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Photography Tip—Taking on the Challenge of Photo Contests

Participating in digital photography contests can be exciting, but it’s also an excellent learning experience to improve your skills and results. Even if you never win a contest, you’ll have had the opportunity to see hundreds, maybe thousands, of other competitors’ photos. Compare the winners’ entries to yours to learn why they won, and what additional knowledge and practice you need in specific areas of digital photography.

There are a huge number of photo contests throughout the world every year. Some are only for the professionals, the photo artists. Some focus on specific types of photography: landscapes, portraits, weddings, pets, children, etc. You may have taken some casual photos during your vacation or of your dog and children, with no intention of entering them in a contest. They just might win, however, if you submit them to the right competition. The better method is consciously to plan and shoot specific pictures for specific contests. The following tips will help you prepare your entries.

Choose carefully.
Take some time to do a little Internet or other research just to understand what kind of contests are available, their submission rules and the quality of the previous winners. Think about what kind of digital photos you like to shoot or would like to shoot, similar to the list above: landscapes, pets, children, etc. Then, find contests that match your photo types and appear to be for someone with your level of skills and experience.

Review the Submission Requirements.

  • Read the contest rules, so you understand all the details thoroughly before taking any pictures.
  • Is there a specific subject matter for the contest?
  • Do you have to complete an entry form?
  • Can you submit digital photo files online or are prints required?
  • What file type (JPG)? What minimum or maximum file size?
  • What size prints? In many cases, a standard 4” x 6” photo is sufficient, but other contests may request an 8” x 10” print. (Make sure to add a piece of cardboard to your mailing envelope to protect the prints.)
  • Do your prints need to be mounted on black or white presentation board? If you haven’t mounted photos before, use some “throwaway” prints to practice. Your local photo shop, framing store or crafts store is your best source of the right kind of board and spray adhesive. You can also have your digital prints professionally mounted for an affordable fee.
  • Photo submissions that include people may require accompanying releases, or signed statements that you have permission to use their images in a photo contest. This form, or model release, is a standard document and can be downloaded from the Internet. (It’s a good idea to have a few blank releases in your camera bag at all times.)
  • Submit your entry well before the deadline, especially if you must mail prints.


Compose a Winner.
Digital photos that are not correctly exposed, lit, focused, etc. obviously will not receive much attention from the judges; in fact, a quick glance will eliminate “bad” photographs. These PhotographyTalk.com articles are your best resource to learn how to take technically correct pictures as well as to create photo composition that grab the judges’ attention.

You’re also more likely to compose a winning photo if you start to take pictures as much as a year before the photo contest. Don’t expect to shoot a high quality digital image of a landscape or your pet a few weeks prior to the deadline, especially if this will be your first photo contest. Give yourself plenty of time to learn, practice and grow as a digital photographer, so you’re able to submit a landscape or pet photo that is totally new to the judges. That can make you a finalist, if not a winner!

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