How to Win Photography Contests

I’ve had my fair share of luck when it comes to juried photography contests, so I thought I would share a few tips. While the following article focuses on juried photography contests, the same rules can be applied for other competitions as well.

1) Get out shooting – The best advice I can give you is to get out shooting as often as possible. The more you shoot, the better you will get. Joining a photography community can also be helpful as you can get feedback about your work, you will see what types of images are popular, and you may learn from other photographers.

2) Technicals – When you submit an image, it is important that the technical aspects of the photograph are strong. This means good exposure, good focus, and good colour balance.

3) Keep it simple – Photos that are clean and simple tend to do well because they don’t confuse the viewer. While there are obviously exceptions to the rule, in most cases I would recommend keeping it simple so that the message of your photograph is easy to understand.

4) Enter photographs that fit the topic – It is important that your entries fit well within the contest topics.  The photographs which are technically sound and fit the topic well are most likely to do well. In other words, you are probably better off having a good photograph that fits the topic well, than having a great photograph that doesn’t fit the topic at all.

5) Be creative – If you can add your own style to a common topic, or show something different altogether, then you will increase your chances. If you are feeling really adventurous, think outside the box while staying on topic.

Jonathan Eger - Night at the Cottage, 2007 National Geographic Finalist

6) You can’t win if you don’t enter – I have yet to enter a photography contest where I thought I was going to win. In every case, I was pleasantly surprised to be chosen a winner. The moral here is, nothing ventured, nothing gained. But…

7) Be selective in terms of which contests you enter – Don’t enter every single contest you see. Focus on quality over quantity. I would rather enter 4 contests where the photographs fit the themes well, as opposed to entering 12 contests just for the sake of entering. Also, many contests carry an entry fee, which is another reason why you should be selective.

8) Know the Rules & Regulations – There are many things you need to know when entering a contest, such as:

  • What countries/provinces are eligible to enter?
  • What is the minimum age requirement?
  • How many photographs can I enter?
  • What are the size requirements? (photo dimensions and physical file size)
  • What are the editing rules? (some contests allow you to edit your photographs, while other are very strict)
  • Do I retain the rights to my image? (make sure you enter a reputable contest where you are not giving away the intellectual property of your images)
  • What are the date restrictions (ex: photo has to have been taken within the last 2 years)
  • Are photographs that have won other competitions eligible?

Make sure you read the rules thoroughly in order to avoid being disqualified. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to win a contest, only to have it revoked due to not following the rules.

9) Don’t be afraid to enter the same photograph into multiple contests – If you have a good photograph, don’t let it go to waste! Most contests have restrictions on when the photograph can be taken, so enter while you still can. The photograph below, titled Controlled Chaos, was entered into 4 different contests. It finished in the top 3 or placed in each contest:

  • CBC Nature In Focus 2010 – Finalist
  • Vistek Capture Canada 2010 – 2nd Place Fine Art Category
  • 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest – Finalist
  • 2010 Worldwide WOW Photo Competition – 1st Place Nature Category

Jonathan Eger - Controlled Chaos, 2010 National Geographic Finalist

10) Bonus Tips:

It is important to note that I have never taken a photograph specifically for a juried contest. While you can go out specifically looking for a photograph, I think it puts a lot of pressure on the photographer. Instead, I look through my photographs from the last year or so and determine if any of them fit the topic of the contest.

Enter early to avoid missing the deadline. Sometimes life gets in the way, so set some time aside to enter before it’s too late.

Start small. Find some local photography competitions so you can build up your reputation in your home town.

If you are submitting your photographs digitally, make sure you label your files with your name and the title of the photograph (ex: JonathanEger_Controlled_Chaos).



I hope you have found this article useful. Best of luck with your photography contests!



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