10 tips for entering a Photo Contest

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Why entering a Photo Contest?

An excellent way to promote your art and to increase your visibility online is to win or even place in a highly regarded photo contest. Many professional photographers today have competitions to thank for getting them started on the road to a successful career.

Entering and winning photo contest can be considered a highly fruitful business if you take it seriously. Each year photography periodicals hand out plenty of dollars worth of prizes. If you add that to the rewards provided by other journals and organizations, statistically you have a chance to win as someone must win.

If you don’t want to waste your time and your money, there are a few rules to keep in mind.

10 tips for entering a Photo Contest

Secrets to success:

  • Choose carefully the level of the photo contest in accordance with your level of photography. Start with a basic photo contest and don’t start with professional ones. You could even begin to enter photo contests run by non-photographic magazine or organization. You may stand a better chance of victory naturally because the standard of entry tends to be lower. So always keep attention out for them.
  • Read the guidelines and follow them! There is entirely no point putting a lot of hard work into shooting an entrance if it doesn’t fit the expectations.
  •  Produce something original, so that it stands out, and only enter your very best work.
  • You may disregard your first ideas, though, because they’re probably too apparent, and wait until you feel you have something really original.
  • Only enter a photo contest that appeals to you, so you like the subject.
  • Shoot pictures designed for the competition and begin focusing on ideas as far in advance as possible.
  • Use impact. Here are some simple kinds of effects that work very well at catching the attention: humor, expression, color, and shape. If your image incites viewers to ask questions, chances are, that image has a good story, and could fare pretty well in a contest.
  • Your images should be well exposed, composed and in focus. In one word, your photos have to be technically perfect. Don’t think that the jury will consider your mistakes as photographic genius.
  • With some photography periodicals, you can enter photo contests that are spread over almost a year, if you flop in a single category you have the chance to catch up in subsequent weeks and still clinch the overall prize.
  • Test your photos with your friends and your family before submitting them to the photo contest. Don’t take offense if they don’t like them. Critics are always good. But, don’t share these photos on the internet, they would lose their originality.
Art Exhibition - socializing

Rules to watch out before entering a photo contest:


Most competitions are honorable. They desire to improve the standard of photography by giving prizes and acknowledgment to photographers. For that reason, rules often contain a clause regarding the use of the winning photographs, such as showing the winning pictures without further payment to the photographer. Please note the part that affirms winning pictures. Winning photographers are usually awarded a material prize as payment-in-kind for the use of the picture in a limited fashion. This should not affect © copyright which should always remain with the photographer.

Avoid competitions where you may lose copyright of your images. Luckily these are few and far between, but mistakes have been made in the past. The use of pictures submitted to competitions can lead to exploitation of photographers by some organizers. This is because all too often competitions have rules that include phrases like: “we reserve the right to use ALL images submitted.” If an image isn’t good enough to win a prize but is good enough to be used to advertise the competition or any other use by the competition organizers then the photographer should be paid for the use of the image! That may only be a token amount, but it should be paid, and copyright of the image acknowledged to the photographer.

Enter some photo contests and you will stand a good chance of making a name for yourself and winning some very nice prizes. But the most important point, have fun! If you lose one contest, don’t be discouraged. Keep shooting, and continue submitting images to photo contests.  All the best!

Don’t miss our other articles in our category “Tips and HowTo” dedicated to the Artists.

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