What is a Salon? Why You Should Participate

In this blog post, we’ll delve into what salon photography is all about and why it’s an excellent opportunity for you to participate and improve your skills.

What is a Salon?

A salon is a type of photographic competition where photographers submit their best images to be judged and critiqued by experts in the field.

The term “salon” comes from the French word for “parlor” or “living room,” which originally referred to a gathering place where artists would display their work for others to admire and critique. In the context of photography today, a salon is a platform where photographers can showcase their work.

Why Do We Have Salons?

So, why do we have salons?

Well, the concept of salons dates back to the 17th century in France, where artistic production was controlled by artistic academies that organized official exhibitions called salons. To be able to exhibit your work on a salon, you had to obtain the approval of the judges.

Today, it’s still the same in photography – the judges evaluate all entries received and only those found acceptable will be exhibited.

How Do Salons Work?

Photographers are invited to submit their images in various categories for possible inclusion in the salon exhibition. A panel of judges scores all the submitted images and chooses approximately 20% for exhibition.

Salons can be hosted by clubs, which is a possible source of revenue of the club.  It can also be hosted by photographic associations, like the Photographic Society of South Africa (PSSA). 

There are national and international salons.  In national salons, only photographers from South Africa may compete (as well as photographers worldwide who are members of the PSSA).  In international salons, photographers from all over the world may enter and compete. 

The PSSA also provides photographic competitions for junior club photographers (1 to 3 Star photographers) as well as scholars, to give the up-and-coming photographers the opportunity to showcase their work (without having to compete against highly experienced photographers).

The images that are chosen are known as “acceptances” and these are the “salon acceptances” that are required for Club promotion.

Awards at Salons

Salons offer various awards to recognize and honor outstanding photographs. Here is a breakdown of the common awards you can expect to find:

  • Acceptance: An acceptance is the most basic award at a salon. It indicates that the image has met the judging criteria and is considered of high quality. Acceptances are usually given to a significant percentage of the total entries, often around 20-25%.
  • Certificate of Merit (COM): A Certificate of Merit (COM) is a higher award that is given to images that demonstrate exceptional quality and skill. It is often awarded to a smaller percentage of entries, typically around 5-10%.
  • Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals: These medals are awarded to the top images in each category. They are usually given to the best images in each section, and the number of medals awarded varies depending on the salon.
  • Judges’ Awards: Some salons offer judges’ awards, which are given to images that the judges feel are particularly outstanding. These awards can be given in addition to the standard awards or as a special recognition.
  • Patronage Awards: These awards are given by the patron bodies, such as FIAP, PSA, GPU, and PAGB. They are usually awarded to images that meet specific criteria set by the patron body and are a way to recognize excellence in photography.
  • Ribbons and Honorable Mentions: Some salons offer ribbons or honorable mentions to images that are highly commended but not quite good enough for a higher award. These are a way to recognize images that are close to being accepted but not quite there.


In conclusion, participating in salons is an excellent way for you to improve your skills and gain recognition for their work.

So, if you’re looking to take your photography to the next level, consider participating in a salon photography competition. 

What is a Photography Salon? And Why You Should Participate
Scroll to top