2011 Portrait Photographer of the Year Contest (CLOSED)

This contest has now closed.  It is in the judging phase and more details will be announced from our Facebook page.

Most photography contests suffer from 4 problems: (1) They judge a photographer’s skill by one single photo, (2) They only have pro photographers as judges even though it is average people who are our potential clients, and (3) Many of them try to steal your images or charge you money to enter the contest, and (4) Most contests do not allow retouching, but that’s what our clients want!

So when I decided to do a photography contest through, I knew I had to do it differently to solve those problems.  This photography contest is unlike any other I’ve ever seen, and I think that translates to a worthwhile experience for you as a photographer.

What Is the Contest?

The contest is open to submissions from December 13 – 25, 2011.  Rather than submitting individual photos, you submit the web address (URL) to your photography site (Smugmug, Zenfolio, etc).  Once submissions are closed, the judges will review each and every entry.  They will judge the portfolios on one simple question, “Would I hire this photographer to take my portrait?”  The judges will be 2 non-photographers, and 2 pro photographers (me being one of them).

The photos on your site can be retouched as much or as little as you choose.

The winner of the contest will be (figuratively) crowned the 2011 Portrait Photographer of the Year.  Imagine what kind of respect that would get you when your clients see this award!

The winner will also win some crazy cool prizes: A $150 gift certificate from, a year’s subscription to Animoto Pro, an innovative new photography bag called The Waist Shooter, free tuition to the “30 Days to Professional Quality Portrait Photography” online course from, and much more!  Great prizes for the runners up will also be awarded.

Who Is Eligible to Enter?

Any portrait photographer who has a website and who has not been shooting professionally for more than 5 years.  The contest is focused on portrait photography.  We ask that no boudoir or nude photography be entered as it is not appreciated by a wide audience.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age to enter.

When Can I Submit My Website for the Contest?

RIGHT NOW!  Submit your information right now.  The judging will not begin until December 25, 2011, so you can enter right now and then still clean up your website and make changes until judging begins.  The first round of judging will involve me going through the entries and weeding out any entries that have not linked to, are not portrait websites, or entries that plainly fall below the standard of quality.

The second round will involve all four judges going through each site and giving it a score from 0 to 100.  The scores will be tallied and the top 20 photographers will be semi-finalists.  A public webinar (screencast) will be held to judge the semi-finalists and finalists.  The winners will be announced on January 5, 2012.

How Do I Enter?

It’s easy and only takes about 60 seconds to enter.  Just follow these 2 simple steps.  It doesn’t cost ANY money to enter–free!

#1 – Fill out the form below with your information.

#2 – We need to verify that you are indeed the owner of the website you are submitting.  To verify your ownership (and to give ImprovePhotography a little love), put a text link on your photography site to your favorite article on  You might put the link in the blog section of your site or you could put a tiny link in the footer.  Entries with no link at the time of judging will be disqualified immediately.

What Are You Looking for In a Winning Entry?

The non-photographers will probably be interested in interesting and creative photography, and they’ll want to see that your website is easy to use and has the information they want are looking for when hiring a photographer.

The pro photographers (at least speaking for myself) will look for technical excellence in photography.  I want to see great light, creative composition, and a nice presentation of the website.

All right.  Let’s see the fine print legal junk. (Terms and Conditions)

Your photos, your website, and your logo are all yours.  We don’t want them and we don’t want to take any of your rights; however, we would certainly like to give a shout out to the winners of the contest as well as feedback for the finalists.  In order for that to happen, we require your consent to a few things.

By entering the contest, you grant Improve Photography LLC the right to create a screencast where your website and any any content, photos, trademarks, logos, or other intellectual property thereon may be shown.  Only semi-finalists or finalists in the contest will be included in screencasts.  The screencast will be publicly available and the judges will critique (possibly negatively) your entry.  This screencast will be recorded and available on the web.  Advertising may appear on the page where the screencast is viewed, as well as products and affiliate links.  #2 If you are selected as a finalist in the contest, you consent to an additional screencast showing your work, as well as screenshots to be shown on and its social media presences.  Advertising may be shown on any or all pages where the screen cast is shown, as well as products and affiliate links.  All contestants agree that your website, photos, and all content thereon may be recorded on a video as part of a screencast or to provide feedback.  That is all we require.  There isn’t any chance we’re going to sneak off with your photos.  We just need a couple reasonable permissions so we can run the contest. By entering the contest, you grant these permissions and represent that you own all rights sufficient for these purposes to all content on your website.

By entering the contest, all entrants agree to discharge, release, and hold harmless Improve Photography LLC and its affiliates, sponsors, employees, owners, advertising agencies, officers, any of its representatives, and the contest judges from any claims, losses, and/or damages arising out of their participation in the contest or any contest-related activities and the acceptance and use, misuse, or possession of any prize.

Recipients of prizes are responsible for any and all taxes.  No purchase necessary to win.

By entering the contest, you understand that your website and any content thereon will be critiqued.  While we try to keep the critique positive and productive, you must understand that putting your work out there means you may hear some things that are difficult to accept.  That’s part of entering a contest.

Void where prohibited.


  1. Maria de Suède

    I live in France, speak much better French than English, my site is on French, it’s a French photo blog…

    But I’d like to photograph animals, prefere birds… I have some portraits, but ain’t my style…

  2. tee

    In Zenfolio you can’t add any footer links if you have not paid to have the branding removed. Is there an alternate way to prove you are the owner of the site/ Perhaps a screen shot taken from any of the admins screens that show website edit options?

  3. Caroline Thomas

    Hi, I have been consuming your blog in the past several days, and saw the contest last night. I was excited about it, but as I read the rules, saw I didn’t qualify. However, as I thought about it this morning, I just thought I would ask anyway.
    I’m 17, I’ll be 18 in March. I started my business as a ambitious 16 year old, and in the past 15 months have gone from shooting senior pictures for friends to having a very profitable, competitive business. I understand if I still do not qualify, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask if an exception could be made, since the worst case scenario is that I never hear anything back.
    (Like it!)

  4. Caroline Thomas

    And sorry, I wrote that in a word document, and didn’t copy and paste the whole thing into here.
    But thank you for your consideration, I really appreciate it!

    And you can just delete this little tag when you moderate the comment. I just wanted you to know I wasn’t ungrateful for your time! :)

  5. Author

    @Erik Kirstenbeck – You’re probably fine as long as the boudoir is in a section of the site that we can avoid. Thanks for understanding.

  6. DeAnn

    Just submitted my entry! Thanks sooo much for putting on this contest and for your awesome website. I have really enjoyed coming here and learning.

  7. Maria de Suède

    Ok, I have some portraits…

    I hope you like them, in this case I have no self confidence…

    But take a look… All portraits are there, some like I gonna change…

    You can use GOOGLE to translate into English…

  8. Maria de Suède

    I believe that I need to explain one thing, I love to photograph peoples who are doing something, a situation, not a pure portrait, like a reportage…

  9. Erik Kerstenbeck

    Hi Jim

    I think some of the “Boudoir” shots can be considered portrait as they are pretty Non-Risque. I have no illusions of winning this but just wanted to share. I know the outcome will be a Journalistic Type (prediction).

    Thanks for the opportunity and Seasons Greetings

    Erik and Kathleen

  10. Tess

    I am not sure if I can make it in time as I’m not very blog literate.. But I want to say a Big Thank You for giving me a chance! Merry Xmas to all of you!

  11. Maria de Suède

    I’ve just been contacted by EUROSTAR who’s gonna use one of my portraits, they’re paying me… So maybe I’m not so bad at portraits…

    A christmas gift for me…

    Joyeux Noël ! !Feliz Navidad! Buon Natale ! God Jul! Frölische Weinachten! Merry Christmas!

  12. Sarah

    I’m bummed you don’t have a contest for “up and coming” talent. I’ve been booked a few times for family shoots, and when I actually have time between college and work, photography is all I do! I only picked up my first DSLR this past spring, but I love the shots I have taken of my sweet girl, and especially the shots of my two friends who posed as models for me. :)

    For someone working on a limited budget… what is the best lens for a Nikon I can invest in? And what on-camera flash? I work mainly in natural light for lack of any kind of studio space, and Im not even sure I need an extra flash yet… *confused!*

    I hope you’re able to do a contest for the beginners that already have a footing! That would be way cool, to be seen by great photographers. :)

    1. Author

      @Sarah – Did you read the rules? The contest is for people who either shoot on an amateur level or who have been in business for less than 5 years. I thought that WAS “up and coming” :-)

  13. Ling Wang


    This contest was a great kick in the butt for me to finish my website. I’ve stayed up until 4-4:30AM every morning to complete it. In the process, I have learned tons of coding, and I didn’t even use an outside designer for the site. So exciting. Even if I don’t win anything, I’m still super thankful that you motivated me. 😀

Leave a Comment