could be more valuable for increasing the quality of your own work than having so many experienced professionals commenting on such a large number of photographs.  Every comment made about someone else’s work can be directed right back at your own work.  Presentation is also important so the final step of print preparation is also considered.  If you want to sell fine art images, choosing suitable paper and ensuring print quality is the best it can be is critical.

I use the State and National Awards to see if my work has the ‘wow’ factor.  If the judges sit up in the chairs and take notice; if they score them highly; if they talk about how they feel when they critique them … then the print has moved closer to being prepared for sale.  Often a critique will point out flaws which I didn’t notice and I am grateful for all the suggestions which help me to improve my work.

What happens when an image doesn’t make the mark I’ve set? 

Sometimes we have to realise that the work we’ve sweated over just isn’t that interesting.  No matter what the emotional investment you’ve made in an image, it just doesn’t always make the grade.

At the recent South Australian Professional Photographic Awards I was very fortunate that my prints were well received.  I was award a total of 4 GOLDS, 2 SILVER DISTINCTIONS and 4 SILVERS with 1 print missing out on a silver by 1 point.  Of the 6 prints entered into the Contemporary Photographic Artist portfolio, only 2 were eligible for individual judging.  Different rules apply for this category than is normally seen at APPA judging.

So out of 11 judging efforts my work received 10 awards so I was ecstatic about that.  It ended up resulting in my winning the Illustrative Category, Landscape Category, Contemporary Photographic Artist and the Professional Photographer of the Year.

More importantly, is means that I have some new work all ready to add to the gallery for sale over the next few weeks, and that has to be a good thing.


One of the lower awarded images managing a Silver Award.  Some of the others are still to be judged at National level and won't be posted until after this time. 

One of the lower awarded images managing a Silver Award.  Some of the others are still to be judged at National level and won't be posted until after this time.