People’s minds are on medals at the moment with the Olympics starting a few days ago in Brazil.  There was another sort of Olympics earlier last week that did not get as much press but was equally important to thousands of photographers, the IPC.

The International Photographic Competition, IPC, happened over the course of 5 days last week at a small college outside of Atlanta.   It was streamed live, and I dare say that productivity in the photography world took a big dive last week as people were glued to their monitors watching the live feed, waiting for their images to appear, or just watching and learning.

A VERY, VERY abbreviated version of the IPC process goes like this:

  • Choose 4 of your best images. (Alternately, photographers have an idea for a competition image and photograph with that in mind.)
  • Refine the images till they are the best you know how to make them. Often this involves soliciting feedback from other photographers. This is the most intensive part of the process.
  • Submit those 4 images to IPC (this is called your case).
  • The images are judged by panels of highly trained and experienced jurors using the standard of the 12 elements of a merit image,
  • images that meet or exceed those criteria are granted a merit (merits are accumulated and go towards degrees),  and are included in the General Collection (the Best Images) of the IPC exhibit, .
  • All merit images are then judged for the Loan Collection (Best of the Best images) of the IPC exhibit.  Loan images also earn an extra merit point.
  • Based on the results for your case, you can receive various Photographer of the Year medals.          Bronze = 4 merit images                                                                                                                         Silver = 3 merit images, 1 loan image                                                                                                   Gold = 2 merit images, 2 loan images                                                                                                   Platinum = 1 merit image, 3 loan images                                                                                             Diamond = 4 loan images
  • Loan images are judged for Grand Imaging Awards by the entire group of jurors and the top 10 images are selected in various categories.
  • At PPA’s annual conference in January, ImagingUSA,  the Top Ten in each category are honored at the Grand Imaging Awards and the top 3 are announced.  The top image in each category is in contention for the Top Image of the year which is also announced at that time.

A few years ago I wrote a post about why I compete.  I’ve since earned my Master of Photography degree from PPA.  Master Artist and Photographic Craftsman degrees are on my agenda at the moment.  But I don’t compete simply to earn degrees (though that is a valid reason).  I compete in order to challenge myself and my work.

Why I continue to compete has much more to do with pushing myself that earning degrees.

I really couldn’t say it any better than Dave Hunstman, a photographer and Affiliated International Photographic Jury Chairman.  “Image Competition is a competition you can’t lose… Image competition makes you think about everything. It makes you learn to evaluate images, it helps you see differently, it expands your vision, it opens up your mind making you try new things. It’s a community project, people critiquing, encouraging and elevating each other to achieve all that they can.”  

I had a goal this year and I failed to reach it.  Or did I?

Twice, I have been honored to receive a Platinum Photographer of the Year Medal, 3 Loan and 1 General Collection images.   Each year, I wonder how I can push myself beyond what I did the year before.  So early in the process, I decided I would go for Diamond this year, all four images going to the Loan Collection.  That meant I had to work hard to ensure that my work was the absolute best it could be.  I spent a great deal of time analyzing images, refining images, discarding images, asking for opinions on images, trusting my instincts about images, and finally making decisions about images to submit.

The final result for my case this year was Platinum and while I will admit to a momentary pity party, it didn’t last long.  The reward is not in the medal but in the process.  I’ve learned a great deal, met more great people, tried new techniques, and broadened my perspective. That is always a winning situation.

Below are my entries in the Photographic Open for 2016:

Symmetry: 2016 IPC Loan Collection  I love architecture and created a panoramic image of the ceiling of the library in Utica, NY. The result was one half of this image. (Look at the image sideways and look at the upper half to will see what I saw.) I turned it on it’s side and duplicated it to create a mirror image, and joined them to create the final image here.

Fine art photography of architecture of Utica LIbrary, Utica, NY.

Symmetry: 2016 IPC Loan Collection


Emerging: 2016 IPC Loan Collection  Sometimes I look through my older files and find hidden gems that I didn’t appreciate earlier. I photographed this Sunflower bud in the studio a few years ago and had forgotten about it. When I was thinking about IPC early in the year, I came across this and, knowing more now, recognized it’s potential.

Fine art photograph of sunflower bud.

Emerging: 2016 IPC Loan Collection.


Branching Our: 2016 General Collection  I was prepared to submit a totally different image but at the last minute decided that the other image did not have as much potential to achieve Loan Collection status. I had just created this mandala while experimenting with adding more repetitions to my mandalas and felt it might have more Loan potential. It didn’t go Loan but I don’t regret the decision.

Photographic nature mandala.

Branching Our: 2016 General Collection


One additional way I challenged myself this year was to create and submit an album.  The album is judged as a whole and every piece of the album has to adhere to the same high standards as individual images.  I always wondered why one would do this.  Why submit 10 or 12 images when one would do?  Aren’t you making it even more difficult to merit, and especially loan?  But at some point this year, I just knew that I needed to take a step out and challenge myself more.

I’ve been creating mandalas for several years now and have published several inspirational calendars of mandalas.   Creating an album of mandalas was a logical place to start.  Many of my mandalas use images of trees for source images so an album that celebrated trees came to mind.  This album went through several iterations before it came to this.  It actually received a merit at District Image Competion and if I’d sent it straight to IPC as it was, it would have been an automatic merit.  But I knew it could be better, so I basically threw away the guaranteed merit to make changes and submit a revised album.  I was confident that the revised album was the best of my abilities.  My risk paid off as the album, Trees, was selected for the Loan Collection. 🙂


I hope this has made a small amount of sense out of a somewhat complicated process.  

It always is much more about competing with myself and improving my work and vision.  It truly is about the journey and not the destination.

I’m already starting to plan for next year.  Diamond, anyone?