Tuesday, May 23, 2006

How to win at Photography Competitions

By David R Butcher

Entering photo competitions is a great way to practise and improve your photography and have some fun in the process. One of the greatest morale boosters a photographer can get is to win or even placed in a highly regarded competition. It means that others have seen your work and judged it worthy. There are a few pointers that you need to know about competitions that will increase your chances of winning however

First find your competition. Luckily photographic competitions can be found in many places such as in magazines (both photographic and other specialities), local newspapers, local promotions as well as here on the Internet. Why do people run competitions and give away lovely prizes? Well photographic clubs use competitions as one of their chief sources of entertainment and encourages the members to take photographs. Competitions are also used as promotional or advertising tools for products or companies.

The prizes offered can vary from cash, certificates, film, photographic goodies to cars and exotic holidays. Some photographers make a handy bit of extra cash by entering competitions on a regular basis. Though prizes are a definite draw, many just enter competitions to test their skill against others.

If you are thinking of entering a competition or you have had little success before, here are a few tips to set you on the right track toward entering and hopefully winning a photographic competition.

Shoot for the competition!

The best pictures in a competition are often those that are shot especially for the competition in question. Most competitions have a theme and certain guidelines to be followed. Sometimes even the organisation running the competition must be considered before even composing that winning shot.

The Theme - This is the most important thing to remember. Most competitions have a theme or a specific subject they want portrayed. For example, entering a dog picture for a landscape is a sure fire way of joining the rejection pile. Far too often shots are sent into competitions which, seen on their own merits are technically superb and artistically excellent. But, if the picture doesn't fit the them then the judges have to reject the image.

The Organisation - Often the company or organisation running the competition will conjure an idea of the type of images they want to see. For example, a travel business that runs a competition for the best holiday snaps. They are probably expecting to use the winning images to promote their business. So knowing what holiday destinations they cover and supplying nice bright images of those destinations will probably score higher than others.

Use Impact in Your Entries
When you enter a competition just think how many other may or will be entering. It could just be a few entries in a local camera club competition or it could be thousands in an international competition. Whatever the numbers your image must stand out amongst them. In order to achieve this the subject of your photo must have an eye catching feature or form of impact.

Landscapes for example are a popular subject for competitions, everybody knows what a landscape is and can usually find a nice location not too far from home. But to stand out from the crowd you have to consider the impact and with landscapes its all about the lighting. Sunsets are pretty, and can be spectacular but if the judges have seen hundreds of them then the sunset is very 'samey' as all the other sunsets and become mundane.

For other subjects for impact use colour, shapes or creative lighting, try unusual angles for shooting common subjects. You must find something that will make your image jump out from the crowd.

Technical ability
The last important aspect of your entry is purely technical. If the image is badly exposed, has washed out highlights for example or is out of focus or exhibits camera shake then the image will be rejected.

So with all the above in mind, happy shooting and just remember, shoot for the competition and go for impact with nice sharp well exposed images and you will increase your chances of winning those prizes.

Good luck

David R. Butcher Bsc., LRPS has over 35 years experience in photography and is a co-founder of School of Photography.com (http://www.schoolofphotography.com) established in 1999. He has been awarded the Licentateship of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.

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