Karsten reviews photo sharing sites: GuruShots

When I found GuruShots, I thought I'd gone to heaven. This was 500px and ViewBug on speed and with the added bonus of me, for a long time, apparently enjoying lots of success.

Like ViewBug, GuruShots is all about contests, or "challenges" as they call it. You submit up to four images to challenges such as "Single Tree", "Two Wheels", or "Minimalism". Then, in order for your images to receive exposure and thereby votes, GuruShots wisely requires that you participate in the voting process. In other words, your only way to success is to vote on everybody else's images every day for the two weeks most contests last.

As your own images - hopefully - receive votes from other contestants, you move up in the hierarchy from "Popular" to "Skilled" to "Premier" to "Elite" and finally "All Star". Along the way, you can swap your photos if they don't perform as well as you hoped. When you sign up for GuruShots, and after every other contest you participate in, you receive free swaps, but if you need more than that, swaps can also be purchased.

There are several other twists to the challenges, but the gist of it is that, unlike ViewBug contests, GuruShots contests are fast and very immediate, and unlike 500px, you can truly influence how much your pictures are exposed. If you do quality work and you keep voting, you will most likely fare well. At least, that's what it looks like at first glance, and to some degree, it's probably true.

However, GuruShots is not without flaws. After participating in numerous contests, I'm starting to notice strange patterns that make me question the fairness of it all. First of all, GuruShots is free to use. You don't have to spend a dime if you don't want to. That's all well and good, but... how, then, does GuruShots make money? As I mentioned earlier, they sell swaps. So, it is very much in GuruShots' interest that you buy these swaps, and what I'm noticing is that swapping images almost always pays off. I have swapped images maybe 50 times, and I can only remember a couple of times when the new image I swapped to didn't receive more votes than the one it replaced. So the pattern is unmistakable: for the user, swapping equals more votes - for GuruShots, swapping equals more money. Everybody wins. The question is, do GuruShots' algorithms somehow favor swapping?

Another questionable premise about GuruShots is that as you move up in the hierarchy, you get more voting power. When a "Newbie" votes for your photo, you get 1 point, a "Rookie" vote is worth 2 points, a "Challenger" 3 points, etc. But nowhere in GuruShot's rules and FAQ's does it say whether image exposure is evenly distributed among the various ranks. This can make a huge difference in how many points your images receive.

Altogether, there are just too many things - and I could come up with several more examples - that leave you wondering whether GuruShots really is as fair as it seems at first glance. Even though I have used and loved GuruShots every day for more than six months, I'm at a point now where I don't feel it's worth my time anymore. Another major factor in that decision is that I have hit a wall when it comes to my own climb up the hierarchy ladder. I'm currently at the "Expert" level. It didn't take me all that long to reach that, but in order to advance to the next level - "Champion" - I need to finish in the top 10% in at least one contest and have an image picked by the person who launched the contest (the "Guru"). Both of those requirements have turned out to be seemingly impossible. It doesn't matter how much my pictures have improved - and I believe I have made tons of progress since I signed up for GuruShots - I do absolutely no better in contests than I did when I started. On the contrary, algorithms have changed and made it quite a bit harder to fare well. That, and I no longer wish to spend money on buying swaps, which, as stated above, is important in order to achieve success.

So, although I imagine I might return now and then to test if my odds have improved, in the foreseeable future I will probably turn my focus back to ViewBug for contests. Sure, GuruShots is a wonderful playground at first. There is a lot more instant gratification than on any other site I have tried, and sure, it can be a reasonably good test for your images. In the end, however, once you get used to the pace and the shower of votes you sometimes receive, the nagging questions about what's really going on under the hood become too hard to ignore. That is, of course, unless you are so undeniably great that you manage to break through to the highest levels without any fuss.

Apparently, I'm not that.

Below are two of my more successful images on GuruShots. It's impossible to say exactly what images have fared the best. All they tell you is if an image ended up in the top 10%, 20% or whatever, and how many points they scored across all of the contests they were submitted to.

Visit my GuruShots page.

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12 comments on “Karsten reviews photo sharing sites: GuruShots”

  1. I love your post, I have just used 27 swaps in Guru shots, and I can honestly say that probably only 10 of those swaps gave me more votes so they do not always pay off. But your post is great and I also would like to know what goes on underneath Guru shots hood. One point I cannot ignore about Guru shots it has pushed me to try to become better and better at photography and has taught me a lot since I joined. Someone told me along time ago that we all think are photos are just the greatest, and for me I think this is very true because when I first began to take photos many years ago I thought my photos were beautiful but looking back at them now I see they do not compare and were really quite not good at all but I loved them all just the same. Guru shots is quite the challenge and can be quite frustrating at times when I think I should be moving up the ranks and am not. I have thought about quitting Guru shots at those times of frustration but I keep going because I am learning from their tips and videos on how to take better photos and it is just a game after all so I keep playing and learning. I think my photos are getting better but of course that is in my eyes, years from now I may look back at those photos and think, Oh those are not good at all. I love your two example photos above to me they are very beautiful and have a lovely dreamy quality about them, but like the old saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I may or may not stay with Guru shots it depends on my frustration tolerance level but for now I remain. Thank you for the informative post.

  2. I am in the same boat as you are. I reached the expert level in about 3-4 weeks of playing and that 10% seems like the holy grail. I even have almost completed the amount of points to make it to guru level, I have 2 guru picks too. It is getting to the point that I am voting like crazy in order to get more exposure, without judging/admiring the photos that I am voting for. I am also doubting the fairness of the game. Comparing the top photos in a contest with some of my entries makes wonder if the whole thing is rigged (in one contest particular about Dragonflies). And yes I have noticed how the voting slows down dramatically specially when the photo makes it to Premier level, then it drags through Elite level. Although I have made it more than 30 times to All Star level, I have noticed that when I get there, the votes in my favor decrease to close to 0 , no matter how much I vote for other photos. I keep telling myself that I will try one more contest but will quit if I do not make it to that 10%, but I just keep going at it thebhopes that I will make it (false hopes?) . It has become a bit of a non-enjoyable obsession. I find myself complaining about the unfairness of the game way too much to be a healthy thing and the disappointment of not making it to that sought out 10% is becoming too much of a drag. I have been certain that I will not make it to Guru level, but I had my hopes upbthat I would make it to Champion or even Master levels. The veredict about me staying or leaving Gurushots is not out yet but I sense that the end is near.

    1. In fairness, since I wrote my article, I did manage to take another step up the hierarchy and score a top 10% position, so it IS possible. I can also now see why the number of votes drop so dramatically after a while. It looks like tons of people don't join the challenges until the last couple of days or even hours before the finish. GuruShots wants every picture to get the same amount of exposure, so that means the exposure of those who join early come to a screeching halt while all the late-comers catch up. GuruShots has now introduced new rules to encourage early joining. We will see if it helps.

      1. They have changed the rules so anyone entering within the last 24 hours is locked out but you can use a key to enter.

  3. Guru Shots is BS. I reached expert in 2 weeks. Recently one of my photos went straight to #1 and stayed there for several hours. I went to bed, to find that it has slipped to 143 the next morning. I voted repeatedly the next couple of days to get it back into the 20's. I went to bed with mine at 17 and got up the next morning and found it at like 160. I tried all day on the final day of the "challenge" and could only get it into the 80\s.

    I am done with this site.

  4. I have been on Gurushots now for a while and I have amassed 149,450 GS points, I started to believe that its bull crap, so I started to investigate and I have found in the last 12 challenges and the only winners are Guru and Masters. I have been a trained and qualified photographer and worked freelance for 30 years. I also started to investigate some of the images and found that they are splashed around the net, other hand they are cheating. I have informed them of that and nothing happened. So I have decided it is bull crap!!

  5. Biggest load of CRAP website I've come across in a long time. I cannot believe I nearly fell into this BLACK HOLE! UNreal. I DE-activated my account soon after I saw all the dog'n pony shows. Lesson learned.

  6. I completely agree. It took me a year and 800,000 votes to get to master level but I know I will never reach the "Guru" level. Some of the photos they pick, I just have to shake my head at too. My photos probably aren't at GURU status anyway because some are spectacular but a lot of it is so photo-shopped you have to wonder how much is skill and how is just knowing photo-shop. anyway - I'm quitting.

    1. What a great comment

      "so photo-shopped you have to wonder how much is skill and how is just knowing photo-shop"

      I would have thought knowing enough to master something is in fact.... wait for it.... a skill

  7. GuruShots is just a money grabbing app, I understand they need the money to keep the app running but do they really need to take the piss. My photos generally do well... At first, then the votes suddenly stop after half to one hour no matter how much I vote. I get some more towards the end but have to vote like crazy. It seems the better you start doing votes for your own pics start getting less. Boosts are crap as well. Since I became expert boosts have got me less if any votes most of the time. I'm not trying to say I'm the greatest photographer, but my photography was pretty good already, not fantastic or out of this world but it has improved since being on GuruShots. So technically I should be getting much better results now. Instead my results are poorer in comparison. It's all bullshit.

  8. yeap... they got me also... guroshot is a fully scam website, keep you money in YOUR pocket!!, and then see what happens... of course NOTHING, they are money eaters. Unfortunately my images are now lost in somewhere...

  9. I agree with a lot of the reviews but I had to take a step back and ask myself why i joined? I realized that I didn't join for the winning, I joined for the enjoyment of sharing photos with people all over the world, a beautiful concept. I spend more time looking at all the techniques used now instead of looking at my votes. (by the way I love your photos above). As for paying for swaps etc. i just consider it my Starbucks for the week.

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