GuruShots Review: Truly the World’s Great Photography Game?

Are you looking to get your photographs out into the world? Do you want to get a feel for how your skills stand up against other artists?

GuruShots, marketed as “The World’s Greatest Photography Game,” may hold the opportunities you’ve been searching for.

screenshot of gurushots front page
GuruShots claims to be the world’s greatest photography game

But what, exactly, does the growing platform have to offer? Furthermore, is it worth the time and effort to seriously compete?

In this article, I’ll give you a thorough review of GuruShots. I’ll show you the best, the worst, and whether the community is worth joining.

Let’s get started!

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Does GuruShots Offer Real Rewards?

First things first:

Is GuruShots legitimate? Can you really win big prizes?

The short answer: Yes.

While the GuruShots app is free to download, there are some very real prizes that users compete for. GuruShots has partnered with big brands like Adobe, Kodak, B&H, Adorama, Polaroid, and Skylum.

GuruShots prizes
GuruShots genuinely does offer real prizes

A winning photo could be awarded anything, including:

  • an awesome piece of gear
  • a straightforward cash prize
  • the chance to exhibit at flesh-and-blood gallery venues

Since there’s no fee to enter, the game presents itself as a minimal-risk means for photographers to gain some exposure.

One of the main concerns many newbies run into when starting out with GuruShots is finding whether or artists relinquish copyright when submitting images. To make things clear, users retain full ownership over their images when uploading.

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How Does Gurushots Work?

Understanding the basics of GuruShots is simple. You sign on, you upload images to a contest of your choosing, and watch the votes roll in.

But how exactly does it all work in practice?

As soon as I logged in, a prompt suggested I upload some shots. I picked a few favorites and sent them in. What I didn’t realize was that those first uploads were automatically included in a “Newbies of the Week” contest.

GuruShots upload photos
When you begin, GuruShots prompts you to upload photos

For a little while, votes came flowing my way–at a pace that was frankly hard to keep up with. It was admittedly pretty gratifying, in the same way, that receiving a “like” on a Facebook photo can be. But, before long, I found that the attention tapered off entirely. Though the contest progressed for another day or two, all of my votes came within the first few hours of submitting.

A few negative first impressions:

  • It was frustrating the way the votes quickly tapered off
  • While many of the competition submissions were legitimate, the great pictures intermingled with shots of personal selfies, technical flops, and images that simply didn’t meet the contest guidelines at all

I then entered a self-portrait into a contest titled “Power of Yellow” to see if perhaps my first contest experience was a fluke. This image garnered even more attention, falling in at just shy of 400 votes. However, I ran into the same issue–my submission seemed to disappear into the crowd after a few hours.

Further investigation led to even more confusion. Though I received 384 votes, my picture was viewed just 220 times.

GuruShots contest photos
My photo had more votes than views!

What was going on? I figured it out soon enough:

Each user has a rank. And this rank plays a huge role in how much power one holds in the community. The higher your “rank” happens to be, the higher your voting power becomes.

For instance, one vote from a “Newbie” counts as one vote. However, one vote from a “Guru” counts as nine votes. In other words, a photograph that attracts 10 votes from “Gurus” will rank the same as a photograph that attracts 90 votes from “Newbies”.

GuruShots ranking hierarchy
The GuruShots ranking hierarchy

Now, one way to increase your rank is to do well in competitions.

But another way to do well is to pay. For a fee, you can increase your GuruShots rank–and become a Guru much more quickly.

And after a bit more interaction on the platform, I came to a greater realization:

Serious Success on GuruShots Requires Money (or a Lot of Luck)

GuruShots itself is free to join. However, in order to truly become successful, one has to pay to play.

First, photos are presented in a way that requires users to scroll through hundreds of shots at a time. Naturally, images that appear at the top of the queue are more likely to get noticed than those situated at the bottom. GuruShots users can gain exposure by casting more votes or by simply buying advantages for a small fee.

GuruShots review you must pay
When you upload your photos, attention doesn’t last for long–unless you pay

The more I explored, the more I realized that getting ahead would likely involve shelling out a few dollars. A small shopping cart icon leads users to a market, where advantages such as additional photo swaps are available to purchase. As it turns out, some competitions even cost users a “key” to enter.

challenge for money screenshot
Joining this challenge cost a “key” to enter

Technically, for those that don’t want to pay into the system, there is a function that allows users to comment on one another’s work and provide feedback.

Unfortunately for those looking for critique, this function doesn’t seem to be utilized much by the millions of users playing along. While the site may provide a temporary morale boost, don’t expect others to respond in any sort of constructive manner.

GuruShots Review: Is It Worth Playing?


  • The GuruShots app is free to download and doesn’t require any sort of membership fees to use.
  • The application features millions of global viewers. Frequent exhibition opportunities provide users with a way to get their work out into the world.
  • Thanks to the support of some highly established sponsors, GuruShots competitions offer valuable prizes for winning photographers.
  • At any given time, there are plenty of competitions calling for entries.
  • GuruShots always allows photographers to retain the rights to their images.


  • Not every vote at GuruShots is equal. Your ranking can significantly impact the amount of power you hold within the community.
  • If you’re not actively casting votes or buying advantages, your work is unlikely to get much traction.
  • While the audience is large, not many people provide the feedback or critique necessary to help users grow.
  • There doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to “trim the fat” and eliminate entries that don’t fit competition guidelines.
GuruShots screenshot with pros
The site has both pros and cons!

GuruShots Review: The Verdict

GuruShots claims that anyone can take great photos–and become a photography “Guru.” To an extent, this is true.

However, the system falls short in one key way: a customer’s money often seems more important than their actual talent.

Gaining attention and winning prizes with the current system isn’t as easy hitting a button. Truly getting ahead takes a good bit of luck and, more likely than not, a good chunk of money.

As a game, it’s one of a kind and great way for photo lovers to pass the time. However, in order to grow into something very worthwhile, GuruShots still has a long way to go.

Related Article: How to Sell Stock Photos and Make Money

About the Author

meghan boilard author

Meghan Boilard

Meghan is an artist and writer based out of Boston, MA. With an interest in everything from instant film to experimental videography, her work has been featured internationally in a variety of photographic exhibitions and publications. You can connect with Meghan on Instagram.

22 thoughts on “GuruShots Review: Truly the World’s Great Photography Game?”

  1. My experience exactly – except that was over a year ago. It’s very disappointing to know that little, if anything, has changed in terms of running this professionally.

  2. I am playing that game. Pure game. When I saw today what photo is a temporary leader in
    You on GS Instagram, i seriously think to deactivate account.

  3. Here I go. It is my honest opinion, no proof though, that this is much closer to a casino game than a photography “game”. It is designed and permanently quirked to make money. It got worse with the time where most of the prices are won by “gurus’ that have good photography (sometimes had just one or two really good pictures) and know the tricks.
    I have a few more things to use here and then I am done. It really gives the feeling that it is manipulated at times. As I said I can’t prove but I did find inconsistencies in the voting rhythm and numbers.
    This is just my opinion and I am expecting it to get too big for a game. However it can create adiciton I believe and it makes money go away quite fast.
    My opinion.

    1. Absolutely. I’ve been trying to enter pictures and not vote but I have yet to let an entry sit and wait to see what its “worth”.

  4. Thank you for your honest opinion!
    I can see GuruShots getting quite of thumbs down (one star reviews) on the Google Play store and mixed reviews on the Apple store. I guess it’s ok to try for fun, but as some user reviews say “you have to pay to win” and “It’s quite hard, if not impossible, to compete with professional photographers.”

    1. Yes there are lots of 1 star reviews but that’s only a tiny percentage compared to the 5 star reviews. Play store currently shows an average of 4.4 stars from 38,000 reviews

  5. In the beginning it makes fun, but after a while u dont het higher when u dont spend money on all their stuff.
    So I stopped for a while.
    Then I received a message about a contest and the possibility to get your photos published in a travel magazine. Nice was my first thought. Then I realized I had 2 pay 4 it.
    And last but nog least, I ask myself what do these magazines have to pay 4 these fantastic photos? I’m sure nog as much as a photographer himself, but still a smart way from gurushots to make money from alle sides of this photocontest story.

    So photographers if we take our works serious, stop this way of exploring your pictures. Lets meet somewhere else

  6. You have to remember that it is ONLY a game that appears like a photo contest, BUT it’s not!
    Yes, paid members get definitely preferential treatment by appearing in the beginning of the voting sets (most likely, no proof, but a strong suspicion after analyzing many challenges).
    Gurus and Masters win most of the challenges because probably 80% of the members are Gurus and Masters.
    The site was created to make money for the owners, and that is what it does well. Therefore, never expect it to be fair!

  7. The whole game is MANIPULATION ! Although I have been very successful I must warn everybody that this game has little to do with photo quality.
    I have been part of it for two years and I am considering stopping.
    There is a vote distribution system at work. Dependent on the money you invest the tap is opened wider and the votes are streaming in. A good photo without swap, or key does not work very much but if you do a swap hundreds of votes are released. A great part of the votes is coming from Fills and other actions which are distributed according to the liking of the management. These fills are originally anonymous ! Each system release new features are introduced to maximize the profitability and seldom the interest of the serious participants. The so called exhibitions take place in backrooms and are visited only by a very small number of members and seldom by the general public. Publication. Most of the photo’s are only available digitally.
    I can go on for hours but believe me real photographers have nothing to do on Gurushots !

    1. I have been in Gurushots for four years. Gurushots gives everyone the opportunity to earn free swaps, boosts, etc.. with every contest they enter. I did not spend a penny on Gurushots. I chose to pay the very small fee (I think it’s about $7.00 US), after entering exhibitions. I was allowed to pay the fee only when I was almost 100% sure I would hold a position in the exhibition. This seems more than fair and I don’t know of any other contests that would allow that. Other contests are much more expensive compared and you are never guaranteed the kind of exposure that Gurushots can provide. If you want to get free things, you have to play. It’s fun and you can choose to play or not. Hope this helps

      1. I agree with you Shanell, I’ve only once paid for a key or swap I believe and I made it to Master so far. Sometimes the game can be frustrating when people enter photos that don’t relate to the challenge, but I report those and move on.

      2. I am at expert level and didn’t spend 10Euros: all it took was (I hope good) pictures and time to.. vote. I like the ‘flee market’ feeling with mix qualities and I LOVE the surprises of some non edited pictures from non pros. I take it as a ‘feeling’ platform more than ‘elite schooling’. Having said that, I never expected to become famous or establish a clientele from it: that’s not what it is about. I will try the exposition challenges to see if, indeed, it’s about money but after 3 years on and off, I like it.

  8. All I’m going to say is, look at the photos that are taken by the “Guru’s”. I did this earlier today, and to be honest, they are poor. Most that I reviewed have no focal point and no composition.

    Also reviewing the Guru’s top picks are also eye opening, as again there seems to be little to no appreciation for good composition.

    I’ve been using the app for a few months, and I’m on the verge of deleting my account.

  9. Yes it is a manipulative system. It plays on people wanting to see their images get more votes (?) than others. It is not a competition where the best images consistently rise to the top. Success is usually measured by how many hours you spend voting (honestly or just randomly with no concern for quality) or more importantly by how much money you spend to purchase Fills, Swaps or Keys to promote your image to the top of the voting list. There is strong suspicion that the extra votes achieved from using Swaps and Keys are artificial votes injected by the GS operatorsed votes as opposed to actual
    member votes. This seems to be an unethical ‘carrot’ designed just to sell more of these aids. This seems to be compounded by receiving even higher (false?) votes if you know when to activate these aids.

  10. GS started out well.. But now it is COMPLETELY about the $$$.. They recently added Team competitions.. they are ALL about you paying for swaps/fils/boosts.. The game really isn’t about the quality of your picture.. Raw pictures rarely win.. Pictures should be in a 4/3 or 16/9 aspect and landscape format..It is all about photoshop and paying for S/F/B. Join and DON’T BUY ANYTHING.. It’s just a game!!

    1. João Francisco Câmara Gouveia

      Photoshop and playing with formats has been a part of photography for years now, you can prefer analog but don’t get carried away.

      It’s a you preference not a rule.

  11. This game is a total sham. You have to pay to get votes to be in serious consideration for higher spots. Unless you’re a guru it is almost impossible to win or even be in the top 50 of a challenge. Most of the photos that win are recycled over and over. I’ve been at Master level a year. I’ve had their system shut down votes for 24 hours on my entries until a minute left in challenge Total scam.

  12. bunch of hypocrites that deleted my acct for supposed porn violation but it was just nudity…these people have no clue about the art of photography the whole platform is rife with stolen photos and photoshopped bs…few real photographers can take this shit serious…no respect

  13. Maarten Baars

    I participated in Guru Shots years ago and thought it was funny, but left because I had to pay. Now, years later, I’ve tried it again and competed in a contest where you had to show your photos which showed affection. The winners were almost all ordinary family vacation shots. I considered even my own photo’s more capable of winning and I’m not that confident. So yes it is definitely pay-to-win.

  14. I notice that none of the comments rate GS as a “legitimate” photo competition. I use it to screen my pictures for popularity and a place to send people to view my pictures for free.

  15. Peter Siegfried Krug

    I finally made it to champion status after a long time. I didn’t need any money for that. But I think to have a status as a master, or guru, it is necessary to use money for it.
    What bothers me a lot is the high anonymity of this platform. I think it is impossible to make a name for yourself as a photographer. For example, I received countless machine-controlled “Congratulations” and “Likes” via the email channel. But these are totally impersonal. Also, I think it’s impossible to get serious acquaintances with other photographers on Gurushots. Greetings from Hallein.

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