How to Win a Photo Contest

Joining a photography contest? Good for you! Joining contests 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.

ways to win a photo contest

Photo by U.S. Army; ISO 100, f/5.0, 1/125-second exposure.

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 needs 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.

basic rules for winning a photo contest

Photo by Joe Flood; ISO 50, f/2.4, 1/2463-second exposure.

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.

photo contest tricks to win

Photo by T.E.A Photography; ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/4-second exposure.

5. Join the right contests. If your expertise is pet photography, then join a contest with a pet photography theme. If you specialize 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.

About the Author:
Louis Goldstein writes for an Asian Wedding Photographer based in Berkshire.

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