If you’re looking for avenues that will gain more exposure for your work, photo contests can offer a wide range of opportunities in all genres. Along with the added notoriety can also come some fantastic monetary gains! For beginning photographers, contests will give you the chance to see how your work holds up against the competition. Be wary however since many photo contests only serve to generate money for the contest promoters with high entrance fees. Thankfully the Artist’s Bill of Rights Campaign handles reviewing photography competitions to make sure they adhere to ethical standards and copyright laws.
Choosing Which Contests to Enter
There’s a plethora of contests out there. Sifting through which contests to enter takes time. Obviously there are the big, annual competitions held by publications like Communications Arts and organizations such as National Geographic they you’ll want to keep in your radar. Here are a few sites to check out to find a wide range contests and determine which suit you the best:
- The 7 Best Photo Contests to Enter Today
- Top 10 List for Photography Contests
You’ll also want to try these two methods:
Find smaller, boutique contests
Find out how the long the contest has been accepting entries and how many entries they’ve received to date.
Choose obscure themed contests
A quick fix is to enter a photo you’ve already shot that will fit a contest’s theme. However, the quirkier themed contests will require going out and shooting specific images. A lot of photographers will not want to put in the extra effort. Be pro-active, create some new work and increase your chance of winning your first contest!
Must Do’s For Photo Contests
Know the Competition’s Rules
Find out how the images will be used. You don’t want give away all your permission rights and find your images popping up all over the place. Also, adhere to number of entries allowed, format, size, etc. otherwise you could just be wasting your time.
Do Some Research
Look at previous year’s winners. This will avoid submitting similar images and will clue you in on what the judges are seeking. If it’s a sponsored competition check out the company’s branding to give you further insight into their ideal image style. If you’re lucky, the contest will publish the judges names. Look into their background to see what might draw their attention to your submissions.
Be Technically Spot On
Don’t settle for just good enough because they judges certainly won’t. If your gut instinct tells you that you can produce better work – get out and reshoot.
Stick to the Theme
Judges will be viewing hundreds if not thousands of entries so you’ll want to avoid clichés in order to stand out. Determine what other photographers typically shoot around the contest’s them (do a little research on the Internet). Now choose unusual compositions (break the rules if necessary), select compelling subjects and feature striking colors.
And, don’t make the judges do all the work and submit a photo that vaguely matches the theme. While you can leave room for creative interpretation, there’s only so far the judges will stretch the theme of the competition.
Avoid These Contest Traps
Don’t get caught in the trap of shooting just for the goal of winning a photography contest. You’ll ending up losing track of your style and unique point-of-view. At worst, you’ll end up being stuck in “last year’s” look because you’ll be trying to match the prior year’s winners. Here’s some other photo contest traps you’ll want to avoid:
- Don’t be overly sensitive and take the judges opinion too personally — art is subjective after all.
- Don’t over manipulate your images or stage a shot when it supposed to be photojournalism or street photography.
Have you been lucky enough to win a contest? Don’t stop there. The thrill of your win will only last so long and you won’t want an award from 5 years ago to be the latest entry on your bio. More importantly, the lessons you learn from shooting to a theme and pushing your creative and technical abilities are worth the extra effort of entering contest year round.