My Review of my Lens Culture Review

Articles, Images

I recently entered the Lens Culture Street Photography Awards. As usual I left it to the last minute to enter thereby ruining any possible chance (however remote) of being editor’s choice in the lead-up to the deadline, but you have got to “be in it to win it” right?!

To be honest I didn’t expect to win, which begs two questions: 1/ Where was my self belief? And 2/ Why enter? Well, self fulfilling prophecies aside one of the reasons I was prepared to pay $60 for the entrance fee (for a series of 10 shots maximum) was that I would get a free review of my work, which I decided was worth it. I think this is a great ‘value-add’ to the competition.

Soon I realised my portfolio consisted of single shots rather than a series of any sort as I hadn’t worked on an actual project, which I now very much intend to do. However, I looked at what shots I had that could work as a set. Perhaps that’s going about it the wrong way? Probably. So, after a painful few days I came up with two possibilities…

Being wracked with indecision I didn’t know which set to focus on. After reading through the FAQs I found that it was permissible to enter more than one set in a one series entry as long as it was clear they were two sets. So that’s what I did!

Set 1: Entitled OPEN FOR BUSINESS (5 shots) – Georgia

Visiting Georgia was a real surprise for many reasons. Apart from the stunning mountains I most definitely had not expected, I was particularly intrigued by life on the streets and by the number of ways daily commerce took place. This short series is a sample of the various types of shops I came across that were open for business.

Set 2: QUIET SPACES IN PUBLIC PLACES (5 images) – London

Anyone who lives in or has visited London will understand that it is a busy city that is never still, yet within this maelstrom it is possible to find a quiet space, whether alone, with a loved one or simply find quiet in one’s mind. This short series is the start of a larger project to find and document quiet spaces in public places.

Needless to say I did not win the competition, however I was excited about receiving my review – which incidentally doesn’t automatically happen. I feel this is an important point. Lens Culture sent me an email so that I could ‘apply’ for my free review. Cynically, I wonder if they do this so that a percentage of people either forget to apply or miss the email or don’t care any longer! I guess with so many entries this might be a resource saving exercise… which makes sense from their point of view… but perhaps not so much from the photographer’s.

My review arrived and I was must confess to mixed emotions… I was both pleased to have two important take away points but also disappointed about a couple of things…

The disappointing aspects:

1/ The first sentence is a piece of “practical” advice: “One submission should ideally consist of 1 series. Logistically, a jury will only be able to vote for your entire submission, and if they like one series but not the other, likely you will not get the vote.” – This is not reflected in the FAQs and had it been I would not have entered two series! I have fed this back to Lens Culture so I hope they update their FAQs accordingly.

2/ My reviewer was anonymous – I think this was a real shame, to not know your reviewer’s name, let alone credentials. I will never know if they were a one of the judges or the janitor!

The positive aspects – my take away points:

1/ To take a “calmer approach” when photographing (this was in reference to series 1) – This is great advice, and I was a little taken aback that it was so noticeable that I had rushed. The truth is I only had one hour to wander around the small Georgian town where I took those shots, so yes it was rushed. I think I do need to take my time a little more in general and get a feel of a place first and then go shooting. The temptation is to go in camera-to-face!

2/ To look for something new. To show people something they haven’t seen before or to show them something they have seen but in a different way. This point may seem obvious, but it has really made me think so I am grateful for that.

Here is the full (anonymous) review:

Thanks for sharing these two series. Allow me to start with some practical advice. One submission should ideally consist of 1 series. Logistically, a jury will only be able to vote for your entire submission, and if they like one series but not the other, likely you will not get the vote.. But. more importantly about the images: I like the idea of the first series, these different kind of ways to trade and sell are great in their variety and their originality. However, I am less convinced about how you photographed them. You seemed a little afraid of the people, in fact: the picture are taken too quick without much consideration for composition, it seems, specially when there are people in the frame. (1,4 and 5) And of course there are people in the other images, but they clearly do not notice you while you are taking the shot. I think a calmer approach where you consider more the shape of the ‘store’ and photograph it as a typology would have helped this series. The second series is much better photographically! I think image 7 is not too great, but the other show a more considered composition and a closer approach to the people, even if they are not aware of your presence. Perhaps you can develop this series a little further and find places and situations that are less obvious? What you show now are the situations we already know and recognize, and it could be more exciting to go beyond those and show us something we don’t know? Like the shops in Ukraine, to reveal something new is a great thing that photography can do. Good luck!

Image 7 has since been removed from my portfolio! And to be honest it was the one I was least sure about – so in a way, I’m glad I was at least thinking along the same lines as the reviewer. And I guess I just need to make sure I listen to my instinct about my own photography in the future.

Here are the additional resources recommended to me:

Here is a good article on things to think about when creating a photo essay. (

The Street Photographers Manual, by David Gibson 

Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image 

Street Photography Now, by Sophie Howarth and Steve McLaren 

18 Composition Rules for Photos That Shine (online article) ( that-shine/) 

Street Photography and the Poetic Image, by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb (

On the whole, I did learn something, but I won’t enter the awards again solely for the review. I will only enter with the belief that I have a chance of winning or at least being featured!

I have work to do…



12 thoughts on “My Review of my Lens Culture Review

  1. i paid $60 twice (after the first time – to pay the second time was just laughable but i did it again :-((( )
    ” free review of my work” ? but when you pay $60 its became payable not free – they fooled me in the same way.. sorry for saying but never again


  2. I fell for it too! I have been waiting for my submission review which I only realise now, months later, will never arrive as I didn’t re-select my five photos to be entered for the submission review. I feel like I’ve been duped. They should make it clear when you enter that you are not automatically going to get the review rather than putting it in a follow up email. Puts me off LensCulture completely. Money wasted.


  3. Will follow up to say that LensCulture promptly offered me a submission review when I brought the issue to their attention. So do contact them if you find you have missed out because of a misunderstanding…


  4. Same thing happened to me with the review…. I contacted them months later since I never received the review…. and explained that it was not clear that I had to manually submit. I thought that it would be done automatically by submission. They promise that they will send me a review as a resolution to this matter. It’s been 3 months and nothing. I contacted them again now asking for a refund! I will never participate again…. I’ve participated twice (total ~$100) , main motive for that was to receive the review which it never came through… totally disappointed and it seems that there is clearly something not right with LensCulture….


    1. Well, after I asked my money back magically they managed to get back to me within 2 days with 2 reviews! They stated thought that it’s written in their terms that refunds are not available….


  5. I made another submission recently and knowing the drill I knew to request the review. I was pleased with the constructive feedback and must blog about it again!!! Sorry to hear that you guys have had poor experiences relating to submission reviews… I think Lens Culture can indeed provide great exposure (if you make it past the editors!), but it would be great if they could be proactive with the reviews rather than making applicants chase them!


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