Reap the Benefits of the Icon Awards at WPPI 

February 1, 2024

By Abbey Pleviak

The Icon Awards at WPPI have so much to offer anyone who tunes in to their offerings at the Arizona Grand Resort in Las Vegas on March 3, 4, and 5 — either in person or online. The deadline to submit has passed, but live judging of the top ten images, leading to the choice of winners, is open for everyone on the Show Floor of WPPI on March 3 and 4. On March 5, the Icon Awards Ceremony and Gala will showcase the winners and be a glitzy celebration of stellar photo industry talent. Icon Awards Co-directors Melissa and Jerry Ghionis recently joined Elena S Blair on the WPPI Rangefinder YouTube channel to talk about all that is being offered and why photographers should pay attention and show up – even if they are not entered in the competition. 

The Icon Awards, which were originally called the WPPI Awards and Honors of Excellence, has been a hallmark of prestige for over 30 years. Co-directors of the competition, Melissa and Jerry have been involved with the awards for many years, and were co-directors in its final years under the auspices of WPPI. When the competition pressed pause in 2022, they rallied to take over the competition and get it back up and running and accepting submissions again in 2023. To Jerry, the competition is “the soul of the convention.” He and Melissa wanted to ensure other photographers could continue to reap all the professional benefits the competition offers — just as they have over the years.   

© Jerry Ghionis

Jerry’s first participation in WPPI was through the WPPI Awards. He first entered in 2002 and did well. The following year, he made his first trip to WPPI via Australia. He has gone every year since. Jerry says, “For me, WPPI [competition] was always my creative benchmark.” He compares it to Wimbledon and every tennis player’s desire to win the Grand Slam. Jerry feels that without the deadline and the competition, he wouldn’t have been able to grow his art and his business to the same degree. Other photographers echo this sentiment, saying that winning silver, or a category, or the distinction of grand gave them confidence to grow their business exponentially. 

For Melissa, the WPPI judging sessions have been completely transformational. She has always made a point to drop in to hear the judges critique competition images. Melissa says, “What I heard in the judging room made me change my posing and lighting.” She says it revolutionized her photography.

There’s something for everyone in the live judging of all 22 categories of top ten images. It will be happening all day on the WPPI Show Floor on March 3 and 4. One only needs a Show Floor Pass to attend the judging, which right now, can be gotten for free.  

© Celine Law

In addition to the live judging of top ten images, there will also be an Icon Awards booth on the Show Floor where select images that scored 79 and under will be judged throughout the week. The Top Ten Gallery will also be on display there. 

Last but not least, the Icon Awards will host an Awards Ceremony and Gala Party event, where you will find photographers dressed to the nines for the event that reveals the winners of the competition. According to Elena S Blair, this event, “is basically our Oscars!” Jerry and Melissa teased that they are currently trying to secure a live act for the event worth of the ticket price for the whole conference (which is a bargain!). However, just as with the live judging events, entry to the Icon Awards Ceremony, sponsored by Nikon, and the Gala, sponsored by Lead Savage, will be available to everyone who has a ticket to the WPPI Show Floor (which right now, is free!).  

© Belinda Richards

Melissa and Jerry also note that for those who are not able to attend in person, they should be sure to check in with the Icon Awards to find out about the live broadcast. Additionally, for the first time, they will be producing a physical book of the winners, printed by GraphiStudio, which will be a gorgeous keepsake.  

If observing other photographers’ images being critiqued isn’t enough for you, and you’d like to get valuable feedback on your own images, check out the WPPI Platinum pass, which comes with folio reviews on the Show Floor along with a private cocktail party with WPPI speakers. 

Painterly Portraits
Creative Portrait Series
The Imagination Series
The Fashion Series
Boundless Boudoir By Kara Marie: Discover New Possibilities and Expand Your Offerings
The Lighting Series
Artistic Lighting for Maternity Portraiture – by Lola Melani
The Art of Draping Bundle
Editing from Start to Finish
The Photoshop Masters & Lightroom Masters Bundle