I have been a photographer since 1978. I worked as a professional for a number of years, and now I am semi-retired. I enjoy photography primarily as a hobby (once again).
Photography has been the love of my life. The first camera that I ever purchased didn’t even have a light meter.
The industry has certainly come a long way in all of these years.
Today, I would like to give you a user review of an online photography website called, “Gurushots.com”.
A Quick Overview of GuruShots
GuruShots.com was founded in 2010. I became an active member back in early 2015.
The concept behind Gurushots.com is a bit different than other photography-based websites (that hold contests).
While participating in online photo contests is certainly a large part of the GuruShots experience- they have also built in community involvement, some training aspects, and (interestingly enough) a gaming component.
It’s so much more than simply photo contests.
Let’s Review How GuruShots Works for Me – The Photographer
I’ve noticed that some users became disenchanted with GuruShots, because they view it as strictly a “contest-based”, photography website.
Well, that’s not how it works… at all.
Yes, there are contests. That’s for sure.
However, from my perspective, the GuruShots team has set up their website to address far more than simply winning a contest.
This is a feature of the website that I find extremely compelling, and it has kept me engaged with them for three years and running.
The GuruShots Platform Addresses Seven Needs for Today’s Photographer
They hold contests. I’ve established that.
These contests can give you exposure to your peers; provide an avenue for building credibility, and as well provide a boost to your own sense of self-esteem with your images.
However, they’ve also added a gaming component, and an educational element, to add value to the photographer participant’s experience.
In my opinion, this is where they rise far above other photo competition-based websites.
There are a number of ways to “play the game”. These gaming aspects include the following features; Boosting, Swapping, Keys, Auto Fills, and Exposure Bonus.
I’ll talk more about these aspects of the program in a minute.
Additionally, GuruShots.com provides educational opportunities for photographers: both beginners and advanced.
The educational opportunities vary over time and include how-to articles – like this guide for how to take perfect black and white photos – Guru Tips, and free eBooks.
A photographer can also acquire some great deals on training, equipment, software, and reading material through the various corporate sponsors that participate as partners. These partners include such well-known brands as Adorama and B&H Photo Video!
There are a variety of methods to interact with other GuruShots members, and that’s fun. If I can make a friend who loves photography as much as I do, and they live in another part of the world- how great is that?!!
You can also invite your own friends to participate right along with you! I got my entire camera club involved.
In late 2016, GuruShots added a new feature, which was unprecedented in the online photography space.
They began to hold online challenges (contests), which ultimately led to physical photo exhibitions that are held somewhere around the world. These exhibitions have been produced everywhere from New York to Paris.
Yes. There is a small fee to enter an Exhibition Challenge.
But, I look at this way.
Where else would I have the opportunity, and the best odds, to have my images displayed in a major market for just a few dollars?
I say “best odds” because they typically pick, and present, around 400 winning images at these worldwide venues!
Most photography contests charge an entry fee of $20 to $30 for a single image. Plus, the amount of displayed winning entries is typically less than 20.
With GuruShots, I have the opportunity to enter a total of 4 images for an entry fee of less than $10 (to date).
I like those odds and that price and the exposure!
Benefits for Any Photographer – Pro or Amateur
- Win Prizes
- Recognition From Peers
- Use as a Marketing Tool
- Receive Photographic Tips From World Renowned Photographers
- Educate yourself By Seeing An Outside Perspective of Your Own Photography
- Challenge yourself to Raise your Ranking both on the Website and in a Challenge
- Entertain Yourself with the Gaming Aspect
- Meet New Friends
- Get Huge Discounts on Equipment, Software, eBooks, etc.
- Potentially display your work in well recognized international venues
GuruShots – Understanding the Gaming Aspect
This is an area where I’ve noticed that a lot of photographers get hung up on GuruShots.
The first thing that you need to understand about GuruShots is that it doesn’t operate like a traditional photography contest. There isn’t a judge, or a group of judges, sitting around looking at every picture and deciding which image is best.
The judging occurs primarily through your peers- other participants.
The challenges do have an overseer that is called a Guru. The Gurus are well-established photographers from around the world. The Guru also provides a judging component called “The Guru’s Pick”.
This is an important aspect of the program to understand. Not every person, in every challenge, (including the Guru), sees every picture. That’s an impossible task.
There’s a computer algorithm that rotates all of the entries through the voting process.
Earlier, I mentioned the Boost, Swap, Keys, Auto Fill, and Exposure Bonus. I look at these five features as a “Frequent User Rewards Program”.
What does that mean?
If you enter your photos (you can enter up to 4 photos per challenge), and then walk away and simply do nothing, your photographs will slowly receive less exposure over the course of the challenge (challenges generally last around 21 days – however GuruShots also offers “Speed Challenges”, which only last 4 days and are governed under slightly different rules.)
The Boost, Swap, Keys, and Exposure Bonus give the user a chance to “game the game”… so to speak.
Before, I describe each of these gaming elements; let me point out something important.
- Gurushots sells Swaps, Auto Fills, and Keys (a key may be required for a Boost)
I’ve heard photographers griping about that, and I don’t really get it. GuruShots is a company, and they have employees. Why would you begrudge them a chance to sell something so that they can pay their bills?
They don’t charge a monthly fee up front (like other photography contest websites), and the fees are quite reasonable! On top of that- you don’t HAVE to buy anything to participate.
- You can also earn FREE Swaps, Auto Fills, and Keys by being an active participant
- Exposure Bonus has no fee and simply requires your attention and effort
Let’s break each of these features down…
I like to think of the Boost function as a rocket. When a rocket takes off, it moves slowly and steadily. That is similar to entering a challenge. The algorithm is exposing your photos to the voting page slowly, and steadily, at a similar pace to everyone else.
As the proverbial rocket reaches altitude, the second stage ignites accelerating the speed of the rocket, so that it can punch through the atmosphere into space.
When you apply a “Boost” to your image in a GuruShots challenge, it accelerates the exposure of your image to more voters over a period of time.
Keep this in mind…
- The Boost doesn’t guarantee votes. It simply increases exposure. If your photo is excellent, then it should receive more votes during the Boost period. If it doesn’t receive a lot more votes, well that would indicate that the photograph isn’t well received by others, so maybe you should go back to the editing and post-processing.
- The number of views governs the length of the Boost, so there is really no way for you to gauge when it will end.
- In every challenge there is a 24-hour window where you can score a free boost. But, don’t count on it. I have yet to acquire one.
- Keys can be acquired FREE through participation, or you can buy them at a very reasonable price.
- The Key unlocks the Boost.
- You can Boost an Image “one time” during a challenge.
- I’m convinced that Boosting is a lot like gambling. If you choose the right moment, you will hit a big payday. If you choose the wrong moment, you will get little or nothing. When to do the Boost? At the beginning? At the end? Somewhere in the middle? It’s totally up to you. It’s a gamble.
Swaps are more or less an educational tool.
We all have favorite pictures. Right? We think, “Oh Man! This picture has got to be a winner.”
One thing you’ll learn from GuruShots participation, (fairly quickly), is that your favorite shot may not resonate with a larger crowd.
Swaps give you a chance to “Play the Field”.
How does that work?
Initially, you can enter up to 4 photographs in a challenge. (And, you should! Why would you enter less than 4, unless you don’t have 4 qualifying photos? Whatever you do, don’t enter photographs that don’t meet the rules. More on that at the end.)
Swapping allows you to change out your entries as many times as you’d like, (as long as you have Swaps available), during the voting period of that challenge.
Why is that important?
- It helps you to engage any number of photographs in a challenge, and that gives you an outside perspective on your photographs. That’s a huge learning experience!
- When you swap out a photograph, the initial entry does not lose its votes. This is really important. Let’s say I have one photograph that is doing poorly compared to the other three that I entered, so I swap that one out for a new photo. I wait a day or so, and the new one is doing even worse. I can put my original photo back in (or try another new photo). The original photo hasn’t lost the votes that it had already acquired… Plus, the algorithm will increase exposure to make up for the lost time. Trust me. Swapping can actually gain you more votes than if you don’t swap at all!
Exposure Bonus and Auto Fills are “tied together” much like the Boost and Keys are tied together.
With the Exposure Bonus feature, you should think about the gas gauge on your car.
When your gas gauge is full, you’re zooming along without a care in the world. But, as the gas gauge goes down and eventually goes empty, you’re going to glide to a halt.
The Exposure Bonus gauge is located on the “My Challenges” page of your GuruShots profile.
When it is reading “High”, your images are receiving maximum exposure in the challenge. They’re zooming along.
As it begins to dwindle downward, your images receive less and less exposure.
The idea behind this is to keep you engaged in the contest.
There are two ways that you can “Fill Up” the Exposure Bonus.
The first one, (which is free by the way), is to simply participate in the challenge by voting.
The more you vote, the fuller your Exposure Bonus will remain.
Now, let’s talk about the second way to fill it up.
In a nutshell, Auto Fills allow you to max out your Exposure Bonus with the simple click of a button. It’s a luxury.
Some users grumble about this feature, but I happen to really like it.
I think the GuruShots team did a good job in recognizing that we are busy people.
We love photography. We’d probably be on the website 8 hours out of 24… if we could. But, we can’t.
Auto Fill allows you to maximize your Exposure Bonus without having to go through the voting process.
Keep this in mind…
- Gurushots does sell Auto Fills, and I think this is where some of the grumbling occurs. Some people will spend money for these additional features and some won’t- no matter how inexpensive it is. They grumble that it’s unfair that those that are willing to spend money get these features. That’s ridiculous to me. If I’m willing to go out and drop 50K for a new Cadillac and you spend nothing while driving a junker that your uncle gave you- Why should you expect to get the same ride?
- Plus, you can “Earn” FREE Auto Fills based upon participation and placement within the challenges that you enter.
The fact that I have continued to be involved with GuruShots over a three-year period should tell you something right away. I can’t think of any other photography website that has kept me engaged for that length of time.
Don’t go into it thinking that this is a traditional photography contest.
If you do, you’ll be disappointed.
Look at it as another avenue of photographic entertainment that can, (and will) increase your self-esteem with your photographs, provide you with freebies, and provide a springboard for turning professional- if that’s your goal.
You don’t have to spend money to enjoy GuruShots.
If you do spend a little money, it will enhance your experience.
Think about it. How many app games do you play on your mobile phone where you spend a little here, or a little there, without giving it much of a thought? It’s the same deal with GuruShots (in my mind)!
To really enjoy GuruShots.com, you need to be a participant. If your goal is to simply plop some photos on a website and wait for National Geographic to call- it isn’t going to happen.
But, if you take it as a challenge, and build up your credibility, it can take you places you never dreamed of.
So, is there a downside? Of course!
GuruShots is growing rapidly. I can’t tell you exactly how much. But, in the time that I’ve been involved, I bet it has more than quadrupled.
This sometimes leads to technical glitches. But heck, who among us works in an industry where everything is always perfect?
Outside of that…
We need to make sure that entered photographs are on target for a challenge.
There are many “Off Topic” photos that get entered. This can be aggravating.
Plus, occasionally there are photos entered that were clearly stolen off of some Internet website. GuruShots participants complain about this constantly.
The GuruShots team has tried to address this by allowing voters to place an “Off Topic” mark on a photo when voting.
Even after that upgrade, there is still a lot of moaning and groaning about it.
Personally, I get it. Tens of thousands of photographs are being uploaded to the website every day. It would be an impossible task to monitor them all.
As members, if we don’t do our part in reporting these photos….
Then, we got nothing to complain about.
-Joseph C (a simple Photo addict)