It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out with photography or you’re a seasoned veteran, entering a photography contest can be a great way to get inspired to get out there are take some amazing shots. Some contests carry huge rewards and prestige while others are out there for the fun of it. I’m not going to tell you your photo will win, but you’ll have a much better chance after reading these tips.
Before You Do Anything, Read The Rules Very Carefully
The contest rules are everything. Many a great photographer has lost a contest with an awesome photo that simply wasn’t what the contest creators were looking for. Some contests have fairly lax rules while others want a very specific photo. Read over the rules several times, and don’t be afraid to contact the contest organizers if you need a little clarification.
Whenever a company organizes a contest, they usually want you to feature their product in your photo in some way. I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but the more you shamelessly advertise their product, the better your chances of winning become. Make it the center of attention. Companies usually have one reason for holding these kinds of contests. They simply want some photos to use for their advertising.
Be Careful About Giving Away The Rights To Your Photography
There’s another reason companies organize photography contests (besides the genuine desire to foster creativity). They want free photos they can use. If they get a handful of good images from all of the contestants, they don’t have to pay a professional to do the work.
That’s why many photography contests require you sign a waiver whereby you give away all commercial rights to your photography. What does that mean, exactly? It means you can no longer sell the image you submitted to them, and they have free reign to use it in their marketing.
I’m not saying all photography contests are an underhanded way to get work for free. I’m just saying it pays to be careful when working with companies. Read through the fine print, and make sure you are comfortable with giving away the rights to your photography. In some cases, it’s a win-win situation. You get more exposure as a photographer, and the company gets some stellar images.
Do Something Completely Different
Try To Anticipate What The Other Contestants Are Going To Try, And Do Something Completely Different.
It pays to go against the grain and be contrarian. Granted, you have to do it all within the rules of the contest, but you will stand out when you do something that nobody else is even trying. Here are a few ideas.
Try Unique Angles. Take the same subject, but show it from an angle that nobody has seen before. Get in really close with a wideangle lens, or try out a macro attachment. Get down low, up high, or photograph a very specific detail. Don’t go with your gut. Think it through, and try something totally new.
Use A Different Supporting Cast. Consider using different characters, items, and props in your photo. Let’s say you’ve entered a photo contest for a coffee company. Instead of the same old breakfast props and families in sweaters, think of different surroundings. How about cookies and coffee? What about having a cup o’ joe while out fishing with your friends?
Shoot With Different Light Sources. The light source can have a big effect as well. Try photographing your subject just as the sun rises. Use incandescent, fluorescent, and colored lighting. As long as you go with something different from the norm, your photo will stand out.
Entering A Highly Prestigious Photography Contest
Anybody can win these contests with a good enough photo, but the judges are very discerning. They’ve seen it all, so they want something that has truly never been done before. If you want to win one of these contests, you’ll need to capture a powerful and unique moment. Many professional photographers travel the world searching for these moments, and they consider themselves extremely lucky if they manage to get just one.
Who will ever forget the photo of the poor Vietnamese girl who had nowhere to run from the napalm searing the skies? These kinds of images burn themselves into our retinas, and they stay there for a long time. Your photo will have to do the same.
With enough dedication and a keen eye for the unusual, you can win a photography contest. The hardest part is following the rules. Good luck!
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