The Best of the Best Contest Judging Process

Junebug Weddings’ very first photo contest was launched in 2008 and a lot has changed since then. The contests we host have evolved into some of the most prestigious in the world, including our annual Best of the Best contest. This means that winning is a big deal! But, how do we judge this contest and how are winners chosen?

It’s not very complicated, but it is a lot of work for both the Junebug Weddings team and our guest judges. All of that work is worth it when the success of our contests results in widespread recognition for the wedding photography community, though. And it all boils down to a five-step process.

Step 1. Finalize Guest Judges and Open Submissions

To kick off our contest every year, we bring three guest judges on board to work with us to independently review every single photo submitted to our contest. Our largest contest receives over 10,000 submissions, so this is no easy feat! 

Once we have our judges on board, it’s time to open submissions. When submissions are received, we blind them so that no one on the judging panel—that means us, too—has access to any information about who submitted the images.

After submissions are anonymized, each guest judge receives the submissions. Then those judging individually narrow down the images from the initial 10,000+ submissions to about 300 of their favorites.

How Guest Judges are Chosen

The Junebug Weddings team judges each contest but we also bring in three guest judges every year. The guest judges that we work with are folks that we consider to be industry experts. Past judges have included The Kitcheners, Henry Tieu,  Adventure Instead, Phan Tien, Kreativ Wedding, Terralogical, Jane Iskra, Jordan Voth, Igor Demba, Joy Zamora,  and more. Each guest judge is carefully selected to ensure there is representation of a variety of styles and regions.

Step 2. Utilize A Weighted Point System

Once each judge has finalized their favorite image selections, they sort the images into three different folders. Each folder is worth a different number of points.

  1. Gold Folder
  2. Silver Folder
  3. Bronze Folder

While still anonymized, the images in each of the judge’s folders are given points based on a weighted system. For example, if a photo appears in one judge’s gold folder but a bronze folder for another, that image is rated less than if it had been ranked as a gold and a silver by the two judges. 

Step 3. Finalize the Collection

Once we’ve confirmed the top 50 images based on their points, we review the collection as a whole. At this point, the images are still anonymized. We do this review to ensure that the images showcase diversity in style, diversity in couples, and have the wow factor that will appeal to a wide audience.

Step 4. Fact Checking Submissions

At this point in the contest, we remove the anonymity from the submissions to fact check that these images fit all of the requirements for submission. This gives us the chance to make sure that no photographer is overly represented either. Every winner can only have one photo in the collection. We’re honored to attract submissions from some of the best photographers in the world but we also value the chance to recognize up-and-coming talent.

Step 5. Revealing The Final Collection

With the image selection finalized, we send the collection to our guest judges one last time for their review. Then, we prepare the gallery for release. 

Final Thoughts On The Best of the Best Contest

Photo contests require a certain amount of subjectivity and we understand that not every photo in our collections will appeal to every person. Some images will strike deep feelings within you and others won’t—these feelings change from person to person. 

We try to make sure that collections speak to more than just one audience and that they represent a wide spectrum of photographic styles, cultures, and love. Over the years, it’s become clear that the more diverse the submission pool is, the more diverse the final collection is. Because of this, we urge photographers everywhere to submit work that highlights diversity in subject matter and style! 

We can’t wait to see the evolution of our collections and hope you’ll join us by submitting your own work. If you still aren’t sure it’s worth it, read up on the benefits of submitting to photo contests.

(2) comments

  1. Cool list. Thanks

  2. This is super informative and awesome! Thanks for putting so much time and effort into this guys, it means the world to know how hard you guys work!

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