Entering photographic competitions can be very rewarding. Not only might you win prizes, but there’s something wonderful about seeing your photo exhibited if you win.
Here are some simple tips that can help you increase your chances of winning.
Stick to the Subject Matter
Most photographic competitions will specify certain subjects. It might be photos of for example, tourist icons in a particular city, people at work, rural architecture, children, your favourite beach or your interpretation of the word ‘love’.
Make sure you give the judges what they have asked for. A picture of an interesting barn, no matter how brilliant, is not going to come close to winning a competition themed around beach life.
To make your entry stand out, try an unusual interpretation of the subject. For example, if the theme is ‘love’, the obvious images are a couple gazing into each other’s eyes or a mother holding a baby. Instead, you could try:
– a car owner standing proudly next to their beloved vintage automobile
– a grandma holding her favourite, delicate china tea cup
– a child hugging a tree, looking up into its branches
Beat the Deadline
This one is obvious, but if your entry arrives late, you have no chance of winning.
Take Photos All Year Round
If you know a photo competition is run each year, don’t wait until the competition is announced. Start taking photos now.
For example, Pumpkin Patch, a brand of children’s clothing, in Australia runs a cute kids photo competition each year with a $15,000 first prize. The deadline is usually in summer, so most entries will be of children at the beach, swimming or playing outdoors. To make your entry stand out, photograph your subject when you visit the snow or when they’re wearing cold weather clothing.
The same applies to landscapes. If the competition is publicised during winter, a photo which shows the magic of a fresh, spring morning will catch the judge’s eye.
Keep it in Focus and Sharp
Unless you’re doing some artistic blurring, your photo will have no chance of winning if the subject matter is not in focus or blurry. If you are having problems with this, try using a tripod or a fast shutter speed.
Check the Background
Most of us have taken a photo with something unusual sitting on, or sticking out of the subject’s head — that power pole right behind them, or the sign in the background that points to their ear and states “no exit”. You’ve concentrated so much on the subject, that you forgot to check what was in the photo’s background.
Before you click the shutter, check for distracting items. Perhaps you could move your subject to a position where the background isn’t so busy. If you can’t move the subject of your photo, try shooting from a different angle.
Or, you might choose to leave the background in because it makes your photo funny or unusual.
Look at Previous Winners
Photo competitions run via a web site will often display winners from previous years. See what the judges liked and get inspiration from the photographers who won.
A lot of competitions allow you to submit your photographs through a web site. This is my favourite way to submit because you don’t have to spend any time or money having your photo printed or buying stamps.
Make sure your file size is correct. Most competitions will specify a minimum and maximum file size. Some will ask for a relatively small file and then ask the winning entries to submit larger files. Take note of the correct file type as well. It will most probably be a JPG file.
Some competitions will require a printed photograph that you’ll need to post. Take special note of the size of print specified. Some competitions just need the standard size you usually get from your mini lab – 6 x 4 inches. Others will need a 10 x 8 enlargement. Insert a piece of cardboard with your photo so that it doesn’t get bent in the mail.
The competition rules may ask you to mount your photograph on black or white card. Use a spray adhesive, not a liquid glue. Make sure you photograph is straight before the adhesive makes a permanent bond.
If your photo contains pictures of people, you may need to get a signed permission form (called a model release). Photo competitions that require these will usually allow you to download one of their own model releases.
Do It Today !
Many competitions have only a few hundred entries so you have a pretty good chance of winning. That’s because lots of people think about entering, but never get around to actually doing it. I’m sure Woody Allen is telling us to just have a go when he says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Dianne McLay is a freelance writer and keen amateur photographer. Her blog http://photocompetitions.blogspot.com contains links to free photo competitions for photographers of all ages and abilities with prizes worth up to AUD$15,000.
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