You might be a newbie to photography, or maybe it’s your hobby or you’re even a pro. No matter your experience level, in the back of your mind you might be thinking: “Is it really possible to to enter a photo contest and win cash or prizes?”
Happily, the answer is YES! You can enter and you can win.
Related Article: Top Photography Contest Websites
I helped start a photo contest website and I can coach you on how to improve your chances of winning. You don’t need fancy equipment. Many of our past winners used inexpensive cameras. Whether you’re a beginner, hobbyist or an advanced photographer, I’m going to share tips and tricks with you for entering photo contests. I have great advice for everyone, and you can put it to work immediately. You’ll have fun and even pick up some helpful tips along the way.
Now, you don’t need thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. I’ve seen winning shots taken with $95 cameras. What really counts is what’s going on in your head. You might be surprised to learn that in many contests, photographers aren’t prepared as well as they think they are.
Have you ever heard the saying, “to be a master of one thing is better than being a jack of all trades”? Well, we at ViewBug are interested in helping you take your photography to the next level. So let’s begin. Let’s start with one of the most important tactics that winners utilize regularly:
Be Original – Show off your flair for creativity
This speaks for itself. Your personality should shine through in your shots. What does it mean to be original? It’s a photo that causes the viewer to say, “Wow, I never thought it could be done like that” or “I never saw it that way. Very cool.” For example, there are many, many baby photos out there in the world today. So if you want to submit a baby shot for a photo contest, how can you make it original and unlike the rest? That’s what will put you ahead.
And if you’ve been wondering … yes, you should name your photos. Naming the photo helps give the viewer a sense of what you are trying to convey. We love to see great shots accompanied by a descriptive title.
Composition – It’s all in the eye of the beholder
There is more to composition than the skillful placement of elements.
Good composition is a key element of great photographs. But honestly, it’s something that’s hard to define and is almost intangible. Composition that conveys your intended meaning is effective, while composition that doesn’t or that confuses the viewer isn’t good. Keep in mind, though, that there is no right or wrong composition in photography.
For example, how can you arrange a scene’s elements in your camera’s viewfinder that will not only determine the intended outcome of your picture’s design, but will also reinforce how well the message is portrayed? If you like symmetry, then a symmetrical shot with a good point of interest can lead to a striking image.
Depth of Field – Go deep
This technique, which winners use frequently, ties in nicely with composition. The depth of field (DOF) that you use when taking a picture will greatly impact the composition of the photo.
Depth of field isolates a subject from its background and foreground, or it can put the same subject in context by revealing its surroundings with a larger depth of field. Put simply, it’s the distance in which the objects are in focus.
Shallow depth of field can deliver dramatic results and emphasize the subject.
Contrast – Keeping it sharp and crisp
Contrast can take your photos to a whole new level and deliver a more intense sense of appreciation.
Very often when we upload our pictures to the computer from the camera and first look at them on the screen, they will appear dull and lifeless. For example, with an underexposed photo (this is often the case when the auto flash is used with a long lens) you’ll want to give the subject more life. In this case, your instinct will probably be to use the Brightness and Contrast tools in Photoshop or any other editing software you use. But you actually should use the Levels tool in Photoshop to achieve better contrast.
Simply go to the Image tab then choose Adjustments, and then Levels. On your Mac it’s Apple L and for Windows it’s Control L.
Photo Enhancement – Apply the minimalist approach
Photo enhancement is similar to contrast in that, for both, less definitely is more. Have you ever seen a great shot ruined by too much enhancement? It’s like, “Wow, that’s a cool shot but it’s way too touched up. It looks unreal.”
Avoid over-cropping, over-correcting and resizing if you can avoid it. We want to see the picture for what it is and we don’t want the picture dominated by Photoshop tools.
Of course, you most likely will need to enhance your photos. Just remember to use the right amount that enhances and does not dominate. But what if your goal is to achieve a high-contrast image, which inevitably will require more enhancement? Then there are three things you should keep in mind to help your photo’s overall result.
- Additional colors: bringing additional colors into your image will decrease the level of contrast.
- Ratio impact: a purple vase set against a white wall will have greater contrast and impact than a photograph of a purple vase sitting with a bunch of other purple vases. The vase in the first photo would stand out much more than the many vases in the second photo.
- Benefits of participating in photo contests
Why Enter a Photography Contest?
The allure of a grand prize isn’t the only reason you should participate in a photo contest. There are plenty of other benefits you can get out of a contest. First and foremost, it will get your creative juices flowing. You may be comfortable in your own photography category, but by expanding your boundaries and trying new styles, subject matter and themes, your overall skill level and photographic eye will improve instantly by having a broader perspective and gaining experience. Also, browse the entries of your competitors. See what they are doing right and do it better, notice what they are doing wrong and avoid it. In my opinion, contests are suitable for any level photographer; professionals to amateurs, everyone can get something positive out of it. Did you not win? Review the winning photograph because even if you do not agree with the selection, there is a reason why the victorious photo caught the judges’ attention.
Yet another benefit is that many contests offer as prizes the products of emerging, important brands in the photography world. Learn about these products and services so that you stay up to date with the best tools available that will help you become an even better photographer.
Another big reason to enter a photography contest is exposure. Whether you win or not, your entry will be viewed and reviewed by many photographers, including those people who vote for their favorite shots as well as experienced judges. Take advantage of participating in contests and be a proactive, social photographer to grow your followers and get your name out there. There are many hidden treasures and your photos deserve the spotlight.
Here is one example of what our judges had to say about the winner of the Teen Portraiture Photo Contest:
“This image immediately captured my attention. I looked for the following criteria when selecting my winner: Composition, Control of Lighting, and Posing. This image is incredibly beautiful and dramatic. I can see the Photographer has excellent control of their lighting and knows how to maximize the drama. My eye is immediately drawn to the girl and her expression. Everything from the relaxed pose, the complementary colors and even the little details like her nail polish matching her shoes takes this image to the next level. It’s a beautiful shot and the soft ethereal tones and muted colors make the subject stand out. All the pieces work together to create a stunning portrait. Congratulations and well done!”
Be selective when choosing the photo contests you join. There are many contests in collaboration with renowned brands and industry leaders, which will guarantee you have a good experience and have the opportunity to earn prizes with the assurance you will maintain the rights to your photos whether you win or not. Nowadays, there are plenty of ‘unauthorized’ photography competitions online that are just trying to capture your personal information to share or sell it. This is why companies like ViewBug are protecting the integrity of initiatives that photographers are looking for.
Photos provided with license by viewbug.com.