HOW TO: Enhance your chances of winning a photo competition

HOW TO: Enhance your chances of winning a photo competition

There are lots of photo competitions around, and surprisingly few people enter them! If you’re entering competitions online for popular apps like Instagram, etc, then there are likely to be a lot of entrants. But it’s amazing how many photographic magazines have a very low number of entries – so check them out!

It’s also interesting to know that many people enter random pictures, several times, into as many competitions as they can, without thinking about the specific requirements of an individual competition. I think you should enter a photo competition in the same way you would apply for a job – if you send out the same CV to everyone regardless of what the job is, you are much less likely to be successful.

There are also some very bad entries! Don’t assume that everyone’s picture will be brilliant and yours won’t! Lack of confidence is such a stumbling block in photography – people are nervous that their picture will not be “good enough”. If you like it, and you think you’ve got something special – then send it in – because for every person who dares to enter a picture, there will be many more who were too afraid – don’t be one of them!

Here are a few tips to enhance your chances of winning a photo competition:

1. Try and shoot your picture fresh for the competition if you can, rather than making it fit. That way you can come up with new ideas, and plan the shoot accordingly. You might have a shot of a nice smile, for a “smile” competition for instance – but is the background interesting? What about the composition? Would you have more chance of winning if you planned the shot, and then put your child in the picture smiling? Sometimes you would, sometimes you wouldn’t – but it’s worth thinking about.

2. Make sure you read all the rules – I’ve judged many competitions in my career, and it’s such a shame when a picture which would have easily won, is disqualified, simply because it’s been sent in the wrong format or a higher res than was specified, etc. – or arrives after the closing date.

3. Find out who the judges are in a competition – they are more likely to choose pictures which relate to their own work, or which they will be inspired by, so do your research. I’ve judged competitions before which clearly state I am the only judge, and people have sent in images shot in bad artificial light – anyone who knows my style, would know that I love natural light. Occasionally I have loved a shot taken with flash when it’s quirky and different (because I also love new ideas and am open minded) – but chances are a “natural light photographer” is likely to sway towards a natural light picture, just as a judge who is a “documentary” style photographer is likely to prefer documentary style shots.

4. Remember that your picture may be seen against 50 other shots (or more in some competitions) – how can you make it stand out, so the judges notice it?


Google “photo competitions” and you will find plenty! The Telegraph is good for travel competitions; View Bug is an interesting concept, and Photobox run regular competitions on their Facebook page.

5. Read the competition requirements thoroughly – what are the judges looking for? Does your picture fit the theme? You’d be surprised how many people just read the words “photo competition” and send pictures in which are entirely unrelated to that particular competition.

6. Make a careful selection and ask others to tell you which one they like best – it’s often hard for you to choose when they are so familiar to you. Pin them all up on a notice board, or put them on your phone several days before the closing date – every time you look at them, delete the one you like least. Eventually, by a process of elimination, you will find the one that has the most appeal.

And remember – if your picture doesn’t win a competition, it may not be that it wasn’t good enough – it is much more likely that the winning image just had something different about it, and stood out from the other images. In another competition, your image might win – so never get disheartened and never give up – keep on trying! As the saying goes: “You’ve got to be in it to win it!”

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