How to Win a Photography Contest


Photo contests are a great way to improve your photography and get some feedback on what you’ve deemed your best shot or shots.  You’ll find your a little more critical of photographs you deem worthy to submit into a photo contest because they may be displayed with other submissions for the world to see (and if you’re not you probably should be).  So you are all ready to go, you’ve put all your favorite pictures in a special little folder on your desktop labeled “photo contest” and all you need now is an entry form to attach them to.  Not so fast!  Here is what you need to do to increase your chances of winning:

Don’t Follow the Crowd 

Look around the web at some of the recent photo contests out there, notice something?  More and more people are photo shopping the heck out of their photo’s making them look unreal and unimaginative.  HDR is out!  Sorry folks, it’s been played to death and lacks the punch that something like long exposure photography or black and white would have.  Remember, less is more when it comes to photo shopping your photographs.  The professionals out there can spend about 2 minutes in Lightroom or Photoshop and make a photograph look as if it was never touched up and came off the camera looking like a million bucks.

If you’re entering a photo contest that has been done before or maybe you’re entering towards the end of the contest cut off date, look at some of the photo’s that have been submitted to get an idea of what you’re up against.  If you see 100 photos of kitty cats, don’t send in your photo of Snuggle Puss.  Better yet, probably stay away from photographs of your pets all together (unless that is your specialty and your really, really good at it).


Make sure you review your favorite shots and look for distracting background colors, phone polls, strangers arms on the outside edge, and any other element that wasn’t meant to be there.  If you’re photographing a beautiful lake with fall foliage all around it and then, BOOM, there is a yellow car parked on the other side of the lake that you didn’t catch when you took the picture because it blended a little with the foliage.  Judges will see that, other competitors will see that, really strive for perfection.  If something doesn’t add to the composition of a photograph, it detracts from it.

Focus on Excellence

Often some of the shots that we feel are our best may be composed brilliantly but have a little too much grain or not focused just right (I’m guilty like everyone else).  Composition isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when submitting your photograph to a photo contest.  Really scrutinize your photograph to make sure it is properly focused and exposed because I promise the judges will be.

Tell a Story

I don’t mean literally tell a story in your email or entry form to the contest.  I mean submit a photograph that tells an interesting and unique story.  Something that someone will look at and it will elicit a certain emotion.  Not to long ago I posted a “quote of the day” and a reader commented with a feeling that the photo had elicited in her, it was beautiful.  She had come up with an entire back story for the photograph that was moving and unique based on her worldview.  That’s what you want to do, give someone a picture to look at that brings up memories or emotions that begin to speak to them of what was, what could have been, or what may happen.

Read and Follow the Competition Rules

I get it, the contest rules are long and boring and a bit confusing but you’ve got to read them.  Really it will only take you about 5 minutes to read over most contest rules and there are a few things you want to look for:

  • What size do photographs have to be?
  • What categories are they accepting?
  • Who can enter?
  • What does it cost to enter?
  • What will they do with my photograph?

Read the whole thing but the bullet points above are some of the more important things you should look for.  Following the contest rules is the difference between winning and losing, you could submit a wonderful photograph that loses just because it was to large or not submitted properly.

Try, Try, Try Again

Every day there is a new photo contest out there, ranging from friendly local contest to national photo contests for thousands of dollars.  Enter what your budget will allow you to enter, if you look hard enough (like right here) you will find free contests with cool prizes.  Good luck!

Enter PhotolisticLife’s contest to win our test unit 32GB iPad mini, the contest begins on November 20th: Right Here!

Contest Rules: 2012 PhotolisticLife Contest Rules

Other Links You May Find Helpful

Photography Tips
How to Photograph Christmas Lights
Long Exposure Photography
How to Use a Ten Stop Neutral Density Filter
How to Photograph Flowers
Easy Graph to Learn ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

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3 replies on “How to Win a Photography Contest”
  1. Very good! I really believe entering photo-contests to improve your photography. I think it can help you a lot in getting the more creative photographer out. And even in trying new styles of photography to win contests.

    1. says: j0hnnyb1

      Thanks for your input, I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully we will see your submission into our photo contest (starts tomorrow at 9am!!). Thank you for visiting our site.

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