Should I enter the NZIPP IRIS awards?

So you’re thinking of entering the NZIPP IRIS awards? Quick answer, don’t.

A lot of people ponder and think about entering the IRIS awards each year. I entered last year and I actually enjoyed the whole experience. From deciding on what images to enter, to sorting out the print then finally attending and sitting in on the judging.

How much does it cost? Way too much to be honest. The minimum amount of images you can enter as a non member is one, with a maximum of 10.

Entry Cost Breakdown
$95 per print entry (I entered three)
$110 nzipp official print case (it literally is a $5 plastic case)
$110 handling fee (that’s some soft hands)
$15-20 for matting (all prints need to be mounted on regulation sized board)
$30-80 per actual print 
$15-35 courier postage
= about $400 for one image for a non nzipp member
You can enter up to 4 images per category and 10 images in total

I bit the bullet and entered three, which I thought may do ok after discussing with a tonne of people (IRIS entrants past and present, non photo people and photographer friends). I came away with a Bronze for my crying bride (which one judge said “it’s a standard shot you get at every wedding” - right-o mate), which was nearly a Silver. My running in the rain just missed out on Bronze and was the only image in the wedding category downscored after they discussed it (haha legit was the only one, it was quite funny sitting in on the judging when that happened, had a great crew of photogs around me to laugh at me haha). And, finally my Tarureka one just missed out on Bronze but was later DQ’d anyway as it was too similar to previous entries (that Tarureka barn is too distinctive), which was fair enough, but there have been previous entries using that same location that never DQ (and actually got awarded), apart from the building, I thought it had enough variation in it to be different, but guess not - unlucky uce. Inconsistent much? - a little more about that later

I’m also in a couple of New Zealand photographer groups where this discussion gets brought up every year. And the main thing that NZIPP members or people who are pro IRIS always bring up is that it is a print awards. And that is why the whole awards side of the event is pretty shit. First and foremost it should be a photography awards focused on photography not the print. If you want to enter a print awards, there is already the Pride in Print awards, which is legit and where some amazing things get entered in. IRIS should be about the photo, photography and photographers.

Another thing, again, it is not really anything to do with photography, especially in the wedding categories and to be honest, the majority of the categories. How I see it, it’s a photoshop, illustrative, hobbyist, Uncle Tom has the flashiest camera that he takes on Safari taking photos of dead elephants type event. So if you’re an out in out professional photographer more specifically a modern wedding photographer, it’s not going to be your cup of tea. In saying that, I saw some amazing illustrative and composite work, especially some of the commercial stuff, talent x3000.

Lastly, the judging is borderline super poor. Again, it’s a whose who of who the hell are these people that I’ve never heard of before or who aren’t really well regarded or respected (one of the judges even got caught stealing other peoples work and banned for life, Saad much!? - ps her stolen work is prime example of what NZIPP and these awards are about - photoshop collages, no photo in sight, where my glue stick at?). There was the odd splattering of ace judges, but most, as like the awards itself is hobbyist or amateurs just sitting in on the old boys/girls club of the NZIPP round table. Some images that get judged poorly, you’re like “the fuck you guys looking at?” Then some images that get judge well you’re like “the fuck you guys looking at?” I think the inconsistency bugged me the most, one second they would go off the marking schedule, then the next image would be presented and a judge would cry because it tugged at their heart strings; cue childhood sad sob story. The comments and texts from friends and family watching the livestream were hilarious yet so true, but not for me to repeat haha. The aussie judges loved anything kiwi cultural eg hakas, and the kiwi judges hated anything kiwi cultural eg hakas haha. But I definitely recommend sitting in on judging though, it’s really good fun, even better if you go with a few mates. It’s also intriguing to see what does well and what doesn’t and the judges take on them.

So straight off the bat, the return of investment is pretty bad. If you’re on the fence, don’t do it. Buy a new lens, go do a workshop run by someone you respect and is actually in the current industry or go on a holiday and recharge your soul. There were some great images and some well deserved awards, but the majority were head scratching, not a photo or shot by someone your Uncle Tom would hire (direct Flash shot at F8 or above - cue jumping bridal party, couple holding an umbrella in the rain or the groom squad squatting like they’re on the cover of the next boy band album) - not quite my cup of Gin and Juice.

Would I enter again, probably not (unless they opened up an online non print category ps where do videographers get their dues too, shoutout to the video boys and girls). Was it worth it, hell no. Should you enter, it’s your money but to be honest you’re better to invest into courses, workshops, a new lens or a sick holiday.

Peace out, and as TJ Hunt says, keep moving forward, yeeeowww!!!