Tips on How to Win a Photography Contest

Joining a photography contest? Good for you! Joining contests such as these can push photographers to raise the bar when it comes to their own picture-taking skills.

But we’re sure you want to do more than learn. You join contests to win! So here are a few tips on how you can improve your chances in bringing home the prize.

1. Read the rules, and follow them! This is such a simple rule, and yet it is so often ignored to the contestant’s detriment. If you’re going to join a contest, it is well worth your while to read the instructions, the requirements, and the fine print. Usually, these include how the images are to be used after the competition, what the subject of the shots need to be, how many shots you may submit, and what the accepted formats are.

It is so sad when we see excellent pictures get disqualified simply because they didn’t follow the required format. It’s also very annoying for contest organizers when photographers complain about their pictures appearing in certain places, when the rules of the contest explicitly stated that the images were meant to be published there!

2. Check out the past winners. Photography contests often display their previous winners. Take some time to look at these winners, to find what the judges are looking for. You may be able to detect a preference for a certain type of photo.

For instance, you may notice that the judges tend towards artsy images rather than clean, classic ones. Such an insight will let you tailor your submission to something that has a better chance of catching the judges’ eyes.

3. Make the theme clear in your submissions. We often see entries where the judges have to really stretch their imagination to understand how that specific photograph fits in with the given theme. When you give the judges such a hard time as that, you’re making a huge gamble: either they will have an “Aha!” moment and see what a genius you were for creating that connection, or – and this is more likely – they will give up, slightly annoyed that you made them work so hard, and cut your entry from their shortlist.

We do not recommend you make that gamble, as it is one you are likely to lose. It is best, when a theme has been given for a contest, that you submit an entry where the theme can be found at a glance. If you don’t have an excellent specimen for that theme in your portfolio, go out and take a new picture.

4. Build up a hefty social network. If you join contests where you need votes to win, then you need voters. Don’t bother joining contests like these if you don’t have an excellent social network.

Now if you do join the contest, promote your entry! Ask people to vote for your photo, on your wall or in private messages. Ask them to share. Ask them to retweet.

And don’t forget to tell them the prize that you could win; that often encourages people to click on Like.

5. Join the right contests. If your expertise is pet photography, then join a contest with a pet photography theme. If you specialise in still life, find a still-life photography contest. Different subjects require different skills. An expert in news photography will not necessarily be as good in wedding photography. Find the contest theme that lets you take full advantage of your strengths, and you will definitely have a better chance of winning.

Photo Tips From The Masters! How To Win Photography Contests!

If you want to jump to an all new level of proficiency with your photography, it pays to pay attention to the masters and the consistent award and contest winners… then do what they do.

Success leaves clues.

Recently, the selection of the “Military Photographer of the Year” was made. Congratulations to MSgt Jeremy Lock!

Here’s an interesting thing, in watching news reports about him, I learned that he has won this award for six consecutive years! Now THAT is an example of someone who has mastered the finer points of what it takes to create the “wow” factor and win contests!

Winning six times in a row – Military Photographer Of The Year – made me sit up and take notice. There are thousands of military photographers!

I mean – anyone could accidentally get “THE” photo that wins all the contests in any particular year… but to win six times in a row clearly indicates that it isn’t an accident and he has tapped into what people want to see!

In an interview, he was asked what he looks for in a photo – he said the two main things he looks for is:

1. A face

2. A story.

He wants his viewers to connect with his photos and one way to do that is by showing a compelling face. It could be cute (they showed a photo he took of a little girl playing in a puddle of water) or tragic – (they showed examples of wounded soldiers). Whatever… as long as there is a compelling face.

It wasn’t done by him, but how many of us can forget the enchanting eyes in the famous “National Geographic” cover photo of an Arab woman? By the way – she was tracked down for an interview several years later and it turns out that she had no idea that she was world famous! That is a good example of a compelling face!

Then he said that he looks for the story telling elements. What one shot will immediately tell the story of what is happening?

Several famous images – that immediately tell the story – come from the Vietnam era…

Remember the Buddhist monk that set himself on fire in protest of the war?

How about the young girl – nude – running down a dirt street, while burning with napalm?

These are images that immediately tell the story.

You can do the same thing!

It seems to me that if looking for these two elements can propel him to worldwide fame – six times – if we look for the same elements it could propel us to the top of the local photo club contests… or at least get your friends and family to say, “Wow, you did that?” when they look at your photos. And that IS what you got into photography for, isn’t it? For more information, check out the photo resources box!

Is It Cheating to Give in Photoshopped Work at a Photography Contest?

It’s a modern pet peeve that the artistically inclined love to worry about. If you are a musician, you can’t stand the fact that youngsters today sit before their Macs to play around with GarageBand and they name themselves music artists. Why, if you are that way inclined, you can likely have a hard time recognizing that a young guy having wild hair and a screaming electric guitar close to a stack of Marshall amps is a musician also. Take photography; if you have a taste for cameras as well as photography, then the journal Popular Photography is most likely in your regular monthly subscription list and you often await their Reader’s Photo Contest every year.

Actually, it isn’t just the photography lover who is often excited about that contest. Regular people out there having a camera and a computer are often capable to produce spectacular and outrageous masterpieces that you’d not really believe came out of the thoughts of a lone typical person without any devices, education or finances. I recall an entry in that photography competition about fifteen years ago that simply blew absolutely everyone away. It absolutely was a large unsupported phantom faucet strangely floating in the air against an attractive blue sky, that was pouring torrents of crystal water. Individuals could not stop wondering at the marvels of digital picture tricks.

That was before Photoshop became famous. Now, it looks like almost all the pictures in that photography competition, like any other, have had a little of Photoshopping carried out (if not a whole lot), and most people are up in arms at how the ancient and august art form that photography is, is being subverted, by any punk with a computer. To view a great touched-up woman in a wedding dress walking up the aisle, the folds of her gown just picture-perfect, her smile maybe a little too glowing, the lighting catching behind her veil to form a kind of halo and little blossoms tumbling down her train in just a precious way – all of this is wonderful to see on a photograph just because setting things up like this, and having the ability to time your picture completely, with all the right lighting, all in a moment, demands artistry and training of the very extreme nature. But if you can just take your average image, transfer the lighting on Maya, redraw the smile to become much more angelic as well as glowing on Photoshop, change the angle of the shot and the whole backdrop and put in extra shine on another program, it doesn’t truly say very much for your skill with a camera.

The only real reason a picture like this is remarkable enough that it would certainly win a photography competition is that people imagine that it demands photographic skill. The picture itself is absolutely nothing that great. The talent to capture it all in one frame, is the thing that wins the appreciation. So is it fair to cry foul here? Not too fast, the Photoshoppers say. If you run your very own photography contest just how would you put this down in the regulations, what is to be regarded as photography, and what is not? For instance, before any individual ever acquired a computer, any picture shot would require that you used a number of lights and reflectors to get your photo to sparkle and be noticed. And your darkroom techniques will make that even better. You choose a camera that could focus on the foreground and blur out the background in a way that actually never happens in reality. Or you invested hours getting your subjects, “your actors” set up so. That was the low-tech way, and today we have a high-tech way. What causes it to be unjust now?

It is not just a photography contest that you would have issues defining specific guidelines in. Identifying where a line is, is actually challenging. Perhaps the best way to go about it would be to just move all the high-tech stuff to its personal contest.