Interview: Harald Johnson of PhoozL, A Photo Contest Publisher Now Integrating Instagram

on November 2, 2012 | Comments (0)

Harald Johnson, PhoozL

We had the opportunity to chat with Mr Harald Johnson of – a site that helps people become better photographers through tips, tutorials, weekly assignments and photo contests.

We wanted to find out more about this interesting website and the man behind it. We spoke with Harald and have the following interview to share with you:

1. What came first? Instagram or PhoozL?

PhoozL. I re-launched in May of this year (2012) with a stronger emphasis on photo contests and challenges. The new tagline sums it up: “Challenging you to be a better photographer.” There are other features on PhoozL, too, like: Photo Critiques, Photo Tips, a Photo IQ quiz, a Phorum (!), but the contests, missions, and challenges are the most exciting.

2. What inspired you to integrate Instagram and PhoozL?

Because I want to help photographers and photo enthusiasts share their images, get recognized, and spread their creative wings, I naturally started looking at Instagram as a photo contest delivery system. Not only could I have people enter their mobile images onto directly, but I could use Instagram’s hashtags as a way to take advantage of Instagram’s great community and ecosystem to reach many more people. All I needed was a way to display the hashtagged images on the site, and widgets were an easy way to let me do that. (below: SnapWidget being used on PhoozL page)

3. How did you come up with this idea for an Instagram Alphabetography photo contest? 

In 2011 I wanted to create a photo contest on Facebook and started thinking about a good thematic structure to do that. I had participated in “alphabetography” photo challenges before so I took the basic idea and came up with something unique: “Alphabetography Photo Challenge – The Four Seasons,” where each season’s word (e.g., “AUTUMN”) determined the active letters that focused people on which photos to submit each week.

After I got 10,000 contest submissions, I decided to bring Alphabetography over to the revamped, and that’s when I realized that an Instagram Alphabetography contest could be great.

4. So how does the Insta Alphabetography A-Z photo contest work?

Each week a new letter of the alphabet goes live (in A-Z order). Insta Alphabetography A-Z participants then hashtag old or new photos with the unique contest hashtag: #phoozl_XXX (where XXX is the active letter). The goal is to submit images whose implied subjects start with the letter. So when “A” is active, people hashtag photos of Apples, Aardvarks, Airplanes, Asparagus, etc. “B” is for Bubbles, Beavers, Babies, Beach… you get the picture. When each letter closes, a guest judge picks the Top 3, and they are added to the Winners Showcase and the PhoozL Points tallies.

5. How are the hashtag competition winners chosen?

When each letter closes, a guest judge picks the Top 3, and they are added to the Winners Showcase and the PhoozL Points tallies. I try to pick judges that have a connection to the active letter, whether it’s by first name, last name, or company. For example, I had Mike Pasini, editor of, pick the winners for the “M” letter. Some judge-to-letter connections are a little looser than others ;-).

6. How many entrants do you normally receive in your photo contests?

It depends on several factors. One is the theme. Is it broad enough? Is it too unique and narrow? “The Art of Nature” got well over 1,000 entries, and I think one reason is because there are a lot of folks who like to take nature photos.  Another is if the judge is famous. My first contest on the revamped site (“Seeing the Light”) was judged by legendary photographer Joel Meyerowitz. Although the theme seems a bit vague, it also got over a 1,000 entries. Another factor is the duration of the contest. If it’s just a week long, I’m not going to get more than a 100 or so entries. And finally, if I limit the number of entries per person, that also brings the number down. That’s hard to do with Instagram, but I encourage people to submit no more than 5 images per week for the A-Z contest (currently). I want people to think about which photos fit the theme the best and not just create a bloated photo album.

7. Has your involvement with Instagram had a measurable impact on web traffic to your site?

Sure has. I can see the traffic coming over from the various photos, comments, and graphics I upload via the hashtags. I also have an advert on website , and that attracts Instagrammers ready to compete.

8. Do you think Instagram is a vital application for professional photographers to be using?

Absolutely! It’s gotten so big that a photographer (professional or otherwise) who doesn’t use it is missing out on a great opportunity for immediacy and interactivity. I know pro photogs who use it to build more-personal followings and also to send out quick snaps from travels or actual shoots. And then there’s the reverse situation where someone is not a pro yet but is picked up by brands, publishers, etc. to go on assignment, which then makes them a pro! Cool, huh?

9. Can someone still enter the “Alphabetography A-Z” contest?

Yessiree! As I write this, the “N” letter period is open. If you know the alphabet,  then you know what comes next 😉 You can see what letter we’re on here.