Be wary of the “iPhone Photography Awards”

Several websites have posted news about the 2020 version of the iPhone Photography Awards. Their site says, “founded in 2007, IPPAWARDS has been celebrating the creativity of iPhone photographers since the iPhone first began to inspire, excite and engage users worldwide.” Cult of Mac called the award “an incredibly prestigious prize to win.”Tim Cook tweeted this morning about them, saying, “Congratulations to this year’s @ippawards winners from all around the world! Your extraordinary photos beautifully preserve the moments that make life so magical. Outstanding work!”

But I remember having my spidey senses tingle last year with these awards so I did some digging into it.

The first thing I noticed was you have to “pay to play” – that is, it costs $5.50 to submit a single image with “discounts” given for multiple image submissions. Paying to submit images to a contest is not necessarily a bad thing but it always raises concerns for me.

Next up was the judges – or lack thereof. In an interview with Input, the founder of the IPPAWARDS Kenan Aktulun (whose Twitter account is protected) wouldn’t say who the judges were:

I asked Aktulun to share some details behind the curtains about the judging process. Though he wouldn’t say specifically who the panel of judges was for the 2020 winners, he said they were made up of a diverse cast of visual storytellers including photographers and designers.

That’s always a red flag for me. Every reputable photo completion, from Apple on down, lists the names of the people doing the judging.

The site says the Photographer of the Year was Dimpy Bhalotia from the UK who won an iPad Air. As well as the overall title, a first, second, and third place Photographers of the Year each won an Apple Watch Series 3. If you’re charging a minimum of five bucks a submission and claim to have had “tens of thousands” of submissions, it seems they could award the latest and greatest Apple Watch or at least be more clear and upfront about the specifics of the prizes being awarded. Checking the details, 1st place winners in each of the 18 categories also received a “Gold Bar from the most recognizable private gold mint in the world.” The 2nd and 3rd place winners of the 18 categories won a Palladium Bar. Sounds good until you read the fine print – the prize is a one gram bar of each, worth $60.00 and $69.00 respectively.

And finally, for a worldwide photography website, their information on their social media accounts is non-existent. The awards have a Twitter account and a Facebook page but neither are linked from the website and both are fairly sparse.

None of the above is damning but, taken in the aggregate, I find the whole exercise something I wouldn’t personally get involved in nor would I recommend it to others. Caveat Emptor.

UPDATE: Well, this is awkward…

The 2020 iPhone Photograph Awards “Photographer of the Year” Dimpy Bhalotia’s “Flying Boys” photo also won 2nd place in the “Movement/Street Photography” category of the International Photography Awards. But the rules of the IPPAwards say photos can’t have been posted elsewhere. Ooops.