Pro Tips on How to Win Photo Competitions

Posted on: 1st July 2014

Have you been a photo hobbyist? Did you study and learn all you needed to know, practiced and felt that you already have enough knowledge about photography rules, and mastered all the technical skills that are necessary to take the winning picture? And do you still have the passion and fire that you had when you first started with this hobby?  It is time to enter a photography competition. Do not be afraid to try it out.  Just remember to always be gracious in defeat. Always enjoy what you are doing, share what you see through your lens, let others see and enjoy your work. Here are some helpful tips from professional photographers designed to give you an advantage in winning photography competitions.

Photo Competitions TipsKnow the tips of how to win a photo competition

  1. Stick to the rules and stay within the theme of the competition. Know the rules, understand these very well, keep in mind special instructions and limits, exposure, colour balance, modifications and file formats. Follow the rules, sometime it is heartbreaking to know and see wonderful pictures never getting through the first round because they did not pay attention to the competition rules. Try to find out what happens to the pictures. And how they are to be used after the competition to avoid misunderstanding. You don’t want to see your picture used and misused out there. Do not stray too far from the theme although there are some creative leeway to express one’s creativity, the judges might still find difficulty justifying your work if it is too far from the theme. It is better to shoot new pictures thinking of the theme in mind, instead of picking through your archive and fitting the picture you think fits the theme.
  2. Know when to break the rules. Once you already know and have mastered all the photography rules, you can choose which ones to break to create excellent photographs. But you need to tread carefully when breaking the rules, or else you run the risk of creating flops. For example, the rule of thirds is one of the basic photography rules. Breaking it without causing the viewers, especially the judges, to squirm, requires excellent skills and brilliant creativity.
  3. Go for Awesome! First you must learn about brilliant technical skills. Photography is a calculated discipline that values ratio aspects such as exposures, focal distances, etc. Technical imperfection may cause you to lose points that might mean the world of difference between winning and losing a competition. Once you have mastered your skills, you will then realize that it is not enough and more than technical skills are needed to bring the reaction that it takes to bring forth a winning picture. It is where art and skill work together to connect to the judge or any onlooker.  Technical know-how may still not be enough to impress the judges. Go with your instinct as well, go for originality and brilliance. With experience you will develop an eye that can spot great shots that can really talk and connect to anyone that sees it.
  4. Simple is simply winsome. A photograph with a simple message, a basic truth presented, would be preferable over complex messages and images crammed into one frame. Resist the temptation to overwhelm the viewer to stand out. Simplifying your photo is not always about reducing images or objects in it, it could be about reducing the number of colours or tones. The limited palette can highlight the brilliant simplicity of your work.
  5. What is your X Factor? Sometimes, even with your technical knowhow and courageous breaking of the rules, you cannot seem to figure out what is missing in your photo- that elusive X factor that makes your work a stand out. What is original and fresh about your work? Is it a brilliant technical masterpiece? Does it instantly connect to the viewer? Find out what is that ingredient that can get the nod of the judges.
  6. Conduct some research on the competition. Study the pictures of previous winners so you will have an idea of what they are looking for. Know something about the sponsors and organizers and you’ll get the idea of what image they are looking for. And if they publish the names of the judges, do some research on them.  Know the style of the work they do and type of pictures they appreciate.
  7. Keep joining competitions. If you already won some competitions, keep joining competitions, keep doing what you are doing right, understand and figure out what the judges like and see in your work. If you haven’t won anything yet. Do not lose hope, join, join, join! What’s important is that you learn and continue to improve your knowledge and skill from the competitions you have participated.

These contest tips can bring you a long way towards winning competitions, but also consider the following basics:

  • Avoid promoting a particular logo, brand name or trademark.
  • If you lose, don’t lose your heart as well. Keep going.
  • Learn from the winning competitor. Evaluate what made him win.

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